The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
4 Points

Intelligence: Nature vs Nurture

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/11/2018 Category: Science
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 22,442 times Debate No: 118941
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (37)
Votes (3)




In this debate, Pro will be arguing that nature (biological factors), On average, Has a more significant impact on human adult intelligence than nurture (the effect of environmental influences) while Con will be arguing the opposite.

Intelligence: General cognitive ability as measured by an IQ test such as Raven's progressive matrices.

Thank you for accepting/reading the debate and please ensure that you're using academic sources for fact-checking purposes (please also consider this while voting "sources").


Happy to think with you today.

Before I begin, I should made it clear that I don't believe IQ tests are a good measure of intelligence within a person, However we can have this debate using them if you wish.

The whole debate, Nature versus nurture is a bit silly in and of itself. If we didn't have brains, No amount of nurture in the world would improve our abilities on IQ tests. If we're allowing ourselves brains, Then this topic has some meaning.

Now, My argument will be as follows:

1. Feral Children are kids with a poor, Perhaps the poorest, "Nurture" we can think of. It is a bad enough nurture for me to win the debate, At the least.

2. Mentally challenged persons are people with the worst "Nature" that actually exist.

To prove my point that nurture is more important than nature I will compare the following:

1. A mentally challenged person with the best possible nurture.

2. An otherwise normal individual with the worst possible nature i. E. "feral children. "

I submit that this is a perfectly rational way to compare the two. If you accept this, Then you immediately lose the debate.

Feral children will barely be able to answer a question on an IQ test. Mentally challenged individuals with the best nurture possible will at least be able to make sense of the test, And therefore have some sort of score, However low. As it stands, Nature does not give us the tools required for even basic human intelligence under the definition you have given. No matter how poor one's nature, The best possible nurture, Or even a decent thinkable nurture, Can give us enough tools by which to measure intelligence.

So from my view, You can either forfeit now, Or you can provide better metrics with which to analyze the question.

May your thoughts be clear,

Debate Round No. 1


Since in this debate we are arguing about which “on average” has a more significant influence, Nature or nurture, The comparison between mentally challenged people and feral children is both unfair and unrepresentative as less than 1 in every 40 people in the US is mentally challenged and feral children are almost unheard of. Furthermore, Mentally challenged people are not considered mentally healthy which makes them inadequate for an argument that is trying to generalize findings to the entire population.

Instead, I would suggest looking at studies of monozygotic twins (MZ twins share around 100% of their genes) and adoption studies that investigate mentally and physically healthy individuals which are more representative of the general population.

Minnesota Study of Twin Reared Apart (MISTRA)

During MISTRA, Several hundred sets of monozygotic twins that had been separated in infancy were reunited and tested on multiple intelligence and personality tests. It was found that there was a correlation of 0. 69 between the Wechsler IQ scores of MZ twins reared-apart compared to 0. 88 for MZ twins reared-together and a correlation of 0. 78 between reared-apart MZ twins compared to 0. 76 for reared-together MZ twins on the very heavily g-loaded Raven’s Progressive Matrices test with a vocabulary scale score added to it. It was therefore concluded that about 70% in the variance in IQ-scores is associated with nature (genes) which would leave a maximum influence of 30% for nurture (Bouchard et al. , 1990).

Texas Adoption Project:

During the Texas Adoption Project, Biological mothers that gave their new-born babies u for adoption were adopted by adoptive families that had at least one own child and everyone involved subsequently took IQ-tests (the children took them after they had grown up). It was found that there was only a 0. 1 correlation between the IQ-scores of adoptive parents and adoptive children (which shared the same family environment) compared to a 0. 3 correlation between the IQ-scores of adoptive children and their biological mothers (with whom the kids shared 50% of their genes) furthermore, It was found that there is a 0. 3 correlation between the IQ-scores of biologically related children in the adoptive families compared to no correlation at all between biologically unrelated children in adoptive families. This shows that the family environment plays a marginal role in determining intelligence while the genes play a much more significant role (Loehling, Horn and Willerman, 1997).


