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Contextual Quote

"Biohistory is science in that it explains a wide range of data, and it is testable both inside and outside the laboratory. The research program cited earlier is an example of just such testing, as a result of which the theory has been confirmed in some areas and modified in others. It may be noted that Biohistory is the only theory of history ever to have resulted in ten papers (and counting) in high ranked biomedical journals. Each chapter contains an example of proposed tests."

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"The idea that economic and political systems reflect the prevailing temperament is not conventional wisdom, but it is not original either. What Biohistory introduces is the idea that different temperaments have a biological basis and can be understood in terms of hormones, brain physiology and gene expression. It is the study of history, as well as of economics, psychology and anthropology, united by a common strand of evidence in biology. Different temperaments are traced back to the influence of early life, in particular the extent to which parents control or punish their children at different ages. For example, chapter five suggests that the classic Arab temperament stems from extreme indulgence of infants combined with harsh control of older children. Biohistory takes issue with the idea that differences between peoples can be explained by genetics, such as the idea that Europeans and East Asians are more intelligent.

Even if such a difference could be demonstrated it would be far less important than differences in temperament determined by the environment. Overall, differences between and changes within societies cannot be explained in terms of inheritance. Genetically speaking, human beings are very similar to each other. It is often said that there is more genetic diversity in chimpanzees from a few hectares of rainforest than in the entire human race.

Genetic differences cannot explain, and are not needed to explain, differences in wealth, creativity, political institutions or much else that matters. But at another level, people are profoundly different. This is at the level of epigenetics, the new science which looks at the way in which genes are switched on or off by the environment. Thus, two people with similar genes but different early environments can be remarkably different in attitudes and behaviour, as different genes become more or less active. These epigenetic differences can make people more or less hard working, rigidly dogmatic or open to change, peaceful or violent, timid or forceful, honest or corrupt, accepting or rejecting of brutal authority, and much more."



The Role of Epigenetics on Human History

"A beginner’s guide to epigenetics:

Epigenetics is most simply defined as instructional information linked to DNA that changes genetic activity without affecting the genetic code itself. Epigenetic “marks” instruct cells to process parts of DNA in different ways. These instructions are ‘tagged’, or layered, to DNA sequencing letters – A, C, G and T, telling our bodies which genes to ignore and which to use. It is an ongoing process that is normal to development.

Epigeneticists believe our environment and behavior can leave epigenetic marks on our DNA that is passed on to our children and to subsequent generations. In short, what we experience today – from smoking, pollution, war and disease – may affect not only an individual’s genes but those of their offspring, too. As the UK’s Guardian newspaper explains, “The notion that babies may retain some parental baggage has enormous repercussions for child development and evolution. Parents could suddenly find themselves responsible for passing on not only their poor genes, but also their poor lifestyles.”

The international scientific community is increasingly recognising the importance of epigenetics. It has wide-reaching effects on many aspects of biology – and significant potential in human medicine.

Scientists have known for some time that early life experience and even the experience of parents can have marked effects on the functioning of genes, and thus on temperament and behavior. But, until the publication of Dr Jim Penman’s theory, there has been nothing to link this with broader changes in social behavior. This work, which has won support from the wider academic community, sheds new light on what the future holds for the West."


More information

The books

""Dr Jim Penman PhD has spent forty years developing a theory of history and society based around the concept that human social behavior has biological roots. Recent developments in the field of epigenetics, and a six-year research program commissioned through leading Melbourne universities, has confirmed and extended many of his ideas. The theory has been published in two books: Biohistory: Decline and Fall of the West – purposefully aimed at the non-scientific community and Biohistory, a fuller academic text."