The Origins of Nature Versus Nurture Debate: Comparison of Empirical and Nativist Views

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The inauguration of the nature vs nurture debate is most likely to have started with Sir Francis Galton in 1869, however it is unknown how long the debate has being going on for. Sir Francis Galton theory’s on nature vs nurture is titled “Hereditary Genius” and “English Men of Science: Their Nature and Nurture”

There has been many thesis written on the subject, John Locke’s (an empiricist) “An essay concerning human understanding” written in 1690, is often cited as the founding document of the “blank slate” theory, meaning that when we are born we possess no fundamental traits or disposition towards certain skills, language, jobs, personality traits because of our heritage/ biological parents, that everything, a person’s skills, personality and the totality of what they become is entirely due to what they experience, the following is a quote from John B. The blank slate theory has a lot of merit it but in its time John Locke’s thesis was condemned for “criticizing René Descartes’ claim of an innate idea of God universal to humanity” and “Anthony Ashley-Cooper,3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, complained that by denying the possibility of any innate ideas, Locke “threw all order and virtue out of the world”, leading to total moral relativism.” Moral relativism Moral relativism is the idea that there is no universal or absolute set of moral principles John Locke’s theory was very premature, being published in the time period that it was, yet was surprisingly accurate to what is now almost accepted. In the early 19 hundreds, there was a surge in interest leaning towards the direction of nature over nurture, this came after success of Charles Darwin’s’ theory of evolution. This catapulted the theory of environmental factors having a greater impact on what a person will become than their hereditary factors, thus giving more merit to John Locke’s theory written over two hundred years previously.

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Over the course of the nature vs. nurture debate there has been three main bodies of the argument, these are as follows, empiricist (everything is learned), nativist (everything is hereditary) and currently the most accurate view is a mixture of both empiricist and nativist views, they believe that humans are born with the innate ability to learn or do specific things like language but also are able to learn and develop new skills through exposure to them, this theory is backed up by multiple study’s done, including one particular study that has tracked specific behavioural tendances to certain genes, for example anger has been traced back to a gene called DARPP-32.

The Nativist view also has its merits, Robert Ardery thesis titled “African Genesis argued that man had innate attributes especially in the area of being territorial, Desmond Morris also expressed a very similar view in his book “The Naked Ape”. During this time twin studies were conducted to see if any heredity components were having an effect, in the majority of cases this happened to be correct. While these results did not conclude that everything is inherited, it did conclude that heritability is around 40%-50%.

In conclusion through the research that I have conducted there has been a wealth of information on the empiric view while any information on the nativist view has been scarce at best. While I cannot be convinced of a total purist empiric view I do understand its merits along with those of the nativist view, I believe that a combination of both hereditary factors and environmental exposure make us what we are.

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