Thursday, August 23, 2012

Families of Musicians

This NYT story involves something called "inherited memories" and says this about epigenetics:

There are scientific studies exploring whether the history of our ancestors is somehow a part of us, inherited in unexpected ways through a vast chemical network in our cells that controls genes, switching them on and off. At the heart of the field, known as epigenetics, is the notion that genes have memory and that the lives of our grandparents — what they breathed, saw and ate — can directly affect us decades later.

If this idea turns out to be right, it would help explain families like the Bachs.

It would also further convince me that people growing up in musical households where music is a second language will never be able to appreciate what it's like to come to music making on one's own outside the home and later in life. To my mind, so much that natural musicians assume - have in their genes, know without learning - has to be approached very differently for people without that advantage.


  1. And it would confirm some Jungian theories to boot :-)

  2. Bruce! Thanks for dropping by. If come back and see this - would love to have you expand on this comment. Are you thinking collective unconscious and archetypes?

    By the way, just went out a got a new horn (Yamaha 667) and Horn Matters was a great resource as I thought through the options. You and the prof have really done a great job with that site.

  3. Lyle - RE: Jung, yes I was thinking of his theories on collective unconscious. I have a motto that I used to tell students as encouragement - "you know more than you think" - an an attempt to tap that source.

  4. Bruce - Thanks for the added comment. I'm a big fan of Jung and hadn't even thought of that. Nor had I remembered your motto, which I'd written about before. I think it's because after of lifetime of nature and nurture discussions, that there's a third way blending the two the is hard to absorb. Between epigenetics and all the amazing info coming out of neuroscience research a lot of things are going to need rethinking - and a lot of stuff like Jung's ideas which can seem so fuzzy may turn out to have some empirical basis. Exciting times.

  5. I'm going to give you the skeptical view on this.

    Concerning exceptional musical families: there are two possible explanations for this. The first is that there are a lot of people in the world, and it will occasionally happen quite by chance that a small group of them (e.g. a family) will all share some exceptional talent. It is very easy to think "what are the chances of that such a rare degree of talent being shared by all of this small group?" If you try to predict beforehand which family will have the talent, then your chances of getting it right are vanishingly small. But if you have the whole of humanity to search among to find a family that happens to share an exceptional talent, your chances are hugely greater. Making mistakes about probability is very common, our intuitions work very badly in this respect, even among highly-educated people who ought to know better.

    In addition, it may be that musical talent is in some degree genetic (without being epigenetic), and so you would expect it to run in families. And parents will to a great extent pass on their interests and teach their children what they are good at, so musical talent and accomplishment can easily run in families from a combination of these factors.

    So, neither the Jungian collective unconscious nor epigenetics are necessary to explain musical households.

    That's not to say that neither will be found to have any effect but I suspect that if and when it is found, it will be small compared to the factors I've already described.

    I think there's a much greater chance that an effect from epigenetics will be found than from the collective unconscious. There's no evidence at all for the existence of the collective unconscious nor for any mechanism by which it might work.

  6. Jonathan - as always, thanks for the comment. I know better than to tangle with you on a subject such as this. In my defense I'll point out you've taught me not to lay out unconfirmed ideas as fact, so my point was couched as "it may" turn out there's some empirical foundation to Jung's ideas - (and I didn't even mention Rupert Sheldrake).

    To further clarify my point - I didn't mean to say that there's anything particularly Jungian about musical families, just that 1) epigenetics might help explain (not be the primary cause of) that phenomenon and that 2) (thanks to Bruce) there's the idea that on down the road, epigenetics might also explain other phenomena, such as the Jungian notions of collective unconscious and archetypes.

    You have to remember that when I went into music therapy back in the 70's, people such as yourself thought I was odd going into a field that had no real empirical basis, just the shunned anecdotal. Just because there is no empirical basis for something now doesn't mean that there will never be one. Somebody has to be pushing the edge of the envelope.

    This post was mainly to point out epigenetics is a new way of thinking about things, that the hide bound categories of only nature and nurture, that have been the received wisdom all my life, is a too simplistic way of looking at the world.

    Right now I'm thinking you can't give me an empirical reason why some pieces of music connect with way more people than others. Last Sunday my group did music for a country church and we worked up that hymn put to Beethoven's Ode to Joy. There is just something about that tune that connects. Archetypes and the collective unconscious may or may not be the way to explain that, but right now I don't see any better candidates out there, and they certainly offer a way to at least talk and think about the phenomenon until something better comes along.

