A Desperate Plea to the Fans of Nurture vs. Nature: Get out of the Ring! It’s a Draw.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and wellllllllcome to the Futile Philosophy Arena! This evening’s competition is sure to fascinate and entertain the billions out there in our global audience, as the outcome will undoubtedly influence the entire future of our species! In one corner, we have our hard-hitting rookie—the modern, the trendy, the politically-correct heavyweight adored by cultural anthropologists, ecologists, and coddling mothers everywhere: Nuurture!!! And facing Nurture, feast your pre-programmed eyes, ears, sperm and chromosomes on the molecular backbone of each and every one of our cells, the prized baby of The Human Genome Project, defeatists, racists, and clones alike: Naaaaature!!! Now let’s bring on the main event!

The truth about the nurture-vs.-nature debate is no secret. I first learned about it in 10-grade biology class. The textbook read something like:

“An organism’s physical appearance, called its phenotype, depends on environment as well as genes. A single tree, locked into its inherited genes, has leaves that vary in size, shape, and greenness, depending on exposure to wind and sun…”

Indeed, over the next six years of studying biology, neuroscience and animal behavior, every science or social science or humanities teacher I met touted this same tenet again and again. And no student ever raised his hand to dispute the shared roles of nurture and nature, the shared credit for clever behaviors and the shared blame for diseases and societal ills. Outside of the academic sphere, too, any rational Joe Shmoe will readily admit to this fact of life. Because it just makes sense.

Which is why, when I oh-so-frequently come across published material that perpetuates this non-existent “debate”—in respected newspapers, television documentaries, flashy science magazines, and even scientific journals—I am confused, frustrated, and just plain angry. Why does the myth continue, when we can read its long history of folly and futility? When we can look to modern examples to refute the argument from both sides? The time and efforts devoted to fueling the debate, from both sides, are wasted, in that they contribute nothing to a society fraught with so many other, pressing scientific needs.

Please, you writers and scientists whom I detest (and you know who you are): slay the beast. Clear the way for more focused and effective research. Take off the boxing gloves and get back in the lab coats.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's a great story. Waiting for more. »