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Nature or nurture?

  1. Mar 18, 2003 #1
    Where do you fall on this one? Do you believe we are programed from birth with our entire personality, do you believe that we start clean, and are the product of environment? Or do you believe it is a combination, and if so, what is the balance? 50/50?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 18, 2003 #2
    It's a combo for sure.
  4. Mar 18, 2003 #3


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    Not only do I think it is a combination of the two, I think there are blurred lines between the two. Some environmental effects cause genetic changes in developing fetusses. Is that nature or nurture?

    I think what we think of as progress is the subordination of nature to nurture. Every year we are more creatures of our learning and less creatures of our genes. Soon, our genes will be selectively subject to our science. Even then, we will still be creatures of nature, for it is something in our nature that drives us to this tinkering.

  5. Mar 18, 2003 #4
    It's definitely a combination of the two.

    In "Jekyll and Hyde" (the movie), there was a "scientist" who believed that all behavior was programmed at birth, and unchangeable. In response, Dr. Jekyll said, "you drink a few glasses of whiskey, and see if your behavior doesn't change". While this is a slight hyperbole, I think it makes the point rather well.
  6. Mar 18, 2003 #5


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    definitely a combination of both, and i would say that genetics tend to set deeper in the older you get as far as being programmed...environment plays a bigger role to a younger child...
  7. Mar 18, 2003 #6
    Shouldn't it be the other way round? An older person would have accumulated more life-experiences and environmental influences than a newborn, no?
  8. Mar 18, 2003 #7
    I think that the percentage is dependant on the individual. If the individual was born rebellious from the start, then he/she probably would be less affected by the environment. He/she is thus shaped less, but the shaping may make him less rebellious, etc. He/she may then be shaped more.....

    Man, i'm getting confused.
  9. Mar 18, 2003 #8


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    no, and i knew someone was going to address me on why i said it this way...as we get older, we get set in our ways, so to speak, or at least the tendency to do so is high...children are constantly stimulated by their environment, thus learn many new things at a young age from it...

    as a note however, we are not doomed by our genetics (especially if we feel it is flawed!)...i think the key as one gets older is to continue to learn from one's surroundings, whether it be from people, books, etc...
  10. Mar 19, 2003 #9
    This entire question is highly problematic. First, the question assumes that genes are the influencing factor regarding human behavior. This is so simplistic, its ridiculous.
    Moving on, a better question would be the questions posed by evolutionary psychologists (among other names), which ask whether or not human behavior has a biological component.
    I would say the vast array of human behavior points to nurture being the most important influence on behavior.
    For some controversial reading, look up the Rape Behavior studies done by the Thornhills.
  11. Mar 19, 2003 #10
    I think a great portion would depend on how "dogmatic" your culture is, especially with respect to your parents. If they provide an atmosphere which is rigid and inflexible, chances are you're not going to turn out much different. If, on the other hand they don't "meddle" so much and allow you the freedom to explore and draw your own conclusions, then you stand a much better chance of becoming your own person and being less dependent on the environment.
  12. Mar 19, 2003 #11


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    No living thing (the boundaries for that are blurred as well, but lets keep that for another discussion!) is a blank slate. They all have plenty of innate predispositions.
    But for complicated apes like us, there are so many of these predispositions, that its possible for us to play off one against the other (based on the environment) thereby getting a very wide range of behaviour.
    It seems almost inane to say that its nature vs nurture but a lot of people implicitly assume the nature component to be 0. I'd recommend everyone to read Pinker's latest ... "The Blank Slate" . People assume that if nature is not 100%, it has to be 0.
    Anyone who suggests that differences in I.Q, gender roles, violence etc could be based on genetic differences is immediately pounced upon .... as if he is condoning discrimination based on these innate differences. But thats just a ridiculous misinterpretation. A logical fallacy of is-ought.

    Its hard to determine the exact % of each component. Because our behaviour is a complex function of our innate wiring as well as the environmental parameters.

