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Nature versus Nurture

Nature versus nurture. This has been a topic of debate for centuries. Years have passé still not been found regarding this issue. This is an argumentation of the utmost significance, not only because of its anthropological meaning, that will help us understand where we come from and how our personality is formed, but also because of the moral, political, ethical, educational, social, and statistical issues that it discusses. The nature side of the polemic says that humans behave as they do according to heredity, or even animal instincts. The nurture side believes that people think and behave certain ways because they are taught to do so. Neither of the above is the correct answer to the question, “Why do we behave like that? “ The accurate answer is that heredity, meaning nature, is a true fact, but it has a role of “basis”, in the building of our mind and personality. The biggest impact in our development is the environment in which we live and grow up: the nurture side. Therefore, nature is mostly influenced by nurture.

Many scientists and authors have been arguing for the correct side, between nature and nurture. For example, William Golding, the English writer who wrote the book, Lord Of The Flies, states generally that every man has a capacity to be “evil” from the beginning of his life. This statement shows that from the point of view of Golding, every person has an inherited characteristic, which would basically mean he is on the nature side of the debate. Another notable person that agreed with the nature side of the polemic was the scientist, Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, the famous naturalist. Galton was the man who first started the debate between hereditarians, a group of people who believe that heredity determinates our human nature, and environmentalists, people who believe that our environment has the biggest impact on our development. In 1865, he began to study heredity, basically the idea of nature. This was partly influenced by reading Darwin's publication, Origin of Species. This “thirst” for knowledge led him to do very significant and important studies, the twin studies, hoping to find the different contributions of nature and nurture. His huge contribution to the debate, especially to the nature side, proves that he agreed with the theory of heredity. As mentioned earlier, Galton had a cousin named Charles Darwin. He was a British naturalist and big defender of the nature side of the debate. According to the Indian University Archives, without Darwin there would be no nature vs. nurture debate. Darwin wrote various pages on his autobiography about his family’s contributions to his intelligence. However, he attributed his intellectual success on nature, not nurture. Proof is provided by, this sentence that he wrote about his brother:

“…I do not think that I owe much to him intellectually-nor to my four sisters…I am inclined to agree with Francis Galton in believing that education and environment produce only a small effect on the mind of any one, and that most of our qualities are innate “(Darwin, 43).

Darwin believed that intelligent behavior came from the instincts of our previous, nonhuman ancestors. This proves that Charles Darwin, one of the brightest minds of the 19th century believed in the nature part of the argumentation. The point clearly stated through these three examples is that, the genetic predisposition (heredity) is real.

Genetic predisposition may be a fact, but it isn’t the reason why we behave the way we do. Heredity is only the basis. The formation of ourselves is due to the environment in which we grow up. An example of this theory is shown, Lord of the Flies. In the book, a group of kids find themselves all alone on an island. In this group we find different characters with diverse personalities and manners. Also, as previously mentioned, Golding, the author of the book, believed that everybody has the capacity of being evil. The kids in the story start developing that initial evil due to the new environment in which they live. A hostile, unknown, scary and dangerous environment; leads to the development of an aggressive and violent comportment. In the book, we see that in the first chapters, Jack is a born leader with self-control. Generally he appears as a normal kid. But, as the story progresses, and the kids find new problems on the island, he starts developing “his evil”. At the end, he becomes a belligerent and confrontational leader of a violent mob. The new environment in which he lives causes this enormous change in his personality. Another example situated in the book is the case of Ralph. He is also a born leader, a boy who listens to reason and logic, and someone who always finds solutions to his problems. But, in this new environment, as the kids around him start being “evil”, he starts losing his self-control, and develops a new character, where he is not the boy that he was before. This change occurs when Ralph joins Jack’s mob and starts dancing with them: “Piggy and Ralph under the threat of the sky, found themselves eager to take a place in this demented but partly secured society “(Golding, 152) . The last example is the case of Piggy. He is a tormented kid, a victim of bullying, but deep down he is a smart boy. In the book he finds himself being insulted by Jack all the time. For instance when Jack says: “Better call you Piggy than Fatty “ (Golding, 26 ) . The results of this bullying are that he can’t say his opinion or ideas when he is around of Jack, opinions that could be very helpful sometimes. But later in the story, when Jack leaves the group, and the environment of their small society becomes more friendly and calm, he feels more free and happy and he finally express his opinion and shows his intelligent ideas to everybody, so basically the change of environment change him too. The point I want to make with my examples, is that, we may all have, a “groundwork” , our initial nature that we inherited from our parents, but the biggest impact in the development of our personality is the environment in which we grow up, which can completely change us, like the characters in Lord Of The Flies…

Supporting my theory, Judith Rich Harris, the author of the book : The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do . She generally says in her book that she challenges the idea that the personality of adults is determined chiefly by the way they were raised by their parents. She also says that the role of genetics in personality has long been accepted in psychological research, however, even identical twins, which share the same genes, are not exactly alike, so inheritance is not all. Another example that proves the theory that nurture has the most impact in our personality is the case of Genie. Genie was a girl who spent nearly all her childhood inside a bedroom. She was a victim of one of the most severe cases of social isolation in American history (ABCnews). The police discovered her in 1970 after spending all her life tide to a chair. The result of this loneliness, was that she was unable to speak, walk, socialize, and generally being normal after being rescued. We can see, that due to the fact that she was in an isolated and lonely environment her attitude and personality weren’t usual, so this proves that the environment in which somebody lives has a direct connection with his/hers development, even if she inherited a bright and regular attitude from her family.


To finish ill say that heredity is a well known, scientifically proved, theory. A fact. But without the help of nurture, it isn’t accurate. We become who we are, and we act the way we do because we are taught to do so. That’s how we learned .It doesn’t matter how our genes are, and what we inherited from our parents. The environment in which we live in will define us.

“Genetic predisposition is not destiny “ David Kranzler





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