Nature vs. Nurture is an immediate phrase that comes to mind when considering human biology through the lens of anthropology. In fact, it is one of the driving forces in understanding human beings and human nature. But what more and more anthropologists as well as scientists have been discovering is that our biology is far far more influenced by culture than we previously thought. Samuel Taylor-Alexander attended a conference about biodeterminism and wrote an article outlining some of the questions asked and topics explored by presenters at the conference. These questions and topics argued the idea that perhaps human beings are less controlled by biology than previously thought.
This makes me wonder how much of me was and is created by culture, and not by simple and un-alterable pre-determined biology as I was taught. My social anxiety, my gender, my sex; how much of this has been determined by the culture around me? As Taylor-Alexander pointed out in his article, conviction of already having the answer is one of the most dangerous and debilitating hinderances to science. Teaching people that aspects of their human-ness are defined by things that simply cannot be changed might be very harmful, but many see no problem with it because it’s what’s always been done.
If steps are taken to look at what was previously understood to be pre-destined by genetic makeup through an anthropological lens, new answers could be found as to the way our bodies and our sense of self are composed. We should not limit ourselves to one way of thinking simply because that’s the way we’ve always thought. Nurture might have more power over nature than we thought.
Reference: Conference Synopsis: The End of biodeterminism? New Directions for Medical Anthropology by Samuel Taylor-Alexander
Abstracts from the conference from the AARHUS University website