Thursday, December 6, 2007

Nature Versus Nurture: Teaching our Young with Genetics or Culture

There are two ways in which we inherit traits: biologically and culturally. From an evolutionary perspective, the transmission of information is primarily done through genetics. Genes are the standard units of selection and the main mode of inheritance. The environment presents a species with problems and genetic adaptations eventually solve them. This process of genetic mutation is slow and can only be conducted from parent to child. The success of these solutions is evident in the health and quantity of the species’ offspring. Genetics play an integral part in the survival of every species in concerns with environmental pressures.
This “educating” of later generations through hereditary mutations can be seen in our own ancestry. As early humans moved from the tree filled jungles and ventured out into the flat woodlands, our postures became straight and our mobility bipedal. This evolutionary adaptation allowed for free hands and decreased the amount of the body that was exposed to the sun. This encouraged the carrying of foods and maintained lower body temperatures within the new, less than shady open plains.
Though biology plays a major role in transmitting information through genetics, some believe that culture may contribute to a greater degree. Unlike biological mutations that can take many generations to occur, cultural transmission of information can be done quickly. Information transmission is not restricted to parent-child patterns but can work in the reverse or can include non-familial transmission as well.
Social learning within a context of unique cultures has been a way of passing information throughout human history. With the assimilation to cultures, generations are taught societal norms, values, and beliefs that are continually passed down for centuries. Through the observations and participation in traditions and habitual celebrations one can learn much of what is needed for survival.

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