Sunday, November 16, 2008

Who Am I? Nature/Nurture Debate

To what degree does genetics determine who we are? To what degree is it environment? This, of course, takes us back to the nature-nurture debate. Sometimes people try to convince me that genetics are not as important as environment, but I believe that each has its place in contributing to who we are.

For example, there are parts of me that are unexplainable in terms of environment. Imagine my surprise when I discovered by accident at age 21 that I can sketch despite the fact that I have never taken an art lesson in my life. Since nobody in my mother's family has this ability, I had no idea to even look for it. As a result, I can't help but wonder what other abilities I have that I am completely unaware of.

Likewise, my reflection is determined by genetics. When I look in the mirror, it is sometimes as though I see a stranger looking back at me. I have heard several adoptees say this, too. While my thin build did come from my mom's side, my height - or, lack of height - did not. I am 5'2", yet my maternal cousins range from 5'10" to 6'5". I also suspect that someone in my paternal family shares my dark blue eyes that have not appeared in any maternal relatives.

I wonder what led my sperm donor to become a doctor. Did I inherit my interest in medical issues from him? Perhaps his genes explain why I am fascinated by TV programs on Discovery Health. Maybe his genes contributed to my decision at age seven to become the only vegetarian in my family as a result of my need to take care of anything living.

By studying my maternal relatives for similiarities and differences to me, I am at least able to deduce what my biological father might look like, act like, and enjoy doing. As a result, I'm also able to figure out how we are probably similar. While bonds may be formed regardless of genetics, I cannot deny reminders each day that a mystery man has contributed to who I am.


damianhadams said...

Hi Kathleen

awesome blog. A study done here down under shows that approximately 40% of your behaviour can be attributed to genetics. Interestingly that previously the ratio was a lot less, so I wonder how long before we see a study showing 50% or more?
I know for myself that there are a lot of things that cannot be attributed to my mother or environment. And when I see many of my traits in my own children it does make the mind think.

Lindsay said...

Wow, I love the fairy drawing!! I didn't realize your sketches were so good!!

AlleyCat said...

Kathleen, hi. Alison Larkin here. I just saw your interview and wanted to say hi. I'm the author of a novel called The English American about an adopted English woman who finds her birth parents in the US. I wrote a song called the DNA song for adopted people and people conceived through anonymous sperm or egg donation. It's called the DNA song. You can get to it by going to my website, which is or googling Alison Larkin DNA Song. With warm wishes, Alison Larkin