Nature versus Nurture.

Essay by bazookUniversity, Bachelor's October 2005

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Nature versus nurture is a shorthand expression for debates about the relative importance of an individual's innate nature and experiences ("nurture") in determining or causing physical and behavioral traits.

These debates arose from problems associated with reconciling the formalist definitions of classical science and philosophy, with emerging theories and new data. While classical theory was primarily concerned with the line between that which was voluntary (the ego, the self, and the personal will) and the involuntary (of Nature, God, etc.), this view was self-centric, which is to say deferential to authorities over the personal concepts; i.e. religious teaching and doctrine.

As science developed an understanding of life's elemental nature (like molecules, genes, atoms, gravity, time) the apparent lines that classical formalism defined became blurred, and the trend of science since has been to stray from the human-centered view to a more general and elemental view. Science culture to this day functions within a social boundary that contains the impact of any discoveries or observations from having an immediate effect or bearing on matters of human society.

It is in this social context where attempts to fit new ideas and developments into the old formalist and self-based mold, that the nature versus nurture debates occur. Where science may be at the forefront of this transition, popular culture have tended to lag behind, and this gap is reflected as popular science.

This confusion can be seen in the logical paradoxes that theories regarding these issues present. For example, advocates of a formalist view may in some cases disregard the influence of nature, in deference to the idea of personal will. On the other hand, newer ideas may dictate that certain traits fall under the context of nature. Indeed, Western-based tradition (and early science) has had the problem wherein its criteria for defining...