Epigenetics, science fiction, and scientific fact

In his book “Darwin’s Radio” (1999, Del Rey) and his sequel “Darwin’s Children” (2003, Del Rey), science fiction author and novelist Greg Bear successfully predicted that human endogenous retroviruses are involved in human speciation. His new subspecies of humans communicated with pheromones, as do other species from yeasts to non-human primates. This example of science fiction becoming fact contributes to a scientific understanding of epigenetics and human pheromones via a forward-thinking author’s grasp of molecular biology and his willingness to take the next logical step for his readers.

Other fictional representations of human pheromones must also have some basis in fact; enough to be included on Wikipedia and other informative sources, if only to encourage forward-thinking by others. Indeed, in his November 2003 presentation before the American Philosophical Society, Greg Bear said: “What we [science fiction writers] write is far from authoritative, or final, but science fiction works best when it stimulates debate.” Moving forward as he spoke about epigenetic influences, he also said that chemical signals between organisms can change genetic expression. This allows the social environment to modify gene expression in individuals and in their offspring.

More than a decade has passed since Bear’s conceptualization of how pheromones might exert a powerful epigenetic influence on other species and on us. Those who are familiar with current works from molecular biology can now more fully recognize that Greg Bear was at least a decade ahead of his time. For example, see this article on human endogenous retroviruses and primate speciation. Also, my co-authors and I wrote about epigenetic influences and pheromones in 1996. The take home message that’s available through the integration of science fiction and scientific fact is that pheromones may be the most significant epigenetic influence of all. We are beginning to see this more clearly after our species sequenced the human genome and as we learn more about epigenetic facts predicted by Bear’s science fiction.

About James V. Kohl 1307 Articles
James Vaughn Kohl was the first to accurately conceptualize human pheromones, and began presenting his findings to the scientific community in 1992. He continues to present to, and publish for, diverse scientific and lay audiences, while constantly monitoring the scientific presses for new information that is relevant to the development of his initial and ongoing conceptualization of human pheromones. Recently, Kohl integrated scientific evidence that pinpoints the evolved neurophysiological mechanism that links olfactory/pheromonal input to genes in hormone-secreting cells of tissue in a specific area of the brain that is primarily involved in the sensory integration of olfactory and visual input, and in the development of human sexual preferences. His award-winning 2007 article/book chapter on multisensory integration: The Mind’s Eyes: Human pheromones, neuroscience, and male sexual preferences followed an award winning 2001 publication: Human pheromones: integrating neuroendocrinology and ethology, which was coauthored by disinguished researchers from Vienna. Rarely do researchers win awards in multiple disciplines, but Kohl’s 2001 award was for neuroscience, and his 2007 “Reiss Theory” award was for social science. Kohl has worked as a medical laboratory scientist since 1974, and he has devoted more than twenty-five years to researching the relationship between the sense of smell and the development of human sexual preferences. Unlike many researchers who work with non-human subjects, medical laboratory scientists use the latest technology from many scientific disciplines to perform a variety of specialized diagnostic medical testing on people. James V. Kohl is certified with: * American Society for Clinical Pathology * American Medical Technologists James V. Kohl is a member of: * Society for Neuroscience * Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology * Association for Chemoreception Sciences * Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality * International Society for Human Ethology * American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science * Mensa, the international high IQ society