Conclusive evidence- Nature VS Nurture Debate
What Science Proves, or Is It Our Choice?
The eternal debate between nature and nurture never stops to engage us – the belief that we act the way we do due to our genetics, or even our “animal instincts” seems appealing to those of us who’d like to have a reason, outside of ourselves, for what happens to us. It’s almost as if we’re blaming our fate or luck for the unhappy times.
On the other side we have nurturing, for which we need to take full responsibility, as we are the ones deciding and choosing our social circles, our education and life style. If we don’t like ourselves, we can’t blame our parents, or simply say: “That’s just the way I am.” If we don’t like ourselves, that’s because we had made the wrong decisions and we can change that by nurturing the right things for us.
While both cases have pros and cons, the easiest way for us would be to believe that we have both influences – the genes, and the society. But taking the easy path doesn’t lead to finding the answer and it doesn’t justify all the work done by scientists to discover what really shapes who we are.
The matter had become so indefinite that a recent study published in June 12 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, researchers from the Twins Early Development Study at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry studied data from more than 6700 families relating to 45 childhood characteristics, from IQ and hyperactivity to height and weight. They found that genetic and environmental contributions to these characteristics vary geographically in the UK and have published their results online as a series of nature-nurture maps. The results show that for people based in London the environment plays a bigger role than in the smaller towns possibly because wealth varies so dramatically within communities, meaning twins growing up on the same street are more likely to fall in with different groups of friends who could influence their behaviour.
If we take this particular study and assume that London speaks for all the other big cities, can we say that that’s where nurture prevails? Even if nurture is greater in the big cities, can we divide that matter by cities? What happens when people move to a smaller town, for example? Would they change and adjust according to the new environment, or would they suddenly start to act through their genes?
In a paper published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Eva Telzer of UCLA and three other researchers reported that they’ve performed amygdala (a brain structure associated with emotion ) studies on children and they found something interesting: the sensitivity of the amygdala doesn’t kick in enough until around age 14. However, since amygdala is a proof that we perceive the surrounding world according to that biological structure, it does fail to prove its theory as by the age of 14, the children had already acquired their own environmental perceptions.
Another big issue being explored in the nature – nurture war, is the crime world viewed at times as an excuse for law-breaking.
Adrian Raine from the University of Pennsylvania conducted an experiment and found that looking at the brains of 3-years old children, scientists could already see signs of future criminal activities. The children with a poor amygdala function were more likely to become criminals in life. But if scientists could see at this early stage which children were going to be criminal offenders, then wouldn’t it be easier to prevent crime too? If scientists were taken on their research, and kids with poor amygdala were taken to a special school for future criminals for special care and observation, wouldn’t that special care determine their lives and indeed increase their crime risk?
If people are treated differently, they would eventually become different exactly due to that “treatment”, which only proves that eventually the environment takes over biology and dictates our life paths.
Nurture works through nature and nature through nurture – that’s non-debatable, but it is essential for us to know the reasons behind our actions and behaviour. How can we decide which of our qualities we owe to nature and which to nurture? How much does the city we live in play a part and how much do our genes determine the outcome of our lives? If we knew what our genes were and we weren’t happy with it, would we cave in or fight for our right of a personal choice? Since science had only achieved arguable thesis, we are left with our individual impressions and influences. Somehow nature and nurture do fit together and it might as well be up to us to discover which one plays a bigger part in our lives.