The Nature Nurture Controversy : 20th Century Present

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History of the Nature-Nurture Controversy: 20th Century-Present
Mary Truong
University of Regina

The nature-nurture controversy is an age-old dispute that has been debated since at least the time of Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.E). According to the nature stance, who we are as individuals, that is, our physical characteristics, personality, intelligence, and how we behave, is biologically inherited, now known through our genetics. Hippocrates for instance, posited that human behaviour was linked to our bodily fluids, which he referred to as humors. Four personality types were identified that were related to four humors: choleric, or yellow bile was associated with being hot-tempered; sanguine or blood to confidence;
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Galton was greatly influenced by Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection. At the time, it was believed that selection could be used to eliminate society of a host of undesirable traits. Heredity however, was understood differently as most scientists of the time believed that the impact of environment was directly transmitted to offspring. Immorality and illness was thus understood to be inherited the same way as eye or hair color. This also meant that if potential parents developed good health and habits, these too would be passed down to the next generation (Fischer, 2012). With all this mind, Galton defined eugenics (from the Greek, good birth) to mean ‘the science of improving the inherited stock of a population, not only by judicious matings, but by all other means’ (Galton, 2005). Galton frequently wrote about breeding, emphasizing the idea that humanity could improve itself by putting the same effort into our own breeding that was put into breeding livestock. This idea, together with the 1900 rediscovery of Mendel’s hereditary experiments fueled the eugenics movement that took place in the early 20th century. Galton’s word and concept spread rapidly in the early 20th century. The Eugenics Education Society was founded in London, England in 1907 and annual International Eugenics Conferences were held since 1912, attracting luminaries such as Winston Churchill. Canada’s own Tommy Douglas was also a

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