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Q: nature/nurture ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: nature/nurture
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: qpet-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 14 Jan 2003 16:14 PST
Expires: 13 Feb 2003 16:14 PST
Question ID: 142730
I am looking for a short history of the nature/nurture debate and
related a short history of the eugenics movement.
Subject: Re: nature/nurture
Answered By: webadept-ga on 14 Jan 2003 16:55 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars

With the phrasing of your question I felt the top 3 links below were
probably what you were looking for, but I added the rest to see if
those were also of interest to you. If these do not meet your needs
please feel free to post a clarification and let me know.

The Nature Versus Nurture Debate

Heredity and Hereditarianism

Classics in the History of Psychology 

Life Stories


The End of Nature versus Nurture

"nature/nurture debate"  +eugenics +Galton


Request for Answer Clarification by qpet-ga on 14 Jan 2003 17:41 PST
Hi webadept,
The sites seem to contain the material I was looking for, however I
had expected to get a summary on the subject( my fault for not being
clear)Any chance you can summarize the key points?

Request for Answer Clarification by qpet-ga on 14 Jan 2003 17:45 PST
I just reviewed my earlier questions- the summary on religion and
suffering you did was great. This one would not need to be so quite so

Request for Answer Clarification by qpet-ga on 15 Jan 2003 19:22 PST

Clarification of Answer by webadept-ga on 15 Jan 2003 20:03 PST
Got you message, I'll do a summary here soon, just wanted to post and
let you know that I'm going to respond.



Clarification of Answer by webadept-ga on 16 Jan 2003 02:43 PST
The Nature Vs. Nurture Debate

Although Sir Francis Galton first used the phrase "Nature versus
Nurture" in 1871, this debate has been going on much longer.  Plato
recorded the question posed to Socrates: "Can you tell me, Socrates,
whether virtue is acquired by teaching or by practice; or if neither
by teaching nor practice, then whether it comes to man by nature, or
in what other way?"
so we know the debate has gone on at least since this.

Do we have control over our own destiny, or is it preset?  Is there a
boundary of genetic make up, which keeps even the best intentions and
training and our will to reach beyond our innate desires, captive?

Sir Francis Galton in his book Hereditary Genius, 1869, opened the
question of Eugenics and the Nature vs. Nurture Debate and is credited
with coining the phrase itself.

"I propose to show in this book that a man's natural abilities are
derived by inheritance, so it would be quite practicable to produce a
highly gifted race of men by judicious marriages during several
consecutive generations." Hereditar Genius p. 46.

In 1866, Abbot Gregor Medel and his garden of peas shows that Galton
could actually be right. His experiments show that with the right
mixtures, size and color are able to be controlled strictly through
genetic matching. The world however was not able to grasp the
importance of this work and Mendel fell into obscurity until almost 16
years after his death.

At this time, 1900, Hugo de Vries, Carl Correns and Erich von
Tschermak, working independently, rediscover his work. By this time
cell biologists have observed chromosomes and believe they are
responsible for the transmitting of hereditary information. In 1903,
the same year the Wright brothers are preparing to take flight, Walter
Sutton, at Columbia University came up with the idea of hereditary
particles, which he calls "genes" which he believes are components of
chromosomes. He publishes this in the Biological Bulletin. In 1910
Thomas Hunt Morgan begins his series of breeding experiments with the
common fruit fly.

While all of this is going on, the science of Psychology is starting
on the same question. In 1905 Albert Binet works out a method of
determining a students "Mental Age" as apposed to his chronological
age. This leads Lewis Terman, a professor at Stanford University  to
create what will be known as the IQ test.

By the 1920's Galton's ideas about Eugenics have gained ground both in
the United States and in Europe. The ideas are far from concise, even
in the small amounts we know about it today. But an example can be
seen of the literally blind notions that were believed at this time by
looking at the results of the IQ tests performed on imagrents. Since
the tests at this time are hugely culturally bias, it is determined
that two out of five immigrants should eb classified as feeble mined.
The influence of eugenics decline finally in the US after 1935.

John B. Watson founded the school of behaviorism in 1913, and was
fully convinced on the side of Nurture, or the Environment. A quote of
his says this :

"Give me a dozen healthy infants and my own specified world to bring
them up in, and I’ll guarantee to take anyone at random and train him
to become any kind of specialist I might select : doctor, lawyer,
artist, merchant-chief and yes beggar and thief, regardless of his
talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations and race of his

He is not alone in his position, B.F. Skinner, father of Operant
Conditioning, and Jean Piaget, are also publishing papers with the
idea that the environment we live in is a much stronger influence on
our behaviors than what we were born with in our genes. Piaget
suggests that intelligence is "an evolving biological adaption to the
outside world"

The Bell Curve is where we are now, in 1994 Gould publishes his book
The Mismeasure of Man.:

""We shall not get this issue straight until we realize that the
"Interactions" we all accept does not permit such statements as ‘Trait
x is 29 percent environmental and 71 percent genetic. A 60 percent
biodeterminist is not a subtle interactionist, but a determinist on
the ‘little bit pregnant’ model (Gould, 1996)."

We have come down to a compromise as such in these last few years, as
it is becoming more and more clear that neithe of these two sides can
fully be described as the first cause or conclusion of human behavior.
Those with "bad genes" still rise to the top and those with hard lives
and without education still become great humans. And the reverse is
just as true. So basically, after all this time, we are left where
Socrates left us :

"I am certain that if you were to ask any Athenian whether virtue was
natural or acquired, he would laugh in your face, and say: "Stranger,
you have far too good an opinion of me, if you think that I can answer
your question. For I literally do not know what virtue is, and much
less whether it is acquired by teaching or not." And I myself, Meno,
living as I do in this region of poverty, am as poor as the rest of
the world; and I confess with shame that I know literally nothing
about virtue; and when I do not know the "quid" of anything how can I
know the "quale"? "

qpet-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Thank you for your summary, very helpful!

There are no comments at this time.

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