Does Our DNA Carry the Memories of Our Ancestors?

Illustration for article titled Does Our DNA Carry the Memories of Our Ancestors?

It seems like something out of a movie (and hey, it is), but there's some scientific evidence that we actually carry the memories of our ancestors with us in our genetic code. Apologies in advance to my hypothetical descendants.

The theory was especially popular in the 1960s and 70s, when scientists were just beginning to unravel the mysteries of the double helix. Our DNA determines our physical appearance, the reasoning goes, and our predispositions to various illnesses, and plays a role in our general disposition and skill set. All of that has been passed down to us through countless generations. So why not memories?

It sounds far-fetched, but there are still vast swaths of genetic code whose purpose is unknown. And the evolutionary advantages of having memories passed down—even one as simple as "FIRE BAD"—are overwhelmingly clear. Will we be able to tap into those memories any time soon? Probably not. But one day some generation might. And when they do, they'll see exactly how that great-great-great-grandpa Brian spent all his spare time on cheese snacks and 90s sitcom reruns. [American Chronicle]


Memory [Forever] is our week-long consideration of what it really means when our memories, encoded in bits, flow in a million directions, and might truly live forever.

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Since I work with DNA on a daily basis I was interested in what the "scientific evidence" in this article might be.

I didn't see any- No studies, experiments, data, or supporting facts.

The term "junk" DNA is a misnomer and the original article solidifies the misuse of this term with amateurs and the uninformed. It isn't science, but pseudoscience, masquerading under terms the authors don't understand evidently to promote their own beliefs and to exploit the segment of the general public that can't distinguish astrology from astronomy.

It should be strongly refuted and avoided like snake oil and investments with Bernie Madoff.

And for the record, biologists don't use the term "junk" DNA for the non-coding regions of eukaryotic cells. These regions are not random, as one would expect should they actually be "junk," and serve regulatory functions in addition to possibly providing chromosomal stability and genetic diversity for recombination events or pseudogene re-activation.

Bottom line is don't be duped by something that a defies even a basic understanding of evolution or eukaryotic genetics without the slightest shred of evidence or experimental data.