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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

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It's really great to see you discussing Christiansen's work here.

Paul Strand

I have a question about fox p2 and genetic influences in general. Is it possible that an individual living in an environment that is “poor” with respect providing learning opportunities may experience not only poor learning but also genetic changes? I ask because of a recent study showing that genetic differences emerged across mice resulting from a mere two-week change in diet. Mice fed a typical chimp diet developed chimp-like genetic markers while those fed a typical human diet developed human-like genetic markers (see below link).

I know little about genetics, but might it be that fox p2 gene expression is similarly a product of environmental differences?

Thanks for any input you can provide.

You Are What You Eat: Some Differences Between Humans And Chimpanzees Traced To Diet
BLOGGER: Thanks for the ref. The workings of FoxP2 are unusually subtle because the gene triggers other genes. We are going to be learning details about its operation for years to come. And surely the environment shapes this gene's workings, since pretty much all genes respond to the environment.

Paul Strand

Follow up question: Doesn't a finding like the one regarding mice that I cited above throw into doubt the practice of estimating the genetic similarities between species?

It seems to me that one conclusion of that study is that you can alter that estimate by changing the environment of the animal in question.

That is to say: If you want to increase the degree to which mice share genetic similarities with humans, and reduce the shared genetics with chimps, feed them a human diet rather than a chimp diet.

It seems, then, that the idea of firm genetic relationships across species is a myth--or at least has been overstated.

Is that a logical conclusion?
BLOGGER: I don't think the paper was quite as radical as you are suggesting. By my reading of the diet report, it produced a number of physiological changes, some of them changes in the genetic response to the new nutritional environment. But I see no evidence in the story that the diet changed the genes themselves. (That would be a very big finding, giving Lamarck's theory a bigger boost.)


much prefer the yogic view of this which takes into account consciousness .. of course, no western scientist could maintain funding or tenure to suggest such a thing ...

a very sophisticated understanding of speech, mind, consciousness, body (sanskrit word is "vak") which rather puts mr. christiansen in a decidedly inferior position ..


Gregorylent, while I don't disagree that consciousness is important to language, you don't say how it is important, other than it is "very sophisticated." Could you please elaborate on how Christiansen's ideas are lacking in terms of consciousness?


Paul Strand - it may sound like they are saying that the genes changed but that is not what is being said. Environment can have 2 adaptive effects on how genes are used but they do not change the genes themselves. You need to look at gene expression and epigenetics to understand these two ways. When genes are actually changed, this is called a mutation. Mutations are rare and caused by things like radiation not diet. They are random and usually harmful not adaptive. I hope this can point you in the right direction to finding material that can help you understand genetics.

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