  7. Right now I'm thinking you can't give me an empirical reason why some pieces of music connect with way more people than others.

    That's a challenge I can't refuse!

    First, there are physical differences between some pieces of music and others - for instance in their harmonies. Our ears and brains latch on to simple ratios of frequencies. (Why that is so would go mean a long explanation with a diversion into evolutionary biology. I'll do that if you like, but in the meantime, just take my word for it.). So to some extent, all music is going to be attractive to us.

    But beyond that, our likes and dislikes are largely culturally determined. People know what they like and they like what they know. The Ode to Joy has a number of great advantages in terms of being accepted in the way you describe.

    - It has a simple rhythm. Almost all the notes are the same length.

    - It is a simple tune, almost all the notes move up and down by a single step, larger intervals are rare.

    - The two points make it easy to sing, and people remember and like stuff better when they have been able to participate rather than passively listen.

    - The piece is familiar - it gets played a lot, most people know the tune even if they couldn't name it.

    - The piece is happy sounding, the harmonies are in the major key and are relentlessly upbeat.

    - Culturally, the piece has all sorts of positive connotations, starting with its name. There is the fact that is was played at the concert celebrating the peaceful reunification of Germany, it has been chosen as the national anthem of the European Union. It was written by a composer acknowledged to be one of the greatest ever.

    - And of course, all these factors mean that it is often played, in concerts and on the radio. Many people have made arrangements of it. It is familiar and available. It becomes liked because it is familiar, and it is familiar because it is liked. It is a positive feedback loop.

    So, you don't need to think of archetypes or the collective unconscious. All you need is an accumulation of physical and cultural elements.

    The thing is, such explanations are mundane. We naturally think that an exceptional thing or exceptional event must have an equally exceptional cause, and we feel rather cheated when we learn that the cause is far from exceptional, it is just an accumulation of everyday factors that happen to be pointing all in the same direction.

    The Jungian collective unconscious (if it were to exist) would be a cause that has glamour, which is why it has persisted in the human imagination for the better part of a century and shows no sign of being discarded yet. In general principles, the same cultural forces that drive the popularity of the Ode to Joy also keep the idea of the collective unconscious in the human imagination.

  8. What a great reply! But to really convince me, please follow your rules and compose a piece that's sure to connect with people so much it enters into wide circulation and the feedback loop (great point!) gets started. I understand you're not a Beethoven, but surely if it's all so clear cut you can come up with something really catchy ;-)

    Last evening when mulling over your previous comment, Arthur C. Clarke's three laws came to mind, especially the third one:

    1) When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
    2) The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
    3) Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

    As so often before, you're pushing me to think more clearly and in the early stages of that my language is always less clear than I'd like, but here's my best shot for now - Music is a "technology" that has been a part of human culture for as far back as we can determine and has evolved along with us, but empirical science is a relatively new invention whose explanatory power has not yet begun to illuminate the mechanisms and pathways of music's effect on us.

    Your position seems to be that if there's no empirical explanation it's magical thinking (for which I'll confess to having a certain weakness!). My position is that if there's no empirical explanation, that doesn't mean there's not something operating we just don't understand as yet, but that my years of anecdotal experience has convinced me is there.

    Down the road, once things have been figured out, it may well seem mundane, but currently I find it a magical topic of unending fascination.

    (Are you getting at the consonance/dissonance spectrum with the ratios and evolutionary biology or something larger?)

    By the way - when writing this post I was reminded of how way back when we started going back and forth over what "musicality" is. You'd used the word in a way suggesting everyone knew exactly what it meant, whereas for me it was something I wanted to learn more about. With your upbringing, everyone around you did have a sense of what it meant, but the issue never arose for me until later in life.

  9. On magical thinking, I would put it differently. If we have a phenomenon we don't have an explanation for, the only think we can in all honesty say about its cause is "I don't know". But "I don't know" can operate at different levels, either at the level of basic principle as in "I don't know why the laws of physics are the way they are", or the more detailed level of "I don't know the hundredth decimal of Pi, but I know how to find out".

    How music lodges in our brain is a kind of "I don't know" that is intermediate between those.

