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The question of nature vs.

nurture has been one that to this day lacks a

definitive answer. Speculation and subjective opinion have dominated this
issue until the 19th and 20th centuries when intellectuals began refuting the
thought that race was the primary sculptor of people’s identities. Since then,
however, a concrete answer has notbeen established by a collective and thus
the matter is open for interpretation and, often, error. The Nazis exhibited
this by fueling their empire with the notion that the Aryan race was superior
to others. Conversely, Marxist Communists attributed human identity to its
relation to social structures.
In the light of scientific research, we are now able to concludethat both
environmental factors and genetic makeup influence a person’s identity.
What is still to be determined is where the line can be drawn between nature
and nurture and just how much influence does each of the two have on the

Phil Donahue’s video on Nature vs. Nurture: the Human

Animalpresents good cases for both sides. According to the video, innate
behavior such as infant mammals having the ability to nurse without having
been taught so indicates that such behavior is dictated not by the
environment but by the genetic code. Experts claim that enough data
proves that genetics are (at least partly) responsible for traits such as
schizophrenia, alcoholism, dyslexia, overeating, stuttering, and even some
aspects of temperament and personality. A study at the University of
Minnesota was done involving 68 sets of identical twins in which their
anatomical traits were evaluated and the results showed an identity in all
traits including brain waves, pulse rates, chest x-rays, but excluding only
fingerprints. Some twins who were kept away from each other until maturity
were then reunited and, despite the difference in environments, showed
identities in areas ranging from the name of their spouses to the brand name
of toothpaste and shaving cream used. Coincidence or not, it seemed to be
enough to convince the twins that their genetic material is responsible for a
large majority of their being. An expert in the video claims that an enzyme
called monoamine oxidase, or MAO, is responsible for how prone an
individual may be to risk-taking. Low levels of MAO result in thrill-seeking,
risky behavior while high levels induce a more calm and cautious personality.
Having looked up MAO on Wikipedia left me unable to support or discredit
the man’s claims, but the sensible conclusion that one can arrive to is that
while genetically determined chemicals may play a part in our behavior,
theyare certainly not the lone motivation for our actions. There is an overt
balance and an ongoing relationship between both sides of the nature vs.
nurture coin

Our brains double in size in the first 6 months of life, and from birth
until the age of five is when the brain is most receptive and the most
learning occurs. During this time is when we establish our first emotional
connections and studies have shown that this period is responsible for most
of our personality. Harry Harlow’s study with rhesus monkeys shows how
separating an infant monkey from its mother will cause it to be fearful in the
presence of other monkeys. While this study implies that nurture might
prevail in shaping an individual, the video presents another study that is
interpreted differently. A Harvard study was conducted in which 2 year olds
were put in the same room while researchers observed their interaction. Two
of them were inquisitive and outgoing, while one was shy and apprehensive.
Previous research showed that the two playful children had been so since
birth, and one professor leading the study went on to say they have the
general view that there is a small percentage of people (10-15%) that are
given a push by nature to be more introverted or extroverted. The narrator
of the video annotates that the shy kid did not learn this behavior, but rather
was born this way. Given that the two playful children were raised by a
certain set of family members until that age, the argument that this
personality trait had been consistent since birth and is therefore attributable
to genetic makeup falls short of convincing.

Attributing our identities exclusively to either genes or environmental

factors is unsettling to me because it disregardsthe concept of free will. Our
behavior and personality cannot be summed up to the natural tools we are
given by default and/or the input of our surroundings. I believe the output,
our actions, and the choices that we make are integral parts of who we are,
and in my opinion may be more powerful than either nature or nurture.
Works Cited

1. Phil Donahue Nature vs. Nurture: the human animal 1987.

2. “Nature vs. Nurture” Wikipedia