Nature or nurture?

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  • #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?
 

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  • #2
It's a combo for sure.
 
  • #3
Njorl
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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.

Njorl
 
  • #4
Mentat
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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.
 
  • #5
Kerrie
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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...
 
  • #6
zimbo
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Originally posted by Kerrie
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...

Shouldn't it be the other way round? An older person would have accumulated more life-experiences and environmental influences than a newborn, no?
 
  • #7
Bubonic Plague
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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?

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.
 
  • #8
Kerrie
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Originally posted by zimbo
Shouldn't it be the other way round? An older person would have accumulated more life-experiences and environmental influences than a newborn, no?

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...
 
  • #9
GlamGein
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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.
 
  • #10
Iacchus32
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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.
 
  • #11
Siv
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Originally posted by Zero
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?
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.
 
  • #12
STAii
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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.
 
  • #13
GlamGein
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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.
 
  • #14
Originally posted by GlamGein
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.

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.
 
  • #15
quantumcarl
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Originally posted by Zero
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?

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.
 
  • #16


Originally posted by quantumcarl
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.

Well, if you rediefine it the way you did, sure? That's a cheat, though...
 
  • #17
quantumcarl
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Originally posted by Zero
Well, if you rediefine it the way you did, sure? That's a cheat, though...

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.
 
  • #18
Njorl
Science Advisor
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Originally posted by quantumcarl
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.

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.

Njorl
 
  • #19
GlamGein
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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?
 
  • #20
quantumcarl
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Originally posted by Njorl
To say that the genes we are born with are part of the world we experience sheds no light on the matter.

Njorl [/B]

To say what I said eliminates the matter and the debate.
 
  • #21


Originally posted by quantumcarl
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.

It is a cheat because you define genetics as an environmental influence.

. And what is it with the 'conspiracy talk' about Nature/Nurture? It wasn't, and isn't, some magical way of thinking. It is obvious that no human being is a blank slate...we are all influenced by our genes. Why is it acceptable to say that hiar color is genetic, but behavior isn't?
 
  • #22
Originally posted by Sensei


1) how people look is how they've been treated.
2) how they've been treated is how they've learned to react
3) how they've learned to react is how we categorize their personality.


any thoughts?

That might be generally true, but teh LEVEL of reaction is determined by genetics. A person with a naturally upbeat nature will react differently than someone who is naturally prone to anger.
 
  • #23
Siv
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Originally posted by GlamGein
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,
Absolutely, there is a reason. Thats because they dont understand the is-ought fallacy. They think that the fact that we are born with innate predispositions which are unique for each of us (although there are huge similarities) means that ...
1. The bad aspects of our nature are there to stay ... nothing can be done about them
2. Just because those bad aspects are natural means that they're somehow justified or should be encouraged.

Both those points are totally wrong.

Its this faulty understanding which has led to many atrocities. Those caused by Hitler and those caused by Stalin/Lenin etc.

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.
The parameters were the inputs from the environment. The output (human behaviour) depends on this environment interacting with the pre-programming in our genes. If there was no innateness, the inputs would produce nothing.
You obviously didn't understand much. Try reading my post again, with an open mind . If you still dont get it, I'll try explaining a little more.

- S.
 
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  • #24
Siv
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Originally posted by quantumcarl
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.
Are you talking about genetic engineering or random mutation + natural selection ?

If its genetic engineering you're talking about, we're hardly wise enough to attempt it on humans yet. We've just mapped the human genome. There's plenty more to be done for us to be able to attempt genetic engineering. But I agree with you that thats the way to go. Once we become wise enough to know all the implications of altering one bit of genome and also collectively agree on what the changes we need are .... then we should attempt it.

If you're talking about random mutation+ natural selection (evolution) then the timeframe it takes for that to take effect is tens of thousands and millions and billions of years. You sure you want such an inefficient method ?!

- S.
 
  • #25
Just a note on the original percentage question: the famoud Minnesota Twins study observed a large number of identical twins separated at birth and compared them to a group of matched identical twins raised together. This is all in the current (1970+) cultural environment of the US, but they found:

About ~70% of observed IQ variation is due to genetics. Personality traits, as determined by standard psychological tests/scales, are about ~50% due to genetics. Surprisingly, twins raised together showed no more similarity on most psychological traits than those raised apart!

I'm taking this from Bouchard et al, Science 250:223 (1990.)
 
  • #26
quantumcarl
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Originally posted by Zero
It is a cheat because you define genetics as an environmental influence.

. And what is it with the 'conspiracy talk' about Nature/Nurture? It wasn't, and isn't, some magical way of thinking. It is obvious that no human being is a blank slate...we are all influenced by our genes. Why is it acceptable to say that hiar color is genetic, but behavior isn't?

What else are genes other than environmentally influencial?

