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All behavior is the product of an inextricable interaction between heredity and environment during development, so the answer to all nature-nurture questions is “some of each.” If people only recognized this truism, the political recriminations could be avoided.
Instead, there is a widespread desire that the whole issue would somehow just go away.
A common position on nature and nurture among contemporary scientists can be summarized as follows: No one today believes that the mind is a blank slate; to refute such a belief is to tip over a straw man.
Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor in the department of psychology at Harvard University, conducts research on language and cognition.
A Fellow of the American Academy since 1998, he is the author of six books, including “How the Mind Works” (1997), “The Language Instinct” (2000), and “The Blank Slate” (2002). bestowed on them by nature, to be bettered in them by nurture,” he gave the world a euphonious name for an opposition that has been debated ever since.
These discoveries not only have shown that the innate organization of the brain cannot be ignored, but have also helped to reframe our very conception of nature and nurture.
Nature and nurture, of course, are not alternatives.
Since a given set of genes can have different effects in different environments, there may always be an environment in which a supposed effect of the genes can be reversed or canceled; therefore the genes impose no significant constraints on behavior.
Indeed, genes are expressed in response to environmental signals, so it is meaningless to try to distinguish genes and environments; doing so only gets in the way of productive research.
Behavioral genetics has shown that temperament emerges early in life and remains fairly constant throughout the life span, that much of the variation among people within a culture comes from differences in genes, and that in some cases particular genes can be tied to aspects of cognition, language, and personality.
Neuroscience has shown that the genome contains a rich tool kit of growth factors, axon guidance molecules, and cell adhesion molecules that help structure the brain during development, as well as mechanisms of plasticity that make learning possible.