Nature vs. Nurture

In response to Men Are Animals.

“Men are animals, and women are animals,” were the final words of Matthew Guttman in his lecture of Men Are Animals at the Chicago Humanities Festival. But he explained more than the fact that we all have animalistic tendencies, but that reasoning our behaviors and decisions through biology diminishes the role of society. Our interactions with other beings are just as important as the molecular interactions within ourselves. However, history has shown that we do not think of humans as much more than a being that is controlled by some other force.

Before science came religion. It not only served a purpose to explain natural phenomenons of their surroundings, but to align somebody as good or bad. The Calvinist colonists upon the 1620 Mayflower epitomize this with their belief of predestination. This was the belief that upon conception, God has already decided one’s fate of heaven or hell. But even these Separatists believed in the power of nurture, which is why they originally left England. They thought that the remnants of the Catholic Church were corrupting their morals, religion, and children. (Bailey)

Then came a time that a few men tried to justify social construction with science to convince the evolving majority. An example is Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), who was a Swiss biologist that helped develop the idea of polygenism. This is the idea that races were different species, and it sprung up in the decade of racial tension before the American civil war. (Irmscher). Agassiz justified slavery by his fact that blacks were not humans. This allowed people to hide their social experience of racism behind their facts of science. Their unequivocal facts of science.

More recently sexism is justified by science. Women are seen as too emotional, due to hormones, to handle powerful work positions. In America, there has not been a single female candidate in the presidential primaries, and it is not because a women cannot handle that position, as Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of England. Even men are diminished as violent and sex driven animals. “Boys will be boys” minimizes both the control males have over their instincts and the social construction of what their instincts are. (Guttman). Men who shed a tear or are not a strong athlete is seen as less worthy.

The significance we place on the little science we know to define ourselves ignores the need for social change. We do not want to take the responsibility of the faults in our society, and in this we set limitations on race, gender, and our moral capabilities.


Guttman, Matthew. Men are Animals. November 9, 2013.

Irmscher, Christoph. Louis Agassiz: Creator of American Science. November 3, 2013

Bailey, Thomas A. The American Pageant. 11th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998. Print

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