Nature or nurture? well, both of course…but maybe the question itself is leaving out a critical component: our free will and potential to transcend, and influence, both.
My wife Lisa and I just came back from a relaxing and stimulating 2‑week vacation. One of the highlights was to participate in the opening, at Oslo’s Nobel Peace Center, of the exhibition Envisioning Change, organized by The Natural World Museum (NWM) in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in honor of World Environment Day 2007.
Staring at so many inspiring photographs and stories of Winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, and reading Alfred Nobel’s simple yet powerful will that established the Nobel Prizes, I couldn’t avoid but thinking what a beautiful example they have become of the power of an individual to transcend both our genes and our “memes” (our cultural and environmental influences‑a term coined by biologist Richard Dawkins).
- “When we die there are two things we can leave behind us: genes and memes…But if you contribute to the world’s culture, if you have a good idea, compose a tune, invent a sparking plug, write a poem, it may live on, intact, long after your genes have dissolved in the common pool.”
- “The point I am making now is that, even if we look on the dark side and assume that individual man is fundamentally selfish, our conscious foresight-our capacity to simulate the future in imagination- could save us from the worst selfish excesses of the blind replicators. 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. We are built as gene machine and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.”
Here you can read the will that created the meme of the Nobel Prize-one page worth reading, with this core paragraph: [Read more…] about Richard Dawkins and Alfred Nobel: beyond nature and nurture