Studies on identical twins have found that 70% of the variance in IQ scores is accounted for by genes and adoption studies have found that adopted children are more similar in intelligence level to a birth mother they’ve never met before but share 50% of their genes with than to an adoptive mother with whom they spend their lives with, Which suggests that the family environment plays a marginal role in determining intelligence. Furthermore, The intelligence of children that are biologically unrelated but spend their whole life in the same family is not correlated at all. Therefore, Nature seems to be playing a larger role than nurture when both physically and mentally healthy individuals are investigated.



Thanks for the clarification. Your position is clear to me now.

What I'll discuss here in R2 is the fact that your position, And the studies you have linked, Are flawed. The MISTRA study is flawed enough to be flat out called bad science. The Texas Adoption Project's findings are more valid, But also critically flawed in several ways. Your opinion on this matter is colored by flawed science. More recent and better conducted studies have found far less statistical 'heritability, ' (Adoption results for self-reported personality: evidence for nonadditive genetic effects? Plomin R. Et al) (The heritability fallacy David S. Moore et al) although after hours of reading through studies, Criticisms, Et cetera I have found this notion to be meaningless when it is attributed to human intelligence. Lastly, I will conclude that an alternative way of understanding nature vs nature is necessary to make the calculation of which is, On average, More influential.


This study is incredibly flawed. I've read a 30, 000 word document on the matter. (Twenty Two Invalidating Aspects of the MISTRA by Jay Joseph)

I'll summarize a few points.

1a. The initial control group for this study was ignored in its conclusion. The data from that control group was not published. It still hasn't been fully to this day. Decades later. MZA twins (100% shared genes) were studied. DZA (50% shared) were the control group. A statistical significance needed to have been drawn between the two groups.

1b. When a partial sample of the DZA group was released, It showed no statistical significance to the conclusion of the study.

1c. By failing to analyze with the control group, The study ignored 2 critical steps of its own group's procedure when coming to its conclusion.

1d. The full research data, Even outside the DZA group was never made public for researchers to view themselves.

1e. The twins from the study were not all raised apart. Many of them knew and had interacted with each other. The method of finding these individuals can hardly be called unbiased.

1f. They assumed that similar environments played no part in developing similar traits. This leads to an immediate bias on the side of genetics.

1g. I could go on all day, But the leader of the study, Bouchard himself, Said that many aspects of it would not hold.

2. TAP

2a. Sample Size of 181.

2b. Most of the children were born and adopted by white middle class people who were slightly above average intelligence. Most of the people who responded to the follow-up study tended to be the most intelligent among this group (Differential Inheritance of Mental Abilities in the Texas Adoption Project, Texas@Austin study)

2c. The aforementioned Differential study I mentioned found 3 subscales with genetic contributions, 2 with environmental, And 1 with neither analyzing the same data. The researchers note that some amount of intelligence can be shown to be genetically inherited, But they don't try to pin a number on this. More interesting is that they find the intelligence of children reared apart from their biological parents has a higher correlation than the intelligence of parent and child not separated. This leads to some interesting speculations. However, They note that all of this should be taken with a grain of salt until further replication has been done.

3. Study Problems

There are many problems with twin studies. Some geneticists have thrown much of them away. (The Trouble With Twin Studies, Jay Joseph) (The Twin Research Debate in American Criminology, Jay Joseph et al)

3a. They assume that twins create their own environment because of their genetics. This is circular reasoning. The MISTRA study you linked was the biggest example of this I've seen, Giving genetics a heavy bias.

3b. EEA (Equal Environment Assumption) is the assumption that both of the identical twins have roughly identical environments. This could not be further from the truth. This will be expanded in my next point, So here we go.

4. Nature vs. Nurture

So we arrive at last. Your studies have not held to peer review or criticisms. They have not stood the test of time. They are, However, Apparently still cited often. Scientific studies though, Need to have results repeated over time in order to be deemed factual. The methods by which they analyze their data need to undergo scrutiny. If you make assumptions, Which any 'heritability' study on human intelligence inevitably does, You come back with incorrect, Or at least biased results.

