Destiny or Free Will, Preeminence of Nature Versus Nurture, The Worldwide Economic and Consequently Unemployment Crises & the Worldwide “Education” Chaos – 07/13/2014

“Scholarly and popular discussion about nature and nurture relates to the relative importance of an individual’s innate qualities (“nature” in the sense of nativism or innatism) as compared to an individual’s personal experiences (“nurture” in the sense of empiricism or behaviorism) in causing individual differences in physical and behavioral traits.”

“The phrase “nature and nurture” in its modern sense was coined by the English Victorian polymath Francis Galton in discussion of the influence of heredity and environment on social advancement, although the terms had been contrasted previously, for example by Shakespeare (in his play, The Tempest: 4.1). Galton was influenced by the book On the Origin of Species written by his half-cousin, Charles Darwin. The concept embodied in the phrase has been criticized for its binary simplification of two tightly interwoven parameters, as for example an environment of wealth, education, and social privilege are often historically passed to genetic offspring, even though wealth, education, and social privilege are not part of the human biological system, and so cannot be directly attributed to genetics.”

“The view that humans acquire all or almost all their behavioral traits from “nurture” was termed tabula rasa(“blank slate”) by philosopher John Locke. The blank slate view proposes that humans develop only from environmental influences. This question was once considered to be an appropriate division of developmental influences, but since both types of factors are known to play interacting roles in development, most modern psychologists and other scholars of human development consider the question naive—representing an outdated state of knowledge.”

“One may also refer to the concepts of innatism and empiricism as genetic determinism andenvironmentalism respectively. These two conflicting approaches have influenced research agendas for a century. While genetic determinism holds that the development is primarily influenced by the genetic code of a person, environmentalism emphasises the influence of experiences and social factors. In the twenty-first century, a consensus is developing that both genetic and environmental agents influence development interactively.

“In the social and political sciences, the nature versus nurture debate may be contrasted with the structure versus agency debate (that is, socialization versus individual autonomy). For a discussion of nature versus nurture in language and other human universals, see also psychological nativism.”

“In their 2014 survey of scientists, many respondents wrote that the familiar distinction between nature and nurture has outlived its usefulness, and should be retired. One reason is the explosion of work in the field ofepigenetics. Scientists believe that there is a long and circuitous route, with many feedback loops, from a particular set of genes to a feature of the adult organism. Culture is a biological phenomenon: a set of abilities and practices that allow members of one generation to learn and change and to pass the results of that learning on to the next generation.”

“Epigenetics is the study of changes in the expression of genes caused by certain base pairs in DNA, or RNA, being “turned off” or “turned on” again, through chemical reactions. In biology, and specifically genetics, epigenetics is mostly the study of heritable genetic changes that are not caused by changes in the DNAsequence; to a lesser extent it also can be used to describe the study of stable, long-term alterations in thetranscriptional potential of a cell that are not necessarily heritable. Unlike simple genetics based on changes to the DNA sequence (the genotype), the changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype of epigenetics have other causes, thus use of the term epi- (Greek: επί– over, outside of, around) genetics.

“The term also refers to the changes themselves: functionally relevant changes to the genome that do not involve a change in the nucleotide sequence. Examples of mechanisms that produce such changes are DNA methylation and histone modification, each of which alters how genes are expressed without altering the underlying DNA sequence. Gene expression can be controlled through the action of repressor proteins that attach to silencer regions of the DNA. These epigenetic changes may last through cell divisions for the duration of the cell’s life, and may also last for multiple generations even though they do not involve changes in the underlying DNA sequence of the organism; instead, non-genetic factors cause the organism’s genes to behave (or “express themselves”) differently. (There are objections to the use of the term epigenetic to describe chemical modification of histone, since it remains unclear whether or not histone modifications are heritable.)

“One example of an epigenetic change in eukaryotic biology is the process of cellular differentiation. Duringmorphogenesistotipotent stem cells become the various pluripotent cell lines of the embryo, which in turn become fully differentiated cells. In other words, as a single fertilized egg cell – the zygote – continues todivide, the resulting daughter cells change into all the different cell types in an organism, including neurons,muscle cellsepitheliumendothelium of blood vessels, etc., by activating some genes while inhibiting the expression of others.

“In 2011, it was demonstrated that the methylation of mRNA plays a critical role in human energy homeostasis. The obesity-associated FTO gene is shown to be able to demethylate N6-methyladenosine in RNA. This discovery launched the subfield of RNA epigenetics.

