18 January 2008

Nature Vs. Nurture – A Short Introduction:

I have decided to take on the rather onerous task of investigating the Nature Vs. Nurture debate. For those of you not familiar with it, it debates whether various factors about how we are, are genetically influenced or influenced by the environment. Obviously we can already conclude that it is not going to be either extreme but rather somewhere nearer to the middle. However it may be that it does slant slightly to one side or another.

Historically speaking there was a period from the 1800’s to the 1900’s where everyone thought that things were largely genetically predetermined and hence racial policies of eugenics and so on thrived. However after World War I and even more so from the 1960’s onwards society began to see things as being more environmentally influenced. Nowadays it is seen to be an amalgamation of the two. However I have yet another theory which is that while it is certainly both genetics and environment that affect all things, different things are affected to a different degree by both nature and nurture. For instance your height will be most likely largely genetically pre-determined, it is not something that can be easily changed. How muscular you are however can be much more easily manipulated and by regularly training and eating protein and so forth even really skinny people can slowly over time put on a considerable amount of muscle. I shall certainly research into all of this more at a later date.

To be honest this post is going to be rather short as I have only done preliminary research and it is already late on a Friday night. But fear not for I will be posting following articles later on. There are many different areas within genetics which interest me. Some questions worth asking for are whether our genetics are totally responsible for us being fat, or intelligent or having fast reflexes, of blue eyes. There are so many questions that could be asked, it really is such a fascinating topic. For now I shall leave you with yet another problem which is not only what sort of genetics someone has, but how those genetics are then programmed. For instance two people can have the same gene, yet one person can have it switched on and another off, hence they can be completely opposite. How genes are set are not genetically done, but largely by very early environmental influences. Here we are talking about pre-natal conditions and once one is only just born. I believe this switching on of genes to a certain degree is called phenotypes. Essentially phenotypes are what genes cause with early environmental interaction. I suppose the question then becomes not whether our genes put us on a predetermined track, but whether our genes and earliest environmental exposure do. Does later environmental exposure count for far less? In many ways I would indeed say yes, but at the same time it still depends on what exactly we are talking about. You may have always been a fat kid, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t lose fat. Some characteristics just seem to be more predetermined than others. For all you nay-sayers out there I’d say body fat% is one which while obviously genetically influenced, is still largely within our control. This shouldn’t depress you, it should empower you. If only we could do that with everything, height, eye colour etc. Then again, maybe it’d make life to easy…

Nature Vs. Nurture, one of the great questions out there. Somehow I don’t think I’ll ever be coming up with a concrete answer. Still, the vague sketchings of a reasonable answer seem to be outlined above.

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