About half-way through Kevin Mitchell’s “Innate” as I type.
Highly recommended as an educational read – very matter-of-fact / common-sensical style – on understanding that pre-wired traits are not hard-wired (plasticity) and that genes & DNA really do drive (most of) the whole (genetic) process of development of the human individual – traits, propensities, capabilities of brain and mind – without being reductively deterministic. From conception to our early 20’s, birth itself is just one point in the complex processes of development in a multi-layered landscape of time and location.
Very good on distinguishing between individuals and population distributions when it comes to human nature(s) and the value in understanding these without being in any way prescriptive or limiting of individuals. Makes it easy and natural to talk about differences – not least for example sex/gender differences and preferences, free of “woke” politics. In fact difference – differences that make a difference – is a strong theme.
The complexity of the many feed-back and feed-forward loops in the nature of nurture – and the scale of the numbers involved – in neural and mental / behavioural development are endlessly fascinating and yet, as I say, presented in a very readable and digestible style. Highly recommended.
I will further gut and unpick specific topics below that relate to my own writing agenda, but one to highlight first is that infamous Pinker “Blank Slate” finding, much quoted here since 2002 about the rough ratios of development “nature vs nurture” influence between genetics (~30-40%), parenting (~10-20%) and wider social environmental peer-group experience (~50-60%). Mitchell shows that the “environmental” aspect is so misleading – actually very like the content<>context distinction in knowledge generally. (ie Context is just more content, but often meta in layers removed from the current content). At any point, our existing brain / mind IS the context for our ongoing content development. We are a large part of our own environment. That large mysterious part of our development is mostly indirectly – many layered loops of influence – driven by our own genes and those we share with our parents and siblings. Nurture is natural too.