Dr Wilmot James
September 10 2008
Venue: Room 12 & 13 Chambers Building – Ground Floor
The Open University
Organised by: Innogen, The Open University
Adult human being spend their lives reproducing, putting food on the table and sleeping. We do this day in and day out. Why? The answer is to the why question is biological, which is to say that we are programmed to engage in reproductive, food securing and resting behaviours. We say this because we have observed the behaviour of human beings, studied the physiological repertories and have to know the genetic programme called the genome that provide the information for making of the body. These general principles apply to all reproducing organisms whether they are viruses, bacteria or primates like us.
How do we do these thing are certanily limited by the biological (we cannot fly but birds can) but they are learnt and therefore cultural habits. Even then, certain habits may appear to be cultural when they are not, such as the fact that all human beings no matter their culture have sex in private unlike dogs who do not. Then too, it may well be that in the course of time the accumulation of cultural habits can make an impact on certain aspects of the biological, such as migration has on skin pigmentation change when we move into different ultra-violet rays exposure zones. Many biological characteristics are unaffected by the environment, such as blood type for example.
In the science community the nature vs nurture distinction has long been seen as an inappropriate one to draw in the light of what we today know about bilogy of living organisms. A more appropriate approach is to measure how genes interact with the environment on a scale between 0 and 1. Based on scientifically collected evidence we are able to say for example that blood type gets a 0 and skin pigmentation a 0.6 on the gene-environment interactive scale. In the humanities and social sciences, the nature vs nurture distinction persists. This lecture will explore the reasons for the persistence of the nature vs nurture distinction in the world of the 21st century and how and why it is beginning to break down.