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Nurture takes Precedence over Nature?

Updated on April 6, 2017

Nature Vs Nurture is an interesting contest, both the sides having huge stocks of supporting arguments. Either stance is taken liberally by many of us, both to justify whatever we want to, and to oppose what we do not like. I thought, if we examine a few cases of humans growing up under no influence of ‘nurture’ (no proper upbringing), and to see what unique contribution, ‘nature’ could show. (I found it impossible to find someone growing up with no influence of ‘nature’)

Real Life Stories

Let us first examine a few extra-ordinary stories relating to total lack of nurture.

1 Marina Chapman is an author of a popular book and currently lives in Bradford, England. She was in fact adopted by a group of capuchin monkeys, which are known to accept human children in their groups. The animals taught young Marina how to catch birds and rabbits with her bare hands, so she was able to survive and take care of herself.

2 Sidi Mohamed, who at the age of five or six he wandered off from his North African family, to befriended ostriches. They took care of him, teaching him to run fast and sheltering him which each extended a wing over him. At the age of 12, he was taken back to society and his parents by mounted ostrich hunters. He later married and had children.

3 An abandoned 1-year-old boy surrounded by eight wild cats was found by Argentinean police in 2008. They found that the cats had been keeping the child alive during the harsh winter, by constantly licking him and by staying on top of him, like a living blanket.

4 Andrei Tolstyk was born with hearing and speaking deficiencies, and happened to be abandoned in the remote areas of Siberia. He was adopted by a guard dog, and was taught how to survive… like a guard dog.

5 Marcos Rodríguez Pantoja was reportedly sold to a hermit goatherder at the age of seven, and had to live for 12 years in the wild with the wolves and other animals. He spent a lot of time trying to integrate into society and was only partly successful.

What Can We Learn from This?

Here it is important to note that all these children found it hard to integrate into society. For example “A boy of around five was found after spending about a year in the company of monkeys in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, in 1987. In 2005, at the age of 17, he was still a monkey. He didn’t talk at all, he walked like a monkey, refused to eat cooked food and never played with other children, though still exhibited affection towards monkeys.” Naturally so, since at the critical age in which human language and interactions are developed, after which it becomes a hard affair to develop such skills, these children never got a chance to be exposed to those. The much celebrated genetic characteristics, at least for these children, seem to have had no effect.

My question is, isn’t this a strong argument in favour of nurture, in the nature versus nurture, debate? The fact is that in all the cases of feral kids, the much celebrated instinctive attraction was never observed. Doesn’t this put to question, all that we consider as the distinctive elements of human nature. Not only that, in cases where other people took efforts to integrate them with human society, the acute discomfort was writ large in all their reactions. Even in the light of this, why do we let modern science give too much weight to the nature side of the argument? Aren’t we, in effect, rationalizing racism?

What Do You Say?

Nurture is, What is Important.

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Another Proof...

In a study focusing on the ‘role of education in social mobility within the context of class structure' (American Journal of Sociology - Hiroshi Ishida et al), the affinity of children from well placed families for better positions in life, and the indifference expressed exactly for the same, by those from the fringes of society, was examined. The study found that what influenced the children, consisted of both an unequal access to education for children of different class origins, (Two forms of educational advantage to children of professional and managerial class, a better access to higher levels of education and an avoidance of lower levels) and, a natural attraction to well placed positions from children of upper class parents (Two forms of advantage here also: wards of highly qualified people have advantage in access to professional and managerial positions, and they also may be successful in avoiding manual positions.)


Isn’t all this strong enough to tilt the debate completely in favour of nurture? Nurture, children of the lower class, to partake, appreciate and enjoy good things in life, while instilling revulsion to the ordinary? Won’t doing so, result in enhanced opportunities for all social transactions, making things like GDP shoot up, leading to better standards of living? Many of the hottest issues of human nature and its variations, like the existence of a "gay gene", which explains such behavior, now deserves a re-look. Also, the propensity to justify many abnormal things, like, criminal acts, the tendency to divorce, or aggressive behavior causing abuse, by the argument of "behavioral genes", could then be put to rest.

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