We are born into a genetically engineered body... complete with all the organs, skin and skeleton... true.... and the genes come with certain attributes that help us survive... etc.

However... we are also born into an exterior environment of rocks, sunlight, plants, atmosphere etc... that work in a symbiosis to help us survive.

We actually use our genetic environment to utilize the exterior environment in our efforts to survive and embellish our understanding of nature.

Perhaps the question is "what makes us want to survive?"

And perhaps the answer is "certain genes".

But, that still leaves us in an environment of "must survive".

If you caught a hint of a conspiracy hunt in what I said earlier... it was only something I picked up on concerning the lack of general knowledge about genetics.

Since genes were discovered they have been somewhat of a mystery to the common person. Only being taught at a high level of learning until recently.

I found that the Nurture or Nature debate continued the mystery about genes... in that it separated genes from the environment......... when, in actual fact, genes are very much a part of the environment.... no matter how much they determine my hair colour... my eye colour.... my finger length... etc.......

Saying genes are any different than the rest of the environment is like saying........

"because gravity determines up from down and determines the presence of a mass (etc..)... it is separate from the environment. Not!
 
  • #27
Siv
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Originally posted by damgo
Just a note on the original percentage question: the famoud Minnesota Twins study observed a large number of identical twins separated at birth and compared them to a group of matched identical twins raised together. This is all in the current (1970+) cultural environment of the US, but they found:

About ~70% of observed IQ variation is due to genetics. Personality traits, as determined by standard psychological tests/scales, are about ~50% due to genetics. Surprisingly, twins raised together showed no more similarity on most psychological traits than those raised apart!

I'm taking this from Bouchard et al, Science 250:223 (1990.)
Actually its so-much % of the variation in IQ .

- S.
 
  • #28
selfAdjoint
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Originally posted by quantumcarl
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.

Genes do not change adaptively in an individual - that idea is Lamarkism which is false. Rather genes vary randomly during an individual's lifetime and differences in ability to leave descendents sieve out some variations for future generations and leave others in the cemetary.
 
  • #29
Another God
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I am somewhat upset that there was ever any sort of debate about this topic. It seems quite obvious to me.
 
  • #30
Siv
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Originally posted by Another God
I am somewhat upset that there was ever any sort of debate about this topic. It seems quite obvious to me.
Then Pinker's latest book is a must-read for you.
He explains why, although the intellectual community asserts this all the time, as if it was silly to even point it out, in reality, they dont follow it ... or fight its implications tooth and nail.
Although everyone says "Oh, we all know that its nature plus nurture. So stop wasting your time" ... the moment anyone dares to point out the nature component, they are all up in arms against that person.
The implicit rule of thumb seems to be that if someone's suggesting more than 0% nature, they're suggesting 100% nature and they're all Fascists !

Read the book, its damn enlightening.
It throws wonderful new light (by which I mean evidence) on mundane topics such as violence, child rearing, gender etc.

- S.
 
  • #31
Another God
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Originally posted by Siv
Then Pinker's latest book is a must-read for you.
He explains why, although the intellectual community asserts this all the time, as if it was silly to even point it out, in reality, they dont follow it ... or fight its implications tooth and nail.
Well, personally, I say it, and follow it. I really do believe that you rgenetic make up determines such basic factors like whether seratonin makes you feel excited or stressed, and therefore affects whether your are a risk taker or a coward....

Of course DNA is the rules for how you body reacts to the environment, and then your mind 'chooses' the course of action that seems the most likely based on how its development has set it up. (to give an obvious, easy example.)
 
  • #32
Njorl
Science Advisor
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Originally posted by Siv
Then Pinker's latest book is a must-read for you.
He explains why, although the intellectual community asserts this all the time, as if it was silly to even point it out, in reality, they dont follow it ... or fight its implications tooth and nail.
Although everyone says "Oh, we all know that its nature plus nurture. So stop wasting your time" ... the moment anyone dares to point out the nature component, they are all up in arms against that person.
The implicit rule of thumb seems to be that if someone's suggesting more than 0% nature, they're suggesting 100% nature and they're all Fascists !

Read the book, its damn enlightening.
It throws wonderful new light (by which I mean evidence) on mundane topics such as violence, child rearing, gender etc.

- S.

Siv,
I think one reason that people are defensive or combative about the "nature" arguements is that, at least here in the US, they are often used to support racism and sexism. These arguements are exaggerated and twisted by white-supremicists and male-supremicists so that they bring discredit even upon genuinely good science.
Njorl
 
  • #33
Psychodelirium
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Originally posted by Siv
Then Pinker's latest book is a must-read for you.
He explains why, although the intellectual community asserts this all the time, as if it was silly to even point it out, in reality, they dont follow it ... or fight its implications tooth and nail.
Although everyone says "Oh, we all know that its nature plus nurture. So stop wasting your time" ... the moment anyone dares to point out the nature component, they are all up in arms against that person.
The implicit rule of thumb seems to be that if someone's suggesting more than 0% nature, they're suggesting 100% nature and they're all Fascists !

