DNA and Destiny: Nature and Nurture in Human Behavior

DNA and Destiny: Nature and Nurture in Human Behavior

DNA and Destiny: Nature and Nurture in Human Behavior

DNA and Destiny: Nature and Nurture in Human Behavior

Synopsis

The Bell Curve has sparked a fiery debate over the origins of human intelligence and the roots of human behavior. Does nature determine intelligence so completely that we should give up on the disadvantaged? Or can intelligence and positive human behavior be fostered by intellectual nourishment and emotional support? In short, to what degree is DNA our destiny? Dr. Grant Steen - popular science writer and respected medical researcher - has drawn together the best and most cutting-edge research to gain insight into the effect of genes and the environment. He provides up-to-the-minute answers to some of the most important and explosive questions facing society today: How much of intelligence is inherited and how much is it a result of environment? Is violence borne in the genes or does it result from poor upbringing? Is homosexuality an inborn trait? What role does gender play in our intellectual abilities? What evidence is there that alcoholism and drug addiction are hereditary? This book shows that, to understand the human condition better, we must develop a keener appreciation for the subtle interactions between nature and nurture. First, Dr. Steen confronts the dark history of eugenics, and the horrifying legacy of the Nazis. He then proceeds to illuminate the latest advances in molecular biology and behavioral genetics. He explains fascinating results that have emerged from "split-twin" experiments, in which eerie parallels were found between twins separated at birth. He clarifies how the Human Genome Project might help create a new understanding of the human condition and how it may ultimately help alleviate some of the major health and even behavioral problems facing society today.

Excerpt

Animal breeders, who bred and selected for loyalty in dogs, or speed in horses, or docility in cattle, were probably the first to notice the powerful influence of heredity, even if they didn't know the word or understand the principles. Certainly all successful breeders realized that much could be known about the traits of a newborn animal by having a thorough familiarity with the bloodlines of that animal. The bloodlines of racing horses in England have been recorded in the Stud Book for more than 200 years. The impetus for keeping this record for so many years is the sure knowledge that a cross between two slow horses will virtually never produce a fast horse. This simple perception is an affirmation that, to at least some extent, DNA is destiny. The first Stud Book, published in 1793, listed almost 200 horses available for sire, but only 3 of those horses have had offspring through all of the intervening years. Thus, every thoroughbred racing horse in the world today can trace its ancestry back to one of these 3 horses. Yet, even though the bloodline of each racing horse in the world is known, in some cases back for more than 20 generations, breeding a faster racehorse remains somewhat a matter of chance. While DNA may decree destiny, the destiny it decrees is apparently not a fixed and immutable one.

The medieval preoccupation with the bloodlines of nobility, or the Victorian emphasis on noble breeding as a prerequisite for inclusion in polite society, both may originate from the perception that genes can determine the future as well as the past.

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