One of the interesting things about the growing enthusiasm for transgenerational epigenetics – the kind where your grandfather was poor or discriminated against which somehow makes you terrible at algebra today, except not if you’re Korean – is that it has been bottom-up. It has not been driven by convincing experimental results – of course there haven’t been any. Instead, it was an idea that appealed: more and more people in certain circles talked about it, convinced each other by the most powerful of all arguments (“Wouldn’t it be nice if ?”) and that eventually drove bullshit experiments and publications. Looking at Google’s Ngram Viewer, it looks as if this particular mental fungus sprouted around 2003.
There may have been a particular article or book that started this wave of nonsense, but I haven’t found it yet. Even if there was, it only succeeded because the soil was fertile. It was a bad idea whose time had come. One can understand some of the motivation: gaps persisted and persisted in spite of many costly interventions. It must have been frustrating.
Back in 1940, the Soviet powers that be wanted more wheat (and more dead kulaks, of course) . Today, our most desired product is excuses.