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Over the years, I've grown to learn that I'm thankful for all things the Lord has bestowed upon me, both in plenty and in want, as I know that even "times of testing" are tools He uses to refine our character and put us in position to better receive and appreciate Him and the good and abundant things He has for us, pressed down, shaken together, and over-flowing. It’s now 2012, a lot has transpired in the last 4 yrs., and I've developed my own photography business that stands on "Quality without Compromise." It's called Sandra Koster Photography, and you can find me at my website, and on Facebook, where I have both a Page and a Group by the same name. My Mission Statement: To bring to you and your families the essence of the moment, those treasures in time that are memorialized by the awesome invention of the camera. There is no part of God's creation, from the moon to the molecule, on land or under the sea, no animal, plant or bug too big or too small for my attentions. From inland, to the slopes of the Rocky Mountains, to the country, to the jungle, to the shores of the tropical seas I pledge quality work, without compromise.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Genetics and Societal Norms: Rising Above the Collision

Today, Thurs. Sept. 3, 2009 it came to my attention that on Sept. 8th, our President is planning an historic event to become the first president ever to address the entire nation's school children, K-12, via a live-feed. Upon researching into this matter just a wee bit, I stumbled onto this poster containing a partial quote by Michelle Obama. Between the poster art and the quote, I couldn't help but to think about a Research Paper I wrote back in 2005 for a Psychology class I was in, about Hitler, a historical figure who also sought to gain control over the minds of youth.

Ironically, while Obama's coming attempt is being linked to indoctrination and propaganda, as witnessed years ago, the subject matter of my paper, education, is the exact vehicle he is using to gain access into the hearts of our youth through the eye, ear and mind gates.

Proverbs 4:23 warns us, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." The John MacArthur Study Bible Notes explain that, "the heart commonly refers to the mind as the center of thinking and reason (3:3; 6:21; 7:3), but also includes the emotions (15:15,30), the will (11:20; 14;14), and thus the whole inner being (3:5). The heart is the depository of all wisdom and the source of whatever affects speech (v.24), slight (v.25), and conduct (vv.26, 27).

Here is my paper, which I hope you enjoy, but please don't plagiarize, and be warned about coming events.


Genetics and Societal Norms: Rising Above the Collision
Sandra J. Koster
Developmental Psychology

There comes a point in each of our lives when we must, as individuals, decide who and what we will become. Usually, a combination of our ancestry and the cultural elements in which we were raised will most influence the outcome of our decision. Our decision, initially perceived by us as insignificant in light of how it may benefit or harm, will have lingering, if not profound effects within our family, our community and even society at large.

Genetics and Societal Norms: Rising above the Collision will highlight two key historical figures: George Washington Carver, and Adolf Hitler. They were from diversely different backgrounds both genetically (nature) and culturally (nurture), that were diametrically opposed.

Both were men of great intelligence who were ahead of their time with their futuristic visions. Both overcame adversity, had loyal followers, and had financial backing for their specific causes, and yet, somewhere along the "global line", genetics and societal norms collided for each of them. Almost 65 years later, the repercussions from these collisions still shake the world, though, one for the positive and one for the negative. So, let's review the up-rearing of these two men and the overriding drive that propelled them forward in an attempt to answer the "why" that both lives presented.

First, we need to know how the Life-Span Human Development textbook defines the "Nature-Nurture Issue". They define it as, "the debate over the relative importance of biological predisposition (nature) and environmental influences (nurture) as determinants of human development" (Sigelman et al, 2006, p. G-9).

Despite the genetic makeup of the many differing people groups that make up this world, such as the African American, Semitic, East Indian, Asian, European, or Hispanic peoples, etc., the blood they were born with cannot be changed, does not devalue the individual and should not be discriminated against. Additionally, the culture in which each individual is raised also has certain "societal norms" within it based upon their belief systems, and these "norms" also have values which need to be respected as well. The environmental elements within each society influence the individual to either create or destroy, and become part of the fabric of who they are.

Or, as the developmental biologist Gilbert Gotieb has put forth in his modern
evolutionary-epigenetic systems perspective on development:

Development is the product of complex interplays between nature and nurture—that is, between interacting biological and environmental forces that form a larger system. . . .Environmental factors influence the activity of genes just as genes influence environment. . . . The message is clear: genes do not determine anything. They are partners with environment in directing organisms, including humans, along certain universal developmental pathways as well as in unique directions. . . . And there is no point trying to figure out how much of an individual's traits and behavior is caused by nature and how much is caused by nurture because genes and environment "coact." (Sigelman et al, 2006, pgs. 46-47).

With this perspective in mind, let's take a brief walk through the life of George Washington Carver before we review Hitler's life, and conclude with a comparison and contrast of the two lives.

