The Role of Nature vs Nurture
"We used to think our fate was in our stars. Now, we know, in large part, that our fate is in our genes." ---James Watson
While social research has been steady and ongoing, our biological knowledge has advanced disproportionately in recent times. As we discover more about the role of genes in pre-determining who we are, the nature versus nurture debate seems headed for a tilt of the biological over the environmental.
Nature, or our biological aspect, does matter a lot. From the point of fertilization, genes guide the growth of cells, the embryo and eventually the fetus. The physical configuration of the newborn, from the positioning of the limbs right down to dimples, is almost entirely charted by genes. Noam Chomsky's theory of the language acquisition device argues that we are linguistically pre-wired - the only reason why young children manage to learn languages before their brains have fully grasped the sophisticated logic needed to understand syntax and semantics. In a study of Rhesus monkeys, it has been shown that some monkeys are born more aggressive and playful than others, suggesting that genes may play a part in deciding our personalities as well. Nowhere do genes exhibit their vital role more dramatically than in the case of genetic disorders. Genetic scientists have uncovered an increasing number of genes that code for diseases such as sickle-cell anemia, Turner syndrome, and many others. It has further been shown how the slightest alteration of the human genome leads to exaggerated, often disastrous results.
The role of nurture, on the other hand, is sometimes neglected behind the bustle of scientific discoveries. Though human growth in the womb is guided by strict genetic instructions, external factors are equally capable of influencing growth. Expectant mothers who smoke give birth to infants with lower birth-weight, while drugs and other teratogens are known to affect infant physical and cerebral development. Cases of...