Nature vs. Nurture - We are Influenced by a Combination

Nature vs. Nurture - We are Influenced by a Combination

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Nature vs. Nurture Debate


The controversy over what determines who we are, whether it is Nature
(heredity, our biological make up) or Nurture (our environment) is taking a new
shape. Through the past decades, psychologists have developed different
theories to explain the characteristics of human-beings; how we feel, think and
behave. Usually, these theories were one directional in the nature / nurture
question. Today, a new approach to deal with this question is emerging. This
new approach finds a middle ground between nature and nurture. The
conclusion that nature and nurture are complementary and work hand and hand
to shape a behavior (a purposeful and meaningful activity) is not a compromise;
it is a result of a vigorous study of each of the components of the equation of
heredity and environment and their affects on determining one’s development
and behavior. In fact, the more we understand about development and behavior,
the more obvious it becomes that nature and nurture are similarly influences
rather than determinants, not only singly but also in combination. Here below, I
will endeavour to expose the leading theories dealing with the question of nature
vs. nurture. I will also try to present the third, new-emerging approach meant to
solve the mystery of “ What is it that makes us who we are?”

“Our genes made us. We animals exist for their preservation and are
nothing more than their throwaway survival machines.” This is what Richard
Darwin states in his book: The Selfish Gene. In his international best seller book,
he argues that we are merely a product of our genes and our main purpose in
life is to serve the genes, become distribution agents and ensure their
proliferation. Before we take any stand to Darwin’s statement, let us familiarize
ourselves with what is meant when the term nature is used. Nature represents
what we are born with and cannot control. Our biological make up is determined
by the genes we receive from our parents(reside in the 23 pairs of
chromosomes, 23 from each parent.) “A gene is a segment of DNA or a
sequence of nucleotides in DNA that codes for a functional product,” (Tortora,
Microbiology. p. 575.) These genes not only affect our outlook, but also play a
significant role in determining our behavior and our well-being. “Through new
genetic studies, clinical observation, and research on identical twins and
adopted children, we are becoming increasingly aware that many of the human
characteristics previously taken for granted as products of childhood rearing and
environment are rooted in the genetic matrix.”, (Neubrauer, Peter. p 38) Studies
of identical twins reared apart have provided researchers with a lot of clues

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about the role of heredity in every day life behavior. Twins (monozygotes) are of
extraordinary importance when studying heredity because they share identical
copies of genes. An interesting study on twin brothers who were separated at
birth and raised in different countries by respective adoptive parents showed
that they both kept their lives neat, ’neat to the point of pathology.’ Their clothes
were preened, appointments met precisely on
time.

When asked about the reason they felt to be so clean, the first one
replied “ My mother. When I was growing up she always kept the house perfectly
ordered. She insisted on every little thing returned to its proper place,... I learned
from her. What else could I do?” When his twin brother was asked the same
question he answered “The reason is quite simple. I’m reacting to my mother,
who was an absolute slob.”, (Neubrauer, Peter P 21) In this example, we see a
natural preference based on heredity. Both twins blamed their mothers for their
behaviors, while none of the mothers required such neatness. Another study on
heredity and alcoholism conducted by Goodwin et al (1973) indicated that
adoptees with alcoholic parents were four times more likely to become alcoholics
than those without, although there was no such relationship with alcohol misuse
in adoptive parents, ( Pelle, Stanton. p 2). Even though scientists have only
identified 16,000 out of the total 100,000 genes, many psychological diseases
are on the verge of being unraveled. Take for instance schizophrenia, a disease
characterized by (hallucinations, delusions, flat or inappropriate emotional
expression, paranoia and suspiciousness). New findings point out to its
relatedness to genetics. Genetic markers for schizophrenia are founded on
chromosomes 22, 6, 13, 8 and 9, ( De Angelis, Tori. Boston globe.) These
examples reveal the genetic role in our development. They also expose our
predisposition to certain traits and behaviors.

The second camp sitting on the other side of the fence is the advocates
for nurture. Here,nurture represents our surrounding: parents, class-mates,
colleagues, our value system and our society as a whole. People in this camp
argue that man is a product of his environment. Some extremists went as far as
saying: give us any new born infant and we will shape him/her just the way we
want, by placing him/her in the desired environment. “ As one grows from infancy
to adulthood, social experience plays a critical and constant role in the
regulation of growth , behavior and emotions,” (Glick, Marion E.) Here we are
told that social deprivation at different stages of development can lead to
abnormalities in the stress hormone system, which may produce severe and
long-lasting physical, neural and psychological consequences. It is also
interesting to consider the gender differences due to the change in enviroment.
Few deacades ago, women were considered inferior to men in their
achievements. Today, eventhough the misconception of gender roles in society
is still present, we can clearly see the gap between men and women narrowing
due to the change in enviorment.

The new school emerging to help bring the nature nurture argument to
rest professes that there is no war between nature and nurture. Indeed, such war
would be absurd because it is the interaction of nature and nurture that defines
our behavior and well-being. Here, a question as “ WHY DID YOU STEEL THE
CAR? ”, cannot be answered by: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT, or better yet, MY
GENES MADE ME DO IT. In understanding a behavior, both nature and nurture
are taken to consideration.

“ “Moreover, it is perfectly obvious that human social life is related to
human biology...Of course, neither biological nor cultural determinists ever wish
entirely to exclude the significance of the other.” (R.C Lewontin. p.267-268.)
Many psychological illnesses can be explained as a result of combined genetics
and environmental factors. As already stated in this paper, schizophrenia has
genetic basis. It is also a fact that this mental disease is triggered by
environmental factors including family factors and external stress. Paul
Grobstein, in his article”Genes, Environments, and Individual Choice” explains
that ”In human development and behavior, as in the development and behavior
of all other living organisms, the genome and the environment instead
productively interact with one another, both contributing unique and valuable
information to the emergence of distinctive individuals” It is also noteworthy to
mention that no two individuals are the same. Not even monozygotic twins have
the same environment. “Every person is a unique and nonrecurrent”,
(Dobzhansky, Theodosius. p.8)

In sum, in this paper we can conclude that our development and behavior
are products of the interaction between nature and nuture. Scientists confirm
that we are predisposed to certain traits and behaviors, but this predisposition is
susceptible to modification by genetics as well as environmental factors. We can
no longer dwell on the question "Is it Nature or Nurture That Determines Who
We Are?" We learn that it is the combination of these two vital factors that shape
and define our development and behavior.






Work Cited

Dangles, Tori.” Chromosomes contain clues on sxhizophrenia”, Bsoton Globe,
Feb17-97

Dobzhansky,Theodosius. Genetic Diverisy & Human Equality.1973
Glick, Marion E.” Behavior and the Brain:A New View of the Narure-Nurture

Debate.” Online. Internet.http//:www.rockefeller.edu/pubinfo/neurolecutre.nr.html.

Feb.6 -1996

Neubauer, Peter. Nature’s Thumprint,1990
Pelle,
Stanton.Online.Internet.http://www.frw.uva.nl/acd/isg/drugs/peele/lib/genetics.ht
ml.
Feb.17-97 5:00PM
R.C. Lewontin. Not In Our Genes. 1984

Richard, Darwin. Selfish Gene, 2nd.edition.1989

Torta, Gerald. Microbiology An Introduction, 5th. edition.1995
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