Your studies, And you, Are assuming that people make their own environments based on their genetics. That similarities in environment means similarities in genetics. This is an extremely controversial assumption. Your studies, Even if they were done in good faith, Would still not lead to conclusions that could be generalized.

Minnesota Statistics (from Minnesota State Demographic Center) show that 81% of the state is white in the current year. They show that minorities have been growing. When MISTRA was initially done this percentage was 95%. The income divides in Minnesota aren't that large. How is this a cross sectional study? The idea is to eliminate as many environmental factors as possible, However no two environments are the same. There is no way to scientifically accurately determine what percentage of intelligence is inherited because of this.

Genetics research is largely ongoing. They can't point to specific genes that would make people do any of what they assume it does. It operates on a hunch, For now.

There's a reason nature vs nurture is still a debate in science. Reasonable individuals do not take 2 studies in the late 1900s one of which has shady practices at best the other doesn't show a terribly interesting genetic link and even if it did, Not one that could be generalized and then say that this is foolproof evidence that genetics determine intelligence (or in your case you believe IQ is intelligence).

5. How to analyze

If heritability is a hotly contested subject among scientists, How should we analyze which is, On average, More important?

Nature gives us our raw processing power. Nurture is what information we are given to play with.

Is a computer more intelligent if it is given great processing power, But no information to process? Is information useful if it is unable to be processed? No.

What my opponent is doing is giving everyone the same nurture by saying "on average" and then saying nature is more impactful. I can simply say that 'on average' everyone would have identical natures as well and this debate is irrelevant.


If everyone's nurture, On average, Was 80% on a scale of how good it could be to how bad it could be, And everyone's nature on average is 80% as well, Nurture would still win when we analyzed based on moving the sliders in any direction.

Your nature could give you the processing power of a genius or the processing power of the most crippled low functioning downs syndrome person on the planet.

Your nurture, If moved. Up or down, Could either make you a cave man trying to learn his own habitat versus the most informed and potentially influential scientist in the world.

If everyone is currently receiving a decent nurture, Then genetics are more impactful. However, Does that mean that nurture gets no credit? My opponent is attempting to make all nurtures equivalent with term 'on average. ' While allowing genetics to change from person to person. This is, In my opinion, A silly way to view things.

So I will submit to the audience, Do you think people on average are more impacted by raw processing power or available information? Would you be vastly more impacted by the least amount of information possible, Or having your processing power diminished to that of a downs syndrome person?

I for one, Think I would fare much worse as a super-genius cave man than a mildly retarded man with a cell phone in this day and age.

May your thoughts be clear,

Debate Round No. 2



  1. 1. "More recent and better conducted studies have found far less statistical 'heritability, ' (Adoption results for self-reported personality: evidence for nonadditive genetic effects? Plomin R. Et al)"

My opponent seems to have made a blunder as this study’s findings are not relevant to our debate as it based on children aged 9-16, While we are, As I laid out in round one, Only arguing about “human adult intelligence”. Especially since the lead researcher of the study that you have cited, Robert Plomin, Pointed out himself that “the heritability of intelligence increases throughout development”. What is even more interesting is that Plomin later established that the heritability of intelligence in adulthood is around 60% (Plomin, DeFries, Knopik, & Neiderhiser, 2016a) which leaves a maximum influence of 40% for nurture.

  1. 2. “So we arrive at last. Your studies have not held to peer review or criticisms. ”

2. 1 Peer review:

If my opponent’s claim that the findings of MISTRA and the findings of Horn’s Texas Adoption Project are not peer-reviewed is true, This would question their findings. However, My opponent is mistaken. The findings of MISTRA were published in the peer-reviewed academic journal “Science”, Which is one of the world’s top academic journals, And the findings of the Texas Adoption Project were published in “Behavior Genetics” and “Child Development”, Both well-respected peer-reviewed academic journals.

2. 2 Criticism:

Are the findings of MISTRA and the Texas Adoption Project, That nature plays a bigger role than nurture in creating intelligence differences among individuals, Generally accepted, Or generally rejected in the scientific community? To investigate this, I will present three of the most influential surveys about expert opinion on intelligence:

Dataset 1: Neisser et al. (1996)

In 1995 the American Psychological Association (APA), The largest and most authoritative professional psychological society (Dreary, 2001), Issued a report titled “Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns” in response to the “serious misunderstandings” in the public about intelligence. They appointed a task force to establish through consensus among psychologists what was known and what was not known about human intelligence. The report had the unanimous support of the entire task force and established several “knowns” about intelligence.

