The Old Nature versus Nurture
The debate about whether nature or nurture is more important in determining human behavior is an old one, but every so often it erupts anew into a bitter and acrimonious fight. Most recently this was shown by the virulent controversy surrounding publication of The Bell Curve, but this is not the first, nor will it be the last, such controversy. Usually those who argue loudest and longest do so from an ideologue's viewpoint, and few scientists have wanted to become embroiled in an argument that is so often divisive. Some individuals seem to see humans as automatons whose every action is controlled by genes, irrespective of what choices the environment presents. Others seem to see nature as constantly at war with nurture for control of the individual, giving the phrase "nature versus nurture" a new meaning entirely. Still others see humans as a tabula rasa, or blank slate, written upon by experience; simply give a child the right set of experiences and that child can grow up to be an athlete, an artist, or a mathematician. And the pendulum of public opinion has swung back and forth, sometimes deifying and sometimes villifying scientists who study the origins of human behavior.
A great deal of confusion surrounds the subject of human behavior, and this confusion is not the fault of the lay public; when dealing with issues as complicated as behavior, confusion is inevitable, and arises for many reasons. Behavioral genetics is a brand new science, which has so far provided us with many more questions than answers, and genuine confusion exists within the field. Just as most movies, books, and cars do their job