Nature v Nurture

The question of what creates a person, Nature or Nurture, and which is more important has been debated ever since Darwin’s “Theory of evolution by natural selection” took hold. In other words, is it a person’s genes (DNA) that predominately decides who a person is, or is it their experiences and upbringing? Many well know psychologists have provided us with many varied opinions on this subject, but I thought I would take a slightly different tack than most.

I know it is not very fashionable to compare us human beings with animals, but, we are in fact, just that. We are just a mammal with more brain power than all the others. This thinking and reasoning ability has evolved from our ape cousins over many hundreds of thousands of years. In the last few thousand years, us humans have bred and nurtured many breeds of animals to suit our purposes. In many cases, what we see in a domesticated animal these days, while similar in many ways to the original wild variety, has been deliberately bred to achieve certain outcomes. I am not suggesting that human beings should take up selective breeding, we can however, easily see the results of such un-natural selection in our pets. They are part wild animal, and part a domesticated one.

Thinking about our domestic breeds of dogs for a moment. We all know that certain breeds of dogs have certain predominate characteristics, which is, as we all know, the result of hundreds of years of selective breeding. In many cases, these characteristics can be virtually guaranteed. It does not guarantee certain behaviors, but most of us who have owned a certain breed of dog will know what I am saying. This is nature or the DNA talking. A dog that would normally be expected to be placid and good natured can be mistreated, particularly when a puppy, to the point where it looses much of its inherited characteristics. This is the nurture part.

Now lets talk about us human beings, and this is where what I am about to say maybe somewhat contentious. It is rather an interesting point to note that, even with the large number of human societies around the world with considerable variances in customs, living environments, history and racial backgrounds, there is nowhere near the range of characteristics one would find in domesticated dogs. Does the ‘Theory of evolution by natural selection’ apply to humans? If so, is the process still going on? Why is that I wonder?

The question of which has the largest bearing on what makes up a human being, nature or nurture, is extremely complicated, but some generalizations may be in order at this time. Even in the same family, particularly if it is a large one, one can usually see the innate differences between the various siblings. They probably have had very similar upbringings, but the nature side of them can often make them profoundly different to their brothers and sisters. In these cases the nature side of them predominates their nurture side, so making them quite different to the others. They quite often act differently, think differently and sometimes look differently.

This brings me to the question of behavior, and why we do what we do, and when we do it? There are, in virtually all societies around the world, acceptable behavior in just about every situation you can think of. All societies have laws, regulations and societal norms that dictate how a person should act and behave. There are usually penalties of some kind if a person breaks these rules. Regardless of what the environment and upbringing of a certain person was, there is always, lurking in the background, nature. It is my contention that nature is more prevalent in some people than others. They find it more difficult to conform, and sometimes the more violent nature side of them comes to the fore. Their upbringing is not to blame, it is just who they naturally are. One one hand you have their training, on the other you have nature. There is a constant struggle between the two, and that which predominates will often decide the outcome.

Most societies around the world have certain expectations of their residents and every one of them has those who flout the law, behave indecently, create havoc, damage property and generally make themselves un-liked and un-welcome. Is it nature or nurture? Why is this so? We all have the normal and natural animal like tendencies and instincts within us, it just depends what predominates at any particular time. These instincts are quite strong in some, less so in others. Thankfully, most human beings are able to overcome their natural tendencies and behave in a dignified, thoughtful, respectful, safe and socially acceptable manner. This is usually a result of their nurture side predominating.

Societies normal behavior around the world vary immensely, and unless you have lived it, sometimes they are unknown to an outsider. As I have intimated before, virtually every human being on this planet is very similar. Have you ever thought about the shape of houses around the world? Ancient ruins, going back thousands of years, in societies that had no contact with one another, all built houses with box like rooms with square shaped doors and windows. How is that so? There are many instances like this around the world and maybe it should be studied and reflected on more. There is far more that unites us human beings, than what divides us!

Is it nature, or is it nurture? Every individual in this world is unique, and so is the ratio of which of these two predominate in that particular individual. Vive la difference!

Published by sharingknowledge

I am an older retired person currently living in Queensland, Australia who has lived in 6 different countries for 5 years or more each. They include England, Canada, USA, New Zealand, Norfolk Island and now Australia. I have a wide range of interests which include, amongst others, education, business, travel, volunteering, classic cars and government. I consider myself to be very logical, consistent, thoughtful and generally involved with society. I welcome any considered views and opinions.

One thought on “Nature v Nurture

  1. Phil: Oddly, I was thinking about this very topic this morning when I was out attempting to capture the glory of the dawn, while I wait for a change in the color scheme of the sky, I get to watch the interaction across four breeds of waterfowl; Canadian geese, Mallards, wood ducks, and two domestic ducks returned to the wild. All four breeds exhibit similar behavior. The males stand off and stand guard while the females feed first… The larger breed mares drive off the smaller breed males and females to a lesser extent. Watching the waterfowl this morning I wondered how much of our, human beings., behavior was as consistent with our nature as the bird’s behavior was with their nature. While I could clearly see a semblance of compassion in the way the male birds treated their females. and I have seen male geese and ducks shoe what same behavior towards their young. I wondered how human beings ever expanded this compassionate like treatment to others than their mates and children. I will admit, that what we call compassion is far from universal in our species, but it is fairly widespread in the human family.
    As for evolution, in the case of long-lived critters such as us, it is not easily observed in short spans such as the few centuries of history we have to examine, not even in the roughly 70,000 years for which we have had speech.
    Warmest regards, Ed

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