Nature, Nurture, or Both?

Chan Meme

We have all heard of the ongoing debate of nature v. nurture. While I hate to be the one who takes the easy way out, I believe that both factors have an impact on one’s behavior. Let’s look at the nurture side of the debate. I have watched my fair share of criminal justice television shows (Criminal Minds tops the list) and it has been constantly repeated that children who are bought up in abusive environments are more likely to become killers as adults. Even though these television shows are works of fiction, the facts they present are nevertheless true. 40% of children who have been abused are arrested for violent crimes in adulthood (Nurturing A Serial Killer). It is important to notice that not all people who grow up in an abusive environment become criminals. However, this does not mean that this piece of evidence should be deemed faulty. There is a connection between behavior and nurture that cannot be ignored.  Then, there is the nature side of the debate, which includes the discussion of genes. There is a gene called MAOA (‘warrior gene’), whose less active version has been proven to cause aggression in mice by scientists at the University of Southern California (Criminal Minds: Born or Made?). However, not all people who have this form of the gene are aggressive. So if not all people who grow up in an abusive environment become serial killers and not all people who have the less active form of the gene MAOA are aggressive, then what influences behavior: nature or nurture? It is unproven which one is the leading factor in behavior. However, new information is revealing that both play an important role.

Success Kid BioAn article in the Wall Street Journal states that there are two types of people: orchids and dandelions (California Academy of Sciences). Orchids are more affected by their environment than dandelions. The classification of people into these two categories is dependent upon the genes that regulate dopamine (neurotransmitter that helps control the pleasure centers of the brain) production. Orchids produce less dopamine than dandelions. Thus orchids benefit from positive environmental conditions and are hurt by negative environmental conditions. In this case, nature and nurture are both factors in an individual’s behavior. So are all orchids who experienced negative conditions during childhood serial killers? Maybe.


California Academy of Sciences. “How Much Is Behavior Based on Nature Versus Nurture?” KQED Education. KQED Inc., 5 Mar. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <;.

Criminal Minds: Born or Made? Dir. NOVA. PBS. PBS, 17 Oct. 2012. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <;.

JDMcerealguytuner. Jackie Chan Jiong Face. Digital image. DeviantART. DeviantART, 2014. Web. 19 Mar. 2014. <;. ***changes were made N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2014. <;.

“Nurturing A Serial Killer.” Arizona State University, n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <;.

エルエルLL. Success Kid / I Hate Sandcastles Memetoaudio. Digital image. Flickr. Flickr, 13 Nov. 2013. Web. 19 Mar. 2014. <;. ***changes were made


Should we kill one species to save another?

Northern Spotted Owl

On February 4, KQED Education asked the public: Is it moral to kill one species in order to save another? There has been a lot of debate over this question. KQED Education presents the scenario of the Northern Spotted Owl and the Barred Owl. The Northern Spotted Owl is native to the Pacific Northwest and the Barred Owl has been brought into this territory. As a result, the Barred Owl has been outcompeting the Northern Spotted Owl. Experiments have been conducted to kill the Barred Owl to help the Northern Spotted Owl population recover. Thus, sparks this controversial question.

Personally, I think that no matter what the circumstances are, humans have no right to kill one species in order to save another. Let’s look at two scenarios. In this first scenario, a foreign species has migrated into an environment and has started to kill off one of the environment’s native species. The foreign species should not be killed just because it is competing for a place in this new environment. Competition is a part of life. Let’s look at another scenario. In this scenario, humans introduced a foreign species to an environment and now this foreign species is killing one of the environment’s native species. Even in this case, humans should not feel obligated to kill the invasive species to protect the native species. It is not the invasive species fault that they were introduced into this new land. Humans cannot dictate who lives and who dies. Other methods can certainly been tried in order to prevent the extinction of the native species. One method could be to relocate the invasive species back to their native land. Hopefully, this experience will cause humans to step back and look at how their actions affect the environment in the future. On the positive side, competition between the foreign and native species could lead to the evolution of the native species. If certain native individuals can fend off these invasive individuals, then these strong individuals will likely produce more offspring than who cannot fend off these invasive individuals. Over time, these weaker native individuals may die off and the stronger individuals will prosper. All individuals of this species are now better adapted to their environment. This is an example of natural selection, the idea that individuals better suited to their environment will create more surviving offspring than individuals less suited to their environment; the individuals better suited to their environment will prosper while the individuals less suited to their environment will not.

In Florida, humans introduced pythons that are now killing native species.
In Florida, humans introduced pythons that are now killing native species.

