Nurture Or Nature

Sir Francis Galton, (16 February 1822 – 17 January 1911), was an English statistician, polymath, sociologist, psychologist, anthropologist, eugenicist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist, proto-geneticist, and psychometrician.

Galton was interested at first in the question of whether human ability was hereditary, and proposed to count the number of the relatives of various degrees of eminent men. If the qualities were hereditary, he reasoned, there should be more eminent men among the relatives than among the general population. To test this, he invented the methods of historiometry. Galton obtained extensive data from a broad range of biographical sources which he tabulated and compared in various ways. This pioneering work was described in detail in his book Hereditary Genius in 1869. Here he showed, among other things, that the numbers of eminent relatives dropped off when going from the first degree to the second degree relatives, and from the second degree to the third. He took this as evidence of the inheritance of abilities.

Galton recognised the limitations of his methods in these two works, and believed the question could be better studied by comparisons of twins. His method envisaged testing to see if twins who were similar at birth diverged in dissimilar environments, and whether twins dissimilar at birth converged when reared in similar environments. He again used the method of questionnaires to gather various sorts of data, which were tabulated and described in a paper The history of twins in 1875. In so doing he anticipated the modern field of behaviour genetics, which relies heavily on twin studies. He concluded that the evidence favoured nature rather than nurture. He also proposed adoption studies, including trans-racial adoption studies, to separate the effects of heredity and environment.

Traits Associated With Nature & Nurture

Nature (Genes. factors that are inherited)

  • Physical Appearance

  • Personality

  • Intelligence Levels

Nurture (Environment, from what you experience)

  • Values

  • Attitudes

  • Political & Religious Beliefs

Circumstance & Timing

Where were you at approximately 11:23PM (GMT) on April 25th, 1986? "No idea and why" is what I might expect most of you to say. For the record, it was a Friday night. I was living at home in Shannon at that time and working at the nearby Molex plant. It was the year of my 21st birthday and I expect that I may have been out at a disco at Club Marché or Poldarks in Limerick or Fudpuckers, Nenagh (this was pre children and the responsibilities that this brings!).

Although it would be a number of days later that the world learned of this, at that time and on that date (it was 01:23AM on April 26th locally), a badly executed test at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Northern Ukraine was to change countless lives for generations to come.

Fatalities, as a direct result of the explosion, were reported as "very low" with just 2 dying on the night. Subsequent to the explosion and the emission of radioactive gasses to the athmosphere, more than 350,000 people were evacuated from the nearby city of Pripyat and the surrounding area.

The accident caused the largest uncontrolled radioactive release into the environment ever recorded for any civilian operation, and large quantities of radioactive substances were released into the air for about 10 days. This caused serious social and economic disruption for large populations in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. Two radionuclides, the short-lived iodine-131 and the long-lived caesium-137, were particularly significant for the radiation dose they delivered to members of the public.

The prevailing winds at the time of the accident were from the south and east, so much of the radiation plume traveled northwest toward Belarus. Nonetheless, Soviet authorities were slow to release information about the severity of the disaster to the outside world. But when radiation levels raised concern in Sweden about three days later, scientists there were able to conclude the approximate location of the nuclear disaster based on radiation levels and wind directions, forcing Soviet authorities to reveal the full extent of the crisis, according to the United Nations.

Within three months of the Chernobyl accident, a total of 31 people died from radiation exposure or other direct effects of the disaster, according to the NRC. Between 1991 and 2015, as many as 20,000 cases of thyroid cancer were diagnosed in patients who were under the age of 18 in 1986, according to a 2018 UNSCEAR report.

The investigation of the Chernobyl disaster was officially closed with the result that the personnel of the power plant did not follow the necessary safety regulations. The Director of the power plant V. P. Bryukhanov and the Chief engineer N. M. Fomin were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, the deputy chief engineer A.S. Dyatlov 5 years, the reactor room head A.P. Kovalenko and Power plant shift manager B. V. Rogozhkin 3 years and State inspector Y. A. Laushkin 2 years in prison. Paradoxically, the whole Chernobyl trial was held in the Chernobyl culture house, which was originally a synagogue. Events at the V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Plant were just the beginning of an aftermath that re-wrote not just the safety rules of nuclear energy, but also the history of mankind.

Born In Belarus

About 70% of the radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl disaster landed in Belarus, heavily contaminating 25% of the country, 20% of its agricultural land and affecting at least 7 million people. More than 2,000 towns and villages were evacuated, and about a half-million people have been relocated since 1986, according to Chernobyl International, a humanitarian organization with links to the United Nations. The group estimates that Chernobyl costs Belarus 20% of its annual budget.