The flip side is that people who assert first their moderation and their distaste for that pointless nature/nurture question, and then their interest in one or the other of these components often tend to stray from the reasonable center to which they pledge allegiance. Pinker, I think, is no exception to this. But let me quote from http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20021125&s=blackburn112502&c=1 [Broken] of Pinker's book:

There is a standard move--call it the demon move--in such a debate. First we establish our own reasonable credentials. We, the good guys, are not taken in by the labels. We recognize, of course, that any human being is the result of both nature and nurture. There is the biological or genetic endowment and there is the environment in which the biological or genetic endowment gets expressed. We good guys understand that it is meaningless to ask whether iron rusts because of the nature of iron or because of the environment in which the iron is put. We know that the rusting requires both. It is the deluded others, the bad guys, who forget entirely about one or the other of these components.

So if you wish to demonize theorists on the nature side, present them as genetic determinists who hold that there is no more to growing up than following a formula written in the genes. These dangerous fools think that iron is programmed to rust wherever you put it, as if oxygen and moisture had nothing to do with it. And if you are demonizing theorists on the nurture side, then portray them as holding that human beings have no characteristics at all except those that are inscribed by environment and culture. These dangerous fools think that the chemical nature of iron has nothing to do with whether it rusts. (There is also a second-order, or meta-demonizing, move to make. Not only have the dangerous fools got themselves into an extreme position, they also have the gall to paint people like us as extreme. They are not only blind to their own extremism, they are also blind to our moderation. The things they call us! They must be doubly demonic.)

The irony is that, having satisfactorily trashed the other side, people tend not to stay in the reasonable middle that they claim to occupy. The fig leaf of moderation is very quickly discarded. Just as in football a defeat for one side is a victory for the other, and in politics a defeat for the left is a victory for the right, so here a defeat of the others is a victory for whichever extreme appealed in the first place. We want simplicity, and our binary thinking is not hospitable to compromise or to pluralism. George W. Bush can woo the people by saying that you are with us or you are against us. He cannot do so by saying that you are with us or against us or somewhere in between. It appears that only fitfully and with effort can we keep it in our heads that iron rusts owing to a number of factors. In our hearts, we are pulled one way or the other."

And then,

If we imagine a scale from zero (genes have nothing to do with human nature) to ten (culture has nothing to do with human nature), I should guess that Pinker scores about nine.

...

Pinker believes that anybody who scores around five on my scale is in the grip of his demon myths, and really scores zero.

(I confess this last bit may be too harsh, but the point is well taken.)

Though I find evolutionary psychology interesting and valuable, I like to think that I am one of those rare individuals who have managed to keep their centrism throughout the debate, and I do not feel particularly pulled either in the nature or the nurture direction. From what I can gather though, Pinker is very obviously drawn to the former, which explains his strangely dismissive attitude toward explanations of human behavior that invoke culture. At times, Pinker also seems to think that human behavior is always determined bottom up, from the individual to the society, but never top down. I have said before, and continue to assert now that what we really have is a feedback relationship that flows both ways - one of those suggestions that everybody waves away as obvious but nobody turns out to believe once the pressure is on.
 
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  • #34
Les Sleeth
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Originally posted by Psychodelirium
Though I find evolutionary psychology interesting and valuable, I like to think that I am one of those rare individuals who have managed to keep their centrism throughout the debate, and I do not feel particularly pulled either in the nature or the nurture direction. . . . I have said before, and continue to assert now that what we really have is a feedback relationship that flows both ways . . .

Nice post.

I think you might agree that in addition to those who agree it is both nature and nurture, are those who believe our "nature" is not just the result of evolution and genetics. It is an important question because how we consciously nurture ourselves and others should work best when we base it on what human nature really is.

That is why, in my opinion, there is passionate debate around whether we are only programmed beasts, or if we have a "spiritual" nature too (whatever that means) which precedes the physical conditions it is subjected to. In other words, part of the debate is deciding what we should consider a full complement of nurturing for humanity both now and for future generations.
 
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  • #35
Siv
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Originally posted by Njorl
Siv,
I think one reason that people are defensive or combative about the "nature" arguements is that, at least here in the US, they are often used to support racism and sexism. These arguements are exaggerated and twisted by white-supremicists and male-supremicists so that they bring discredit even upon genuinely good science.
Njorl
But then thats wrong application of the theory. Why dismiss the valid theory just because someone applied it wrongly to justify their bigotry ?!

Again, thats no excuse.

- S.
 

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