The Ingredients for a Postgenomic Synthesis of Nature and Nurture.
This paper serves as an introduction to the special issue on “Reconciling Nature and Nurture in Behavior and Cognition Research” and sets its agenda to resolve the ‘interactionist’ dichotomy of nature as the genetic, and stable, factors of development, and nurture as the environmental, and plastic influences. In contrast to this received view it promotes the idea that all traits, no matter how developmentally fixed or universal they seem, contingently develop out of a single-cell state through the interaction of a multitude of developmental resources that defies any easy, dichotomous separation. It goes on to analyze the necessary ingredients for such a radical, epigenetic account of development, heredity and evolution: 1. A detailed understanding of the epigenetic nature of the regulatory mechanisms of gene expression; 2. The systematical questioning of preconceptions of ‘explanatory’ categories of behavior, such as ‘innate’ or ‘programmed’; 3. Especially in psychological research the integration of the concepts of ‘development’ and ‘learning’, and a richer classification of the concepts of ‘environment’ and 'experience' in the production of behavior; 4. A fuller understanding of the nature of inheritance that transcends the restriction to the genetic material as the sole hereditary unit, and the study of the process of developmental niche construction; and last 5. Taking serious the role of ecology in development and evolution. I hope that an accomplishment of the above task will then lead to a ‘postgenomic’ synthesis of nature and nurture that conceptualizes ‘nature’ as the natural phenotypic outcome ‘nurtured’ by the natural developmental process leading to it.
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