George Washington Carver was born in 1864 and died January 5, 1943. Born to a slave mother, kidnapped by Confederate nightraiders, oppressed and persecuted his entire life for being born black, agricultural scientist, inventor and contributor to the wellness of all mankind, George Washington Carver is remembered today as a creative genius who developed more than 300 derivative food and industrial products from the peanut and more than 100 from the sweet potato. He overcame the barriers of racial prejudice and discrimination to achieve worldwide recognition as a man of science and a great humanitarian. "But he was also a man of deep faith who gave credit to God, “The Great Creator,” for all of his discoveries. George Washington Carver was truly a man of science and servant of God. He denounced the "White American" cultural thinking of the day that disbelieved that a black man could practice science. While it was also said that "science and religion" didn't mix, Carver never made a major move in his creative expertise without giving God the credit. He walked, talked, and communed with God, taking the time to see the beauty of the world around him each day, while he affirmed the value of each person he came into contact with" (Carver).

Carver was a humble man whose life emulated the principle of the Golden Rule in that, despite the hardships that he and his mother endured and never having known who his father was, he was able to put the pain of his afflictions behind him and instead choose to help others in need. He is quoted as saying, "The primary idea in all of my work was to help the farmer and fill the poor man's empty dinner pail. My idea is to help the 'man farthest down', this is why I have made every process just as simply as I could to put it within his reach" (Carver).

There is truth to the epitaph on the grave of George Carver Washington which says, "He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world." You see, Carver became well known throughout the world and he even "declined an invitation to work for Thomas A. Edison at a salary of more than $100,000. a year. Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Roosevelt visited him, and his friends included Henry A. Wallace, a vice president under Franklin Roosevelt, Henry Ford, and Mohandas Gandhi. Foreign governments requested his counsel on agricultural matters: Joseph Stalin, for example, in 1931 invited him to Russia to superintend cotton plantations in southern Russia and to make a tour of the U.S.S.R., but Carver refused" (Carver, 1990, p. 913).

"Regardless of his endearing qualities many people, including other scientists and some blacks, were still critical of him and suspicious of his references to God as a collaborator in the laboratory. For the skeptics, because of Carver's modesty, in conjunction with his eccentric dress and mannerism, and his attempt to live up to Christian teachings, Carver came off as unbelievable and he gave the impression that he disapproved the conventional pleasures and rewards of this life" (Carver, 1990, p. 913).

Yet, despite ongoing persecution throughout his life, including racial atrocities at a time when being black often resulted in being either hung or burnt alive, as well as the discrimination he suffered at the hands of his own people whom he spent his life trying to help, nonetheless, George Washington Carver chose to rise above it all and walk in integrity. He chose the higher, nobler path—not to hate, but to forgive. Or as Abraham Lincoln once said, "Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?" Carver turned what seemed to be obstacles into stepping stones on the path that God laid out for him. By his account, it was service that measured success, not money.

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the humanitarian spectrum and across the North Atlantic Ocean, during the same time frame that George Washington Carver was making his mark on the world through science, Adolf Hitler was rising to power on Germany's political scene. Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889 in Austria and died on April 30, 1945 in Berlin. He was the dictator of Germany from 1933 – 1945, Fuhrer, and chancellor. During his early life:

Adolf received a secondary education and, although he had a poor record at school and failed to secure the usual certificate, did not leave until he was 16 (1905). There followed two idle years in Linz, when he indulged in grandiose dreams of becoming an artist without taking any steps to prepare for earning his living. . . . His ambition was to become an art student, but he twice failed to secure entry to the Academy of Fine Arts. For some years he lived a lonely, frustrated and isolated life, earning a precarious livelihood…and drifted from one municipal lodging house to another.

Hitler already showed traits that characterized his later life: inability to establish ordinary human relationships; intolerance and hatred both of the established bourgeois world and of non-German peoples, especially the Jew; a tendency toward passionate, denunciatory outbursts; readiness to live in a world of fantasy and so to escape his poverty and failure.

In 1913 Hitler moved to Munich. Temporarily recalled to Austria to be examined for military service (February 1914), he was rejected as unfit; but when World War I broke out he volunteered for the German army and joined the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment. He served throughout the war, was wounded in October 1916, and was gassed two years later. He was still hospitalized when the war ended. . . . He greeted war with enthusiasm, as a great relief from the frustration and aimlessness of his civilian life. He found comradeship, discipline, and participation in conflict intensely satisfying and was confirmed in his belief in authoritarianism, inequality, and the heroic virtues of war (Hitler, 1990, p. 624-628).

