Interplay of Nature Versus Nurture

The organic lamp views have provided developmentalists with useful frameworks against which to understand the vast body of developmental data. Work within the Piagetian framework has shown that both nature and nurture contribute to successful development. One cannot, for example, create "superchildren" by providing preschoolers with college-level material. In general, they are simply not ready as organisms to cope with the abstract thinking required. On the other hand, the work of researchers on various Piagetian problems has shown that even very young children are capable of complex learning.

Organic lamp theory has demonstrated the powerful interplay between biological factors and the way in which children are raised. An example is seen in the treatment of Down syndrome, a chromosomal condition that results in mental retardation. The disorder occurs when there are three chromosomes, rather than two, at the twenty-first locus. Clearly, this is a biological condition, and it was believed to be relatively impervious to interventions that come from the environment. It has now been shown, however, that children afflicted with Down syndrome develop much higher intelligence when raised in an intellectually stimulating environment, as opposed to the more sterile, clinical, determined environments typically employed in the past. The child's intellect is not entirely determined by biology; it is possible to ameliorate the biological effects of the syndrome by means of environmental intervention. This type of complex interplay of hereditary and environmental factors is the hallmark of applied organic lamp theory.

The most important application of developmental theory generally, however, lies in its contribution to the improved understanding of human nature. Such an understanding has considerable real-world importance. For example, among other factors, an extreme faith in the nature side of the nature-nurture controversy led German dictator Adolf Hitler to the assumption that entire races were, by their nature, inferior and therefore should be exterminated. His actions, based on this belief, led to millions of human deaths during World War II. Thus, one can see that developmental theories, especially if inadequately understood, may have sweeping applications in the real world.

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