    There is a great deal about the human brain that we don't know about. We know a lot about the principles of how it is interconnected, we can produce very large numbers to describe the number of actual and possible interconnections, we have a good idea about how individual neurons work.

    This knowledge allows us to say whether this or that capability is something that a human brain ought to be able to do. Music definitely falls within that range.

    But the details of what goes on in the brain (i.e what is happening to which connections on a cellular level) in response to music are very unclear and still the subject of a great deal of speculation. But what we do know allows us to put limits on what we need to speculate.

    In terms of the details of the brain's operation what I described in my previous comment is very much speculation, and moreover is also gross oversimplification. It is a rule of thumb that allows us to make tentative but nonetheless useful predictions about human behaviour.

    So what I described is what I would call guided speculation. I was talking about the detailed operation of processes within the brain which are consistent with the general principles we already know about. I'm not having to suggest that there is some fundamentally new force which is necessary to explain human response to music but which we otherwise have no evidence of.

    This is a shortcoming of the hypothesis of the Jungian collective unconscious. It's a mistake to suggest the existence of some new mysterious field or force until we have exhausted the possibilities of mundane explanations. The human brain is such a marvellously complex organ that it will be a long time before we can say we know it in detail.

    As for composing a blockbuster of my own, there is a difference between being able to recognise retrospectively how it has happened and being able to make it happen yourself. That is why we can recognise the Bachs as an exceptional musical family, but there is no reason to expect that my next dozen close relatives to be born will make up a family of similar talent.

  10. We're not really that far apart - you say, "It's a mistake to suggest the existence of some new mysterious field or force until we have exhausted the possibilities of mundane explanations." My feeling is that on down the line what will then be mundane explanations may well be the basis some of Jung's ideas, and possibly even Sheldrake's. That was the point of Clark's 3rd rule. Without the knowledge of how it works, the collective unconscious seems a magical idea - that doesn't mean there's not something to it (at least to me).

    The difference is what we do and think in the meantime. Not being a hard core skeptic, I'm OK with extrapolating from personal anecdotal knowledge and mixing in unverifiable (for now) intuitions in trying to better use music as a therapeutic agent, and if I'm successful, not worrying about establishing the neurological basis - my skills run more to running groups, teaching the non-gifted and generally trying to help people discover the joys of music making. Hard science has never been a specialty of mine.

    I take your point about retrospective knowledge and composition, but I generally wish more musicians composed, if only to demystify the process. We already know you've got a great sense of how to arrange music. Anyone who can put up with the tedium transforming instrumentation ideas into notes is more than halfway there to original composition. Just because you're skeptical of my notions doesn't mean you need to be skeptical of the possibility you could write some fine music!

  11. I think that there is a difference between extrapolating from existing knowledge (as I did above, using existing known interactions to explain something which is understood in principle but not in finest detail) and what Jung did, which was to invent some entirely unknown field as an explanation for what he claimed to see.

    The collective unconscious is not a mechanism which is required to explain any known phenomenon. Anything for which the collective unconscious seeks to be an explanation can also be explained by other means.

    Let me explain by analogy with homeopathy. Many people say that they get better after taking homeopathic remedies. And it is true, they do. But is it the remedy which achieved this?

    To be able to say with confidence that it is, one would need to examine other possible causes for people getting better.

    One such cause is that people normally do get better after being ill. You do recover after a time from a cold or flu. So after feeling worse than normal, it is usually subsequently to feel better. This is known in medical circles as regression to the mean.

    Also, it has been found that if you tell somebody they are going to get better, and even give them a pill that you say will help them get better, by act of believing it, they often do get better more quickly. This is known as the placebo effect. We don't know how or why the placebo effect works, but it most definitely exists!

    So, if you want to find out whether a homeopathic remedy actually does anything, you have to conduct a test in such a way that you can rule out regression to the mean and the placebo effect as causes of what you are seeing. (The same applies to tests of any conventional pharmaceutical drug for that matter.) The medical profession has found a way of doing this, it is called a randomised double-blind clinical trial. Essentially, you divide a large number of patients into two groups, give the drug you are testing to patients in one group and something that looks like it to the other group, and you compare outcomes. It is randomised because patients are assigned at random to one group or the other, and it is double-blind because until the end of the trial, neither the patients nor the doctors know who was in which group. Since the placebo and regression effects will apply equally to both groups, any difference in outcomes can reasonably be ascribed to the drug being tested, provided the difference is greater than you would get from random variations.

