The Nature vs. Nurture Debate
No change in circumstances can repair a defect of character.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
One of the great controversial debates in Psychology is determining if characteristics and behavior are primarily due to genetics or the environment. We can now readily accept that genes determine our eye color, height, blood type, and other biological factors. Do these same genes that determine anatomy also determine our tendency towards traits such as violence, homosexuality or alcoholism? Some Psychologists, such as Freud, will argue that the home environment is primarily responsible for molding personality, while others cry genotype. There have been countless studies to find out if our destiny is written in our genes or determined by circumstance. Attempting to ascertain whether people are genetically programmed to be good-natured or prone to violence, sober or alcoholic, homosexual or heterosexual has perplexed man since the beginning of history. Nature vs. nurture purists believe that we are either molded entirely by our surroundings or our genetic make-up, however, it is not necessarily so black and white. Characteristics such as homosexuality, alcoholism, and violence are determined by both environmental and genetic factors.
Nature or nurture? The media reports numerous acts of violence every day, for example, in 1998, a 15-year-old boy in a small Oregon town took a gun to school one day and randomly opened fire on a crowded cafeteria. Was this horrific act a product of nurture or nature? This individual was supposedly raised in a loving, supportive, two-parent home with a strong moral upbringing, yet his obsession with weapons and violence may have led to this tragedy. It is possible that Kip Kinkle was exposed to a great deal of violence on television and in the media, but it is also likely that, due to a glitch in his "mainframe", he was predisposed to violence, hence the attraction to it. If media exposure is to blame, then it is conceivable to assume that all children will eventually display similar behavior. To examine another theory, Dean Hamer, a geneticist at the National Institute of Health, has found evidence that biology could play a part in determining violent behavior (Pool, 1997). He found that low serotonin levels in the brain contribute to violent tendencies. So which theory explains Kinkle's outburst of seemingly senseless brutality? Based on the evidence that he was raised in a wholesome community, the most comfortable answer is a biological dysfunction he was born with, perhaps low serotonin production. We as a society do not want to believe that we are capable of producing abhorrent individuals, therefore it is easy to choose nature over nurture as an explanation, even though it is most likely a combination of the two.
One of today's most controversial arguments is whether homosexuality is due to chromosomal predetermination or a conscious decision. This argument is fueled...