What belief systems support each side of the nature vs. nurture debate?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Since there are a number of types of belief systems in the world, there can be many different answers to this.  Let us look at a two different pairs of belief systems and how they would tend to orient themselves with regard to the debate between nature and nurture.

First, we can look at the differences between people who believe in free will and those who do not.  There are many people who think that people’s fates are in some way predetermined.  This idea was historically connected to religious beliefs like that of Calvinism.  These people did not believe in the idea that nurture has much to do with our lives.  Instead, they tend to believe that we are born with our path in life already determined.  This is the ultimate statement of belief in “nature” over “nurture.”  It is the belief that nothing that happens to us in life changes what we ultimately become.  By contrast, people who believe that we humans truly have free will are more closely aligned with the side of “nurture.”  They would tend to believe that we can improve ourselves simply by trying to do so.  This expresses faith in the power of nurture.

Second, we can look at political belief systems.  It is said that conservatives tend more to believe in the idea that nature is the most important factor.  For example, conservatives tend to think that people are inherently bad and that we need to have things like the death penalty that will frighten people and will therefore prevent them from acting according to their nature.  By contrast, liberals tend to believe in the power of nurture.  They believe that people can be improved and perfected by putting them in the proper surroundings.  This difference is also visible in foreign policy, where conservatives think that peace is achieved through military strength while liberals think that peace is achieved by getting countries to interact with one another so that they can learn to cooperate rather than to solve conflict through violence.

These are two possible pairs of belief systems in which each of the pair takes a different stance on this question.

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