I will be attending the Royal Society Meeting on New trends in evolutionary biology: biological, philosophical and social science perspectives. I'll post each of the abstracts and ask for your help in deciding what question to pose to the speakers. Here's the abstract for Eva Jablonka's talk on
The role of epigenetic inheritance in evolution.
The construction of the ‘Modern Evolutionary Synthesis’ in the mid-twentieth century involved the exclusion of soft inheritance – the inheritance of the effects of developmental modifications – and, by implication, the possibility of any form of ‘Lamarckian’ evolution. However, in later decades, discoveries of molecular mechanisms that can support such inheritance led to a broadening of the notion of biological heredity. After discussing the historical context in which this change occurred, I present an extended notion of inheritance, focusing on epigenetic inheritance and its underlying mechanisms. I examine the evidence for the ubiquity of epigenetic inheritance, present models of population epigenetics, and discuss the involvement of epigenetic inheritance in adaptive evolutionary change and macro-evolution. I argue that considering the many evolutionary consequences of epigenetic inheritance requires an extension of the evolutionary synthesis beyond the current neo-Darwinian model.Eva Jablonka has been pushing the importance of epigenetics for many years. Here's a video where she explains why epigenetic inheritance needs to be incorporated into evolutionary theory.
I think she's exaggerating the importance of epigenetic inheritance in evolution. I'd like to ask her how she defines "epigenetics" and how much of it is heritable over enough generations to seriously affect the evolution of a population. I'm particularly interested in her claim that epigenetic inheritance affects macro-evolution.