  1. 1. The report cited both MISTRA and the Texas Adoption Study, Showing that both are accepted in mainstream psychology and the leading experts in intelligence research, Contrary to my opponent’s claim.
  2. 2. One of the “knowns” is that the heritability of intelligence in adulthood is around 75%, Which leaves a maximum influence of 25% for nurture.

Dataset 2: Gottfredson (1994)

Gottfredson (1994) aimed to outline some conclusions that are considered mainstream among researchers on intelligence. A conclusion of Gottfredson (1994) is that there is a general agreement among researchers that nature plays a bigger role than nurture in creating IQ differences among individuals.

Dataset 3: Snyderman and Rothman (1987)

Stanley Rothman and Mark Snyderman surveyed 1020 experts (psychologists, Sociologists and educationalists) on their views on intelligence and aptitude testing. The experts were presented with a list of five sources of evidence for the heritability of intelligence and were asked to check all sources that they believed provided reasonable support for the heritability of intelligence.

  1. 1. 84. 4% of the respondents checked that MISTRA provided reasonable support for the heritability of intelligence, Indicating that MISTRA is very well accepted among experts.
  2. 2. Respondents were also asked for their estimates of the heritability of intelligence (among white people and separately among black people), The mean answer for both white and black heritability was around 60%, Which leaves a maximum influence of 40% for nurture.

  1. 3. “Scientific studies though, Need to have results repeated over time in order to be deemed factual. ”

My opponent is indeed correct in claiming that if studies are not successfully replicated, They lose credibility. Let us thus investigate whether they have been replicated:

Dataset 4: Plomin, DeFries, Knopik, & Neiderhiser, 2016a

In the scientific paper fittingly titled “Top 10 Replicated Findings From Behavioral Genetics”, It was described that the heritability of intelligence being between 50% and 80% in adulthood is one of the findings that has been replicated robustly in behavioural genetics, Suggesting that my opponent’s assertions that further replication is required to substantiate these findings is unwarranted.

Dataset 5: Haworth et al. , (2009)

In a huge sample of 11 000 pairs of twins (a larger sample than in all previous studies on the heritability of intelligence combined) from four different countries (leading to an even bigger difference in environments) it was found that the heritability of intelligence increases to 66% in young adulthood, Which leaves a maximum influence of 34% for nurture and shows that the findings have indeed been recently replicated on a large scale, With a sample that is representative of several cultures.

  1. 4. They can't point to specific genes that would make people do any of what they assume it does. It operates on a hunch, For now.

My opponent makes it seem as if it was expected that one could point to specific genes, This is however not the case as Deary (2001) explains that intelligence is influenced by an unquantifiable number of genes each of which has a small effect and that thus, It is unreasonable to expect researchers to be able to specific genes that account for much of the variability in intelligence between individuals. This is also supported by Plomin, DeFries, Knopik, & Neiderhiser (2016a) which established that one of the findings that has been robustly replicated in behavioural genetics is that heritability is caused by genes of small effects.

  1. 5. What my opponent is doing is giving everyone the same nurture by saying "on average" and then saying nature is more impactful. I can simply say that 'on average' everyone would have identical natures as well and this debate is irrelevant.

I do not see how my opponent came to this conclusion as if the “on average” meant that everyone has the same nature then nature would have no detectable influence and if the “on average” implied that everyone had the same nature than surely it would also imply that everyone had the same nurture. I assume this is not what my opponent is intending to say and thus suggest that he dropped this, On average simply means that a sample that is somewhat representative of the general population should be used, Instead of a sample that consists purely of hyper-intelligent or mentally-challenged people.