On another note, this question made me think about the conditions that are necessary for two, competitive species to coexist. I remembered learning about niche differentiation, which is when two different species are driven to occupy two different niches. Coexistence can only occur if two species occupy two different niches, as stated by the competitive exclusion principle. I realized that if species cannot coexist, they were probably not meant to coexist. Competition is therefore a natural response to the inability to coexist. This reaffirms that competition is a natural part of life. Competition between two species is only unnatural when an invasive species has been introduced by humans and now competes with a native species. Human therefore need to come up with a way to help reestablish order without killing either species. What do you think? Pick a side.

Need help coming up with your own viewpoint? Here is a video about the competition between the Northern Spotted Owl and the Barred Owl.


Aust, Andrea. “Should We Kill One Species to Save Another?” KQED Education. KQED Inc., 4 Feb. 2014. Web. 23 Feb. 2014. <;.

Cocoparisienne. Python Snakes Snake Black Yellow Animal. Digital image. Pixabay. Pixabay, 20 Jan. 2014. Web. 24 Feb. 2014. <;.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Principle of Competitive Exclusion (biology).”Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2014. Web. 23 Feb. 2014. <;.

Tpsdave. Northern Spotted Owl Bird Tree Branch Limb Nature. Digital image. Pixabay. Pixabay, 1 Mar. 2013. Web. 24 Feb. 2014. <;.

Cracking the Code of Life

Cracking the Code of Life is a program that covers information on the Human Genome Project and the role of DNA in determining characteristics of an individual organism. DNA is a molecule that encodes genetic information that is passed down from parent to offspring. chromosomes-154668_150The sequence of nitrogenous bases of DNA encodes the instructions for protein assembly, which affects many physical, mental, and emotion characteristics of an organism. How close are we to knowing the base sequences of human DNA? The Human Genome project was a project completed in 2003 that aimed to map the entire human genome, which includes these base sequences. Members of the scientific community rushed to be the first to complete the entire human genome. The old process of gene mapping involved writing down the sequences by hand, which was time consuming and probably led to multiple errors. Computer technology revolutionized gene mapping by making the process go a lot faster. The success of this project has allowed scientists to determine the specific sequence changes that are responsible for the onset of a disease. Knowing what changes in the sequence that causes diseases is important in finding a cure for the specific disease.

One particularly devastating disease that this program talked about was Tay-Sachs disease, which involves the death of nerve cells throughout dna-163466_150the body that leads to inability to preform basic functions. The disease is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder, meaning that both parents must give a mutated copy of the gene to their offspring in order for the offspring to have the disease. Most people do not know that they carry this mutated gene, as carriers do not display symptoms of the disease. The disease commonly appears in the early stages of life, but can appear in adulthood as well. The disease is invariably fatal, which could soon be changed by the research that has been preformed to create gene therapy to treat the disease. The disease has a heartbreaking nature, but mapping the human genome is one step closer to curing the disease.

The program was very helpful in learning more about this project and how its results can be used to cure diseases. Scientists have come a long way as far as understanding the molecule of DNA and genetics. The next step involves understanding more about different changes in base sequences affects an individual. Also, with scientific advancement come tough, personal questions. The particular question that I find most intriguing is: would you want to know if you had a likelihood of getting a disease, evenif there was no cure for that particular disease? Tell me below in the polls. To watch this program, click here: Cracking the Code of Life



Have you ever wanted to live underwater? Did you know there is a way you can? On November 13, 2013, I attended a live webinar on the topic of the “underwater apartment,” known as Aquarius. The structure is five miles off the coast of Key Largo, Florida and about sixty-three feet underwater. It is also about the size of a school bus and can house up to six people. Not to mention, it is equipped with a kitchen, workstations, shower, Internet, and phone. Aquarius is a functioning living space under water. So what is this structure used for? Universities, agencies, and NASA use Aquarius to study coral reef ecology and restoration, and the effects of overfishing, train astronauts, and observe life beneath the surface of the water. The establishment of this structure moves us one step closer to understanding more about the ocean than ever before. To watch a live streaming of Aquarius, click here: Aquarius Live Streaming.

divers-123286_150I particularly enjoyed this webinar. I had never even heard of Aquarius and am astonished that I never knew about this great advancement that will lead to great developments in marine science. To be honest, it was like my childhood fantasy of the underwater city of Atlantis came true. Besides the fact that the structure is like an underwater house, the advancements that it will bring to science will be tremendous. The structure allows scientists to remain underwater longer to allow greater study of ocean and coral ecology. The most interesting contribution Aquarius has made to marine science, in my opinion, is the discovery that water flow is very important in coral reef feeding. Understanding what is essential to coral reef health is one way to better understand how to preserve ocean life, as coral reefs are important in regulating the amount of carbon dioxide in the ocean. I hope that great chains of these structures will be developed allow us to study ocean topography further. But do not just take my word for it, check out the Aquarius website by clicking here: Aquarius Website.

