Saturday, June 17, 2017

Ask TPVS: Reincarnation, Epigenetics, and Jealousy

This is not one of my old posts, but one by Pervertically Virtuous
In the process of recovering my own old posts via email I discovered some of hers. Like me, her old accounts have been terminated, and she seems to have disappeared from the internet. This is a damn shame since I consider her one of the best sex bloggers I've ever had the chance to read and follow. I'm reposting her old posts as a historical archive, and if she ever returns to blogging I'm happy to hand them back to her.
To be clear: the copyright on this work is hers, and remains with her - I didn't write it and I make no claim to it. 

(FYI: some links in this post are dead)

recovered post by Pervertically Virtuous

Ask TPVS: Reincarnation, Epigenetics, and Jealousy

by Pervertically Virtuous
This is a question from a recent reader who said they were "impressed, offended, inspired, aroused, revolted, affirmed, agitated, and intrigued" by my blog. I myself am impressed that my life and opinions have managed to inspire such a collection of strong and contradictory feelings.
As an atheist, where do you stand on ideas such as reincarnation, collective consciousness/unconsciousness, or inherited memory/experience? Some phenomena has been substantiated to a degree, such as the experiences of a parent/grandparent can alter their DNA into adulthood leaving a legacy that can be inherited for generations i.e. traumatic experiences of a parent/grandparent can lead to inherited depression.Grandma's Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes
As a scientist, I believe in things that we have scientific evidence for, and I don't believe in things we have no or contrary scientific evidence for.

So, I do not believe in reincarnation. There is no scientific evidence for this, and there is currently no known mechanism through which the soul (whatever that means) could survive death and travel to another body.

I do not believe in the collective consciousness/unconsciousness insofar as these are defined as some mysterious, magical transmission of knowledge that does not rely on the known mechanisms of genetics, epigenetics, or learning.

I certainly believe in inherited memories, experiences, desires, and needs that are transmitted across generations through the known mechanisms of learning, genetics, and epigenetics. Of the three, epigenetics is the newest and least known/understood mechanism. It is a very exciting new area of research, and even though there are still many open questions, it is at this point unquestionable that experiences can be transmitted from grandparents to grandchildren not only through changes in the genes themselves, but through changes in how existing genes are expressed (i.e. DNA methylation). So absolutely, something that a grandparent experienced BEFORE reproducing - a long-term famine, a traumatic experience, heavy smoking or alcoholism can impact a descendant down the line. But it's important to note that these epigenetic 'memories' are not specific mental images of something that happened, for example, you are not going to remember that your grandmother was an alcoholic (unless someone told you that); you may be more predisposed to alcoholism due to that.

Here are a couple of other good articles explaining epigenetics to the public: Why Your DNA Is Not Your Destiny and Epigenetics: How Our Experiences Affect Our Offspring.

Of course, I don't take absence of evidence to signify evidence of absence, so I leave an open mind that things we currently do not have evidence for may be shown to exist in the future.
Do you entertain the idea that your highly advanced attributes of non-jealousy, polyamory, atheism, proactive disposition are a culmination of either past lives, an attunement or sensitivity to collective consciousness, or merely the product of genetics and upbringing?
Glad to hear you think some of my ideas and personality characteristics are "highly advanced" :).

No, I don't believe any of these is a product of past lives or collective consciousness. I believe that each is a product of a very complex mix of genetics, epigenetics, upbringing, life experiences, and personal choices.

Take my atheism, for example. Religiosity has a heritability component of about 0.4-0.5 in adulthood, so I was likely genetically (or perhaps epigenetically) predisposed to low religiosity. Add to that upbringing: I was raised an atheist in an atheist family in an atheist country (and I mean the whole country and everything about it was atheist). Then add to that that I am highly educated (and education and religiosity are inversely correlated), and a research scientist taught to apply the scientific method to everything.

Some of my other attributes, like non-jealousy or polyamory, don't have such a strong upbringing component - no one taught me to not be jealous or monogamous, and jealousy and monogamy were just as prevalent around me as around everyone else. But my best guess would be that they are a product of biologic predisposition to low jealousy and non-monogamy, rebellious personality and high and stable self-esteem (both themselves a mix of nature and nurture), life experiences (e.g., observing people suffer and relationships end because of jealousy), and personal choices to live in accordance to my true needs and desires even if many disagree with me.
Do you find these ideas insulting or diminishing to your own personal achievements?
Not at all. I just find them unlikely (almost impossible).

Also, I can't really claim many of those attributes to be due to personal achievements, i.e. choice. I think that all of those have a very strong genetic, epigenetic, and/or upbringing component - none of which I had any say in and can't take credit for. Personal choice is only one of several components that has contributed to who I am today.

Hope this answers your questions, feel free to keep the conversation going.

Pervertically Virtuous | June 17, 2013 at 4:44 pm | Categories: Ask TPVS | 

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