Is the Nature-Nurture Debate on the Verge of Extinction?

By Bors, Douglas A. | Canadian Psychology, July 1994 | Go to article overview

Is the Nature-Nurture Debate on the Verge of Extinction?


Bors, Douglas A., Canadian Psychology


Abstract

Some authors have stated that the nature - nurture debate is no longer as contentious as it once was. This paper presents four arguments in opposition to this position. First, the nature - nurture controversy, conceived of as an attempt to assign relative weightings of importance to genotype and environment in relation to psychological phenomena, is no closer to being settled today than it was at any point in the past -- nor could it be. Second, though of considerable consequence for psychological theory and practice, the mapping of the human genome will not assist in the settlement of the nature - nurture debate. Third, heritability studies are of little value to psychologists and cannot help in the resolution of the debate. Fourth, the nature - nurture controversy is not a scientific issue. Though it is possible to estimate the effect that changes in the environment or specific interventions will have on a given trait at a particular time and place, the question of ontological importance is beyond the scope of empirical investigation.

Recently the work of Rushton (1985) has sparked a debate concerning the causes of group differences in various psychological traits. At the same time, the related and often strongly contested issue of the reasons for individual differences appears to have been subsiding. Though research seemingly pertinent to the question of individual differences with respect to a number of behaviours and psychological traits is being published constantly, the heated exchanges that marked the 1970s are now apparently absent. Some authors would have us believe that this latter issue is no longer as contentious as it once was. For instance, according to Johnson (1990, p. 331), the nature - nurture controversy, as a consequence of recent research, is moving toward an "amicable, if complex, settlement." Further, he also asserted that the mapping of the human genome, which is scheduled to be completed in fifteen years, will provide a "big push" in the direction of the settlement. Johnson is not the first in the history of modern psychology to posit the death, or near death, of the nature - nurture debate. His claim concerning the importance of recent research is one that has always accompanied predictions of the debate's resolution. And though his assertion concerning the mapping of the human genome is not entirely new, in light of recentadvances in genetics, it is deserving of reconsideration.

This paper has two principal goals. First, it will be argued that the nature - nurture controversy, understood as an attempt to assign levels of relative importance to genotype and environment, is no closer to being settled today than it was at any point in the past, nor could it be. Further, regarding the issue of relative importance, it will be argued that heritability studies, which often have been overinterpreted, are irrelevant. Second, though recognized as of considerable consequence for psychological theory and practice, the notion that the mapping of the human genome will assist in the settlement of the nature - nurture debate will be disputed.

As evidence to support his conclusion that the nature - nurture controversy already is on the road to resolution, Johnson (1990) points to contradictory empirical findings. On the one hand, as some others have done in the past, he maintains there is "mounting evidence [that] points to a heavier genetic influence on many behaviours than most psychologists were previously prepared to acknowledge" (Johnson, 1990, p. 331). The key phrase in this declaration is "heavier influence." Like many who have taken one side or the other in this debate, Johnson apparently believes that new data, presumably from heritability studies, are capable of revealing the importance or influence of genotype relative to the environment. If this is Johnson's belief, his report of the death of the nature - nurture debate may be greatly exaggerated. On the other hand, Johnson points out that scientists recently have been discovering how genes are influenced by many internal and external change agents and that "what is encoded in the genes is not nearly as immutable as was once assumed" (Johnson, 1990, p. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Is the Nature-Nurture Debate on the Verge of Extinction?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.