Nature, Nurture and the Power of Love

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: Leading edge research in cell biology reveals that "environmental signals" are primarily responsible for selecting the genes expressed by an organism. This new perspective is in direct contrast with the established view that our fate is controlled by our genes. The new emphasis on nurture (environment) controlling nature (genes) focuses special attention on the importance of the maternal environment in fetal development. In addition to the established role of maternal physiology, it is now recognized that maternal behaviors and emotions profoundly impact the child's physical development, behavioral characteristics and even its level of intelligence.

The history of human civilization reveals a recurrent preoccupation with the notion of duality. Black and white, positive and negative, male and female, winner and loser and of course, the ever controversial, good and evil. Interestingly, even the nature of "duality" itself led to a fundamental splitting or duality of human civilization-East and West. In Eastern philosophy, all aspects of duality are recognized as representing an underlying unity. All is One, but from that One springs all of our perceived dualities.

In contrast, Western civilization is entirely based upon a philosophy that emphasizes the distinct polarity inherent in dualism. Our pre-occupation with duality becomes quite volatile when we assign values to the polar extremes, especially the values of right and wrong. Polar views create "sides" and the sides usually compete to provide justification in support of their stance.

Even the consequences of the resulting competition over dualistic points of view can be dualistic. Competition may become destructive, especially when its resolution leads to physical combat such as wars and revolutions. At other times, the competition over polar points of view are quite constructive, when resolutions lead to intellectual and technical advance.

One of the more recent and most profound examples of a conflict resolution that advanced humanity is the Quantum Revolution of 1925. Prior to that event scientists vied over the fundamental nature of the units comprising the universe. Were they comprised of matter or of energy? Matter was characterized as being composed of discrete particles, while energy was perceived as intangible waves. Western logic emphasizes the dual, mutually exclusive, nature of these two states of existence. Particle or wave, but not both! The stunning and illogical resolution in quantum theory is that the elemental units of nature were both particles and waves. This fundamentally "Eastern" conclusion emphasizing "unity" of polarities rocked the scientific world and profoundly changed physics, chemistry and the fate of Western civilization.

Interestingly, the concept of an inherent unity within "dualism" never fully penetrated the biological sciences, which still maintains a penchant of perceiving the biosphere in dualistic philosophy. Nowhere is this dualism more exemplified than in the ongoing debate between Evolutionists and Creationists. On the surface, evolution and creation represent mutually exclusive processes-polarizing concepts.

Now, some seventy years after the Quantum revolution, major dualistic biological concepts are beginning to resolve themselves as parts of a whole-a unity. One such resolving biological dualism concerns the impact of nature versus nurture in the structural and functional expression of living organisms. Those polarized on the side of "nature" invoke the concept of genetic determinism, the idea that a plant or animal's characteristics and behavioral traits are defined by the genes at the moment of conception (i.e., internal control). The opposing polarized view endorses the role of "nurture," which recognizes environmental experiences play an essential role in shaping the characteristics of living organisms (i.e., external control).

Such an argument becomes profoundly important when we consider the role of nature and nurture on human development. …