The long-running nature vs nurture debate is about whether human behaviour is determined by the environment, either prenatal or during a person’s life, or by a person’s genes. The alliterative expression “nature and nurture” in English has been in use since at least the Elizabethan period and nature vs nurture child development pdf back to medieval French.
Nature is what we think of as pre-wiring and is influenced by genetic inheritance and other biological factors. Nurture is generally taken as the influence of external factors after conception e.
The phrase in its modern sense was popularized by the English Victorian polymath Francis Galton, the modern founder of eugenics and behavioral genetics, discussing the influence of heredity and environment on social advancement. Galton was influenced by the book On the Origin of Species written by his half-cousin, Charles Darwin. The debate between “blank-slate” denial of the influence of heritability, and the view admitting both environmental and heritable traits, has often been cast in terms of nature versus nurture.
These two conflicting approaches to human development were at the core of an ideological dispute over research agendas throughout the second half of the 20th century. As both “nature” and “nurture” factors were found to contribute substantially, often in an extricable manner, such views were seen as naive or outdated by most scholars of human development by the 2000s. The strong dichotomy of nature versus nurture has thus been claimed to have limited relevance in some fields of research.
Close feedback loops have been found in which “nature” and “nurture” influence one another constantly, as seen in self-domestication. In ecology and behavioral genetics, researchers think nurture has an essential influence on nature. Similarly in other fields, the dividing line between an inherited and an acquired trait becomes unclear, as in epigenetics or fetal development. Locke was criticizing René Descartes’ claim of an innate idea of God universal to humanity.