Nature vs. Nurtureposted by Jazz at 12/13/2004 07:10:00 AM
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"THE right genes make all the difference." Or so declares an advertisement, as a boy portraying the son of Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf holds his own in a match against Taylor Dent. While neither science, nor this television commercial, can explain much about how the genes of the tennis stars' son might affect his tennis game, people are comfortable linking genes to athletic prowess.
Many people, however, are leery of attributing other components of behavior to genes - personality or intelligence, or social traits like fidelity, for example. They're troubled by the ethical implications of genetic determination; it is as if giving a nod toward the genes automatically diminishes the role of the environment and free will. It is nature versus nurture: a debate that has spawned extremist views on both sides, from Nazism (nature) to Marxism (nurture).
The truth of the matter is that DNA is both inherited and environmentally responsive, and recent findings from animal studies go a long way toward resolving nature versus nurture by upsetting the assumption that the two work differently. The discoveries emphasize what genes do (producing proteins that are the building blocks of life), rather than simply who they are (their fixed DNA sequence).
He winds up the article by continuing with his amusing analogy to the child of Agassi and Graf.
As we all know, the odds are long that young Jaden Agassi, the son of Andre and Ms. Graf, will grow up to be a tennis star, because few children follow so closely in their parents' footsteps in our society, for many reasons. But maybe he will. If so, my bet is that this will be a result, in part, of both his Grand Slam heritage and his parents' (no doubt) dedicated schlepping to tennis lessons with the likes of Taylor Dent, both influences acting on his brain to create connections between gene activity and tennis activity.
He makes a good point, but it's also important to remember that sometimes the "fruit does fall a long way from the tree." Anyone who's watched the performances of Payton and Eli Manning this weekend could attest to that. Somewhere out there, Archie must be wondering if perhaps they should have stopped short of having that one extra son.