Nature vs Nurture Essay

778 Words 4 Pages
Nature vs Nurture

Most of us have an intuition that, although our genes provide advantages and constraints, we retain great control over our lives. However, we are developing a second, competing intuition that, like it or not, our genes determine our abilities, our preferences, and our emotions. We would like to think we are much more than the sum of our genes, but scientists have apparently demonstrated that our genes determine some of our most complex behavioral and cognitive characteristics.

The focus on genes as the primary mode of biological explanation has been especially clear in the marketing of the Human Genome Project. In support of this project, Robert L. Sinsheimer, biologist and former chancellor at the University of
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1987), and alcoholism (Gelernter et al. 1991). Authors of two studies claiming to have found a gene for manic-depression (in two different places), have both published retractions of their conclusions (Barron et al. 1993, Kelsoe et al. 1989), unusual and embarrassing events among scientists. Research in linking genes to complex human mental and behavioral characteristics has been tremendously successful in molding public opinion, in he absence of much lasting scientific evidence.

The relationship between a gene and a human behaviour is rarely, if ever, a one-to-one correspondence, even though disruption of a single gene occasionally has a dramatic effect on behaviour. Nor can one quantify the contribution of genes as a whole to any particular behavior or cognitive ability. Instead, each gene is a single player in an intricate story, involving non-additive interactions of genes, proteins, hormones, food and life experiences, thus leading to effects one variety of cognitive and behavioural functions. Our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors certainly have biological mechanisms, but this does not mean we can separate and quantify the genetic contributions to these processes.


Baron, M., N. Risch, R. Hamburger, B. Mandel, S. Kushner, M.Newman, D. Drumer, and R.H. Belmaker. 1987. Genetic Linkage Between X-Chromosome Markers and Bipolar

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