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Quotes on the nature/nurture theories of growth

Natalie Angier mentioned David S. Moore's book The Dependent Gene which explores the meaning of genetic determination. "No matter how seemingly hard-wired a trait...the outside finds its way in, and the inside responds."

2003 marked the 50th anniversary of James D. Watson and Francis Crick's discovery of DNA. As Angier put it, "The molecule that for so long exemplified youthful bravado, vast promise and vaster self-regard has become another aging, pot-bellied baby boomer." She interviewed many scientists who agreed that we are created by a combination of our environment and our genes. After all, "DNA, on its own, does nothing." It contains instructions for making special proteins, but it needs to be surrounded by proteins who can carry out the instructions.

Barbara J. King wrote:
But we do not inherit a gene "for" shyness" or a gene "for" depression or a gene "for" spirituality; at most, we may inherit a tendency to express shy qualities or aspects of depression or spiritual yearnings when the environmental context – including the expression of belongingness in our lives – is ripe for that expression.

Stephen Jay Gould wrote: "If innate only means possible, or likely in certain environments, then everything we do is innate and the word has no meaning." Rollo May wrote: "Everyone who has observed his own development with wonder will be aware that there is both nature and nurture in every step of this actualization of his potentialities."

Paulo Coelho wrote:

"What's the world's greatest lie?" the boy asked, completely surprised.

"It's this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That's the world's greatest lie."

Jennifer Finney Boylan wrote:

"Well, when I [Jenny Boylan] was a man, it was something I decided I'd do. It was something that I woke up every morning and convinced myself I could do, that it was something that I had to do." * * * Barbara looked alarmed. "You mean you [Richard Russo, her husband] could have decided to be anybody?" "Not anybody, but the person I became. I think we are who we are because consciously, or unconsciously, we choose ourselves." * * * The conversation we had about how and whether people 'choose' to be themselves has stayed with me, though – and it is interesting how you spoke of deciding consciously to become yourself. It was interesting that Barb said she couldn't imagine this, and that the idea of choosing fate like that was strange to her. It gave me the helpful insight that I really did 'choose' to be Jim every single day, but that once I put my sword down I haven't chosen Jenny at all; I simply wake up and here I am.

Amos Oz wrote:

"Let me teach you that Man does not walk by chance. Moreover, Man does not walk."

"What do you mean, Man does not walk?"

"Simply this: Man does not walk except to where he is led. And he is not led except to where his heart desires, and his heart does not desire unless the desire be from the depths of his soul."


"Not Just Genes: Moving Beyond Nature vs. Nurture" by Natalie Angier. Feb. 25, 2003.

Barbara J. King. Evolving God: A Provocative View on the Origins of Religion. New York: Doubleday, 2007. p. 199.

Stephen Jay Gould. The Mismeasure of Man. New York: W. W. Norton and Co, 1981. p. 330.

Rollo May, Power and Innocence: A Search for the Sources of Violence, New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1972. p 122.

Paulo Coelho. The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream. (1988) Translated by Alan R. Clarke. (1993) New York: HarperCollins, 1998. p 20.

Jennifer Finney Boylan. She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders. New York: Broadway Books, 2003. p 161-2, 180.

Amos Oz. In the Land of Israel. (1983) Translated by Maurie Goldberg-Bartura. USA: Harcourt, Inc., 1993. pp. 14-15.


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