Before a research project involving people proceeds, most organizations require an independent ethical evaluation. That’s the norm today – but, it wasn’t always. Back in 1961, it seems Psychiatrist Peter B. Neubauer had a shocking amount of discretion in meddling with humans in researching the nature versus nurture question. To read about it today – his research seems nothing less than grotesquely unethical.
The age-old question – why we are the way we are is a legitimate fascination for sure. Is it because of who we are [our intrinsic nature within us] or are our tendencies and inclinations primarily the outcome of how we were externally nurtured in life? There’s even a spiritual dimension to the debate.
First the story. Bobby went off to university and was both surprised and confused with the welcome he received. Students seemed to be familiar with him in their cajoling ways and the conversations they’d initiate with him. Some of the women even welcomed him with a kiss. When someone called him Eddy, he realized they were mistaking him for someone else.
Not only was Bobby the spitting-image of a young guy who had attended the college the previous year, he shared the same birth date as Eddy too – July 12, 1961. Was it merely coincidental that both were also adopted?
The media latched on to the story of the reunion of the two boys. As pictures and details emerged in the local papers, David was intrigued by the story of the two young men. He also shared the same birth-date, was adopted and there appeared to be a very strong resemblance.
Yes, they were triplet sons of a single teenage mother who had given them up to an adoption agency at birth. Enter Dr. Neubauer. What a great opportunity to add these triplets to his research project on nature vs. nurture! With the agreement of the agency, one was given to a wealthy couple; another to a middle-income home and the other to a struggling lower income family. All three families, with distinctly different parenting styles, had adopted infant girls through the same agency two years earlier.
Of course, Psychiatrist Neubauer was also involved in experimenting with other lives too. Sixty sets of twins were a part of the lab-without-walls experiment. In fact, throwing a set of triplets into the equation was a bonus for his research.
You can read their stories online or watch the documentaries, but the bottom line is – the three boys seemed like clones of each other. Back in the 1980’s, when the story was gaining traction, they frequently shared their stories on talk shows. They all smoked only Marlboros … tried to pursue a career in wrestling … wore identical clothes and sported black curls and broad shoulders and shared similar body language and speech. (1)
What contributed to these amazing similarities? What’s your guess – nature or nurture?
As of today, there are 7.2 billion people in the world. We live in different countries, we speak different languages, we experience different climates, we have different belief systems and on and on the differences go. But have you ever wondered why we all experience similar struggles and know some things to be dead wrong – despite intellectual efforts to deny the existence of moral absolutes?
Right and Wrong – Built-in Sensors
Some claim there are no absolute rights and wrongs. There are those who argue that sin is a religious concept perpetrated to instill fear and force compliance. But why do these same people know when they or their family has been wronged by another person? Why do they think they can go to court and expect compensation for what has been stolen from them or justice when their child has been abused? They seem to know that some things are just plain wrong.
Where did these internal moral sensors come from? People who have never read a Bible or any religious book or received any religious instructions have a built-in capacity to detect evil – especially if it affects them or their family. The Bible says that regardless of religion, people have a sense of morality imprinted by God upon every human heart. Romans 2:14-16
Nature or nurture?
The order in our universe, the similarities we see across the spectrum of human experience and the built-in sensors (conscience) and the common awareness of a ‘power’ greater than ourselves points to one common Creator. God. We were designed with a God-consciousness. Humans were specifically created in the image of God. Genesis 1:26,27
Origin of Human Struggles and Brokenness
Regardless of our upbringing – sheltered or exposed; privileged or under-privileged; educated or uneducated; religious or irreligious; devout or profane – all of us struggle to suppress bad thoughts and inner impulses. Every human being has struggled with truth-telling when we are afraid of consequences. All of us have tried to cover our wrong-doing. Who hasn’t struggled with selfishness and me-first tendencies?
Yes, our nurturing may enable us to better manage or mask these inner tendencies – but the fact these struggles are common to 7.2 billion people today substantiates the truth of the Bible. If you have a better explanation – let’s hear it.
The Bible tells us exactly when sin first infected the human stream. One act of rebellion and defiance against God in a perfect environment (talk about nurture!) and sin entered the human family. Genesis 3:1-20.
When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Romans 5:12 NLT
A few verses later we are told that by one person’s disobedience, we were all made sinners. (Romans 5:19)
Centuries earlier, King David wrote that we were all born sinners. Psalm 51:5
Implications for Me Personally
Have you ever looked at this Bible verse from a personal perspective and tried to understand the implications?
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
Bobby, Eddy and David – were brothers from birth and the evidence was clear – despite the nurturing they received for the first two decades of their lives. Have you ever acknowledged that you do what you do and think what you think primarily because of who you are? It’s nature – not nurture!
It was both an overwhelming and traumatic experience for the three young men to make the discovery of who they really were. I recall the trauma of discovering I do what I do and think what I think because of who I am – a sinner in a broken human family of 7.2 billion people. And if sin is abhorrent to God, what hope could I ever have of being right with God and accepted by Him and safe in His care?
There is a tragic side to the story of the three boys later in their lives – but for anyone who makes the spiritual discovery of who they really are, there is incredibly good news.
Good News of Healing and Hope – Redemption and Acceptance
These words are directly from the Bible for you!
For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8
Here’s another set of Bible verses:
He [Jesus] was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him [Jesus] he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name. John 1:10-12
Will you receive Christ as your very own personal Saviour? If you do, you will brought into God’s family forever.
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