Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 309–319

The epigenetic turn

Some notes about the epistemological change of perspective in biosciences
Scientific Contribution

DOI: 10.1007/s11019-011-9342-z

Cite this article as:
Nicolosi, G. & Ruivenkamp, G. Med Health Care and Philos (2012) 15: 309. doi:10.1007/s11019-011-9342-z


This article compares two different bodies of theories concerning the role of the genome in life processes. The first group of theories can be indicated as referring to the gene-centric paradigm. Dominated by an informational myth and a mechanistic Cartesian body/mind and form/substance dualism, this considers the genome as an ensemble of discrete units of information governing human body and behavior, and remains hegemonic in life sciences and in the public imagination. The second body of theories employs the principle of the extraordinary plasticity of the (body-)organism and emphasizes the value of the (body-)organism-environment mutual interchange, known as ‘the epigenetic approach’. This approach is outlined, showing a gradual, paradigmatic shift from the genecentric towards an epigenetic approach can be observed in the ‘scientific landscape’ over the last 20 years. The article concludes by formulating the argument that this ‘epigenetic turn’ in life sciences has some important implication for renewing epistemological basis of social sciences.


Organism Environment Plasticity Development Technique 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology of Culture and CommunicationUniversity of CataniaCataniaItaly
  2. 2.DAPPSICataniaItaly
  3. 3.CTC Research Unit of Wageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.CTC-WURWageningenThe Netherlands