Nature vs Nurture
What If It's Both?
What makes a human being behave the way they do? Why do some people have disabilities and/or are gifted while others do not? These are questions that have been asked by mankind since the dawn of time. The argument of nature versus nurture isn’t a new argument. The idea of nature versus nuture began within the discipline of human development in the 16th century (Nesterak, 2015). Nature dictates that a person’s biology and genes are the deciding factor on how a person turns out. They can’t change who they are because they were born that way. Nurture, on the other hand, argues that that a person becomes who they are based on how they react to their environmental influences.
Eugenics, the principal of beliefs that aims to improve the genetic disposition of human beings, has been practiced since Ancient Greece. Eugenics has caused many unjust laws and tragedies throughout human history. While genetics does play a part in human development, it doesn’t solely dictate who were are and become. But just how much of role does genetics have in human development?
Epigenetics is a fairly new science in human development. Conrad H. Waddington coined the term epigenetics in 1942 to define the scientific study of how environment influences genetic expression (What Is Epigenetics, 2016). Waddington’s approach to the genetic study of humans doesn’t focus so much on how the genes express themselves but what they are doing. Although human beings are born with a certain genetic disposition that allows for personality and biological traits that doesn’t always mean that those traits will be dominant in that child.
Genetic Science Learning Center. (2013, July 15) explained there are inactive and active genes within a person’s DNA that are controlled by the epigenome. Our DNA is wrapped around a protein known as histones. Chemical tags lie upon the histone and DNA forming a second layer known as the epigenome. It is the responsibility of the epigenome to shape the physical structure of the genome. The epigenome wraps itself around inactive genes causing them to be unreadable and relaxes around the active genes so they are more easily accessible (Genetic Science Learning Center, 2013).
While the epigenome changes a person’s gemone, it is important to know that a person’s DNA never changes. This means while a child carries DNA from both parents, he or she may have some traits from them that may never reveal themselves. The epigentic process is not a one time occurs nor is it always the same. Researchers have identified several different types of the epigenetic process including ubiquitylation, sumolyation, acetylation, methylation, and phosphorylation (Weinhold, 2006).
A person’s genomes continue to change throughout their lifespan due to the way they interact with influences. Some of these influencers have been identified as environmental, age, lifestyle and disease (What Is Epigenetics, 2016). Social science research studies have helped us to understand the impact some of these influencers have upon the human development of certain population groups. Societies and individuals have been forced to adapt to their changing world throughout history. Major societal changes, such as war and poverty, can change the way parents rear their young (Collins, 2000). David Moore, (as cited in Nesterak, 2015) found children who remained for a long time within impoverished homes tended to show adverse biological consequences later on in their adulthood. These adverse effects can still be upon these children even if they managed to live a life in middle class during their adulthood. Children who grew up in middle class homes and remained middle class do not suffer from the same adverse effects as their impoverished childhood peers who live in middle class during their adulthood. The epigenetic process allows for humans to adapt to their surroundings and circumstances. If human development was a purely natural phenomenon then we would not be able to adapt to our world.
Epigenetic research is not so easily to conduct due to ethical reasons. Genetic researchers would have to conduct biological tests on human subjects in a tightly controlled environment in order to further their research. In order to continue their research without violating ethics, researchers have been using monkeys and rats. (Nesterak, 2015). The results of these studies have furthered the knowledge of epigenetics.
Nature versus nurture has been a topic of interest throughout the world since the 16th century. Some politicians and scholars have advocated for supreme genetic disposition in human development by fully enforcing eugenic laws that have caused human tragedies and injustice. A relatively new science, epigenetics, argues that human development is both nature and nurture. Epigenetic researchers have found humans adapt to their influences through a change in their genomes. More research needs to be conducted in order to understand more about how this adaption process works in human development.
Collins, W. A., Maccoby, E. E., Steinberg, L., Hetherington, E. M., & Bornstein, M. H. (2000).
Contemporary research on parenting: The case for nature and nurture. American Psychologist, 55, 218–232.
Genetic Science Learning Center. (2013, July 15) The Epigenome at a Glance. Retrieved September 09, 2016, from http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/epigenetics/intro/
Nesterak, E. (2015, July 10) The End of Nature Versus Nurture. The Psych Report. Retrieved from http://thepsychreport.com/books/the-end-of-nature- versus-nurture/
Weinhold, B. (2006, March) Epigenetics: The Science of Change. Environ Health Perspect. 114(3), A160-A167. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1392256/
What is Epigenetics? (2016) Epigenetics: Fundamentals. Retrieved from http://www.whatisepigenetics.com/fundamentals/