    Now I hope you can see more clearly the problem I have with the collective unconscious. A combination of genetic, cultural and purely random processes can account for all the phenomena you have ascribed to the collective unconscious. We know that these genetic, cultural and random processes exist, so there is no phenomenon for which we need the collective unconscious as an explanation, and we have (as yet) no means of eliminating these other known causes to be sure that the collective unconscious is working.

    So what we have is a theory in search of evidence. This is trying to do science backwards. There are an almost infinite number of hypotheses which the human imagination can come up with, and it would be terribly long-winded to start trying to test each one.

    Instead, scientists work from existing known phenomena which lack a complete explanation, and see if they can come up with a theory which explains the phenomenon and also makes predictions about other phenomena not yet observed.

    A classic example dates from about the same time as Jung's collective unconscious. Einstein's theory of relativity sought to explain why the speed of light seemed to be constant irrespective of the direction and speed at which we were moving through the universe. The theory made a prediction that gravity would bend light, and this was dramatically confirmed when the apparent position of stars near to the sun during a solar eclipse changed by the amount predicted by the theory.

    The collective unconscious doesn't make any such prediction.

  12. Jonathan - We just have different personalities. I find it far easier to think that minor blues tunes somehow tickle the collective unconscious than trying to catalog "a combination of genetic, cultural and purely random processes" that cause a lot of people to react the way they do when they hear "House of the Rising Sun" or "St. James Infirmary Blues". For me it's really just a matter of shorthand until something better comes along. (If you can come up with a catalog of things that might help explain that, please share it and we can compare.)

    I'd rather spend my time honing my ability to get that reaction and better understanding it than waiting for the research shows why that is, because I'll most likely be dead by then. Jung's work is just the handiest framework I've come across to help me think about these issues. The plural of anecdote is data and my experience tells me here are certain tunes that connect more often than others and Jungian notions have, for me, explanatory power.

    The key here is that MY experience tells ME - I'm not trying to convince you! If I'd listened to skeptics back in the 70's I would have never gone into music therapy, but I'm really glad I did. Same thing here - I appreciate the points you're making, but my experience and my sense of what I want to do with my time trump them.

    I also think it's going to be a VERY long time before our data sets and hypothesis (pl.?) on human behavior come close to what the physicists have. Your analogizing the two feels like you're stealing a base ;-)

  13. You can come up with rules of thumb about how people react to minor blues tunes. We might have surprisingly similar predictions on that! The point at which we differ is on the use of terms such as "collective unconscious" to describe what is going on.

    I realise that the term can be used as a kind of shorthand to mean the sum of all those genetic, random and cultural influences I described before. Physicists such as Stephen Hawking use the word "God" in much the same poetic way to mean the totality of the universe and the awe it inspires.

    The problem with using words and phrases in this way is that they get (sometimes deliberately) misunderstood. So I would never use the phrase "collective unconscious" even in this metaphorical shorthand way because people will misunderstand it to mean the full numinous version of what Jung hypothesised. I'm not prepared to be misunderstood in that fashion. The phrase has too much baggage.

    So, I'm pulling you up on your use of language rather than on your attempts to find ways of thinking about human behaviour that reveal useful insights. It is my experience that precise language is a useful tool even to articulate vague concepts because I find I can use that precision to articulate how vague the concept really is! But I'm with you all the way on looking for those new insights.

  14. OK - I switched from ESP to Enhanced Awareness for that reason - excess baggage. I'm open to a phrase from you to replace collective unconscious/archetype - and I'll be trying to think of one as well.

    You first ;-)

    Thanks again for making me think!

  15. I'd be inclined to go with "nonverbal communication" as describing the way many of these cultural influences get passed around. Even "unconscious nonverbal communication" to express the extent to which it happens without us specifically intending or even realise what is going on.

    You see, what Jung (in my view) misunderstood was the extent to which we send out and pick up nonverbal signals by means o gesture, body language, tone and inflection without realising that we are doing it. All very mundane, once you twig that it is going on. Instead, he thought there was some kind of mysterious non-material direct mind-to-mind communication which was the mechanism for the collective unconscious.

