Testing Some Ideas

The first idea that I would like to ponder is “nature versus nuture.”. This is an idea that has gone through vast swings in popularity. Since the 1990s, with advanced studies in genetics, the importance of nature has increased. The idea of “tabla rasa”, or “blank slate” has been more the standard concept for the last 300 years. Several philosophers have suggested that humans have no instincts at all, unique among animals, and that everything we known or become, is based upon nurturing. Doctors become doctors because of training, kings become kings, and criminals become criminals, all based upon experience entirely.

The idea that there might be a genetic propensity was completely dismissed. There is a very good history of the argument of “nature vs. nuture” in Wikipedia, with decent references to current studies.

I have not partaken of any advanced studies in this area, but I have “noticed” some things in my life that have given me some questions.

I do not like swimming, hated being in the water, yet I am a natural sailor, and understand the concept without training. The training I did have only improved my natural abilities.

I’m very good at needlework, any type of sewing by hand. It just seems very natural, comfortable, and the products are strong, durable, and functionable.

Ancient weapons are more comfortable than modern, although I am an expert marksman. Edged weapons most natural, archery the next most natural. Practically there are two “sighting” systems in archery. One is based upon placing the tip of the arrow on a point of ground in front of you, then adjusting the arc of the shot until the arrows hit the target. The other in “instinctual”, where you just shoot your best shot. I can do both, but I almost entirely use the instinctual method.

I have never been comfortable with horses, and they seem to know that.

I have always been comfortable with dogs, and they seem to know that.

I’m very comfortable with “linear mechanics”, simple systems of cogs, shafts, levers. Being a watchmaker is not beyond my abilities. While I understand “programming”, it is not comfortable. I was trained in quite complex digital cryptography, but it was hard work and not natural.

I can see and think with three dimensional accuracy. I was not great in algebra or trigonometry, but a complete whiz at geometry. Even my math teachers saw this as a little odd.

While I believe humans are mostly social, I have always been comfortable by being alone, or mostly on the edge of crowds. Sailing alone around the world presented challenges, but not because of isolation. Backpacking alone was not fearful, except for accidents.

Part of my interest in genealogy was looking at the known experiences of my direct line ancestors. I don’t know enough now to draw any firm conclusions, but I always think about the possibilities.

DNA tells me that I am 64% Scandinavian. The waters are too cold to encourage swimming, but sailing and boating have long traditions. Is this too general to make a conclusion?

Vikings did ride horses on occasion, but they are not known as horse mounted warriors. Axe, sword, spear, and archery were their weapons of choice.

Nature is very dependent on survival. Organisms with natural abilities to a successful survival continue to breed more organisms that survive. Definitely training can assist with increased survival. But can training alone give the best percentage rates?

I do believe the actual process is “hand in hand”, both are important. Particularly when one experience fails slightly. To deny either is foolish, to support one concept excessively is also foolish. In today’s culture we give more credibility to training and not enough to instinct.

I would encourage people to simply look at skills that seem “natural”, and ask the question, “What was the source of this skill?”

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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