As studies on identical twins have found that 70% of the variance in IQ scores is accounted for by genes (see Bouchard et al. , 1990; and Dataset 4), Adoption studies have found that the heritability of IQ is above 60% (see Datasets 4 and 5) and surveys have shown that there is a general acceptance of the evidence of the heritability of intelligence and a consensus between experts in the field of intelligence research that nature has a larger influence than nature on human adult intelligence (see Datasets 1, 2 and 3) exists, While my opponent was only able to present the criticisms of one cherry-picked researcher, Jay Joseph, Whose publications on MISTRA and the Texas Adoption Project have not all been peer-reviewed (in contrast to the studies that I have presented; see rebuttal 2. 1) and are in conflict with mainstream science (as his assertions are contrary to the consensus), It can be concluded that nature, On average, Has a more significant impact on human adult intelligence than nurture.

Lastly, I shall thank my opponent for the interesting debate and would like to remind him that the last round is not the time for epiphanies where new arguments that can't be rebutted are made.



Well you've made it this far. No worries. This will be short and simple. No epiphanies necessary.

I have presented the reasoning behind many geneticists' and psychologists' opinions on how twin studies, And particularly the studies my opponent has provided, Are flawed. Genetics as a field is in its baby form. While it cannot be expected to point to individual genes or combinations of genes that present as certain traits in its current form, It should be expected to eventually arrive at this if it is true. Appealing to authority when the entire field is in its infancy is silly when there are so many reasons to believe the conclusions of these are not accurate.

At best, My opponent can say current research suggests his opinion is true. However, If I can point out tens of flaws in the research he cites, Why would I not fall back on logic to tell me which is most likely true?

I have already given my opponent that genetics will affect the raw processing power of an individual. He has not even tried to explain how the conclusions of these studies are not flawed. He has not tried to engage with my arguments as to why we should believe nurture plays a more impactful role when the assumptions of his studies are so backwards in this matter. All he has done is cite additional sources with the same flaws, And additional experts with the same assumptions. There are plenty of experts on both sides of this in any matter. He has also nitpicked "Adults" as if his studies were not also conducted in part on children, And as if children don't mature into adults. The question is not if his studies had been peer reviewed. They were. Plenty of studies are redacted at a later date, Plenty of consensus among science has been refuted with time. If a handful of Koch-funded researchers agree and get an article published it is not interesting to me if they can't defend it. Cherry picking is not the term I'd use for a 30, 000 word document whose points are consistent with reality. I submit to my audience that reading a few of these pages will give you a better idea of how this research is bad science.

So I will leave it here. My opponent's argument is one huge appeal to authority. His authority is a science in its infancy. My arguments have not been even partially digested by him. So I will leave it to you. The sources I have cited point out the flaws in these types of studies and in the entire field of study my opponent argues for. He cannot defend the integrity of such studies other than appealing to authority, So I am left with nothing left to debate.

I submit to you to see their flaws, And engage with what we are left with - logical arguments. I will trust you to understand the arguments I have presented.

May your thoughts be clear,

Debate Round No. 3
37 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by BuchananMein 1 year ago
To add a Stone to the debate, As a moderate on this issue:
Epigenetic that involves change in the way a Gene express itself is highly important.

And obviously it is Nurture (more specifically interacting from your mother womb biochemistry to the end of your life ) and Nature in the very same time.
Posted by MyacronymissimplyCEE 1 year ago
Nurture = Built in excuse for Progenitor to abuse Progeny.
Nature = Built in excuse for Progeny to abuse Progenitor.

Solution: Brave New World, By Aldous Huxley
Posted by Ugly_PoS 2 years ago
I mean, Do you think a PhD in math, Physics, Philosophy, Nay, Any field really, Is achievable by almost anyone with training? That's nonsense. Face it, If you are born mediocre -- like I myslelf -- then you either realize life is over and kill yourself, Or, As in my case, You endure your existence. And I am only capable of enduring it due to my Christian faith.

To the one below: the 1-10 scale is not even remotely comparable to IQ, Since IQ correlates with several positive outcomes -- IQ test are used throughout many companies to weed out applicants.
Posted by Ugly_PoS 2 years ago
What the heck? Of course intelligence is largely heredity. Just like height or looks or illnesses. If someone told me I had the talents of a Goethe or Newton, A Kant or Mozart, Rembrandt or Leonardo, I would laugh him in the face. The West now actually experiences a drop in mean IQ due to smart people aborting their children; worse, Almost half of all women in Germany who have graduate degrees remain childless.

