I’m extremely, extremely, doubtful about this.

Perhaps BiG, who has some expertise in this area – genes and DNA and stuff, not child abuse – could educate us all:

Childhood sexual abuse may leave “molecular scars” on a victim’s DNA which could one day be used as evidence in court, scientists have said.

A new study found similar alterations in the activity of genes among men who had been abused in childhood.

Researchers at Harvard and the University of British Columbia (UBC) believe the discovery of the differences in a process called methylation between those who had been abused and those who had not could pave the way for a genetic test to indicate whether abuse took place.

Methylation acts as a “dimmer switch” on genes, affecting the extent a particular genes is activated or not.

Published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, the study found a distinct methylation difference between victims and non-victims in 12 regions of the men’s genomes.

In eight DNA regions, the genes of victims were dimmed by more than 10 per cent compared to non victims, and in one region the difference was 29 per cent.

Objective tests about such abuse all too often turn out not to be objective.

The team was also trying to establish the extent to which changes in gene expression as a result of life experience are passed on to the next generation.

Very close indeed to Lamarckism, isn’t it? And if it were so to any great extent then why didn’t New Soviet Man turn up?

39 thoughts on “I’m extremely, extremely, doubtful about this.”

  1. It will definitely work.

    Next week, if used by a Democrat psychiatrist.

    And “childhood” can mean up to18 years of age.

  2. “A new study found similar alterations in the activity of genes among men who had been abused in childhood.”

    They only studied men…?

  3. Crackpot leftist “science”.

    Career-ending punishment for the hacks involved.

    Any scientist who had come up with genetic ideas that upset the left would be up for retaliation. Time the same applied to leftists.

  4. Julia, in America, you don’t need it.

    You just ask a lady and she merely confirms or denies it. No need for any fancy tests. Or proof.

  5. “Very close indeed to Lamarckism, isn’t it?”

    Epigenetics isn’t Lamarckism. Some life events can, it seems, trigger epigenetic changes that can even affect your grandchildren – as in the descendants of those who endured the Hongerwinter in the Netherlands. (And, incidentally, this could well have something to do with the difficulty in minimising health inequalities, about which leftoids get so animated.)

    As to sexual abuse having specific epigenetic effects, colour me sceptical. Trauma in general, perhaps. But specific categories of trauma? Unlikely.

  6. And of course — even if true — this is caused exclusively by childhood abuse because reasons. No possibility that these effects could ever be caused by anything else so there will never be any Type I errors.

  7. In other news, looks like they might have found a way of finding the Witches Mark. Don’t deny it, its Science.

  8. The abuse of statistics to further a political cause: no specifics, just an observed increase in methylation. Some methylation is passed down eg study of Dutch famine: how do you separate out generations? Are some genomes less susceptible to methylation in which case do researchers accuse victims who do not show methylation of insufficient trauma. This is another horrible rabbit hole.

  9. “differences in a process called methylation between those who had been abused and those who had not could pave the way for a genetic test to indicate whether abuse took place.”

    Put aside for the moment the question of how they knew who had been abused and who had not, the statement is still a non sequitur. What they actually need is measurements on people before they were abused and then again after they were abused. Otherwise what they’ve found is at best evidence that the abused and the non-abused have genetic differences. That is hardly surprising.

  10. The full paper is here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-018-0252-1

    The methods are extremely advanced. In principle I see what they have done, but in detail not.

    As far fetched as it sounds, this is actually very plausible. As always, it needs to be replicated, because all fishing expeditions (we think exposure A does B – to one of these 3,000,000,000 sites) will turn up (false) positive results.

    Some time before there is a “genetic test for child abuse” and one wonders what the point is. It’s likely you’d also have to have identified, and test for, every potential confounder as well, to make it reliable.

    I think it is plausible there could eventually be such a thing that gives a fairly reliable yes/no answer, but unless it says “it was your dad/uncle/stranger wot did it”, which sounds about as likely as finding images of the murderer on the retinas of the dead, I don’t see the use of it.

