Being on Andrew Weil’s mailing list is entertaining (see “Journey into bullshit“). His latest mailing advertises his upcoming webinar with Deepak Chopra. The website for this event (on chopra.com) starts off
Are Your Genes Your Destiny?
Until very recently, scientists would have said yes.
In fact, it was widely accepted that the genes we inherited at birth controlled everything – from our personalities to our health to our longevity. So if you were unlucky enough to inherit the gene for cancer or heart disease, you were expected – no matter who you were or how you lived – to develop that disease.
That’s certainly what I was taught…genes control everything; environment and lifestyle have no effect on health.
The promotional email (from drweil.com) includes this gem:
Scientists now know that by making small shifts in the way we live, we can actually activate, at a cellular level, our body’s intrinsic ability to heal and thrive.
These shifts can actually alter our genes, permanently suppressing the expression of diseases we’re genetically predisposed to, and allowing us to age in a healthier, more vibrant manner.
If (again adhering to the Principle of Charity), we assume “alter our genes” means “alter the expression of our genes” rather than the more obvious, central dogma-violating interpretation, I suppose it’s true. Everything you do changes your gene expression. Getting up in the morning, eating breakfast, and drinking coffee all change your gene expression (you can see where my mind is right now). But if that’s the intention, what’s actually new here? The whole thing boils down to “your lifestyle can affect your health,” something traditional, Western, allopathic medicine has been saying for longer than I, and probably either of my readers, have been alive.