YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

February 9, 2016

Is the Nature-Nurture debate over?

stress_general_shutterstock-ollyy_0This blog is about an alarming turn toward the legitimation of “race” and “ethnicity” as the prime influences on “personality.”

Are you fascinated with genealogy, particularly the ethnicity of your ancestors? (See the popularity of Ancestry.com commercials, where “ancestry” seems to 1. Have replaced American melting-pot identity; and 2. reinforced the notion of “ethnicity” or “race” as the primary components of “personality”; and 3. ignored the sociopolitical and economic sources of “stress” and depression, as if political polarization was not operating on individuals apart from diet, exercise, and positive thinking. (See https://clarespark.com/2015/12/16/the-depression-grand-challenge-ucla-style/)

It was not always the case that variants of “multiculturalism” dominated our own self-images. It was assumed by such as E. O. Wilson (a Harvard professor) that the Nature-Nurture controversy was controversial, and our term paper assignments included taking the side of either those who believed in the inheritance of “innate” characteristics or those who believed that “acquired characteristics” were determinative of behavior. I should have smelled a rat, for I had been under the [outdated] impression that it was impossible to separate the “innate” from the “acquired.” I still believe that, despite the relatively recent field of “epigenetics” that subtly may favor “social engineering” while appearing to resolve the Nature-Nurture controversy. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetics; http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/180963-lamarcks-revenge-the-epigenetics-revolution-may-redeem-one-of-darwins-oldest-rivals.)

This is no small academic point, for some sociobiologists have quietly been reinforcing the notion of biological determinism, once discredited as invented by 19th century racists. (This is the subject of hot controversy, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociobiology.)

Can a recrudescence of Social Darwinism, with its appeal to Nature over Nurture, be far behind? Ask any populist. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Darwinism.)

robberbarons

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