The Intrinsic Flaws in Nature vs Nurture: Part 1 of 2

“We have to remember that what we observe is not nature herself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.” -Werner Heisenberg

The Nature versus Nurture debate is paradigmatically flawed.  When conducting statistical analysis, determining the correct variables and their relationship to each other is crucial.  If the variables’ relationship is incorrectly determined, and this subjective framing is accepted as absolute fact in normative thinking, it creates a warped perception of reality that doesn’t allow for correction.  This is the case with the entire premise of Nature versus Nurture, it is foundationally flawed by viewing both parts as having a perfectly causal interaction and thus is purposefully misleading.  Both nature and nurture are considered independent variables which puts them in a state of conflict, only allowing for a zero sum relationship.  This sets them on equal standing to the other when looking for controls, which further creates confounding variables.

Before this can be explored further, a different misleading oversimplification needs to be addressed.  The macro and micro level of how genes and environment affect each other should not be lumped together, as they are in the current paradigm.  External conditions that, over time, select for specific traits on a large scale do not equate to the same thing as the micro level of how environment affects individual gene expression, which actually falls in the realm of epigenetics.  The two have enough interplay that they should be kept separate in order to avoid misinterpretation of the ways they contrast from how they compare.  For the sake of discernment, this article will call the environmental honing of certain genes over long periods of time the Generational Selection/Adaptation, while the environment affecting the expression of genes at a specific time will be called the Individual Epigenetic Spectrum.

The reason these concepts need to be kept separate is clearly seen by discerning when genes or environment are the independent variable or the mediator variable.  In Generational Selection/Adaptation the independent variable is the environmental pressures, the mediator variable is the potential (starting) genes in that population, and the dependent variable is the resulting phenotype of that population.  In the Individual Epigenetic Spectrum the independent variable is the person’s genes, the mediator variable is the environment, and the dependent variable is the phenotype.  Placing both nature and nurture as independent variables confuses these two scenarios, while creating confounding variables that are seen as controls to the flawed system.

(The rest of the article will focus solely on the Individual Epigenetic Spectrum.)

A common misconception is that being able to raise IQ means that environment on it’s own can create IQ potential.  This is a perfect example of how a person’s potential genetic spectrum of phenotype and their current phenotype itself have been confounded.  To say a person can raise their phenotype’s IQ doesn’t mean that their current phenotype is their genetic potential, nor does it prove that being able to change it for the better means that environment created this outside the possibility of their genes.  This simply means that they will affect the independent variable (their genes) with a different mediator variable (environment) to yield a change in the dependent variable (phenotype’s IQ); the genetic potential of an individual is still set to the same limits.  It can be affected by the environment in how it expresses, but that potential just isn’t fully expressed via the mediator.  A change in the dependent variable by a mediator variable in no way disproves the importance of the independent variables role in this process.  The genes predict where the ceiling effect will cap the person off, however people’s phenotype isn’t at the full potential of their genetic possibilities.

The phenotype being confused for the genes itself also creates another misconception in siblings having such different personalities being proof that environment creates this change alone.  Phenotype is the real life genetic expression, but not the genetic potential, as was discussed above.  Parents pass on their unexpressed genes – not just the expressed ones in their phenotype – to their children.  Children randomly get half of their parents chromosomal genes (expressed or not) in varying recombinations from each other that are then expressed, or not, in each child.  To claim that environment creates differences in close relatives’ phenotypes makes the assumption that their genes are all in the same combinations or expressed the same ways to be considered as a control.  Once this bastardization of genetic potential is understood, then it can be seen as a confounding variable, which leaves many of the Nature vs Nurture studies without a real control.  False controls against nature to prove nurture allow for a Circular Cause and Consequence fallacy.

This fallacious downward spiral also doesn’t take into account that choices or lifestyle are not purely nurture.  The reason that nurture must be a mediator variable is because the nature of a person helps determine their environment – their choices, values, preferences, and actions are expressed differently through conditioning only to the extent that their genes allow.  Any externally determined aspects of their environment also must interplay with their genetic potential to be expressed in phenotype, so even externally uncontrollable factors are subject to the genes in how they affect the individual.  The combination of many people’s phenotypes, within a given group, at a set point in time, determines many factors of their environment.  This variation on part of the environment but not on part of the constant individual given genes in regards to affecting phenotype shows why the former is the mediator and the later is the independent variable – it also is key for insight into what type of mediating function environment actually is (stay tuned…. hint: this is heavy foreshadowing lol).

What is the current paradigm hiding?

((To be continued….))