This article from Dave Belden at Tikkun (December 28, 2010) is part of the reason I've been busy digging deeper into notions of conscious evolution, evolutionary biology and epigenetics with respect to attachment, affective systems and other points of interest to me as a psychoanalytic practitioner. Here's an excerpt:
A major milestone in the development of evolutionary science was the defeat of the idea held by evolution’s first great theorist, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744 – 1829), that offspring could inherit the characteristics that their parents had acquired during their lifetimes. This was before it was worked out that biological inheritance works through genes and the language of DNA. While your DNA can be damaged, there is nothing you and your mate can do to otherwise change the genes you pass on to your biological kids. So if you learn to live in the desert or play the violin, you can teach the desert or violin skills to your kids but they won’t inherit them. “Lamarckism” became a major heresy in evolutionary science.
There is a great deal of hope and comfort in this for anyone who has lived through the worst that humans can do to each other: war, genocide, famine, prison, or other horrors. At least your kids can get a fresh start, if you can raise them somewhere safe. Yes, your own fears and trauma will inevitably be transmitted to them in some ways, but that will happen culturally, not, thank goodness, biologically. Biologically they will be a blank slate.
Now it appears it is not as simple as that.