nature vs nurture

Genetics, Adoption and First-World- Curiosities

I was enamored with this photo (this is the first time I met my birth father) for many reasons, but specifically I kept looking at our fingers. The placement on the knee, the spacing between our fingers.

I was enamored with this photo (this is the first time I met my birth father) for many reasons, but specifically I kept looking at our fingers. The placement on the knee, the spacing between our fingers.

For much of my life I've succumbed to the idea that many of my unanswerable questions fall under the umbrella of nature. I hoped that someday my genetic questions would be answered. I wanted to know if my birth mom is right handed or left handed. I fancied that my birth father had dimples and assumed that everyone in my birth family had brown eyes, 4c hair texture and caramel colored skin. But my curiosities didn't stop there, I was also curious about some possibly genetically impacted markers like "Achoo Syndrome" (a dominant trait also called, photo sneeze reflex), or "hand clasping" (learning which thumb one automatically places on top of the other when clasping hands together). Reuniting with my birth family allowed me to learn some of these answers!

However, I’ve remained curious about similarities between biological relatives that aren't necessarily genetic, but actually may not involve nurture either...

  • If a birthmother and her child reunite at a later age and find out that they both use hearts to dot their I's, if this a coincidence or explained by genetics? 

  • When I met my birthfather after being introduced to Bryan he replied; "It's good ta meet'cha Bryan. B-R-Y-A-N, Bryan" spelling each letter of his name aloud. At that moment my mom and I exchanged long glances silently flashing back to all of the times I spelled out words just for the sake of spelling the word aloud. Throughout my childhood we thought this habit was to help me to more clearly understand the word as my hearing loss made it difficult to hear the difference between the words "curb" and "curve." But now...now I wonder - could this be genetic?

  • My sister Shawna, loves cats. She has always loved them. I can't remember a time when our family did not have a pet cat that my sister took care of. You could guarantee that every birthday, Christmas and any other occasion she would recieve at least a few gifts that involved cats - cards and shirts that have pictures of cats on them - she can never have too many. Upon meeting her biological mother a few years ago, we quickly learned that her birthmother was known as the cat lady of her neighborhood.

  • My brother and his identical twin are hard for me to tell apart (pictured below). They walk similarly, the sound similar, their mannerisms are the same - all of this may seem trite, since they are identical twins, however they were raised in very different environments after being separated as young children. When they found each other in adulthood they learned that they even got similar looking tattos in similar places on their bodies!

My brother Steven and his twin (who grew up in a different adoptive family)

My brother Steven and his twin (who grew up in a different adoptive family)

I'm no longer solely curious about hitchhikers thumb (the autosomal recessive trait of having a thumb curved back at nearly a 90 degree angle), diabetes or depression, but am continually curious about how to reason and understand the non-genetic similarities between biologically related peoples who haven't known each other.

I greatly dislike the idea of using adoptees for scientific experiments, or my first world curiosities, but it'd sure be wonderful to learn whether of not there is a genetic mutation for spelling, tattoo placement or a love of cats.

Closure FAQ

   

Closure Facebook 3

Frequently Asked Question

Q: Who decided on Closure as the title of the movie?

A: Bryan chose the title of the movie. By and large, this documentary is Bryan's depiction of my journey. The documentary is edited, narrated, and shot entirely by Bryan - and by many of the movie-goers' accounts thus far, he did a marvelous job. Bryan interpreted each of the major characters in the film (birth mom, adoptee and adoptive mother) as having gained a sense of rounded understanding and finality from the outcome of this journey. I did not choose to impart my feelings or dissuade him in the movie title decision making process. Not only would I have been unable to share my story through the medium of film in such a linear, sensible and emotive way, I also simply would not have thought or wanted to create a documentary out of my story. Through my eyes, it's simply one of many search and reunion adoption stories. It is for this reason that Bryan's decision on the naming of the film was the only voice to be granted this right.

Followed up by another FAQ: Q: Have you, personally gotten closure now?

A: I do not feel that I have gained closure - in the sense that most are asking. I have gained an element of peace as the search for my birthparents has (thankfully) come to a close. However, within this successful outcome more questions and considerations have been unveiled: How do I navigate these new relationships? How will I maintain a cross country relationship with these new family members? Did I gain my athleticism from my genes, or from the opportunities I was afforded during childhood (nature vs nurture)? My questions never end.

If Bryan had asked me for input on the title, I may have suggested: "I still need more information," "I don't understand" or "Why?"

Clearly, "Closure" sounds much better. :)

No great and meaningful journey is ever completely closed. If we truly want to thrive and grow from any experience or journey we embark upon we will likely always be striving towards a greater understanding, occasional doubts, fears and a general ever increasing need to feel more whole and complete. "The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know."

Nature vs. Nurture

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 PHOTO: Black and White twins - Kian and Remee Hodgson

It is clear that our DNA plays crucial roles in making us who we are physically, but to what degree "are" we our genes?

The age old debate of nature versus nurture swirls around in my head often as I hear so many people refer to newborns being adopted as a "blank slate." Newborns - adopted or not - are certainly not "blank slates" (Tabula Rasa). Many behavioral geneticists have performed studies on adoptees and twins, and have learned that human development does not derive solely from environmental forces - wealth, social privilege and education cannot be assigned to a genetic code.

To what extent are we governed by external factors (nature), and how much is genetic? I think the answer lies in how we individually want to interpret it.  We can hear explanations for dwarfism, Parkinsons, and breast cancer, and try to ascertain that the reason we now have this condition is because of our genetics. However the reality is that our genes can only tell us if we have that mutation. Cancer, among other conditions, may in fact have more to do with our environment (nurture). However, people hear what they want to hear, think what they want to think, and assign blame to whom they'd like to assign the blame to.

I thought that finding my roots, and learning more about my genes and my background would give me answers, but it's actually left me with a lot more questions. I, along with countless others, would like to pinpoint reasons behind seemingly innate talents, distinct mannerisms, IQ, susceptibility to mental health issues, or alcoholism etc., down to either nature or nurture, however I'm learning that though genes play a large role in our creation, much of who we are is also quite random.

That randomness is hard to accept.