In many discussions we are drawn to extreme boundary values. Here is a possible dilemma for a potential parent:
“If all comes down to genetics, there is nothing I can do to really affect my child. It is a total gamble. I have no control.”
But imagine it was 100% nurture: every interaction with your child, every word you say shapes its personality – permanently and possibly irreversibly.
Who could bear this kind of responsibility?
This can be extended to everything in your life. (Learned) helplessness is a serious condition, when one believes that everything that happens to him is completely out of his/her control.
The other extreme is Total Responsibility – you are responsible for everything that happens to you, to your current conditions and future prospects.
Again an immense burden.
As it is often the case, the truth is in-between: Genetics does determine most of the variance in traits (even complex ones) and its effect depends on time and overall socio-economic status (hereditability increases with both). It seems that nurture doesn’t do much on long term – but at least something short term. Beyond partner selection, one is largely (but not completely) absolved of metaphysical responsibility (definitely not the case for physical responsibility – shelter, food, protection).
For life outcomes it is similar – any outcome is a mixture of elements you control (your skills, resources you invest in it etc.) and random noise. The mix depends on the task/decision on hand, going from pretty much all noise (playing roulette), to much more controlled environments (but never completely without noise). You have some responsibility for the outcome, not total.
We are caught somewhere between two absurd positions, reminding me of:
Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.