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Are we merely products?

By | February 01, 2013 | Opinion

What would you say if I told you that we are all simply products of our environment?

What if I said that you could never rise above or choose to be different from your surroundings? Would you agree and accept it? Or would you argue that we are only as productive – as great – as we choose?

I recently came across a thought-provoking Facebook status (rare, I know) and it has been on my mind since.

Without quoting it verbatim, it went something like this: We are but products of our society. We are not above anyone or original or different. We conform to the environments created by society. We are born subjects.

After reading it once, I read it again. I wanted to know two things: Would my Facebook friend (a childhood friend, too) say the same for her own life? And have her personal decisions, actions and life situation proven otherwise?

Or was she simply aggravated, as the post also indicated?

The arguments surrounding nature vs. nurture are long-lived. After debating with some friends and researching popular opinion (before completely forming my own), I came to the conclusion that we, in general, believe in two truths concerning our environment.

One side reasons that we begin as a product of our genes (nature). We continue living within that very same realm, and we die the same — a product. We are a clone of society — our ideas are unoriginal, and our choices cannot change our roots.

Another view argues that our environment, or the societal bounds in which we live, are merely a starting point. From there, we choose to rise above or fall below our circumstances (nurture).  Otherwise, those who share the same (or similar) surroundings would act and look the same.

Bringing the two together proposes the idea that nature and nurture work simultaneously to create the ideal human situation: Well-balanced individuals, who inherit certain genes, are presented with issues (sometimes because of their genes, i.e. alcoholism) and make choices to either better or worsen their circumstances.

That is a concept I would be willing to stand behind.

The first point of view — a depressing thought — almost disproves itself. If we are simply products, or animals, if you will, how do we explain stories about “rags to riches” (musician Ke$ha, for example) or drug addicts to addiction counselors?

How do abused children grow to be loving parents? If we are simply crops in a global field, how does anything change, ever?

The second argument is less disheartening and ties the nature aspect into the pro-nurture theory. Our genes — “nature” — can damn us to certain life experiences.

Some of us inherit green eyes and pinned earlobes while others live with mental health disorders and addictions because of their genes.

But if nature doesn’t trump nurture, which I believe is the case, who is to say that a manic-depressive cannot live a joyful, fulfilling life? How can a people — while remaining happy and sane — only see the glass ceiling above themselves and everyone around them?

That is my problem with the “nature” end of things.

If we are merely animals, comparable to those we feed on campus, why do we feel the need to rise above circumstances? Why would Martin Luther King Jr. see any reason to unify the races?

If there was no such thing as a “better life,” nobody would be in search of it.

My Facebook friend’s status implied a few things:

We are not above our peers, which is true. We are equally created.

We cannot rise above our environment. False. Proof is in the pudding. Just look around.

And, lastly, we are all the same and there are no differences between individuals. False. Why would the word “individual” even exist?

Nature versus nurture seems null and void. Why can’t nature work with nurture? At least I am able to say that I solved the debate in my own mind.

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One Response to Are we merely products?

  1. William S. says:

    Nurture enables humans to overcome the obstacles of nature. The better one is nurtured the better they are to overcome those obstacles to the point of manipulating the natural environment.

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