Epigenetics can impact evolution when epigenetic changes are heritable. A sequestered germ line or Weismann barrier is specific to animals, and epigenetic inheritance is more common in plants and microbes. Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb have argued that these effects may require enhancements to the standard conceptual framework of the modern evolutionary synthesis. Other evolutionary biologists have incorporated epigenetic inheritance into population genetics models or are openly skeptical.”

“Two important ways in which epigenetic inheritance can be different from traditional genetic inheritance, with important consequences for evolution, are that rates of epimutation can be much faster than rates of mutation and the epimutations are more easily reversible. An epigenetically inherited element such as the PSI+ system can act as a “stop-gap”, good enough for short-term adaptation that allows the lineage to survive for long enough for mutation and/or recombination togenetically assimilate the adaptive phenotypic change. The existence of this possibility increases the evolvability of a species.”

“In the Överkalix study, Marcus Pembrey and colleagues observed that the paternal (but not maternal) grandsons of Swedish men who were exposed during preadolescence to famine in the 19th century were less likely to die of cardiovascular disease. If food was plentiful, then diabetes mortality in the grandchildren increased, suggesting that this was a transgenerational epigenetic inheritance. The opposite effect was observed for females—the paternal (but not maternal) granddaughters of women who experienced famine while in the womb (and therefore while their eggs were being formed) lived shorter lives on average.

“In 2008, the National Institutes of Health announced that $190 million had been earmarked for epigenetics research over the next five years. In announcing the funding, government officials noted that epigenetics has the potential to explain mechanisms of aging, human development, and the origins of cancer, heart disease, mental illness, as well as several other conditions. Some investigators, like Randy Jirtle, PhD, of Duke University Medical Center, think epigenetics may ultimately turn out to have a greater role in disease than genetics.”

“Philosophical questions regarding nature and nurture include the question of the nature of the trait itself, questions of determinism, and whether the question is well posed.”

“As well as asking if a trait such as IQ is heritable, one can ask what it is about “intelligence” that is being inherited. Similarly, if in a broad set of environments genes account for almost all observed variation in a trait then this raises the notion ofgenetic determinism and or biological determinism, and the level of analysis which is appropriate for the trait. Finally, as early as 1951, Calvin Hall suggested that discussion opposing nature and nurture was fruitless. Environments may be able to be varied in ways that affect development: This would alter the heritability of the character changes, too. Conversely, if the genetic composition of a population changes, then heritability may also change.”

“The example of phenylketonuria (PKU) is informative. Untreated, this is a completely penetrant genetic disorder causing brain damage and progressive mental retardation. PKU can be treated by the elimination of phenylalanine from the diet. Hence, a character (PKU) that used to have a virtually perfect heritability is not heritable any more if modern medicine is available (the actual allele causing PKU would still be inherited, but the phenotype PKU would not be expressed anymore). It is useful then to think of what is inherited as a mechanism for breaking down phenylalanine. Separately from this we can consider whether the organism has other mechanisms (for instance a drug that breakdown this amino acid) or does not need the mechanism (due to dietary exclusion).
Similarly, within, say, an inbred strain of mice, no genetic variation is present and every character will have a zero heritability. If the complications of gene–environment interactions and correlations (see above) are added, then it appears to many thatheritability, the epitome of the nature–nurture opposition, is “a station passed.”

“A related concept is the view that the idea that either nature or nurture explains a creature’s behavior is an example of thesingle cause fallacy.”

“Some believe that evolutionary explanations describes factors which limit our free will, in that it can be seen to imply that we behave in ways in which we are ‘naturally inclined’. J. Mizzoni wrote “There are some moral philosophers (such asThomas Nagel) who believe that evolutionary considerations are irrelevant to a full understanding of the foundations of ethics. Other moral philosophers (such as J. L. Mackie) tell quite a different story. They hold that the admission of the evolutionary origins of human beings compels us to concede that there are no foundations for ethics.

“Critics of this ethical view point out that whether or not a behavioral trait is inherited does not affect whether it can be changed by one’s culture or independent choice, and that evolutionary inclinations could be discarded in ethical and political discussions regardless of whether they exist or not.”

“Leda Cosmides and John Tooby noted that William James (1842–1910) argued that humans have more “instincts” than animals, and that greater freedom of action is the result of having more psychological instincts, not fewer. Daniel C. Dennettexplores this idea in his 2003 book Freedom Evolves.”


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