    To give a crude example ....

    Consider the function f(a,b) which takes in parameters a and b as inputs to compute an output value a + 2*b + b^2

    The output depends on a and b (environmental inputs - paramters) and the function defined as a + 2*b + b^2 (the programming or wiring). Its not easy to say what % of the output depends on a and b and what depends on the function.

    All we can say is that it depends on all 3. And as far as a and b are concerned .. a change in the value of b produces a bigger difference in putput than a change in the value of a .

    - S.
  13. Mar 19, 2003 #12
    I personally think that the human behaviour is both affected by some predefined things (from birth)(you can also call this the "inner self effect" if you want), and by the enviroment. The enviromental effects tend to make fast changes on the personality, while the inner-self effect needs lot of time to change, and therefore gives more like a big base for the personality.
  14. Mar 19, 2003 #13
    Re: Re: Nature or nurture?

    Anyone who suggests that differences in I.Q, gender roles, violence etc could be based on genetic differences is immediately pounced upon .... as if he is condoning discrimination based on these innate differences. But thats just a ridiculous misinterpretation. A logical fallacy of is-ought.

    One thing you must keep in mind in any field is that there are reasons why ideas are pounced upon, such as the condonation of discrimination, which is very real. Just look up the Pioneer Fund.
    Secondly, that gibberish did little to make any point except to show of some fancy math skills.
    As per nature vs. nurture, of course nature plays a role in the developement of human behaviour, but I defy you to find a parameter into which all human behaviour falls.
  15. Mar 19, 2003 #14
    I think those very studies are what we are trying to get past. Nurture cannot be the only component, by any stretch of the imagination. Obviously, human behavior has a physical, genetic component. It cannot be otherwise, simply put. Our genetics control our brain chemistry,which influences our reation to our environment.
  16. Mar 19, 2003 #15
    ZERO: combo. The funny thing is, mind you... you have to see the genetic make up of an individual as their environment as well.

    It is an environment that lends some strength to their understanding or utilization of the rest of their environment.

    By all means genes are an environmental concern when determing the cause of certain survival techniques or the exhibition of certain traits.

    Genes tend to dictate a propensity for a trait... but, genes are unarguably part of an individual's environment.

    Therefore... I am going to have to change my mind... right here in front of you(!) and say..........100% nuture!

    Any discussion to the contrary will be appreciated.
  17. Mar 19, 2003 #16
    Re: Re: Nature or nurture?

    Well, if you rediefine it the way you did, sure? That's a cheat, though...
  18. Mar 19, 2003 #17
    Re: Re: Re: Nature or nurture?

    In what way is my definition a cheat!?

    I'm going to say its logical.

    The Nature Nurture debate was a struggle. It was an attempt to mystify genetics... make them special... make them unalterable.

    In actual fact genes, by their very physical nature, are extremely alterable. That's why anything alive today has survived as a species. Because change happens... and genes change with it.
  19. Mar 19, 2003 #18


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    Re: Re: Re: Re: Nature or nurture?

    I believe the debate is understood to be between which affects us more, the genes we are born with, or the world we experience. To say that the genes we are born with are part of the world we experience sheds no light on the matter.

  20. Mar 19, 2003 #19
    Genetics don't really control anything. They CODE for things, like a map. The implementation of the code is the important part regarding behavior. Genes don't say "this person will have a mild temperment", etc. It is my understanding that genes code for basic chemical processes. I am not a geneticist, though. Maybe someone could clear this up.
    I think the point I am trying to make is that although a gene could code for blue eyes, it couldn't code for a violent action. Perhaps it is the propensity for the action, but I don't really buy into that so much.
    The question arises: Is there a range of human action? Do some human groups have more tendencies toward certain behaviors, as some human groups display other human variation?
    what do you think?
  21. Mar 19, 2003 #20
    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nature or nurture?

    To say what I said eliminates the matter and the debate.
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