A new study poses the question of whether or not we are culturally indebted to our genetics.

Photo: paulus68

New research has once again thrown a wrench in the “nature vs. nurture” debate.

Looks like scientists from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory found that when they isolated a Zebra Finch bird, taking away its ability to learn certain songs from an elder male relative, the songs still emerged all on their own.

Ok, they were a bit rusty at first, but within four generations, these songs were as perfect as the originals.

As Luke McKinney over at the Daily Galaxy said, either:

a) Cultural information can be genetically encoded or
b) Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has embarrassingly bad sound insulation.

I agree with his assertion that it is probably a.

What does this mean for humans, and to those who often tune into this blog: travelers? Does this finding implicate that we lack the ability to fully integrate into a new culture, either when we visit or decide to live in a new place?

Even though we are obviously influenced tremendously by what surrounds us on a daily basis (including by cultures other than our own), this might mean that we are simply coded to have certain belief systems and rituals no matter what is happening externally.

Free Will?

There is also the idea that each generation of the bird “worked” to perfect the imperfect song their isolated dad taught them. Sound familiar?

McKinney adds:

At every point, if you’ll forgive the outrageous anthropomorphization, [the birds] “thought” they were working it out for themselves while dancing to the genetic tune. That’s the kind of thing that would make you think very seriously about free will.

I often believe the drive that I have to travel, or dance, or write is solely my own and based on experiences I’ve had in my life. But in reality, am I just playing out the “song” of my ancestors?

Do you think it’s possible to fully integrate into another culture, or are we slaves to our genetics? Share your thoughts below.