Nature vs. Nurture Paper Emily Turner HP 192, 3/13/01 For a long time, scientists and biologists have argued over whether our behavior is controlled solely by our genes or if the environment we are in has any effect. This is called nature versus nurture. No one knows which one dictates our behavior or if it is a combination of both.
In this essay, I will attempt to answer some of the questions that come up in this age-old debate. One question is, if genes control behavior, then is an individual really responsible for their actions? I think people are definitely responsible for their actions. I think that, while our genes may control some aspects of our personalities, there is no denying that our environment has some effects too. Our genes form us, but our experiences shape the way we behave as people. The people we grow up with, specifically our parents teach us ways of acting and thinking that we keep for the rest of our lives.
A good example of this is television. When violent acts happen, people are quick to blame all the violence we see on TV, but why do some people act on this violence while others, who probably watch the same amount of television, do not commit any violent acts in their lifetime? I believe that it has to do with how a person grew up. If you grew up being told not to be violent and that television was just fiction, like I did, then you can sort out the violence on television from what happens and how people are supposed to act in real life. But if you were not told these things as a child, or you saw your parents participating in violence, then these lines between TV and reality become blurred. Scientists have also found out that, even though a person may have a certain behavior-controlling gene, it is not always active. This research puts the responsibility for actions back on the individual.
Humans do have free will, and they can choose if they want to let their body or their mind control them. Another question is, is a person doesn't have the "bad gene," but they commit a crime, are they more responsible. To look at this issue from a legal perspective, judges determine responsibility for actions by something called culpability. This term refers to a person's knowledge of their actions and the consequences. If a person doesn't know what they are doing, such as a mentally ill person who commits a crime, or they are not aware of the consequences, such as a child who plays with a parent's gun, then they cannot be legally held responsible. This would answer the previous question with an emphatic no.
Culpability makes no mention of genes, so if you had the "bad gene" and you committed a crime that you were fully aware of doing and you knew what could happen if you got caught, you would be fully responsible for your actions. From my perspective, all healthy individuals are responsible for their actions. I believe that genes control our physical characteristics, but have a minute role in controlling our behaviors. As I mentioned before, some people have a certain gene, but it is not active in their bodies. This could mean that many people with the "bad gene" have led perfectly normal, law-abiding lives, while many people without the "bad gene" could have committed crimes.
Scientists say that only about 10% of criminals in our prisons have the anti-social personality, and this could be the same thing with the "bad gene." It is too risky to take responsibility off of individuals, because it just creates excuses for inexcusable behavior. I think that nurture plays a much bigger role in the shaping of our behavior than nature does. Placing complete control of our behavior on our genes removes responsibility off the individual, which is trouble. If people believe that they have no control over their bodies and it is all up to their genes, then we will see complete chaos. People will not engage in healthy lifestyles because they will believe that, it doesn't matter what they do, genes will dictate their fate.
We will also see an increase in crime rate because people with the "bad gene" would be able to get away with crimes because it's not their responsibility; it's "their genes' fault." We do know that our genes determine our physical properties, like whether we have brown or blond hair, but whether or not they control our behavior is still a mystery. I believe that they have a very limited role in determining behavior characteristics for the numerous reasons that I outline above.