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Heredity Versus Environment - The Nature-nurture Controversy

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 4Heredity Versus Environment - The Nature-nurture Controversy, Exploring Heredity And Environment: Research Methods, Beyond Heritability

The Nature-Nurture Controversy

What are the roles of heredity and environment in the development of various human characteristics? The nature-nurture controversy deals with this perennial question. The works by several early philosophers are often viewed as marking the beginning of this controversy. As early as the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries, philosophers such as René Descartes and Immanuel Kant argued that human cognition is largely reflective of genetically determined predispositions, since environmental factors do not adequately explain the variations in our cognitive capabilities. They therefore took the nativist perspective that humans are born with certain cognitive tendencies. By contrast, the clean slate view, proposed in 1690 by the British philosopher John Locke, focuses instead on the role of the surrounding environment in describing human thoughts. Locke compared the human mind to a piece of blank paper without any ideas written on it, and he suggested that only from experience do humans draw reason and knowledge. Following these diametrically opposed ideas, scientists have since extensively explored the roles of heredity and environment. Before describing such efforts in detail, it is useful to define relevant concepts.

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