Nature vs Nurture, And The Winner Is....

There is the news and then there is the newsworthy. The difference usually jumps out at you:

* Newsweek Magazine just featured Angeline Jolie “The World’s Most Beautiful Woman”
* Men’s Health Magazine trumped that by featuring arch-rival-in-love Jennifer Aniston as “The Sexiest Woman of All Time”

* Gallup reported the average American male weighs 190 pounds, up from 180 in 1990; the average female weighs 160, up from 142
* University of Virginia trumped that by reporting lean physiques may be harmful right after surgery, showing a higher incidence of death among those patients whose BMI’s were less than 23

* In the Big 12 College Football Conference, the top academic achiever (Texas Tech) graduates only 66% of its players
* Among the remaining 65 colleges with major football programs, only three (Northwestern, Boston College and Duke) graduate 90% or more

* H. L. Mencken famously wrote: “If given a choice between security and freedom, the average citizen will always choose security.”
* When Charlie Brown asked Lucy to explain security, she famously yelled back: “Security, you dummy, is falling asleep in the back seat of your father’s car, and waking up all tucked inside your own bed.” She then added her clincher: “Something you will never ever have again!”

Tucked inside each of these thoughts is that old Nature vs Nurture debate. Harvard professor of Sociology and Medicine Nicholas Christakis recently tried to put the silver stake into the heart of this arguable dichotomy: “Things we once thought were entirely determined by culture — like our choice of friends or our voting patterns — turn out to have deep evolutionary roots.” He cites studies showing we seek out friends who have the same genetic variants that we have. But he adds: “Conversely we also know that early social experiences — like education, poverty, malnutrition and child abuse — can modify the expression of our evolved genes.”

He concludes, as do many today, it’s time to accept the reality that “humans are not separate from the natural world…and we do have an intrinsic biology that could play a role in human affairs.” A conclusion which surely reinforces today’s existentialism that we function much like the rest of planetary matter. As to the ancient-medieval notion that we are different than, greater than, more destined than the rest…?

It seems to have faded under the current insistence that really we are: No more than the rest. Which makes you and I what?? Apparently something less than I believed at the start of this.

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