This seems like something that would have been asked already on the internet. However, I haven’t found it.

My understanding is that our biology is heavily influenced by the environment. Things like evolution and adaptation occur due to changes in the environment. I’m assuming that the idea of nurture is referring to things in the span of one person’s lifetime, whereas nature is something caused by the environment but takes effect over the course of multiple generations. Still, I feel like it would be better to put more emphasis on nurture since our nature does change. Perhaps this contradicts what ‘nature’ means. If nature means unchangeable, then I’m not sure what is something that would be considered nature. Perhaps someone could enlighten me on this subject. Or maybe I’m getting too philosophical and should post in the philosophy stack exchange.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this question is more of a philosophical question, but then, I feel you need to look a bit more on the nature vs. nurture debate. Nature can be influenced by the nurturing element of behaviours, and nurturing behaviours can be influenced by nature. At the same time, nature can evolve without nurturing behaviour influences. The lines can be very blurry. $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2022 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ What's meant by nature in the context of your question is biology, not trees and environment - bit of confusion there in the meaning usually adopted within the context of the nature/nurture debate. $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2022 at 8:27
  • $\begingroup$ That is the whole debate @ARogueAnt. Nature involves the environment, and the environment includes nurturing behaviours. All are interconnected. $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2022 at 8:31
  • $\begingroup$ But.... nature can survive without nurturing behaviours @ARogueAnt. If no other environmental issues get in the way. Just that the evolutionary aspects may change. $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2022 at 8:33
  • $\begingroup$ It makes me think that the question is a bit too broad for a simple answer to be anything but misleading (by it's nature ;)) Complex interaction between the two, yes. @ChrisRogers $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2022 at 8:46

1 Answer 1


I think you are too focused on the words "nature" and "nurture". These words are imperfect labels, chosen for alliteration.

The "nature vs nurture" "debate" or balance (as few people really debate nature vs nurture except for the degree to which each is influential in a specific case) specifically refers to hereditary and non-hereditary (non-hereditary sometimes called "environmental") contributions to some trait.

You cannot understand the debate better by dissecting the words "nature" or "nurture". The "nature/nurture" phrasing is just a label, it does not contain intrinsic meaning besides being a cute linguistic phrase in simpler language; it's a lot like "survival of the fittest" in this way. It could have been labeled completely arbitrarily and there would not be any biological or underlying change in meaning. You could call hereditary factors "purple" and environmental factors "triangle" and refer to the "purple vs triangle" debate.

Importantly, estimating the influence of hereditary factors does not depend on the history of the evolution of those factors. Heredity is simply the portion of variation in people/animals/organisms that is explained by genetics. Natural selection is often an important contributor to changes in species, but evolution is influenced by other factors as well, like genetic drift, and "nature/nurture" is primarily about variation among individuals while evolution occurs in populations. The heritable factors that cause individual differences do not need to be adaptive.

There are of course different ways of defining what exactly it means to be hereditary, with some gray area around epigenetic factors, for example, but these must be addressed with more specific language in defining what exactly is meant by hereditary; you can't work backwards from the labels "nature" or "nurture" to understand what the boundaries should be, as those are merely labels.

  • $\begingroup$ "Past environmental exposures don't matter at all to determining whether something is hereditary." Maybe not, but determination of environmental (nurture) elements of predeterminants can help prevent others from developing mental health problems. Hereditary elements can't be prevented that easily and in some respects, ethically; but, they can be used to help to determine possible future outcomes and hopefully lower their effects. $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2023 at 7:06
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisRogers I don't see how that's relevant. OP just has the idea that since natural selection occurs based on environmental exposures, we should consider everything environmental and nothing genetic. That's not very useful and isn't how we treat heredity, which is about differences between individuals, whereas populations evolve. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 21, 2023 at 13:35
  • $\begingroup$ I see your points made now. I got a little confused on where you were going with that initially – My apologies. $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2023 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisRogers No worries, I could have explained it a bit better in my post, too. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 21, 2023 at 22:52

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