This was actually put in the science section of the NY Times. I used to have a lot of respect for this paper but now even this once honorable bastion of good journalism has succumbed to the lure of sloppy thinking.
I think the thing that is most appalling about this is its written by someone with no science credentials who has pasted together a couple of elements of real science ( ie. epigenetics) to come up with her own poorly supported theory and then they publish it in the science section giving it a measure of credibility in the eyes of the readers. I think I’l write a letter to the editor and see if they respond but this is a real shame when one of the most respected papers in the country starts to slide into this sort of sloppy journalism.
They, like all information media, publish what will sell more of their product. If they get postive feedback from an article like this, they’ll put out more. If you and others write condemning them for their lack of scientific honesty, they’ll think twice about publishing the next dreck that’s offered.
Though this is a “science” article it wasn’t published on a Tuesday when their special science section comes out. That may mean it wasn’t vetted by an actual science editor, but instead by a book editor or some such thing.
Epigenetics is actually very cool and its real science, its just misappropriated in this article. Epigenetics is a valid mechanism by which environmental influences can cause changes in successive generations of offspring. There are a number of good examples but the author of this article is proposing an example which makes no sense. The author of this article is claiming that a parents experience can then make epigenetic changes which can impart memory of those expeirences to the offspring and that these memories are the memories of the adult. No such phenomena has ever been associated with epigenetic changes and there is no mechanism I can imagine whereby that would be possible.
Ah, well, yes, good point, macgyver-avatar. The Dune reference is about the best value I can think of in this.
I didn’t bother to read all of the article. Did he find Spice in Andalusia, by any chance? That’s how I understand the mechanism has to work. No spice, no shared ancestral memories. And only men can share the memories of all of his ancestors - women can only share their mothers’.
It seems to me that, more or less as usual, that when some new interesting idea is found in science (yes, epigenetics is science), some people start freewheeling with these ideas. You see this continuously with relativity and QM, because there is always a moment in life that these ideas are new for somebody. Some people then stick in the nice feelings they produce in their fantasies, thinking that ‘science has shown that ... <fill-in-some-nonsense-here>’.
Just to be fair: this article is marked an “essay”, which I think means it is not written by one of their actual reporters, much less one of their science reporters. I expect it was a one-off, perhaps a friend or acquaintance of one of their more literary editors.