04 April 2011


A while ago I discovered that a girl who works for us is part of a pair of identical twins. What was more interesting is that she is living in Norway as an expat doing a technical job, like most of her peers she has bachelor and masters degrees. She spends her free time mountain biking and hill walking. She is unmarried. Her identical twin married at 18 and never went to university. She lives in their home town (a parochial place in the north Midlands) with her kids and has a mundane, dead end job. She is utterly disinterested in the outdoors and is over weight.
This contrast is fascinating; here are two people with the same genetic make-up and the same home environment (nature and nurture) who are diametrically different. I asked when the divergence had happened and she told me that they had been very similar up to secondary school and then they had been put into different classes and diverged from there.

Is it really possible that that something as mundane as a different class at the age of 11 could make such a huge difference? It’s an extreme example of chaos theory where a subtle change in initial conditions has caused a totally different outcome. What are the implications of this for the rest of us? I actually find it rather scary.

The girl told me that she thought it was not due to that at all. She felt that despite being identical twins there were subtle differences in their genetic makeup that had lead to such different paths in life. This way be true but if it is then it means that all the nature vs nurture experiments where twins are separated at birth, put into different environments and then compared are meaningless. If this pair of twins with the same home environment had been split up at birth it would have been an obvious, but erroneous conclusion that the different environments had caused the differences in development and lifestyle choice.

There is no conclusion to this piece, its just an interesting observation which perhaps has implications for how we consider the nature vs nurture argument and the possible role that very small changes in our life can lead us down massively different routes

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