Three Identical Strangers | Reflections

“I believe nature and nurture both matter. But I think nurture can overcome nearly everything.”


The quote above sums up quite well the principle conclusions of this fascinating documentary, and the perspective shift that the film is encouraging us in taking. I’m philosophically dubious, however, that “nurture can overcome nearly everything,” at least, not in one generation. The quote belies the overall message of the film that there is very little that can be concluded, and that we are all still making very generalized, anecdotal, and biased judgments.

Even while I say that, there are a few emotional and mental guides that could be substantiated, and paradoxically comforting:

  • It seems appropriate to talk about the particulars of the human condition when it comes to nature/nurture, rather than talking about universals. In other words, “temperament” and “personality” are categories perhaps more greatly affected by genes while “attachment” and “mood” are perhaps more greatly affected by environment.
  • What you do as a parent still matters. (See my notes from 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting, by Laurence Steinberg.)
  • What you worry about as a parent doesn’t matter all that much. “95% of all parenting is managing one’s own anxiety.”

In addition, there appears to me to be something of an impossible anthropological (spiritual?) impasse, in that studying humans requires a level of inhumanity which is, in and of itself, compromising. Perhaps that is the question. Can we study ourselves without being inhumane? Should we? It may be that the uniqueness of our species is that we are designed/intended to be a mystery to be loved rather than a puzzle to be solved. Yet, how would we know this outside of the studies we have done?

In the end, this is one of the most intriguing and engaging stories on human behavior, ethics, and psychology. Here’s to October 25, 2065, when the Twin Study will be released.

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