Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) argued that acquired characteristics could be inherited. But this Lamarckianism was replaced by Darwin’s theory of natural selection and the scientific world for 150 years accepted that genes were the be-all and end-all of our makeup. But epigenetics has brought Lamarck back to centre stage.
He argued that if a giraffe stretched its neck to reach leaves higher up the tree, its kids would inherit longer-necks. Harvard research studied rats in mazes that took 165 attempts to run it perfectly. After a few generations, their grandkids could get it right after 20 attempts. Just think, if you did the Times crossword every day for 10 years and then had babies your kids would inherit a heightened verbal ability (or maybe just talk in riddles and anagrams). If you overeat then your kids will be predisposed to obesity. If you smoke... don’t get me started.
If we eat a moderate diet of organic food, live in an unpolluted environment and in decent conditions and take plenty of exercise we have the potential to gift our children and grandchildren with unimaginable levels of health, happiness and longevity. Coué’s mantra: “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” could apply to all of mankind and, indeed, the whole planet, plants, animals and microorganisms.
Instead of the disease-obsessed fatalism of traditional genetics, we can have free-will optimism. Instead of passively accepting that we are locked in a DNA-driven destiny we can improve our genes and create the future that we want.
The healthy living movement has always been driven by an intuitive acceptance of this. There is a responsibility here, too - we owe it to future generations to do right by them. We may have bankrupted their financial future, but we shouldn’t plunder their piggybank of health as well. Epigenetics has proved that we can be masters of our own fates.
What’s stopping us?