How can the interaction between genetic potential, environmental influences, and personal choice be described?
Recent advances in neuroscience make a compelling case for finally abandoning the nature vs. nurture debate to focus on understanding the mechanisms through which genes and environments are perpetually entwined throughout an individual’s lifetime. ("Beyond Nature vs. Nurture," Darlene Francis and Daniela Kaufer)
This interaction can best be described by consulting the results of modern genome, neurological and cognitive sciences. While the debate about nature versus nurture (i.e., innate gentic traits and characteristics versus social, cultural, parental, educational, peer and other influence) has raged for a long time with much intrigue and interest on both sides of the question, advances in modern science are making the debate meaningless.
According to Francis and Kaufer, behavioral psychologist Donald Hebb likened the question of nature versus nurture to the similar question of which is more dominant in the development of a rectangle: the length of the rectangle or the width of a rectangle. Seen from the perspective of this comparison, it becomes apparent that the nature versus nurture question is as meaningless as the length versus width question.
The reason this is so is that while DNA governed traits that go far beyond biological characteristics are innate, the social, cultural, parental, educational and peer influences determine to varying degrees how these DNA governed traits are manifest and developed. This is true whether applied to two girls of different races growing up in Reconstructionist Atlanta or to two boys growing up in the present, one in Boston and one in Nairobi.
Choice (i.e., volition, free will) throws in a separate stem of the same question. Your choices as well as your motives and perspective will generate from DNA governed traits while influences will skew or enhance the manifestation of your selection of options and your reason for so selecting. In other words, choice, according to recent science, is not a separate element of being that modifies the outcome of DNA governance and external influences. Choice is rather one of the outgrowths of the entwining of internal DNA and external influences.