Anthropology 101 Essay

Submitted By shasney13
Words: 1098
Pages: 5

The nature versus nurture debate is one that has always been central in my life and that of my family as we deal with a common societal reality – the “blended” family. While my family does not have nearly the dramatic and violent nature that we have been exposed to in some of the course readings, the composition of our family structure has led me to want to explore how both biology and environment impact an individual. It is my belief that you cannot emphasise one over the other as I have not been conclusively swayed on either position but in fact consider that a combination of the both nature and nurture shape human nature.
On the side of nature we have seen theories presented by sociobiologists on how human evolution, and thus the transferring and refining of genetic traits over time, shapes human behaviour and aggression. To me, the best description of this came from an explanation of natural selection, where humans who are the best adapted to the environment tend to be those that thrive and therefore certain genetic traits will be more likely to be passed on to the next generation and other genetic traits will phase out.
Where sociobiology relates to aggression begins with the core principal of both the inclusive-fitness theory and kin-selection. This theory looks both at the genetic fitness and the actions of that individual. More specifically, an individual who may not be able to reproduce and thus continue their own genetic line will often then act in ways that will ensure and promote the reproductive success of others within their group. Often those ways include forms of aggression, especially in the face of real or perceived threats from other groups. Noted in the discussion on sociobiology and aggression is that aggression is often related to both the density (and thus availability of land and resources) and complexity of society.
The overview of the various theories of sociobiology and aggression includes the foundation that humans have an intrinsic and inherited capacity for aggression. The likelihood of aggression or violence seems to be impacted by how much an individual feels threatened. It is important to note that there seems be differences both in cultural and gender contexts as to what individuals deem an aggression-worthy threat. Page 2-13 of our text summarizes one particular aspect of that belief by speaking about current society’s obsession with arming itself being only a representation of our fear of being overwhelmed by another societal group. The prevalence of this across the globe would seem to indicate a biological phenomenon.
Looking at the nature side of the debate has always felt a bit dark and depressing to me because it would seem that you are predisposed to a certain fate and reduced to a more base state of being, particular in the context of aggression. Certain behaviours, such as child abuse, do seem to be cyclical and passed down in families in the sense that adults who abuse their children have a higher likelihood of having been abused themselves as children. Does this indicate a genetic-predisposition to abusive behaviour, or a likelihood of being a product of your environment?
Opposing the nature or sociobiological side of the debate is that of the nurture, or learned-behaviour side. The first discussion in our text contrasts sociobiology by highlighting that there are many non-aggressive societies. This would indicate that aggression is not a biological trait but rather a behaviour that is taught and learned. The commonality between all of these non-aggressive societies seems to be the treatment of children in their youngest and formative years. Children are all taught how to explore their world around them in a non-violent or aggressive way. They learn to solve conflicts through sharing, play or other more passive manners. It is important to note that studies of non-aggressive cultures do not call out the complete absence of any aggression within that society. In fact, in