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Andrew Stolzenberg Feral Children: The Key to Nature vs. Nurture For centuries, the nature versus nurture debate has torn the scientific community apart. Are children born and genetically predisposed to be humans or must they learn and be nurtured to become human beings? A multitude of experiments and observations have been conducted in attempt to answer this ageless debate conclusively. However, no experiment can yield more significant information to the analysis of this topic than can the study of feral children. By analyzing the linguistic and neurological development induced by extreme isolation at an early age, one can distinguish the extent to which genetics and the environment play a role in human development. DNA is the blueprint of a human being; an enormously large and complex molecule that encodes all of the genetic information necessary to build a life. Each cell of the human body contains a complete copy of the genetic information needed to construct, not just that particular cell, but the entire body. DNA can be thought of as a string of letters. The sequence of letters spells out a code that determines the structure of the proteins inside the body. For each protein, there is one gene. Every human being on earth is different because each person has a unique collection of proteins that code for a unique collection of genes carried on the DNA molecule (Steen 5-6). It is these genes that dictate all aspects and characteristics of a human being. Some genes are passed on from the DNA of the parents to the genetic code of their progeny; this is known as inheritance. From this brief description of genetics, it is easy to understand the impact of genetics on the development of a human being. Every person has an unchangeable internal
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blueprint that determines everything about them including their personality, structure, appearance, intelligence capability, and all other characteristics that define a human being. The study of development through the analysis of genes and inheritance is a branch of biology and is considered a hard science. This means that what we know about the subject today is all facts that have been proven by experiments (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_science). Thus, we know by fact the role that genes and DNA play in development. It is the extent to which the characteristics dependent on the genetic code can be suppressed or altered, if at all, by other factors, that continues to be debated and studied even today. The other factor that could alter human development is the environment. However, the study of the effects of environment on development is focused on how the environment impacts things like language acquisition, intelligence, behavior, and personality. These topics are part of psychology, which is a social science and therefore characterized as a soft science. Contrary to topics of biology and other hard sciences, topics pertaining to psychology like language, intelligence, and behavior are a lot less tangible. This accounts for the difficulty in experimentally establishing the impact
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This note was uploaded on 04/08/2008 for the course HIST 101 taught by Professor Wormer during the Spring '08 term at Lafayette.

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