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Mendalian genetics was rediscovered after Darwin published his theory of long-term environmental pressures on heritability. Moreover, “fitness” and perfection of the species has Selection for the Best 21 nothing to do with Darwinian evolution. If a trait didn’t kill you before you procreated, it persisted. This is all there is to Darwin’s selection by nature. The erroneous views of evolutionary-based eugenics and a self-perfecting “survival of the fittest” predominate in our understanding of the principles of evolution, and influence concepts of social and individual development in the United States.

It is now known that the experiential effects of starvation and malnutrition, such as during the Irish potato and Dutch famines, are transmitted to offspring. The metabolic changes are transmitted across generations from grandparents to children (Hales & Barker, 2001). An example of these fetal origins of adult disease is type-two diabetes, which is more prevalent in children and grandchildren of women who were malnourished during pregnancy. These changes are not transmitted in a simple genetically inherited program, but rather there is a basis to suggest that gross systemic influences, in this case of poverty, have long term consequences for generations of physiological development.

However, an insightful essay by Chris Leslie shows that assumptions of genetic determinism hindered efforts to understand and treat pellagra (2002). This is a clear example of the tendency to blame individuals for system-level problems; however it is also clear that no 42 Nicole S. Porter, Nancy Bothne and Leonard Jason fruitful information was yielded by blaming individual biological deficits. Similar concerns have been raised when an identification of a congenital disorder leads to abortion via preimplantation or prenatal genetic diagnosis.

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