Core Blog

Nature versus Nurture – “It’s Debatable”

September 22, 2020

Words Amatullah Y.   
Header Credits Zahra A. (@zahra.amiruddin)


Nature versus Nurture

Every morning begins much the same, the sound of birds chirping fills my days as I get up, wondering what to do stuck in the house and having my world changed so drastically. Life is filled with trying times, but perhaps we have been built to face it all?

One of the most scarily fascinating birds I have ever found are the koel birds. Their parents sneak the young egg into the nest of the jungle crow or house crow, and the crow raises the koel as its own. The koel never actually meets its parents after their faithful delivery; but just as cunning as it’s parent, it pushes out its foster siblings from the nest in order to ensure its survival. The crow tries its very best to make sure the young one grows up as all crows should, eating meat and working in a small team, but the koel ceases to pretend once it grows into maturity, going after the fruits and solitude it loves.

Nature is something inherited. I know I have inherited my mother’s eyes and my father’s brow, but could it go deeper than that? Could I be exactly like my parents simply because of my birth? Could I have been mixed up with another child and yet have grown up to be exactly like my biological parents without ever having met them, could nature truly trump nurture?

John Locke (1690) coined the term tabula rasa, believing that all humans were born with a blank slate and learnt all they did through the environment they were born in. Recent research done on snail’s DNA found that one can send a message from one generation to another via DNA. Further research on musical tastes was done and it was found that when faced with different, older music, we were more likely to prefer the music genre that our parents listened to, rather than other genres of the same time period (though modern music is blurring genres a lot more now).

We are all born with a brain, but our neural structures differ based on genetic factors too. One might be quick to anger because a parent may be so as well. I may have longer fingers to better play a piano because of my mother having them too. Empirical studies have consistently shown that adoptive children show greater resemblance to their biological parents, rather than their adoptive, or environmental parents (Plomin & DeFries, 1983; 1985).

Being the devil’s advocate, the most recent research on the nature versus nurture debate was brought about in the field of epigenetics. Genes alone don’t make us up, but chromosomes (gene building blocks) have external switches that turn them on or off. So yes, my parents being geniuses means I am more likely to be a genius too, but only if the genes are switched on through my upbringing etc. That’s why identical twins, who have pretty much the same genetic makeup, grow up so different. Nature is inherent, but nurture makes sure the nature shows up, too. 

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