Posts Tagged ‘nature versus nurture’

Should Jihadi John have been killed at birth?

March 4, 2015

I was listening to a discussion this morning about who was to blame that Jihadi John (Mohammed Emwazi ) is what he is. The consensus seemed to be that it was not his parents, it was not the UK, it was not “the system”, it was not his schooling, it was not his childhood friends and it was not his University. Some blame clearly attached to the radical preachers he had been exposed to, but the primary blame and culpability lay with Jihadi John himself. In effect with his genes. His nature not his nurture.

(Of course I ignore all his companions and partners in cruelty and barbarity who think he is some kind of a hero destined for paradise).

And that brought to mind this story from last week about the quality control of Danish pigs:

TheLocal.seSwedish supermarket giant Ica has promised action after it emerged that hundreds of thousands of underweight piglets are killed every year in Denmark by banging their heads against the floor.

Hans Aarestrup, head of the Danish organization for swine producers, Danske Svineproducenter, told Swedish Radio’s news programme Ekot on Monday that about half a million piglets are killed every year for “humane” reasons.

“Instead of waiting for the weakest pigs to die, we kill them. The most humane way is to grab them by their hind legs and hitting them on the floor,” he said.

In the latest edition of Danske Svineproducenter’s magazine, they estimate that a farm with one thousand sows could save half a million Danish kroner a year if they put down all newborn pigs weighing less than a kilo, under the headline “Could it be a win-win situation to kill pigs at birth?”. …

We exercise quality control over all our manufactured goods. We exercise quality control over all domesticated pets and livestock. Even the Swedish indignation about the manner of the killing of the Danish piglets is about the method – not about the quality control. We cull wolves and deer and reindeer and even “threatened species” (lions, tigers, giraffes) in an effort to maintain “healthy genes”.  We even exercise some quality control over humans before birth when we abort severely disabled foetuses.

Suppose now that gene testing at birth (or before) could have revealed the monster that Jihadi John was going to become. The underlying assumption is that his genes alone – and not his nurture – were to blame. Suppose that gene testing had revealed that he was like an underweight Danish piglet. That there was “high” probability that his gene mix would lead him to be a monster. Should quality control have kicked in? Should he then have been “eliminated” at birth?

And who else would then fail to pass the quality control gate at birth and end up in the “reject” pile? There is a case for a new eugenics.

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ADHD or just bad parenting?

July 11, 2014

We are on a trip and staying at a hotel known for being very “child-friendly”.

I have forgotten how boisterous our kids were when they were 8-10 years old. But the disruption caused by a few kids at breakfast today got me wondering where the line between “letting children be children” and the responsibility of parents lies. It does seem to me that claiming that a child has ADHD is too often used as an excuse for bad parenting.

If ADHD is a “disease” – and I am not convinced that it is – then it is either due to genetics or it is inculcated after birth by the quality of nurture provided or by both. Whether nature or nurture it is caused by the parents. If ADHD is not a disease but merely “learned” behaviour – or more likely “untaught” behaviour- then it is the quality  of parenting which comes into question.  It is only if it is a purely genetic disease, where nurture plays no part, and parents can no longer have any influence that it makes sense to try and medicate the condition away.

Maybe I am just too suspicious about the pharmaceutical industry. But I remain convinced that many “diseases” are invented to find a use for compounds created by the industry. And these compounds are often the result of failed research which was seeking other solutions. Marketing strategy 101 is all about finding the question for which you have an available answer.

But for the two rowdy, noisy, clumsy, messy kids at breakfast today, It was just simple bad parenting which was letting their kids down!!


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