The acorn will inevitably produce the oak tree and it will grow true to its pattern. All seeds and cells will do likewise. Still if the acorn is planted in good soil, where it is properly nourished and in a spot where it is sufficiently sheltered, the tree will be more likely to become large and symmetrical, than if it is planted in poor soil or in an exposed spot.
In one sense heredity is the seed, and environment the soil. The whole structure and pattern and inherent tendencies and potentiality are in the seed and cannot be changed. The child has nothing to do with its early environment during the period when impressions sink the deepest and when habits are formed. It is then that the meaning of facts is interpreted. At this time the child is fashioned by the teachings and environment in which it is placed. As the child receives its first impressions, and all along through its development, it is forming habits from those about it. These habits come to be strong, dominating forces in its life. Very few people, if any, can trace definite views of conduct or thought to their conscious effort, but these are born of their structure and the environment that formed their habits after birth.
The fact that an individual’s political and religious faith depends almost entirely on his place of birth and early youth, shows the strength of environment in forming and shaping opinions and beliefs.
As the child grows and develops, it is influenced by all that surrounds it. The human machine moves in response to outside stimulation. How it will move depends upon two things, the character of the stimulant and the machine to which it is applied. No two machines will act exactly alike from the same stimulus. Sometimes they act in diametrically opposite ways. For instance, under the same stimulation, one may run and another may fight, depending perhaps on the secretions that the ductless glands empty into the blood.
No machine can act except according to its make-up. Even an ignorant person, who finds that the same stimulant produces different results on different machines, would know that the structures are not the same.
Endless discussions have been devoted to the relative importance of heredity and environment in human conduct. This is a fruitless task. In a sense, each one is of supreme importance in the outcome of a life. It is obvious that some structures are so perfect that almost no environment will overcome them. Instances of strong men developing out of poor environment are not rare. Many of these may be subject to doubt as to whether the heredity caused the strength, for the smallest particle of luck at some special or vital time may make all the difference possible in the outcome of a life. While some heredities withstand a poor environment, others are so poor that, no matter how good the environment, the machine cannot