The Nature/nurture Battle; What Makes Us Clever or Stupid?

Article excerpt

Byline: Peter Nelson

IS IT our upbringing, and the influence of our parents and environment, that make us the way we are? Or does our genetic make- up make us what we are from birt h? What makes us clever or stupid, criminal or law-abiding, relaxed or temperamental: Nature or nurture?

This is one of the great ba ttles of the psychological landscape. For a century, warriors from either camp have been slugging it out for the upper hand in the dispute.

According to a new book by science writer Matt Ridley,a raft of human traits may not be attributed to either nature or nurture,but to an interplay of both.

Perhaps this is too obvious to be worth an entire book,but there are fascinating aspects to the theory. It is due to an intriguing interplay betw een genetic factors and the environment of the growing foetus in its mother's womb.

There are ramifications in a world where entire political philosophies have been based on people's make- up being fixed by their ge nes. Most notoriously,in the 1930s, the Nazis exterminated those produced by ``tainted'' genes, such as the Jews, gipsies and homosexuals.

In contrast, a belief in the opposite dismisses any great impact our genes have on what we become .We are all equal; the notion that has become the rall ying call of the Left from Marx onwards. …