All Things Considered 'Identical Strangers' Explore Nature vs. Nurture
The debate over the role of nature vs. nurture has raged between scientists of all fields for close to a century. It was with Gregory Mendel's earliest work in 1866 that first changed the debate, introducing new ideas about what would become genetics. With Mendel's observation of certain "factors," later known as genes, being passed on from parent to offspring in his studies on the heredity of pea plants. With this work the debate over how much of our development should be attributed to our genetics and how much should be attributed to our external environment really began. NPR did a story in 2007 on a set of identical twins that were separated at birth, reuniting 35 years later when they finally found out they had a twin. These twins had been separated at birth as part of an identical twins study in the 1960s and 70s, something that would be looked at as highly unethical now. With the developments in ethical standards in scientific studies, psychology experiments especially, it is now not allowed to separate siblings of any kind. This study, performed by Peter Neubauer, a child psychiatrist, was in his words, "Beautiful. It's practically the perfect study." In many ways it was just that, a study where two individuals with identical genetic code would be raised with different environment factors influencing them would allow us to learn so much about our genetic code. But because of the new ethical developments in the field studies like this can no longer happen and the results of this study are to be held confidential until 2066. Neubauer's lack of remorse, demonstrated by his responses and he still has not apologized, shows just how powerful he thinks an experiment like this can be in developing knowledge around genetics. The important question has to be raised, just how far should scientists be allowed to go? There will always be those looking to advance the field and sometimes the best way to do that is by doing experiments that are unquestionably unethical, this is why it is important to have these codes in place, even though it may slow our research efforts.
Here is a slide show documenting the story of identical twins separated at birth, Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein finally reunited at age 35.