New genetic research is debunking key assumptions about evolution and the role that genes play in determining one's well-being.

Epigenetics—which studies changes in heredity resulting from the activation and deactivation of genes—is a growing science that's making some big claims. Among them, that genes can be altered in the short term, with meaningful effects on today's generation and their children; that doctors may be able to biochemically alter a patient's predisposition to diseases considered hereditary, such as cancer and Alzheimer's; and, perhaps most strikingly of all, that evolution—long thought only to occur over many, many years and generations—can happen in a relative blink of an eye, even within a generation or two.

Last month author David Shenk published his new book The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent and IQ Is Wrong. Epigenetics, he concludes, is "perhaps the most important discovery in the science of heredity since the gene."

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May 3, 2010

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