DNA and Destiny: Nature and Nurture in Human Behavior

By R. Grant Steen | Go to book overview

4
The Nature of Nurture
Defining Environmental Influences

The old dichotomy of nature or nurture, first made by Galton more than a century ago, has been used so far without exploring it more deeply. But this dichotomy is misleading for several reasons, and it is now time for clarification. Most scientists believe that the dichotomy itself is incorrect, and that virtually every trait is mediated by both nature and nurture, working somehow in concert. Furthermore, it is quite outdated to speak of "nature or nurture" when we know that nature, as it was meant by Galton, is equivalent to genes in modern parlance. As has already been discussed; a gene is simply that part of the DNA molecule that specifies the construction of a particular protein. Environment, as Galton used it and as it has been used since, is something of a catchall; everything that is not genetic is, by definition, environmental. But this is intellectually unsatisfying; we must somehow be more explicit about the environmental influences that affect expression of a trait. Or, to put it another way, what is the nature of nurture?


Environmental Influences Broadly Defined

Nurture is often taken to mean the social environment that surrounds and protects the child from birth to independence. This would include early interactions with parents and siblings, as well as the more sporadic interactions with whatever members of the extended family happen to be around. Somewhat

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DNA and Destiny: Nature and Nurture in Human Behavior
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • 1 - Genes and Human Behavior 1
  • 2 - The Old Nature Versus Nurture Debate 21
  • 3 - The Dark History of Eugenics 33
  • 4 - The Nature of Nurture Defining Environmental Influences 49
  • 5 - New Tools for an Old Problem 63
  • 6 - New Improvements in the Old Tools 79
  • 7 - The Inheritance of Disease a Paradigm for the Inheritance of Behavior? 93
  • 8 - Intelligence 113
  • 9 - Mental Disorders 137
  • 10 - Personality Traits 161
  • 11 - Sexual Orientation 185
  • 12 - Alcoholism and Addictive Behavior 203
  • 13 - Crime and Violence 217
  • 14 - Sex, Genes, and Testosterone 239
  • 15 - Biology and Social Responsibility 261
  • Epilogue 279
  • References 283
  • Index 293
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