Consider Jack and Oskar
- Born Together – Reared Apart: The Landmark Minnesota Twin Study by Nancy Segal
Harvard, 410 pp, £39.95, June 2012, ISBN 978 0 674 05546 9
In a tongue-in-cheek editorial in the February 1927 issue of the Journal of Educational Research, the psychologist Guy Whipple announced that ‘the age-old perplexity of heredity has been banished; the old riddle of nature versus nurture has been solved.’ For the previous half-century, psychologists, geneticists, pedagogists and eugenicists had been trying to determine how personality attributes such as intelligence, manual skill and temperament were passed from parents to their offspring. Now, Whipple deadpanned, a rising movement in psychology had invalidated this whole line of research, insisting instead that ‘there are no inherited traits, characters, talents; that every normal person is born with the capacity to learn any behaviour that man has ever known, and that a body organisation [i.e. psychological constitution] can be built up in the first five years of life which makes it impossible for the person to kill or steal.’ This may be a tall order to place on teachers, Whipple continued, but too bad: anyone who wanted to keep up with the latest scientific thinking must embrace ‘nurture’ and ‘kiss Nature goodbye’.