Nature v Nurture + Ethnocentrism 1000 words


  1. Write a 2 page essay that discusses both sides of the nature-nuture argument. That is write one essay that reasonably supports the nature side and then write a second essay that supports the nurture side. Refer to the assigned readings when necessary.2. Write a 2 page essay that discusses when ethnocentrism is good (as when it results in Culture Shock) and when it’s neutral (all sides are basically ethnocentric) and when it’s bad (as in Eurocentrism). Start off by defining your terms, and refer to the assigned readings when necessary




The nature side of the nature-nurture argument ascribes physical or behavioural human attributes to the presence of heredity or genetic code. In this context, nature is identical with heredity. Therefore, the nature argument is concerned primarily with attempts to associate physical and behavioural characteristics of men and women with the presence or absence of definite kinds of hereditary genes. A fundamental belief of the nature argument is the fact that every human being is defined or “predetermined” by his or her genetic code, and so cannot possibly possess physical characteristic or display behavioural patterns that cannot be associated with the immediate or remote manifestation possibilities of inherited genes. In other words, the appearance, health, behaviour, life and activity of a man or woman derive from and consist in their inherited genes.

According to the nature argument, then, it is impossible to influence beyond the range of possibilities stipulated by the very nature of the genetic code such characteristics as colour, height, bodily frame, and general physical health; or psychological soundness, sociability, emotionality and spirituality. In other words, every man or woman is “destined” or “bound” to a range of genetically predetermined behavioural and developmental possibilities.

Perhaps with some justification, it was to the nature-argument that Summers, the current/one-time University of Harvard’s President, was believed to refer when he stated that “the innate difference between men and women might be one reason fewer women than men succeed in science and maths careers.” A reference to “innate difference” is a suggestion of a genetic predetermination, about which nothing can be done and which therefore remains unchangeable. (The phrase “might be one reason fewer women than men succeed” did not do much to modify Summers’ nature-argument suggestion , for it acknowledges the influence of “nature” or genetic code as a possibility).

Such references to the “innateness” or the “nature” that predisposes an individual towards certain (favourable or unfavourable) peculiarities often suggest the conception of genetic unchangeability which the nature argument fundamentally upholds.

Now, unfavourable as the nature-argument might appear with this conception of unchangeability, it has support and justification in many an example (in any case, if physical characteristics are dependent on genes in many respects, and such characteristics influence behaviour and tendency, then it is reasonable to argue that behaviour and development are dependent on genes and nature). Examples which support the nature argument include the physical limitations caused by blood groups and the associated health advantages or disadvantages; learning and retentive skills which vary according to inherited cerebral capacities; and the tendency to have allergies, which is purely biological.


The nurture argument, on the hand, contains the belief that the behavioural aspects of human beings are determined by environmental influences. In other words, irrespective of the possibilities stipulated by the genetic code of an individual, the individual can become whatever he or she chooses or whatever is desired by some other individual —provided the right environmental conditions prevail. This belief thus suggests the existence of a broad range of possibilities for influencing behaviour and development. It contains an assumption that there is no limit to the possibility of “moulding” the character and behaviour of human being, no limits to the range of talents and abilities he or she can acquire, and, consequently, no hard and fast genealogical rules for predicting behavioural and developmental tendencies.

Such environmental influences include nutrition, education, friendship, child upbringing, culture and tradition, as well as a change of physical and social environments. Thus, identical twins subjected one to malnutrition and the other to excellent feeding are bound to have dissimilar circle of friends, dissimilar mental capacities and different self-esteems (for instance, through the one’s popularity for his intelligence, and the other’s notoriety for his idiocy). Similarly, where such twins are brought up in different environments, one in a the slum and the other in the city, their tastes, habits and sense of personal hygiene are likely to be different, in clear reflection of their accustomedness to their different environments. Similar differences are to be seen, too, where they are brought up to learn different cultures and traditions.


Ethnocentrism is the viewing and judging of the culture and ways of another group from the standpoint of one’s own culture. The Eurocentric person or group spontaneously takes his own culture as the basis for assessing and criticising the different culture and ways hat present themselves to him or her.

2.1. THE GOODNESS OF ETHNOCENTRISM: The goodness of ethnocentrism lies, perhaps among other things, in its ability to preserve culture and tradition. The more ethnocentric a person or group is, the more conservative they will be, and the less likely they are to abandon their culture and tradition for another. Ethnocentrism therefore guarantees the preservation of ethnic, cultural and national values, and ensures a natural, step-by-step cultural progress and development of a people. This kind of healthy preservation of culture and values explains the phenomenon of “culture shock”, an experience that shields a people from getting carried along in a premature admiration of foreign culture and ways of life. “Culture Shock” is readily the “shock” of an ethnocentric observer, because he views the foreign ways in the context of his own cultural experiences. He “confines” himself to these standards and refuses to yield to any alien practice or idea.

With this kind of preservation of values, retrogression and premature advancement are almost impossible.

2.2. THE NEUTRALITY OF ETHNOCENTRISM: The neutrality of ethnocentrism is contained in the fact that every man or woman considers other cultures and ways of life from the perspective of his or her own culture and ways. This “centrism” is therefore a trait common every individual in any given set of multicultural gathering. It is comparable to “common sense”, “reasoning”, or the five physical senses, which every normal and able-bodied individual uses to view and assess the world and people around him. “Common sense” or the five physical senses are neither good nor bad, but can be taken for granted as active and operational in every normal man and woman.

2.3. THE BADNESS OF ETHNOCENTRISM: Ethnocentrism can be said to be bad, that is, disadvantageous in the narrow-mindedness that is implied by its definition. To regard every other culture using one’s own as the standard is not only ungenerous but also clearly favourable to the growth of ignorance, lack of awareness and injustice. Eurocentrism is a typical manifestation of ethnocentrism. Eurocentrism “assumes the existence of …distinct variables that shape the historical path/past of different peoples.” (Assigned Reading). These “distinct variables”, since they are “assumed”, must be based on everything but facts and actuality. Consequently, the attitude of every eurocentrist to every individual of different cultural background must be either unfairly denigrating or uncritically celebrating.