Opinion: Nature versus nurture in family

Israel Galarza

Israel Galarza

Israel Galarza III

Over Thanksgiving dinner this year, an interesting topic arose at my dinner table: nature versus nurture.

Both nature and nurture affect how we believe as humans. The argument shouldn’t be exclusive to one or the other, making the subject very grey in nature.

In this context, nature refers to our genetic disposition, where nurture refers to the environments we are raised in. In essence, how we believe stems from both our genes as well as the social constructs we are exposed to growing up. Some examples of traditional social constructs I’ve experienced have been schools, churches, recreation centers, police stations, libraries, barber shops and local diners.

Without social constructs, there wouldn’t be the possibility that a system of beliefs would exist. It has been proven that through social construction, beliefs are taught, reinforced and spread throughout a society.

One piece of anecdotally-driven evidence that supports the importance of social constructs is my personal love for football. Having gown up in Cleveland, I’ve always been aware of how popular football is in the community.

Northeast Ohio has been known as a football area for decades because of the decorated Cleveland Browns. Between the Kardiac Kids of the ’80s — because several of the scores for the team’s games were decided in the final minutes — and Jim Brown and Paul Brown leading the team during the ’60s, there have been over 50 years of die-hard love for that sports team.

I grew up just as the city was getting its famed team back from Baltimore in the late ’90’s. This timing led to my early childhood years being dominated by Browns games and constant football talk between my uncles who were die-hard fans of the sport since their childhoods.

The moral of the story is that I am a football fan because I am from Cleveland. My family is made up from a majority of football fans, and the city I come from is made up from a majority of football fans.

Everywhere I went, people were either watching or talking about football. I played peewee football in middle school and watched ESPN and NFL Network all day growing up. Most of my social constructs were dominated by contact sports. At school, home, the local recreation centers and restaurants, the talk would be dominated by contact sports.

However, I have a personal anecdote for why I also believe genetics play a role in how we believe as humans. My genetics are not the strongest in nature, and include a long history of health issues like drug and alcohol abuse, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

My grandfather was a heavy drinker, heavy smoker, has diabetes and has survived two triple bypass open-heart surgeries. My father is an overweight, out-of-shape smoker and functioning alcoholic. I love both of those men to death, but my family’s genes have predisposed me to have a higher likelihood of drug and alcohol abuse in my lifetime.

Fortunately for me, my gene variants lead to illness anytime I consume any large amounts of alcohol. I also enjoy bodybuilding as a hobby, and choose meals myself made up of authentic, quality, healthy ingredients.

With an entire family made up from similar DNA, I am predisposed to end up physically like most of the members in my Galarza family tree. It is up to me and my self-will to alter those destinies put in place. The fact still remains: My genetic makeup plays a huge role in how I believe. Since my family’s genes aren’t the strongest, I now believe that it is up to me to make sure that I am as healthy as I can be with the practice of diet, exercise and self-control.

This was the debate at the dinner table, and what did I gather from the discussion?

That nature and nurture go hand-in-hand, a notion that my history leaves me no choice but to believe.

Israel Galarza III is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].