• The difficult questions of epigenetics

    A couple years ago, The New Yorker published a long piece by Siddhartha Mukherjee, who famously wrote The Emperor of All Maladies, about The Gene, his new book, which I have ordered.  Mukherjee is a meticulous writer, so there will be a substantial amount of plowing through the history of the genome, twin studies and various and many other digressions before he gets to the eternal point, which is nature or nurture?  I plan to do this plowing because genetics is an abiding interest of mine and I like to add to my store of knowledge.  But I do have one salient thing to add.  I come down on the side of nurture and personal will.  Heavily on both.

    I recently put my 23&me data through an epigenetics program, which was reputable, and was intrigued by the results.  23&me has come in for some criticism for bad results, but to the extent that I know my family history back an impressive 1000 years thanks to generations of unmarried women with time on their hands, it was correct in its findings.  So it stands to reason that the health findings are more or less correct as well.  I plan to check them with another genetics company before I completely believe what they are tellingme.

    Which is that by my stage of life, I should be obese (twice and four times as likely), diabetic (again many times more likely), depressed (twice as likely, four times as likely) with SAD, seasonal affective disorder (many times more likely), heading headlong into Alzheimers (12 times as likely) with serious heart disease.

    I have none of these things.  I test myself often, I even pay for my own tests when necessary.  I am on the low end of normal for body fat composition, I am a happy camper who often skates with ecstasy as a fairly constant companion, I forget NOTHING, and my lipid profile is “ideal”. My blood sugar is always low and I use the darkness of the year to do my best and hardest work. The thing is that I notice these tendencies in myself and I stop them.  I fix them. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not.

    This is very bad news for the identity politicians among us.  It means that everything they say is false.  Now you can argue that I am blessed with a higher intelligence than average (I am) but there is no way that will-power, which is a muscle, cannot be marshaled and grown by any individual if he or she so chooses.  Nature is a servant not a master.