Tryptophan, Turkey, and Thanksgiving! Oh my!

Many of you have probably heard about tryptophan found in turkey that causes that post-Thanksgiving dinner sluggishness. But what is tryptophan exactly? Tryptophan is actually an essential amino acid that cannot be made by the body and must be obtained through diet. Tryptophan is used by the body in many ways. For example, niacin, which is important in the regulation of blood sugar levels and lowering cholesterol, is a vitamin that is a result of the conversion of tryptophan by the liver. The amino acid can also raise serotonin levels; serotonin helps regulate sleep, appetite, and mood. Low serotonin levels can cause depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

We can now see that tryptophan is important to consume in order to maintain one’s health, so what foods, besides turkey, have it? Some foods that are rich in tryptophan are chicken, tuna, salmon, lamb, shrimp, tofu, spinach, and asparagus. Equally important as consuming foods containing tryptophan is consuming the vitamins and minerals needed to allow that body to use this amino acid. Vitamin B6 is required by the body in order to convert the amino acid into niacin and serotonin. Also vitamin c, folic acid, and magnesium are required for the processing of tryptophan by the body.

By now you are probably torn between wanting to make sure your tryptophan intake is adequate and not wanting to consume foods containing tryptophan because of the supposed sluggishness that results. The good news is that while tryptophan can make you a little tired, it is not the cause of that extreme post-Thanksgiving dinner sluggishness. In fact, the tryptophan level in turkey is too low to make you tired. That’s right.  The culprit behind that sluggishness is eating too much. Processing all that food would make anyone tired.


Does the Tryptophan in Turkey Make You Drowsy? Bytesize Science. Prod. Bytesize Science. YouTube. YouTube, 19 Nov. 2011. Web. 27 Nov. 2013. <;.

Strand, Erik. “Tryptophan: What Does It Do?” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, 01 Sept. 2003. Web. 26 Nov. 2013. <;.

“Tryptophan.” The World’s Healthiest Foods. The George Mateljan Foundation, 2013. Web. 26 Nov. 2013. <;.

#DoNowMalala Response

There has been much controversy over the inequality women face in the workplace throughout the world and the lack of education girls receive in some parts of the world, particularly in the Middle East. Last year, Taliban radicals shot Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani student, because she was advocating the education of girls in Pakistan and attended school even though the Taliban passed a law illegalizing the education of young women. She has since recovered and continues to promote the education of young women. This incident has drawn attention towards the discrimination young women face in developing countries, such as Pakistan.

Malala Yousafzai

As a student of an all-female Catholic high school in the United States, I believe that the education of young girls is of great importance. The education of all members of society is essential to productivity. Education gives young women the ability to become active members of society. The only thing that separates a man and woman is their sex, not their intellectual capabilities. Society becomes underdeveloped when men are the only one’s contributing ideas. I applaud Malala Yousafzai’s bravery for advocating the education of young women in her country because she is expressing how women are not solely meant to be housewives, which is a common assumption in many societies. Since many cultures, societies, and even religions are patriarchal, there exists a subconscious assumption that women are inferior and are meant to stay at home and bear children. Without education, girls are forced to accept this role as housewife. The Taliban particularly holds this assumption about women, which is evident by their legislation that illegalized the education of women. They refuse to acknowledge the capability of women to contribute to society.

In the context of the more modern world, women face discrimination in the workplace, which stems from the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. In this sense first world countries are similar to developing countries. The lack of education given to young women in developing countries stops them from having a career, and the careers of women in first world countries are inhibited by discrimination. These aspects of these countries connect back to what Malala Yousafzai is trying to convey: why can’t women be given the opportunity to reach their full potential? In order to help decrease discrimination against women in developing countries, first world countries need to set an example by eliminating this discrimination entirely. Women should have the equal opportunities in the workplace, school, and society in general.


Malala Yousafzai. Digital image. SHE Canada. SHE Canada Magazine, 12 July 2013. Web. 25 Oct. 2013. <;.

Williams, Matthew. “Is There a Gender Gap in Education?” KQED Education. KQED Inc., 18 Oct. 2013. Web. 25 Oct. 2013. <;.