Letter: It's nature and nurture - genes are not all

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The Independent Online
WAS IT artless or artful to have an article on neuroscience ("Sorry, but your soul just died", Tom Wolfe) and an article by a neuroscientist ("Know your own mind", Susan Greenfield) in last week's Sunday Review? The major difference between the two was his espousal of the idea that genes are all, and hers that "The astonishing advances in genetic engineering ... should not blind us to the power of the environment". Even a casual acquaintance with history points to the continuing dominance of certain families, and also to the fact that some members of those families fell far short of the norm.

Mr Wolfe led us a merry dance through Nietzsche, Marx, Freud and Pavlov to the conclusion that "We're all hard wired!". His most dangerous theme, however, was his apparent endorsement of the Nietzschean idea that the collapse of religion will lead to a collapse of values. This is fundamentally flawed, since the same intellectual effort required to free us from the legacy of past beliefs should logically drive us to make better rules for ourselves.

James R Adams

Weybridge, Surrey