  11. Assuming (BIG assumption) there is anything to this… Would sexual abuse show up differently to any other trauma? Being brutally beaten, a particularly bad death of a loved one, being in a terrible accident or even viewing one?
    Trauma is also rather in the eye of the beholder anyway. Some people will react very badly compared to others to the same events.
    Is this distinguishing between the physical trauma and the mental? Plenty of sexual abuse doesn’t involve any more actual physical trauma than consensual sex, it’s the unwillingness that may cause major trauma.
    So many other questions…
    And of course our old friend correlation not being causation.

    It’s taken decades for authorities to wake up to the fact than fingerprints, ballistics etc are not the gold standards they have claimed to be. I fear we will be stuck with doubtful science sending the innocent to prison yet again if we aren’t careful, And nothing about the present sexual abuse hysteria screams “careful”.

  12. They didn’t distinguish between sexual and non-sexual abuse.

    The far-fetched part is not that life experiences leave a mark there, it’s the resolution with which you could potentially distinguish one experience, and the intensity of that experience, from some other of the pallete of millions of potential experiences, good and bad.

    Though I’m mindful of the fact that many of our forebears believed we could learn little to nothing from DNA.

  13. I remember reading an article in Sci Am around the turn of the century which was pretty definite that childhood abuse caused the brain to develop differently and that difference could be seen on a scan. It does seem plausible that there is an evolutionary advantage to maturing as a psychotic bastard if you grow up in time of war. The implications of the brain having a good times/bad times development model are quite far reaching and would suggest not importing people who grew up in a war zone.

  14. A word of caution would be that this news is brought to you by the unfortunately named Henry Bodkin. Who also told me, this morning, that my dog is not as intelligent as I think he is. Entirely possible, Mr Bodkin. Although I’ve learned at my cost, not to underestimate him. He’s a border collie & considerably more intelligent (& useful) than an arts graduate doing work experience at the Torygraph. If he can just get the paw/keyboard interface problem cracked he’ll be a serious contender for editor.

  15. That trauma in general might show up–that may be.

    But that particular ill-defined trendy lefty traumas show up specifically?

    Two words the second of which is “Off”.

    But let’s not be closed-minded. Punish the leftist bastards with loss of job, career and reputation and then check their DNA to see if that can be detected.

  16. My Dad whipped me with a hickory switch when I was bad.

    Altered my DNA, eh? Got me to stop what I was doing, so it turns out my DNA made me do it. Amazing that people in the 1950s knew that.

    Even if successful, this test will have no granularity. It will be as useful as a Christy Ford accusation.

  17. Building on what Gamecock said, if corporal punishment in schools (and/or at home) led to epigenetic changes which persist for at least one generation, then we’d expect to find that sparing the rod actually spoils the grandchild, not just the child. This would explain a lot about millennials.

  18. Even if successful, this test will have no granularity. It will be as useful as a Christy Ford accusation.

    Which has turned out to be quite useful. Now imagine her dramatically waving the results of the test at the hearing. The media would have swooned with excitement.

  19. IIRC the epigenetic theory started with the observation that the degree of advance of pregnancy during the Hongerwinter was crucial.

    So, it was argued, DNA changes could have environmental origin. This nonsense exposed, the fall back position was methylation.

    Methylation is general purpose chemistry so then it was necessary to argue that genes would react differently to the same chemistry.

    While many genes are the same (I am 50% banana) the ones which might affect character, height, looks, etc are varied, except in identical twins. But these various genes are the very ones which this new theory says will react and combine in predictable ways.

    Hmm… maybe in AD one million.

  20. To test the theory in general it would be necessary to monitor trauma effects in real time.I’m dubious that torturing more lab rats is useful in this context.

    While rape and death are common in nature, only humans experience memory trauma from sex. IOW, these researchers have grasped exactly the most difficult end of the stick.