    Now you are trying to tap into these nonverbal modes of communication for therapeutic purposes. And I have no doubt that you are doing good as a result. I think you may find yourself becoming even more effective at it if you can jettison unhelpful concepts that don't reflect what is happening.

    I accept that in your work you are doing therapy, and therefore when you use words you need to frame concepts in a way people will accept, and so it may be that the use of spiritual ideas helps them because that is how they think. I'm not trying to do therapy on you, and you aren't in need of it, so I can just go in for precise language!

  16. But you done "jettisoned" the very idea this all started with! According to the new research a famine in one generation affects which genes get expressed two generations later. It's the cross generational effect that's the news here, and in your attempt to get rid of baggage you've tossed that right out the door.

    The deeper issue is that one we tangled on years ago on your other blog. Your use of language suggesting human behavior will be reduced to simple mechanics similar to physics bugs me as much as my language bugs you. I guessing that if we ever get to nailing down every jot and tittle of human behavior - the ways in which we know things will be different. Your reductive language suits your beliefs and propagandizes for them as much as you feel I'm doing with mine.

    Besides the whole issue of studying our minds with our minds, to me it's very much an open question as to whether or not human behavior will be explained by a simple spread sheet of chemical reactions or whatever. I realize for you that's an article of faith - and you may be right, but my intuition tells me it ain't gonna be that simple, but I may well be wrong.

    I was raised by a mom who often quoted Hamlet's - "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than dreamt of in your philosophy." I realize you feel you're being a "just the facts, please", kind of guy, but in this instance of trying to improve my language you've ignored the central point of what I was talking about to square the circle, which is a higher price than I want to pay.

  17. No. "Families like the Bachs" require nothing of archetypes nor epigenetics to explain them.

    Also "the lives of our grandparents — what they breathed, saw and ate — can directly affect us decades later" is perfectly true, but depends on nothing more than cultural attitudes transmitted down the generations. If you think that is insufficiently powerful, just remember what a hold the word "slopendicular" has taken on us, having been transmitted down from my father and for all I know from my grandfather.

    Cultural ideas are very powerful, they affect our behaviour in all sorts of ways. one of those ways is the idea that genetics is every powerful, and affects out behaviour in all sorts of ways. It leads us to offer genetic explanations for phenomena that really don't require them.

    We can explain lots of the wonderful variety of humankind based on the building blocks that we already know about - genetics, environment, culture. We have no need for additional hypothetical concepts such as collective unconscious.

    That's not to say that no evidence for the collective unconscious will ever appear, but there is none now.

    Let me explain by analogy to a drug trial. You have this new drug that is intended to reduce blood pressure. How can you tell whether it will work? Well, the obvious answer is to give it to some people with high blood pressure and see if their blood pressure goes down. Suppose that you find that (at least in some cases) it does.

    Is that evidence that the medicine works? Unfortunately not. The reason is that we know of other reasons why people's blood pressure may go down that are unrelated to the medicine.

    First, it does happen that some conditions that cause high blood pressure are temporary, and go away on their own. Doctors call this effect regression to the mean.

    Then there is a very strange effect. If I tell you that I have this pill that will help your blood pressure, and you believe me, the chances are that by the very act of believing me, your blood pressure will drop, even if the pill is just made of sugar. This is known as the placebo effect.

    So that fact that some patients have had a drop of blood pressure while taking the medicine is not of itself evidence that the medicine caused the drop. You need to find ways of eliminating both the placebo effect and regression to the mean in order to have a reasonable degree of certainty that your medicine is doing anything at all.

    The same applies to the collective unconscious. Unless you can eliminate other known causes, such as cultural effects, you have no means of knowing whether there is any causal connection between the collective unconscious and the phenomena it purports to explain.

    As it happens, with drugs, we do have a way of cancelling out placebo and regression, by conducting what is know as double-blind randmonised clinical trials. We don't have a similar technique for distinguishing between cultural effects and the collective unconscious.

  18. Jonathan - If you're putting epigenetics in the same category as the collective unconscious, we're talking at cross purposes. Wikipedia (admittedly a low bar for verification) says;

    "In biology, and specifically genetics, epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence – hence the name epi- (Greek: επί- over, above, outer) -genetics. It refers to functionally relevant modifications to the genome that do not involve a change in the nucleotide sequence. Examples of such changes are DNA methylation and histone modification, both of which serve to regulate gene expression without altering the underlying DNA sequence. Conclusive evidence supporting epigenetics show that these mechanisms can enable the effects of parents' experiences to be passed down to subsequent generations."

