Email from H.G.

Subject: nature or nurture?
Professor Cashmore: I recently stopped off in the late twentieth century and had the opportunity of reading the fourth edition your book Making Sense of Sports in which you make reference to the Back to the Future films and venture to imagine what sports might have been like in 1880. Before we continue, I should perhaps point out that in 1898, I wrote a book entitled The Time Machine, which was popularly thought to be a work of fiction.  You are probably already anticipating that this was not the case: it was based on factual experience. I was visited by a time traveler who had constructed an appliance capable of carrying her through the fourth dimension of time and who kindly allowed me to journey with her, at first to the year 802701, where I made the observations that were recorded in my book.You can understand why I was so confident about my various predictions, such as lasers, which I describe in The War of the Worlds (which was published in 1898), genetic engineering, which I portray in The Island of Dr Moreau (1896). When I wrote The First Men in the Moon (1901), people thought it was science fiction. You’ll have to wait awhile to see – or not see – the inspiration behind The Invisible Man (1897).I have undertaken voyages into the distant future, when the sun no longer shines, and to what is, to you, the recent past. All of which leads me to the point of this communication: why are you still agonizing over what seems to me an unanswerable question: are we products of nature, or are we shaped, influenced, perhaps even determined by our environments? People have been struggling with this since the days of Plato (429-c.347 BCE). There’s no such thing as nature, plain and simple. And, in order to talk about an environment, you have to have surroundings and conditions that promote growth and development, and these are ultimately parts of the natural world, aren’t they? So maybe the whole nature versus nurture argument is based on a fallacy. Try thinking in terms of nature through nurture and see where this line of argument gets you. I’ll write to you again soon, next time with some observations from the future. I’m especially interested in how people, in the late nineteenth century, started to struggle against each other in what seemed a fruitless pursuit of pointless goals. In the 20th century, you called it sport. And in the 21st century, you became almost obsessed by it. Anyway, enough for now. More on this subject to come.
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