Going Beyond Nature Versus Nurture Debate On Thursday's Access Utah

Jul 9, 2014

Beyond Versus: The Struggle to Understand the Interaction of Nature and Nurture
Credit MIT Press

If scientists supposedly now agree it’s not nature versus nurture; but the interaction of nature and nurture, why does the debate still go on? James Tabery, Associate Professor of Philosophy at University of Utah says it’s because those scientists aren’t just arguing about data and results. They’re engaged in a fundamentally philosophical debate about what “the interaction of nature and nurture” actually means. He says that “from disputes in the 1930s regarding eugenic sterilizations, to controversies in the 1970s about the gap in IQ scores for black and white Americans, to the contemporary debate about the causes of depression—this frustratingly persistent debate keeps emerging, even as the cast and context of each iteration of that debate changes from decade to decade.”

In his new book (from MIT Press)  "Beyond Versus: The Struggle to Understand the Interaction of Nature and Nurture,” Tabery argues, this polarization can be attributed to what he calls an "explanatory divide" -- a disagreement over how explanation works in science, which in turn has created two very different concepts of interaction. Drawing on recent developments in the philosophy of science, he offers a way to bridge this divide. And looking to the future, Tabery evaluates the ethical issues that surround genetic testing for genes implicated in interactions of nature and nurture, pointing to what the future does (and does not) hold for a science that continues to make headlines and raise controversy.

James Tabery’s research explores how the science of genetics shapes the way humans think about themselves and others on issues ranging from disease and disability to free will and responsibility. His research has been reported nationally and internationally in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, TIME, National Public Radio, Reuters, Daily Mail and China Newsweek.