The nature/nurture question.
I sometimes doubt how relevant it is. For self-defense, in the moment of assault the reason the person is assaulting you, what led to his life of crime, is one of the least important pieces of information. When it comes to changing lives or preventing the problem it is important.
Maybe. It's popular to say that nature/nurture is a mix, that neither is definitive, that they interact. It's undeniably true, but also a cop-out. One of my favorite anthropology teachers unabashadly would say, "Nurture. You give a Masai newborn to Inuit parents and in twenty years you get a tall, skinny, black eskimo." It's very important, culture and upbringing. But there is a base, too.
I don't want to talk about just nature and nurture. There are a lot of things in human behavior that can have similar effects but completely different causes and, thus, different solutions. Almost every diagnosed Axis I mental illness has a personality disorder (axis II) that mimics it. Schizophrenia and schizotypal PD; OCD and OCPD. In the Axis I stuff, chemicals are out of balance. Something is broken. The Personality Disorders, by contrast, are pervasive patterns of behavior.
Which is more manageable? Changeable? The organic problems may be inborn, more a real part of the self than any behavior, yet someone with schizophrenia will do almost anything to be 'normal' and 'healthy' and an Anti-Social Personality Disorder will pervert almost any attempt to help him change, feeling perfect the way he is despite the wreckage of broken lives trailing behind him.
Essentially, you can have (almost) the same problem from two different directions. Where it comes from, nature or nurture; chemical imbalances or choices, might have little bearing on the effects, on how it damages lives. But it can have profound effects on how the individual perceives it and how, or if it can be treated.
Originally written on 23April08 right after Mental Health Team training