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Epigenetics: Nature vs. Nurture?

In yesterday’s interview with Michael Posner, he says:

– “There is a growing number of studies that show the importance of interaction between our genes and each of our environments. Epigenetics is going to help us understand that question better, but let me share a very interesting piece of research from my lab where we found an unusual interaction between genetics and parenting.”

– “Good parenting, as measured by different research-based scales, has been shown to build good effortful control which, as we saw earlier, is so important. Now, what we found is that some specific genes reduced, even eliminated, the influence of the quality of parenting. In other words, some children’s development really depends on how their parents bring them up, whereas others do not – or do to a much smaller extent.”

Now check out this fascinating article in the Economist:Domestication and intelligence in dogs and wolves | Not so dumb animals

– “Monique Udell of the University of Florida … wondered whether learning rather than evolution explained his observations. Her team therefore worked with a mixture of pet dogs, dogs from animal shelters that had had minimal interaction with people, and wolves raised by humans.”

– “As they report in Animal Behaviour, the wolves outperformed both shelter dogs and pets. Indeed, six of the eight wolves followed human gestures perfectly in more than eight out of ten trials. Only three of eight pets were as successful as that and, as with Dr Hare’s wolves, none of the shelter dogs performed better than chance. Far from being dumb, then, wolves are smarter than dogs. You just have to bring ’em up proper.”

Which raises the obvious questions:

– isn’t “intelligence” more about “adaptability to new environments” more than about IQ (IQ can be an important factor in adapting to specific environments, say, engineering)?

– why do we keep talking about nature vs. nurture, when they are obviously complimentary processes? time to focus on how to “bring ’em up proper”…and even how to “bring ourselves up proper”

As mentioned in the post Richard Dawkins and Alfred Nobel: beyond nature and nurture, Dawkins says in his great book “The Selfish Gene” that:

– “We have at least the mental equipment to foster our long-term selfish interests rather than merely our short-term ones…We have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary, the selfish memes of our indoctrination. We can even discuss ways of deliberately cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism-something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world.”

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2 Responses

  1. j says:

    Here Here!
    “why do we keep talking about nature vs. nurture, when they are obviously complimentary processes?”
    A great prompt. I look forward to this point of view expanding through this world of either/or. How much better, opposing views harmonized!
    Very lovely layout on this page! Your color schemes and use of space delight me!
    In Joy!
    j

  2. Thank you for the comment and design compliments 🙂 will pass them on to the team.

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