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Quote of the Week
(May 20, 2024)

The word epigenetics may usefully remind us that what is “on top of” DNA is nothing less than the functioning organism as a whole. But a word that threatens to encompass just about everything begins to lose its value as a special term. And this in turn suggests that we could just as well retire the word “epigenetics” and get on with describing how organisms carry out their organically integrated lives — express their own character — in part by constraining their genes to serve that character ...

Genes as self-sufficient or definitive First Causes simply don’t exist. They never did have a reasonable place in our conceptualization of living beings — something that early twentieth-century critics of gene theory clearly saw (Russell 1930). Every organic process, including every genetic process, is an expression of the life of the whole cell and whole organism. In other words, the only genetics we have is epigenetics.

(from Chapter 7, “Epigenetics: A Brief Introduction”, in Organisms and Their Evolution — Agency and Meaning in the Drama of Life)

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