Nature or Nurture

15 06 2012

I have to admit this subject really doesn’t have all that much to do with college life, but it has been central in my thoughts as I’ve been polishing my literary analysis for my Nature Writers literature class. The essay is entitled “Nature versus Nurture in White Fang” and it’s due on Saturday.

Considering Jack London was a card-carrying social evolutionist, I’m pretty sure he would be voting for nature to win the debate. Unfortunately, he didn’t write his story that way. He placed too much emphasis on environmental determinism and the use of molding and clay to represent the shaping process of the environment on the characters in the novel.

To a psychologist, the nature in this debate is hereditary qualities, not what the natural environment contributes to the situation. In essence, London’s constant harping on the molding of White Fang and other characters in the story by circumstances in their lives played directly into the hands of Team Nurture. Those psychologists believe that a person is shaped by learning from their environment and other people.

To me, the defining point is a matter of choice. Rather than going to his grave as a ferocious, unsociable wild animal, White Fang cautiously embraces domesticity. Even after five years of brutality from friend and foe, it takes only one man’s tenacious gentleness to overcome years of aloofness. Positive nurturing knocks the negative learned behaviors out of the ballpark.

What do you think? I spoke with a licensed psychologist today (a really nice guy, even if he is constantly analyzing over-analyzing everything), and he thinks it might be a 90-10 split, with nature weighing in on outcomes only 10 percent of the time. In extreme cases, nature might have a 25% foothold. Do you think that’s too high? Too low? About right?

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2 responses

3 02 2013
Brandon Pope

While I agree that nuture outweighs nature in this book, I believe this is not always true in the real world. Humans are the most intelligent beings on earth yet when deprived of social interaction for a long period of time or when not correctly socialized by other means, nature takes over. Take feral children for example, I recently read about a little girl who was kept in a basement and fed only enough to sustain life and deprived of human interaction. Once found she acted as a wild bird or raccoon would act, skittish and aggressive. Psychologists took her and studied her and helped her develop. Though progress was made and she finally showed some affection, her program was shutdown and she quickly went back to an animalistic way of life. My point here is that nuture is something that must always be there or it will disappear and that much like plants take over abandoned cities, nature can and will take over even the strongest of minds.

3 02 2013
sharonhughson

Brandon-
I think that watching the study of the feral girl is probably a requirement in psychology classes. It’s obvious from that occurrence (thankfully one of two isolated instances in recorded human history) that if no nurture is offered, even the advanced human mind adapts using animalistic instincts.
To me, this proves we need to work harder at loving others and offering the emotional nurturing the human psyche needs.
Thanks for commenting.
–Sharon

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