According to a Greenpeace report, 1.1m people live in contaminated areas in Belarus and are being subjected to unsafe levels of radiation in both their food and their environments. TORCH-2016, an independent examination of the impact of the Chernobyl accident’s impact on people’s health conducted by British scientist Ian Fairlie at the instigation of the Austrian environmental organisation Global 2000, concluded that five million people, including one million in Belarus, are living in areas of high-level contamination. A further 400 million are living in areas of low-level contamination across the whole of Europe.

The "beautiful Belarus babies" in my story (and that are now part of my world) are mostly from the Brest Region of Belarus and live their lives in the Gorodishche Orphanage. There is no clear evidence that their physical or mental challenges are as a direct result of the Chernobyl explosion and its aftermath but . . . there is much denial and secrecy surrounding Chernobyl.

But what if all of this happened in a different place or at a different time.

What if our beautiful Belarus babies had been born free from deformity; sound of mind; at home with their families.

Who, then, might we really know?

Queen Татьяна

Татьяна Дюбихская (Tanya) is 19 years of age and is seen as the Queen of the karaoke scene in Minsk. She is known to frequent a wine bar (or two) on any given Friday or Saturday night (she goes other nights but really prefers that I don't tell you that!). She's an apprentice hairdresser right now, but this is to ensure that she has the cash to pay for her social life, and she's loving it.

Tanya moved to Minsk from a small village in the South West corner of Belarus, in the district of Brest. Her parents and younger sister were happy to see Tanya head to the big city and take up her college offer, studying Arts and Music was the plan. But less than six months in, Tanya discovered that the academic life was not for her and she jumped at the opportunity to take up the apprenticeship position in a busy salon in the centre of the city. No surprise here, Tanya was always going to be at the centre of everything and enjoying the best things that life can offer her (a far cry from the quiet life of home).

She's exceptionally talented and was a competitor in a National singing competition when she was just 16. Bright lights beckoned, but alas she was not chosen to compete at the National finals and her singing career was put on hold, at least for a while. For now, it's the Karaoke bars that get to hear her (and of course her gang/college friends! - better known as The Spice Girls).

Caring Лидиа

Лидиа Шунькина (Lida) started college in Minsk and got to know Tanya very quickly. A more opposite pair you could not meet, the outgoing karaoke Queen and the quiet and caring introvert. But I guess opposites often attract and Lida became part of Tanya's gang and was glad to be able to mix with such an eclectic mix of personalities.

Lida lived with her mother in Southern Belarus, she never spoke of her father, leaving home was a real struggle but her desire to pursue a career as a teacher in a special needs orphanage close to her home was her primary motivator. She has been a carer all of her life, she volunteered at every opportunity in her local village and was seen as someone who really only cared for other's needs (often neglecting her own needs as a result).

Most weekends are spent travelling back to her mother - "who'll mind her if I don't" are her usual parting words as she leaves the bright lights of the city each Friday.

She's a Spice Girl, but a reluctant one!

Brainy Василина

Василина Иванов (Vasalina) is destined for greatness. A published poet at just 15 years of age, her small group of college friends tell her that she will be the first lady President of Belarus (a poet and philosopher, just like the President of Ireland). She is the head of her year at the College and met Tanya in the first weeks of their first year there (Tanya was looking for Vasalina to campaign for music and dance events to be part of college life).

Vasalina has always been clever and she is intent on completing her Degree in Philosophy and Literature before starting her career as a lecturer (and continuing her voluntary role as a campaigner for democracy and justice in Belarus).

She never was a home girl, so the opportunity to move to the big city couldn't come soon enough. The eldest daughter of two teachers, Vasalina was pushed very hard to be a high achiever at school (her mother also worked part-time as an English translator for an organisation that was based in the city of Baranovichi in Brest).

Vasalina, despite her protestations, was formally inducted to the Spice Girls after she was elected as Year President with the help of her campaign manager Tanya.

Crazy Анастаси́я

Анастаси́я Новик (Nastia) is the wild one of the gang, she was constantly in touble but all in the name of good fun!. She is the glue that keeps the Spice Girls together, constantly badgering the others to become part of her next wild adventure!

But as she sees it, she has good reason to be the hell-raiser of the gang, she sees herself as a potential WAG (that’s a group of Wives And Girlfriends of the soccer elite in England). Nastia has been going out with Vanya since they were both just 14 (although she has always made it clear that she’s not “an exclusive” girl). Vanya, a talented soccer player from Nastia’s village, got a break at 16 and is now part of the Leeds United academy squad, not earning a lot but hoping for glory. And at that point of glory for Vanya, Nastia intends becoming “exclusive”.

The glue that holds the group together, Nastia moved to Minsk to study Business (although it’s clear to all that she prefers to study boys!). Her family are farming people and they have always dreamt that their first born would escape the country life and go on to become a great businesswoman, they hadn’t checked this with Nastia!

But for now she’s balancing a life that is part-time student, potential WAG, and full-time party organiser for her Spice Girls.

And So The Story Begins!