Which Is More Important, Nature or Nurture: The two terms nature and nurture became subjects of comparison since the 16th century. The argument is centered on the question as to whether it is nature or nurture that makes us who we are. While nature is all about the inherited traits in human beings, nurture is all about the environmental circumstances which influence what we have become.
Nature (the genome) provides the starting point for an organism and the predilections and risks factors that will interact with nurture (the environment) during the organism’s lifespan. While nature does not just affect an organism during its lifetime, it also can directly affect the expression of genes in offspring through factors such as DNA methylation, histones, and other mechanisms. This posits that nurture could be complementary to nature. Nature is the characteristics and behaviours of the organisms as conferred by its evolutionary heritage, whereas nurture is what the organisms’ upbringing, environment and experience confer.
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Nurture refers to the conditions under which living things grow and develop after birth. When applied to human beings, it means hoe the person is raised, which includes, nutrition, education, care, as well as the kind of surrounding raised such as cultural influence, family and friends.
‘Nature’ and ‘Nurture’ are two factors that together result in our phenotype, which is the net expression of our physiology and form in life. The underlying plan for our body is encoded in our genes, that is, our nature. How the environment interacts with our body’s genes during development can affect how the genes are expressed, so nurture is a controlling factor in how we end up as living being. Of great interest to organisms like humans is the fact that we communicate with one another because of the genetic design of our brain and nervous system.
All social organisms are able to learn and pass on new information to our relatives that we learn and pass from each other through our study if the environment and thus, can modify our nature in a cumulative way through the eons of time in which we have accumulated cultural information that is not encoded in genes but can have a dramatic and significant effect on our development. Nurture relates to development once our genes can come together at conception. Nature is genetic, and our genes are received from our parents, the genes which are the code by which every aspect of our existence depends.
Nature therefore could be described as the basis or foundation upon which nurture stands to operate. While the genes provide the instructions, there is still much environmental interaction between our developing anatomy, physiology and the outside world. Most of this may occur in the first 7 – 9 years of life in terms of its long term significance. Most interactions are therefore controlled by our parents or guardians as theirs was also controlled by their parents or guardians. Nature and nurture is therefore completely deterministic as opposed to being under anyone’s direct control.
For the Geneticists, they believe that our lives are entirely determined by genetics, which is nature. An opposing view is that there is no indication that genes determines one’s personality, rather there has been a growing accumulation of evidence to the indication that the environment (nurture) serves as the determining factor in personality development. It has been claimed that psychopathic behaviour is genetically determined while sociopathic behaviour is determined by environmental factors.
This claim is not far for from the truth. It is employed to substantiate the disparity and complementary impact of the two terms, nature and nurture.
The philosopher, John Locke, initiated the term tabula rasa which means blank slate. It is under this term that he posits the theory that the state of human mind starting from the time of birth is the state of tabula rasa. Therefore, that every other trait attributable to one’s personality is founded on the person’s experience. This position supports the nurture theory. For the Empiricists, they believe that all things are learned. This is in support of the nurture theory. For John B. Watson, he posits that humans are who they are because they are trained to become something, regardless of the person’s genetic background or history. John B. Watson’s position also portrays nurture o be of more significance than nature.
For Plato, he posits that human personality is inborn as opposed to being acquired through learning or experiences. This position by the renowned philosopher supports the nature theory as being of more significance.
The contention of nature and nurture as to which is more important is necessitated by an attempt to differentiate how much effect genetics has on a person’s development against how much malleable humans are with respect to one’s environment.
While nurture undeniably plays its part on the growth and development of one’s personality, it may seem that the preponderance of research supports the view that nature dramatically outweighs nurture. This is founded upon the reasoning that nature can be likened to a foundation and a natural occurrence which demands an intentional approach to alter.
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Moreso, even when it is agreeable that the influence of nurture can change nature’s response, nature cannot be totally extinguished. It is true that nurture can change a lot of nature, however, the act of changing nature by nature it not an automatic occurrence. It demands some positive exertion of influence. Yet, it is not a guarantee that its purpose would be attained in all circumstances. What constitutes nature can be very substantial.
A man who is 4’2 will never win a gold medal in the high jump no matter how much he trains. Why? This is because the substantive aspect of him has laid a foundation that cannot be altered by nurture probably by way of nutrition and training. This is nature implicating. On the other hand, elite athletes must have to devote an incredible amount of time and focus to their training. No one ever won a gold medal without being qualified through spending ample time on training.
This is nurture implicating; however, it was nature that afforded an opportunity and a ground for nurture to work for its effect. There would not have been a question of training doing the magic for a man of 4’2 because his substantive self had afforded no opportunity to be influenced. Nature can be likened to an inside effect while nurture, as an outside effect. Nurture therefore, is a mere amplifier to the existence of nature, and no matter how much impact nurture may have effected, it cannot become an integral part of genetic heritage. Therefore, while nurture has a temporary elements, nature is firm.
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Which Is More Important and Significant, Nature or Nurture?
The impact of nurture to the development of persons cannot be totally denied. However, it seems that the reason why nature is regarded as being of most importance is because of the fact that it affords an opportunity and creates a foundation and the basis for the question of nurture to arise at the very first instance.
Another reason is that even without nurture, the nature impact can still stand independently without necessarily causing havoc. Moreso, even when the nurture impact is successfully effected, it does not extinguish the genetic characteristics of a person. It therefore stands correctly that in all ramifications, nature is that which determines the substance of a person.
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka, ACMC, is a lawyer and a certified mediator/conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a developer with knowledge in various programming languages. Samuel is determined to leverage his skills in technology, SEO, and legal practice to revolutionize the legal profession worldwide by creating web and mobile applications that simplify legal research. Sam is also passionate about educating and providing valuable information to people.