We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
...we know the brain can “change itself”. You could say that is one of its main jobs in fact – altering itself in response to experience to better adapt to the conditions in which it finds itself. For example, as children learn a language, their auditory system specialises to recognise the typical sounds of that language. Their brains become highly expert at distinguishing those sounds and, in the process, lose the ability to distinguish sounds they hear less often. (This is why many Japanese people cannot distinguish between the sounds of the letters “l” and “r”, for example, and why many Westerners have difficulty hearing the crucial tonal variations in languages like Cantonese). Learning motor skills similarly improves performance and induces structural changes in the relevant brain circuits. In fact, most circuits in the brain develop in an experience-dependent fashion, summed up by two adages: “cells that fire together, wire together” and “use it or lose it”.
Given the clear evidence for brain plasticity, the implication would seem to be that even if our brains come pre-wired with some particular tendencies, that experience, especially early experience, should be able to override them.
I would argue that the effect of experience-dependent development is typically exactly the opposite – that while the right kind of experience can, in principle, act to overcome innate tendencies, in practice, the effect is reversed. The reason is that our innate tendencies shape the experiences we have, leading us to select ones that tend instead to reinforce or even amplify these tendencies. Our environment does not just shape us – we shape it.
Indeed, smart people have been saying for many years that we have the power to shape our world, our realities, and our experience. There is a real reality out there somewhere, presumably, and real truth and Real Truth, but these things are elusive to our limited brains.
In daily life, we don't even consider that we live on a little rapidly-moving and spinning ball of rock in some sort of curved Space-Time in a frightening and awe-inspiring cosmos that few of us can comprehend. It's the stuff of college bull-sessions: Did the world make us, or do we make the world?
It's all good fun, but we do have to run our lives while we're here. Or not.
If you're writing lines of computer code, you can create loops. I'm not a programmer, but I've written small programs to run financial analysis for my job. I've seen what happens when you create a loop, and shutting down the computer to rewrite a section is a pain.
But there are ways to build feedback into programs. So I can develop models which account for "X = 5, then do ABC and if X = 10, then do MNO". At various points along the line, different feedback creates different results, and the program allows me to figure out how different inputs can create a need to behave differently.
I think when you focus on Nature vs. Nurture and choose only one, you can create a loop. Eventually, if you pursue one over the other for any length of time, your discussion points begin to spin out of control.
I don't see any reason why Nature can't be the starting point, and have an evolving relationship with experience (as the article suggests).
3 of my nephews have varying degrees of Autism. It's a sensitive topic within the family, though we chat about it frequently. It's been a learning experience for all of us, and we're all aware that we adapt our behaviors in order to accommodate them, at times.
Maria Montessori was the great populariser of the idea of "critical periods" in learning, and her acolytes have kept that going. I think there is a great deal to the idea that even prewired ability must be activated at its proper time or learning is less efficient.
However, the numbers from twin studies remain powerful Environment does not have nearly the impact on abilities that genes do.
Much of our impression otherwise comes from failure to distinguish that parents (or whole subcultures) are bringing up children who are their genetic followers. The parent has a strong impression that the child is learning X, Y, and Z because of their environment - being surrounded by books, or being encouraged to be disciplined in approach, or being taught to delay gratification. But the impression is not the reality.
Assistant VIllage Idiot
The reason is that our innate tendencies shape the experiences we have, leading us to select ones that tend instead to reinforce or even amplify these tendencies.
So then would is this a good reason to, say, ship your kids off to summer camp when they rather wouldn't - give 'em a dip in a pool they otherwise would've avoided?
In particular - left-wingers are using the "innate" hypothesis to undercut morality - particularly the notion that people are responsible for their choices.
This in turn is used to support their narratives of victimhood. Unable to credibly continue blaming racism/sexism/capitalism, they now call for intervention to "correct" naturally occurring "unfairness".
One obvious example is the now-disproven myth that gays are "born that way" - a bit of pseudo-science deployed to sidestep and real social/moral evaluation of the actual behavior.