Nature / Nurture or Both !


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 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 diseas e
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.