Monday, November 28, 2011


Despite the title, this post won't be about clothing, toys, or other such items. Rather, how much of our physical attributes, character, and personality do we inherit from our parents? And how much is learned or acquired?

It is obvious that looks, hair color, eye color, stature, health propensities, and other physiological traits are inherited. I and some of my siblings and children have always had a keen sense of smell, for example. This is not always a good thing, as evidenced by the frequent squabbles between my two younger brothers growing up when one couldn't stand the smell of the other's feet when they were in the same room. My son Daniel is ultra sensitive to lotion and perfume smells, which was a point of contention with his two younger sisters (nicknamed by him as losh1 (short for lotion) and losh2). My younger brother could even smell light vs. dark ("PU it's dark in here!" was the famous quote in our family). It was fascinating to learn my Walker cousins also have a keen sense of smell, which I discovered on a trip to Texas to visit them. So I assume this is passed down from my father.

Another trait I suspect comes from inheritance is a clean hands fetish I suffer from. For example, I can't stand the greasy hands resulting from eating chicken by hand, and I will get up from the table and wash them in the middle of a meal after doing so. Eating tacos is similar. If I eat a peach or orange by hand I suffer from the byproduct of sticky hands until I can wash them. My younger brother (who seems to have inherited all these things in extreme) would wash his hands for minutes several times per day. Perhaps he still does. If there is any task involving dirt or grime, such as working on a car or bike, or in the yard, I prefer to wear gloves if I can.

It would seem intelligence is inherited to some degree, though life experiences and application must affect it. Same with athletic ability, which will have an innate component as well as application. Language and accent I suspect are more learned traits. What about personality traits? What about our capacity for faith, or desire to do good? Different children in the same family can be so different.

I suspect controlled conditions have been observed where siblings, or better yet twins, have been raised in different families and environments, though I don't know the findings.


  1. I can't stand the feeling of icky hands. I even wash my hands in between cracking eggs if any of the goo gets on me, even if I'm just about to crack another egg. Oranges are the worst!

  2. Yes, egg goo must come off immediately, even though more might be applied in seconds.