The pro-nurture guy lost so hard on this. No one who is honest with himself will believe that hhe can improve his intelligence. Same with mentall illness: I've tracked from whom I got this kn my lineage, It is an awful hereditary illness that is ripe in some families.

The world sucks because people are narcissitic weaklings, Not honest enough to admit that life is not fair, That some simply lost the genetic lottery.
Posted by WhoPutYouOnThePlanet 2 years ago
Yea no its kinda a bit of both.
Posted by jlw827 2 years ago
Nurture always. If you say nature you are telling people from troubled, Abusive and upsetting backgrounds that they will never changed and are doomed from the start. People don"t change unless they are given the right tools like therapy, Communication, Education etc. People who lash out with things like crime, Violence and emotional abuse are hurt humans who are striving for something or have been taught from ab early age that that is what you do. I like to believe everyone can change and improve - including myself. If you have no money but you give your child all the love and happiness in the world they won"t remember you couldn"t buy them the latest trainers, They"ll remember the fun and enjoyment of their childhood. If you provide that child with an abusive and violent childhood that is what they remember.
Posted by GabrielleGresge 2 years ago
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Posted by silkroadonlinepharmacy 2 years ago
Website;(http://silkroadonlinepharmacy. Com/ )
Posted by UtopianBrainwash 3 years ago
I appreciate this discussion. This is an essential philosophy that needs to be thoroughly addressed. For if it is not, And blood and soil is all we be, We are destined to replay some very dark chapters in human history. It is definitely a mixture one would usually unable to accurately value under the dual variables, Genetics and environment.
Posted by Athias 3 years ago
Really nice debate. The two of you conducted yourselves well. You presented your arguments well. But essentially, I agree with Thoht because he had the stronger argument. Intelligence can't be measured with I. Q. (Many psychologists of note admit to this. ) The I. Q. Is as "accurate" as sexual attractiveness on a scale of one to ten. At best, It's a caricature. The I. Q. Really gauges discipline, Not intelligence. And this lends itself well to one of the notions put forth by Thoht in that a mentally challenged child/person can do well enough on an I. Q. Test if said child/person exhibits discipline. By that very same token, A child of average or above average intelligence can do poorly or not even take the test at all if said child/person exhibits no discipline (feral child/person. ) I also agree with Thoht that one cannot assume that environment within the sample examined is equivalent or constant, And Topaet citations are guilty of this.

Finally, Thoht did well to point out a common mistake with citations--i. E. The citation isn't enough. No study is infallible. It is necessary not only to make references, But also to scrutinize the methods taken, Their controls, And the consistency of their conclusions. Unfortunately, A study can published for anything. And believe Thoht was undeterred and allowed reasoning and the rules of deduction to guide his arguments more so than Topaet. Nice job to the both of you. I'm going to start a thread focusing on this subject.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Adam_Godzilla 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I'm here to balance out the debate points. I don't think this was a straight win. Thot didn't fulfil his BOP. But his takedown of Pro's arguments was good. I'm not sure who won, but it's not 0-4 as it shows now.
Vote Placed by omar2345 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: See the comment section.
Vote Placed by Leaning 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Honestly, I couldn't say. Something about the debate confused me. Pro does point out that he used the word 'average in round 1, so Con round 1 argument falls apart a fair bit. Con argument that twins nurture was similar enough level that they would not be noticeably different sounded like it made sense to me. I do think Con is wrong in saying a persons genetics do not create their own environment in a fashion. I suppose Con is right when he says that one can change the nurture same as they can change the nature, how do you decide one is more than the other, since they need each other to make anything. Though I think Pro would have a point that people with better nature could learn easier than people with better nurture or something. Mostly though I'm rather confused when trying to read the debate. Ah well, apologies for the words I likely put in peoples mouths. And voting Tie, because I can't tell who won really. Hopefully other people vote.

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