Nature Utterly Pwned Nature

Consider the story of the identical twins Jim Lewis and Jim Springer, who were raised separately from the age of four weeks. They reunited at 39 and found that they were each six feet tall and weighed 180 pounds; bit their nails and had tension headaches; owned a dog named Toy when they were kids; went on family vacations at the same beach in Florida; had worked part-time in law enforcement; and liked Miller Lite beer and Salem cigarettes. There was one notable difference: Jim Lewis named his firstborn James Alan, while Jim Springer named his James Allan. Had Lewis and Springer never met each other, they might have assumed that their adoptive parents played big roles in creating their tastes. But it appears that those interests were, to a large degree, coded in their DNA.

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, “The One Parenting Decision That Really Matters”

Cochran: “At least in this case, Nature utterly pwned Nurture. … [T]he environment influenced them all right, but it influenced them in exactly the same way.”

Three quick overarching takeaways:

  • The majority of what people blame on capitalism, “systemic racism,” “white supremacy,” “the patriarchy,” etc. has little if anything to do with any of the above. Unsurprisingly, our Establishment routinely underestimates the importance of genetics: “The environment influences people want to exist, mostly don’t.” Update your views on politics, history, education, etc. accordingly.
  • Parents should think carefully about what they can control and what they cannot control, optimize the former, and not stress out about the latter. If one identical twin is raised by the Amish and the other is raised by hippies, they will be profoundly different in some ways. But they will also be profoundly similar in other ways. Update your views on parenting accordingly.
  • People can change, and sometimes they do. But usually not easily, usually not without miracles. Pray accordingly.

The Golden Age of Childhood

A Texas playground in the early 1900s

Dean Acheson, Truman’s Secretary of State, on his childhood:

The golden age of childhood can be quite accurately fixed in time and place. It reached its apex in the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first few years of the twentieth, before the plunge into a motor age and city life swept away the freedom of children and dogs, put them both on leashes and made them the organized prisoners of an adult world. … No one was run over. No one was kidnapped. No one had teeth straightened. No one worried about children, except occasionally my mother, when she saw us riding on the back step of the ice wagon and believed, fleetingly, that one of the great blocks of Pamecha Pond ice would fall on us. But none ever did.

Walter Isaacson, on Dean Acheson’s childhood:

Dean had a pony … a dog named Bob (purchased for five dollars), and a ready supply of playmates. … On the three-acre field between the church and the rectory, he and his friends would recreate battles of the Boer War and Teddy Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill … Each evening Dean would walk to the firehouse to watch the men drill and then run to the wharf in time for the arrival of the boat from Hartford. “To me, it seemed that the ladies and gentlemen promenading the deck of that ship were the most fortunate people on earth,” he later recalled.

Arnold Kling, on Arnold Kling’s childhood:

Those of us who grew up many decades ago probably would not want to trade our childhood for today’s childhood.