Friday, November 5, 2010

Heredity or Environment? How much influence does each have?


It is unquestionable that heredity plays an important role in dictating many aspects of who we are. That is particularly true in regard to our physical characteristics and genetic predisposition. But such a role falls short compared to how powerful the environment is in the process of a person’s development in the course of their life. The environment is responsible for shaping and defining an individual’s perception of one’s self and the world around them.

Besides influencing one’s behavior, external factors can also affect an individual’s health and interfere with their natural biologic course, potentially leading them down a totally different path. For example, people who develop a drinking pattern during youth may eventually suffer from alcoholism. Such conditions may cause their biological clock to tick faster and cascade into an early death, compared to an individual who has moderate habits and lives more conservatively. The way in which one is exposed to their environment will definitely affect their quality of life in later years.
This reasoning also holds true when we take into consideration the environmental aspect on the impact of social behavior. Being connected with other individuals in a social setting is important as it reflects on our ability to think, express emotions, and react to situations on a daily basis. Without this kind of interaction with social groups it would literally be impossible for us to acquire knowledge, incorporate certain basic concepts necessary to our survival, and developing language skills. In other words, we would live just like animals responding only to instincts.. Socialization is the very essence of humankind existence.

Despite the fact that researchers have struggled for years to pinpoint to what degree or percentage heredity and the environment influence an individual’s life, there is no question that heredity alone would not make us what we are today if it was not for the influence of our surroundings. Our lives would be dull without the values and meanings of the symbols we have created for ourselves as part of a group and society.

Individuals are also influenced by undesirable external factors for which they may or may not always have control. The climate, pollution in the air, highly processed foods, chemicals in the food chain and living in a highly demanding society are examples of factors which can affect one’s behavior and well being to some degree throughout the years. It is quite possible that a combination of these factors may throw one’s health off balance over the course of their life. Despite the great ability that one has to adapt to certain changes, to what extent can one overcome the pressures imposed by the complexities of modern society? These are questions which do not have easy answers.

When an individual’s health is off balance for a long time it could lead to a chronic condition and depending on that condition could potentially influence heredity too. Allergies are typical example of how the human body can become weak over time. It has turned into such a common condition that millions of people worldwide suffer from it. In contrast to that, human beings are also living much longer than ever before as a result of new technological discoveries.

Heredity or the environment, how much influence does each have? Each individual’s genetic makeup or genetic predisposition is unique and may encompass the temperament, gender and color of one’s hair, etc. Other characteristics are theorized to be shared by all humans. Such shared characteristics are the main ones that differentiate humans from other species. Heredity not only reveals many aspects of an individual’s identity, it is also the starting point of a journey called life and it is the knowledge acquired as a result of the interacting within a group or within society which makes all individuals unique and special.

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