Nature vs. nurture

Why are we who we are? Why do we do what we do? Why do we think what we think? In response to such questions, a commonly discussed topic in the academic and public sphere is the issue of “nature vs. nurture”. In other words, to what extent are individuals determined by genetic and biological factors (“nature”), and to what extent are individuals shaped by social and environmental forces (“nurture”)? Specifically in reference to questions of gender, Fausto-Sterling (2000) describes how we are really asking the wrong questions when we focus on “nature vs. nurture”, because claiming that there is a separate “nature” and “nurture” is an artificial dualism. Specifically, she suggests that we must “switch our vision…, so that we see nature and nurture as an indivisible, dynamic system” (p. 228). As an example, all animals develop in an environment. During the earliest stages of development in utero, that environment includes the mother’s body chemistry, which is impacted by such factors as what she eats, how much stress she encounters, and how her hormones respond to such experiences. These factors are impacted by broader social forces, such as socioeconomics, race, religion, and culture. Thus, trying to isolate an individual’s biology from the context in which it exists will involve an artificial process of separating the inseparable.


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