Nature vs. Nurture Redux

The most lucrative scholarly prize in American medicine recognizes the work of Dr. Seymour Benzer, whose research upset the conventional wisdom that behavior is largely determined by one’s nurturing. Benzer, who gets $500,000 from the Albany Medical Center for his achievements, once noticed that his two daughters acted differently despite the same external cues. He then began injecting fruit flies with different genes and changed their behavior.

Score one for “nature.”

The interplay between genes and behavior is endlessly fascinating and raises the inevitable question: “Why should I change my habits to be healthier when my genes determine my fate?” Others may demand gene therapy, as if it were a botox injection, instead of modifying their unhealthy behaviors.

Genetic research does hold immeasurable promise in preventing birth defects. But in terms of pure risk, parents-to-be should be more concerned about baby gates and bathwater thermometersbecause preventable accidents send kids to the hospital more than 10 million times a year and kill more children than all other causes of death combined.

Score one for “nurture.”

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