Was Anakin Skywalker born bad or did he become Darth Vader because of elements in his environment?A child is born with the potential ability to learn Chinese or SwahEmilie Buchwaldili, play a kazoo, climb a tree, make a strudel or a birdhouse, take pleasure in finding the coordinates of a star. Genetic inheritance determines a child’s abilities and weaknesses. But those who raise a child call forth from that matrix the traits and talents they consider important.
The Debate about Nature vs Nurture
Are we primarily shaped by our innate traits (nature) or do our personal experiences (nurture) dictate what we are.
It’s a question that occupied philosophers and social reformers for centuries, but only recently are we approaching this issue from a scientific perspective.
Too often evidence was biased by the beliefs of researches, alleged scientific evidence was misused to justify mass sterilization of the genetically ‘unfit’
In the 1930s the behaviorist hijacked the whole issue and claimed it solved. Only in the last decades emerges a more balanced approach.
Today, the majority of experts believe that behavior and development are influenced by both nature and nurture. However, the issue still rages on in many areas such as in the debate on the origins of homosexuality and influences on intelligence.
The realization that people inherited some features, but were modified during life, was known to the ancients. The phrase ‘nature versus nurture’ was suggested by the English Victorian polymath Francis Galton, who was influenced by Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.He investigated the influence of heredity and environment on social advancement.From the reference it can be seen that Galton did not oppose nature to nurture as two exclusive alternatives.The phrase ‘nature vs nurture’ has been rightly criticized for its over-simplification. However, almost all writers have realized that both play a part in our make-up. One who, at first sight, seemed to think humans got their ‘mind’ from nurture (the tabula rasa or blank slate theory) was philosopher John Locke. He, however, was only concerned with how we acquire knowledge from sense-data.
Since both nature and nurture play such interacting roles in development, many modern psychologists and anthropologists consider the contrast naive—representing an outdated state of knowledge. This is best highlighted through a quote attributed to psychologist Donald Hebb responding to a journalist asking the ‘Nature versus Nurture’ question : ‘Which contributes more to the area of a rectangle it’s length or width ?’
Twin Studies in the Nature vs Nurture Debate
One very popular way among scientists to determine the contribution of genes or the environment are twin studies.
Identical twins are natural clones. Because they carry the same genes (and this can be proved), they may be used to investigate how much heredity contributes to individual people. Studies with twins have been quite interesting. If we make a list of characteristic traits, we find that they vary greatly in how much they owe to heredity. For example:
- Blood groups: entirely inherited.
- Eye colour: almost entirely inherited.
- Weight, height: partly inherited, partly environmental.
- Intelligence: more inherited than not, if IQ tests are used as a measure.
- Which language you speak: entirely environmental.
Ultimately, the old argument of nature vs. nurture has never really been won. We do not yet know how much of what we are is determined by our DNA and how much by our life experience. But we do know that both play a part. Researchers on all sides of the nature vs nurture debate agree that the link between a gene and a behavior is not the same as cause and effect. While a gene may increase the likelihood that you’ll behave in a particular way, it does not make people do things. Which means that we still get to choose who we’ll be when we grow up.