    Please tell me why you're rejecting a hypothesis that, though it's early days, has an empirical foundation. I hadn't realized your skeptical zeal includes rejecting some hard science because you feel there are already plenty of other, more deeply researched, answers.

  19. Epigenetics is a real phenomenon and the study of it is real science. For instance, it is what causes your muscle cells, skin cells, brain cells etc all to have different structures and serve different purposes even through they have all inherited the same DNA in their nuclei.

    And I quite accept that there can be epigenetic effects not only between successive generations of cells but also between successive generations of larger organisms such as us. I recall a factoid (from an Asimov essay?) that Harvard graduates are growing at about an inch per generation. That won't be happening as a result of mutations, it is far more likely that there is a combination of environment and epigenetics which is at the root of this phenomenon.

    The heart of the NYT article you linked to concerns the idea of "inherited" memories, and hopes to find an epigenetic cause. It is this particular linkage of cause and effect which I find very little evidence for. Anne Ancelin Schutzenberger's "ancestor syndrome" mentioned in the article is not an epigenetic theory, it is a psychological one.

    It seems to me that language, culture and experience together form a far stronger vector for the transmission of memories between generations, and for somebody to demonstrate an epigenetic cause for memories across generations, they would need to find a way of demonstrating that the other causes weren't adequate explanations. Nothing in the article suggests that anybody is anywhere near this, nor even that any scientist is even seriously suggesting the possibility.

  20. Jonathan - I'm giving up ;-) Here's one last restatement of my view and I leave the last word to you.

    Epigenetics is something new that's been bubbling up that I've posted on from time to time because it's a new way of looking at genes. I was brought up with what you have is what you have - the idea that they can be played (expressed) like a jukebox (a previous post) opens up a world of possibility.

    I linked to this article because 1) the paragraph I quoted suggests our whole concept of what memory is may be deepened and broadened and 2) because the NYT and what's in it is the calling card for those who feel they're the cognitive elite, which means the idea just go a lot more currency.

    Though not stated, my policy is like that of the BBC - I'm not responsible for content on sites other than this one. If you have a problem with the article not fulfilling the promise of the premise (which I don't think it does either, which is why I didn't quote any of that), please take that up with the NYT.

    My contribution to this confusion is my allusive way of posting. Primarily this blog really is just a notebook for me to keep tabs on new stuff that may affect music therapy. I embed just enough in the posts so that I and similarly minded people know why they're there. Because of that lack of specificity, you're easily able to see straw men on whom you can unleash your analytical mind and proselytize the Skeptical Way.

    I have no argument with what you're saying, except when you insist on telling me what you think I'm thinking. ;-)

    Over to you for the last word.

  21. I could do a detailed analysis of the NYT article and the references in it, but I think that is to miss the point. The basic point is that the author is accurately describing the fact that epigenetic effects can occur between human generations, and was hoping that one of the effects would be hidden memories that could be recovered.

    However, there has been no evidence of this specific effect, and I am very doubtful that it will ever be found that memory is transferred in this way. There are far stronger psychological modes of transmission that were mentioned.

    I freely admit I might be wrong on this - skepticism isn't the same as a closed mind, skeptics change their minds when there is enough evidence to justify it.

    There are two directions from which this can be explored. Firstly, how epigenetics works and what effects it has, and secondly by what means non-genetic characteristics (including memories) are transmitted between generations. If the two lines of research meet in the middle, then we will have a result. It's possible, but I don't think it is likely.

    I've no problem at all with your looking around all the research for stuff that might inform your work as a therapist. That's a wholly admirable thing and I support you all the way on that. I just think that on the available evidence, a link between epigenetics and inter-generational memory is a poor candidate.

    Unconscious mechanisms for transmitting psychological characteristcs between generations undoubtedly do exist, and perhaps it doesn't matter for your purposes what name you happen to attach to them. The key point from a therapeutic viewpoint is to acknowledge that it can happen and in some cases traumatic events in previous generations can by one means or another affect somebody today. On that I am sure we are in agreement. I just don't think epigenetics is likely to turn out to be the mechanism by which it happens.