Friday, March 22, 2013

The Power of the Mind

The Power of the Mind: Living in the world under your skin is a bustling metropolis of 50 trillion cells, each of which is biologically and functionally equivalent to a miniature human. Current popular opinion holds that the fate and behaviour of our internal cellular citizens are preprogrammed in their genes. Since Watson and Crick’s discovery of the genetic code, the public has been programmed with the perception that DNA acquired from our parents at the moment of conception determines our traits and characters. This conventional view of genetics further has us believe that our inherited gene programs are apparently fixed, the equivalent of a computer’s “read-only” program.

The notion that our fate is indelibly inscribed in our genes was directly derived from the now dated scientific concept known as genetic determinism. It is still a conventional belief that genes “control” the many wonderful attributes passed down through a family’s lineage, as well as dysfunctional familial traits such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and depression, among scores of others. As “victims” of heredity, genetic forces outside of our control, we naturally perceive of ourselves as being powerless in regard to the unfolding of our lives. Unfortunately, the assumption of being powerless is the road to personal irresponsibility. “Since I can’t do anything about it anyway… why should I care?”

Shattering Illusions

Just as the Human Genome Project got off the ground in the late 1980’s, scientists began to acquire a paradigm-shattering new view of how life works. Their revolutionary research has become the foundation for a new branch of science known as epigenetic control. The world of epigenetics has shaken the foundations of biology and medicine for it reveals that we are not “victims” of our genes, but are in fact “masters” of our genes.

The conventional version of heredity still being taught in schools emphasises genetic control, which literally reads as “control by genes.” However, newly revealed epigenetic control mechanisms provide a profoundly different view of how life is managed. The Greek-derived prefix epi- means “over or above.” Consequently, the literal translation of epigenetic control reads as “control above the genes.” Genes do NOT control life – life is controlled by something above the genes. Knowledge is power and this knowledge of how life works provides the most important element in our quest for self-empowerment. Epigenetics leads us from our perception of victim to our proper role as a participatory creator.

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