Twin Sons of an Alcoholic Father

This was related to me as a true story, though to be honest I have never tracked it down to verify it so.  It works as a parable just as well as if true.

Scientists study identical twins to learn about the influence of genes on our characteristics.  In a study on alcoholism, the scientists were particularly interested in a pair of identical twin sons with an alcoholic father, where one of the twins was an alcoholic and the other twin was not.  They interviewed them both, hoping for insight as to why they ended up so different, despite their identical genes and their presumably similar environments.

The alcoholic son told them “Well, I grew up with an alcoholic father, as you know.  Alcohol was in the house all the time. I saw my dad drinking.  So I guess it was natural enough that I became an alcoholic, too”.

The son who was not an alcoholic said “Well, I grew up with an alcoholic father, as you know.   Alcohol was in the house all the time.  I saw my dad drinking, and I saw what it did to him and to my family.  So I guess it was natural enough that I swore I would never be like that, and so I don’t drink!”.

Most studies of nature vs. nurture consider our genes, as nature, and our external environment, particularly that of our childhood and upbringing, as nurture.  While genes and outside environment may be enough to explain the characteristics and behavior of fruit flies, it is not enough to explain the characteristics and behaviors of man.

Though it is not common for scientists to discuss it, humans have free will.  This does not negate the fact that our genes and our environment both can influence who we are and how we behave.  But they do not determine who we are and how we behave.  We direct our own environment to a greater degree than do other living things.  We choose what to focus on and we make decisions that effect the trajectory of our lives.

Who will you be – someone who follows the trajectory seemingly laid out by your surroundings, or someone who focuses on what you desire and chooses to make your own path accordingly?

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2 Responses to Twin Sons of an Alcoholic Father

  1. Nancy says:

    I love this blog! I like the title, the layout and the description of the blog. The first posting is thought provoking, and I look forward to more of David’s writing.

  2. Diana NR says:

    I do agree with David’s assessment of the nature nurture controv. as noted in psychology. One or the other will not, nor can not determine the who we will become. We are the only ones responsible for that determination. If we grow up in horrible circumstances we can choose to be a continous victim, as established in his early post, or we can be what I like to view as a builder. The builder is one who takes all the discarded scrap from life and puts it together, making it a successful master piece of beauty. For me, a builder, or as in David’s story a creator, will always be working on a new masterpiece because when one project is completed, there is always time to begin anew.
    Thank you for your blog David. Very inspired.

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