nature and nurture . . .

by mulberryshoots

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Today, there’s a fascinating article in the Science section of the Times which describes the work of Dr. Hopi Hoesktra, a biology geneticist at Harvard. Her recently published paper in Nature outlines work her team of researchers have done to distinguish genetically traceable traits in two different species of deer mice by the way that they build burrows and provide escape hatches (or not.)

We are not mice but we might as well be to think about what we have control over in the way that we look and behave in the world as much as the person beside us or across the table from us. Much has been made of how much acculturation (nurture) has influence on our personalities and character traits. What if, for example, much of it is genetically persuaded if not outright determined; e.g., “we were born that way?” Recently, there has been so much information about how behavior is influenced by our DNA and the physical/biochemical makeup of our brains. And this is not just from watching “House” on TV either.

In my own life, I have been surprised to gradually understand how many habits and traits I have that are similar to my father’s, the helpful and the not so helpful: insight and intuition, bluntness, adherence to what you believe in even though others may disagree. So much literature is devoted to describing these kinds of parallels in families and life consequences that result from them. I’ve often wondered whether it was the nurture from such strong traits growing up that causes that symbiosis or whether it’s mostly genes. Probably some of both.

In any case, the reason I am writing this post is that the deer mice research is truly fascinating to read about. And to think that we humans might also be genetically predisposed to either building long burrows versus fat ones and whether or not to provide an escape hatch in the burrow is, well, a humorous reflection on our own human behavior.

I know that many of us take life too seriously (that’s me) but that we may also have ancestors who have done that for eons before us it seems. How happy we are with ourselves depends on a lot of things. Luck is a big one, it seems to me. That’s been an influential factor in how life has made corrections for me almost in spite of myself, and for which I am ever thankful. So, with nature (genes,) nurture (environment) and luck (unpredictable opportunity) maybe it’s time to give in to the Zen idea of just going with the flow, and not to resist because of some preconceived idea that maybe we know better.