Philosophical Multicore

Sometimes controversial, sometimes fallacious, sometimes thought-provoking, and always fun.

Nature vs. Nurture

Posted by Michael Dickens on August 25, 2009

There is an ongoing debate about Nature vs. Nurture. That is, which has more influence on an entity: its genetics or its upbringing? I will take some steps in answering that question.

First of all, I don’t think it matters. I’ve been thinking (or rather not thinking) this for years. But I’m going to contribute anyway.

If you’ve read The Selfish Gene, you will know what memes are. If you haven’t read it, go read it right now.

Did you leave yet? So everyone here knows what a meme is? Good.

Oh, what’s that? You’re still here? Fine. You get a one-sentence explanation: a meme is a cultural gene. I hope you understand it now. What’s that? You don’t? Well, it’s late and I’m tired. So go look it up. Or better, read The Selfish Gene.

But enough ranting. Here’s the idea. Nature vs. Nurture can be re-worded as Genes vs. Memes. At this point, it becomes much easier to sift through the details. Since cultural phenomena rely on the existence of beings, and beings rely on genetics, it is a given that genetics exist. If Nurture (memes) is 100% of the influence, then natural selection among genes will be unable to take place: there will still be random mutations, but the lack of selection will lead to a steady genetic decay. So it is impossible for Nurture/Memes to be the only influence.

Nature/Genes, however, can get along just fine on their own. By definition, genes had to exist before memes could begin to. Only Nature can survive on its own.

But this does not mean that Nature is the only factor. Memes clearly have a prominent effect on behavior. But what is the balance?

The answer is, I have no idea. Nature has to be prominent enough for natural selection to take place, or else generations would get weaker and weaker and eventually everyone would die. But for memes to even exist, Nurture has to be significant enough to continue to exert its influence over many generations. So the balance must be very close, very moderated.

I go sleep now. I have school tomorrow.

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One Response to “Nature vs. Nurture”

  1. lorelay650 said

    I am doing a research on the same topic and I find it really interesting how identical twin who grew up in different environemts and were reunited later differ in some characteristics but still have some commom traits. This shows how important inheritence is but still we cannot ignore the impact of surroundings, as we can also see siblings growing up together but developing different personalities. If anyone knows a situatuion like those please tell me, I need it for my research.

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