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 behavior 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?”
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.
The new science of epigenetics recognises that environmental signals are the primary regulators of gene activity. As described in the Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles, cells read and respond to the conditions of their environment using membrane protein perception switches. Activated switches send signals into the cytoplasm to control behaviour and regulate the activity of the genes, the hereditary blueprints used to make the body. Proteins are the cell’s molecular building blocks and their characters provide for our physical and behavioural traits.
Amazingly, epigenetic information can modify or edit the readout of a gene blueprint to create over 30,000 different variations of proteins from the same gene. This editing process can provide for normal functional protein products as well as dysfunctional proteins from the same gene. One can be born with healthy genes and through epigenetic processes express mutant behaviours such as cancer. Similarly, one can be born with defective mutant genes and through epigenetic mechanisms create normal healthy proteins and functions.
The conventional belief that the genome represents “read-only” programs is now proven to be false. Epigenetic mechanisms modify the readout of genetic code, therefore genes actually represent “read-write” programs wherein life experiences actively redefine an individual’s genetic expression. As organisms experience the environment, their perception mechanisms fine-tune genetic expression so as to enhance their opportunities for survival. The environment’s influence over the genome is dramatically revealed in studies on identical twins. When first born, these siblings express almost the same gene activity from their identical genomes. However, as they begin to experience life, their personal individualised experiences and perceptions lead to the activation of profoundly different sets of genes.
The “new” biology is based upon the fact that perception controls behaviour AND gene activity! This revised version of science emphasises the reality that we actively control our genetic expression moment by moment throughout our lives. Rather than seeing ourselves as victims of our genes, we must come to own the responsibility that our perceptions are dynamically shaping our biology and behaviour. The expression of a healthy or dis-eased biology is directly influenced by the accuracy of an individual’s interpretation or perception of their environment. Misperceptions rewrite genetic expression just as effectively as accurate perceptions, yet with far graver, perhaps even life threatening consequences.