Hitler was so anti-government and rebellious that he found great approval and voice among other dissatisfied former servicemen of the German Worker's Party, and from it the Nazi Party began. Hitler's "strong arm" squads liked to exploit violence for the impression of strength it gave, and any perceived enemy to the German Worker's Party became subject to their self-imposed disciplinary measures. "Behind Marxism Hitler saw the greatest enemy of all, the Jew, who was for Hitler the very incarnation of evil, a mythical figure into which he projected all that he feared and hated" (Hitler, 1990, p. 624-627).

Once in power, Hitler proceeded to establish an absolute dictatorship. "As dictator, Hitler then turned his attention to foreign policy and World War II (1939-1945). His "new order" for Europe called for indiscriminate extermination of whole peoples; the Jews of Europe were the most numerous among victims of the barbarism. Hitler retreated to the chancellory in Berlin in January 1945 and, in the face of impending defeat, committed suicide" (Hitler, 1990, p. 950-951).

So there we have it, Hitler was a disillusioned psychopath until his very last breath, and his fears and insecurities drove him to such a crazed state that he tried to enlist the services of the world to murder all those individuals he thought to be inferior. His view on genetic makeup collided with his belief system in the most monumental way this world has ever witnessed. So what was the deciding factor between him and George Washington Carver, which made them into such distinctly different human-beings? Why did Carver retain a heart of compassion in light of his torments, whereas Hitler became increasingly embittered? What we do know, and Plato said it well, is that "Poverty consists not in the decrease of one's possession but in the increase of one's greed." Is it possible that despite Hitler's professed "Superior" bloodline of which he was a product, and despite his maniacal pursuits, what really determined his destructive life course was his pride and greed? Hitler's whole life revolved around focusing on him, his wants and his attempts to convince everybody else to embrace his demented way of thinking.

Carver, on the other hand, opted to think of others and sought to serve them throughout his life. His focus was upward, his action was outward, and his reflection was inward, and he emphasized the individual worth of a single person, regardless of race, religion, status or creed. He constantly denied himself for the better of mankind, and when he departed this earth, he left it a better place. He gave sound and timeless advice when he said, "How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these" (Carver).

In conclusion, what have we learned about the influences of genetics having an overriding effect on our developmental psychology? Will genetics predetermine our course in life or are we simply predisposed to certain traits? What about our environment? Does poverty and hardship conclusively determine that we are destined to remain in such a state? Or is what we become in life still our decision afterall? I'd have to close in citing The Declaration of Independence on this matter as the answer to all the above questions, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" (Congress: 1776, 1989, p. 699-702).

Happiness, well-being, who we become, character and integrity, are all attributes that we have the power to control and direct in our life, regardless of circumstances. Herman Spertus summed up this individual choice well in his opening letter in The Holocaust Chronicle when he said, "Of all the virtues we bestow upon ourselves and others, one of the greatest is education. The educated person has learned to be empathetic to the origins, needs, and feelings of others. Education fosters tolerance and the capacity for love—the love for one's family, and for the greater human family that includes us all. . . . And so by learning and teaching, we aspire not just to knowledge but to compassion and understanding. We make ourselves whole" (Harran, Kuntz, Lemmons, Michael, Pickus, & Roth, 2000, p.12).

As the history books present it, George Washington Carver excelled in the education he fought for and attained, whereas Hitler did not. Therefore, if education were the determinant as to why these two men's perception on life was so different, perhaps Hitler should have spent less time worrying about genetics and more time promoting higher education. What a different world we'd have today if that were so.


Carver, G. C. (1990). George Washington Carver. In Encyclopeadia Britannica (Vol. 2, pp. 913). Chicago: Encyclopaedia of Britannica, Inc..

Carver, George Washington. "The Tuskegee Years." Day of Discovery.
Sky Angel Network. Grand Rapids. 12 Feb. 2006. Broadcast. 12 Feb. 2006,
from http://www.rbc.org/dod/information/program.php

Congress: 1776, . (1989). The Declaration of Independence. In . New York Public Library & Stonesong Press, Inc.(Eds.), The New York Public Library Desk Reference (pp. 699-702). New York, NY: Webster's New World.

Harran, Kuntz, Lemmons, Michael, Pickus, & Roth, . (2000). The Holocaust Chronicle. 1st ed. Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, Ltd..

Hitler, A. (1990). Hitler. In Encyclopeadia Britannica (Vol. 5, pp. 950-951). Chicago: Encyclopaedia of Britannica, Inc..

Hitler, A. (1990). Hitler. In Encyclopeadia Britannica (Vol. 20, pp. 624-628). Chicago: Encyclopaedia of Britannica, Inc..

Sigelman, C., & Rider, E. (2006). Life-Span Human Development. Fifth ed. Belmont,
CA: Thomson Wadsworth.