James Gallagher, Health and Science Reporter for BBC News, filed a fascinating story on the BBC News Web site this morning. In experiments with mice, researches at Emory University appear to have discovered that aversion to a scent (in this case that of cherry blossoms) could result in modification of a specific section of DNA. This would result in offspring sharing that aversion without any past experience of it.
The concept of genetic memory has been a favorite topic in bull sessions about the relationship between environment and heredity. While this experiment involves a highly limited phenomenon is a small sample space, it is still a sign that this concept may be more than a vacuous fantasy. If the mechanism actually works, it can explain how the survival value of avoiding certain toxins can be passed down to future generations. We should be more careful about any phenomena that exist outside of the objective world, but it should not be long before writers of fiction decide to start playing with this concept!