A Short, Stylized Dialogue On Epigenetics

Me: If you look across a host of measures at adoption studies, fraternal v. identical twin studies, twins-raised-apart studies, the history of early childhood intervention research, naturally-occurring experiments, differences between societies, changes over history, and so forth, you tend to come up with nature and nurture as being about equally important: maybe fifty-fifty. The glass is roughly half-full and half-empty.

The Latest Conventional Wisdom: You are so out of date! You see, the new science of epigenetics has proven that genes are even more powerful than you think. It`s really three-fourths genes. But, the study of epigenetics also proves that one-third of the power of genes is under control of the environment!

Me: Yes, that`s what I said: fifty-fifty. Two-thirds of three-quarters is one-half. I mean, whatever the precise mechanism under the hood, it`s got to translate into what we see where the rubber hits the road, which is about fifty-fifty nature and nurture.

The Latest Conventional Wisdom: Whatever. Your fuzzy math can hardly shake my faith in the TED talk I saw about epigenetics or that article in the NYT Magazine. Where are your Powerpoints, huh? Where is your heartwarming example of a poor child winning a chess tournament due to epigenetics? Where is your persuasive account of how epigenetics caused Bob Dylan to write Like a Rolling Stone?