  21. Right so it’s not traumatic to cut the tails off ten generations of lab rats? Generation Eleven still growing a tail no problem?

  22. We wouldn’t know as all lab rats (well, mice certainly as it’s easier to do genetics in mice) lose the end of their tail at a young age. For the purpose of DNA extraction.

  23. There is huge pressure to find something that proves the effect of trauma is hereditary as it paves the way for slavery reparations. I’ve come across several supposedly serious people on Twitter claiming the effects of trauma are hereditary. If they were, the human race would probably not have survived.

  24. When I worked in schools admissions I was once in the bizarre position of balancing the trauma one applicant had from her pony dying to the trauma another had at being sexually molested. The pony application was accompanied by many pages of background and therapist reports, the abuse application was accompanied by a simple police statement.

  25. I’ve come across several supposedly serious people on Twitter claiming the effects of trauma are hereditary.

    Including all the previous generations? Everyone would be gibbering wrecks.

  26. Ken: Sunday was orange shirt day in Canada to recognise the Indian Residential School abuse that happened and the impact it still has on individuals and communities etc and is part of the truth and reconciliation process.
    Certainly there are many current generation First Nations who are claiming to be affected by the trauma suffered by parents/grandparents directly (not easy living with/being raised by a depressed person) let alone taking into account this type of epigenetic finding.

  27. Physical trauma involves injury (by violence or deprivation) that is sudden and severe. Mental trauma involves suffering physical trauma or witnessing it directly. Many experiences can be nasty and/or life-changing, but they aren’t traumas. Being treated unjustly or badly or even violently doesn’t count as trauma. So no compensation for the grandstanding ‘victims’ of slavery or colonisation.

  28. Is not Lamarckian, it’s epigenetics.

    But …

    It might be best to perfect these tests detecting environments that leave the biggest epigenetic signature. Maybe those with a physical impact.

    Didn’t he grow up in a hot climate? Is he vegetarian Did he play sports as a child? Did he experience regular hunger as a child?

    And work your way down to the psychological questions – was he orphaned at a young age? Was he bullied as a child? Is he gay?

    If the tests are good, we can use them to convict or acquit as appropriate.

    Obviously, if they only provide a percentage probably, then they’ll be more suited to acquitting than convicting.

  29. “There is huge pressure to find something that proves the effect of trauma is hereditary…”

    There is, Tim. But, firstly, that depends on your definition of trauma – and also whether there can be collective trauma, given that some slaves were treated well. And, secondly, epigenetics suggests that any effects are limited to the third (possibly fourth) generation. Beyond that, epigenetic markers seem to switch off. Slavery is nasty, but not necessarily traumatic (and the descendants of slaves in the US are far better off than their relatives in Africa).

    All that said, this ‘trauma’ argument cuts both ways — to some extent. The left hates genetic arguments. For them, the inferior health of the lower classes is a result of their current ‘oppression’. They ignore unhealthy habits like smoking among the lower classes, arguing that if only we spent more on “our NHS”, the lower classes would be healthier! But epigenetics suggests it’s more complex. You may have poor health because your family was close to starvation in 1850. NHS spending can do nothing to reduce such inequalities. Health inequalities are genetic and epigenetic. Spending more to reduce health inequalities is money wasted. And money spent now on health promotion not only may be empirically wrong but also not show results for three generations…

  30. epigenetics suggests that any effects are limited to the third (possibly fourth) generation

    Exodus (20:4) got it right, then? 🙂

  31. I remember reading an article in Sci Am around the turn of the century which was pretty definite that childhood abuse caused the brain to develop differently and that difference could be seen on a scan.

    RlJ, is NiV your alter ego?

  32. No idea on the validity of the paper – but it wouldn’t be the first time that “Scientists” tortured the data till it produced a small enough p value to claim (Presto!) a result such as this. And then wrote a press release bigging it up.

    Ask W M Briggs if you are curious – he thrives on such stuff.

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