Perspectives in Biology and Medicine

Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 45.2, Spring 2002


Science and Medicine

    Braun, Lundy.
  • Race, Ethnicity, and Health: Can Genetics Explain Disparities?
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    Subject Headings:
    • Health and race.
    • Ethnicity.
    • Human genetics.
      Over the past decade, numerous studies have documented profound racial and ethnic disparities in disease in the United States. This essay examines how popular and scientific concepts of race and ethnicity converge with dominant understandings of genetics to inform the design and interpretation of research, public health policy, and medical practice. Although there is some acknowledgment in the biomedical community that racial and ethnic categories are social and not genetic, ideas about race and ethnicity that circulate in biomedicine are contradictory. Thus, in practice genetic explanations for observed differences are common both in the scientific literature and in popular media accounts of biomedical research. Such explanations naturalize racial and ethnic difference and create a conceptual barrier to developing a research program that explores the complex ways in which social inequality and experiences of racial discrimination interact with human biology to influence patterns of disease. Importantly, genetically based ideas lead to disease prevention policies that are bound to be ineffective.
    Prothero, John.
  • Perspectives on Dimensional Analysis in Scaling Studies
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    Subject Headings:
    • Dimensional analysis.
    • Scaling laws (Statistical physics)
    • Life (Biology)
    • Body size.
      Scaling, as defined here, refers to the precise identification of those structural and functional aspects of selected systems that are size-independent, over some specified size-range. Small and large instances of such systems are said to be similar in respect to those aspects. Physicists and engineers have developed an elaborate methodology for identifying quantitative similarity criteria applicable to physical systems.These criteria are usually derived by dimensional analysis of physical laws pertinent to a given system. Knowledge of similarity criteria allows one to predict quantitatively the behavior of a large-scale prototype from measurements made on a small-scale model (e.g., in a wind tunnel). Numerous workers have sought to apply this elegant methodology to scale-up in biology. After briefly reviewing dimensional analysis, scaling, and modeling, as deployed in physics and engineering, this article discusses several well-known examples of their application to bioscaling problems (chiefly in mammals) and gives reasons for doubting their validity. It concludes that this methodology is unlikely to provide explanations applicable to scale-up in diverse species.

Ethics and Philosophy

    Montello, Martha M., 1949-
    Lantos, John D.
  • The Karamazov Complex: Dostoevsky and DNR Orders
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    Subject Headings:
    • Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, 1821-1881. Bratia Karamazovy.
    • Oe, Kenzaburo, 1935- Kojinteki na taiken.
    • Ethics in literature.
    • Do-not-resuscitate orders -- Moral and ethical aspects.
      Families making difficult end-of-life decisions in the intensive care unit often do not exercise their autonomy in accord with the individualistic philosophic and legal models that currently prevail. Instead, they try to avoid responsibility and deny complicity, even for decisions that they ultimately approve. This paper examines two novels and a recent case from a neonatal intensive care unit that reveal how people actually make tragic decisions for family members. Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov and Kenzaburo Oe's A Personal Matter explore the patterns of communication by which people in such situations test complicity and share or submerge accountability. The psychological similarities between the novelists' portrayals and the actual processes that families undergo in the ICU have practical clinical implications for the ways physicians approach discussions about do not resuscitate (DNR) orders with patients' family members.

History and Biography

    Gedo, John E.
  • The Enduring Scientific Contributions of Sigmund Freud
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    Subject Headings:
    • Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939.
    • Psychoanalysis.
    • Subconsciousness.
    • Emotions in children.
      Through the development of a novel observational method, Sigmund Freud made possible the collection of reliable data about man's inner life. The scientific hypotheses he formulated about these formed the initial version of psychoanalysis. Many of these first thoughts have had to be revised in the light of subsequent scientific findings about the operations of the central nervous system, but even these refuted propositions often had much heuristic value. Despite the passage of a whole century, many Freudian hypotheses have retained their scientific standing. Most important among these was Freud's realization that human thought is usually unconscious. His understanding of the role of the automatic repetition of basic patterns of behavior, of the fateful consequences of early childhood emotional vicissitudes in structuring enduring mental dispositions, and of the distinction between two distinct modes of thinking are the most significant among his many contributions.
    Kirkland, Kyle L.
  • High-Tech Brains: A History of Technology-Based Analogies and Models of Nerve and Brain Function
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    Subject Headings:
    • Nervous system -- Models.
    • Brain -- Models.
    • Electromechanical analogies -- History.
      This article reviews some of the technological devices and ideas which have been used over the years to answer the question, how does the brain work? It describes some of the early technology-based analogies and models of nerve fibers, and then discusses other analogies and models of the brain based on mechanical and electrical technologies. There are also short sections on cybernetics, telephone exchanges, and computers. Although all of these ideas are flawed to some extent, this article offers a brief argument on the usefulness of analogy and abstraction in brain science.
    Schwartz, James.
  • Population Genetics and Sociobiology: Conflicting Views of Evolution
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    Subject Headings:
    • Population genetics.
    • Sociobiology.
    • Evolution (Biology)
      This article explores the tension between the population genetics and sociobiological approaches to the study of evolution. Whereas population geneticists, like Stanford's Marc Feldman, insist that the genetic complexities of organisms cannot be overlooked, sociobiologists (many of whom now prefer to call themselves "behavioral ecologists") rely on optimization models that are based on the simplest possible genetics.These optimization approaches have their roots in the classical result known as the fundamental theorem of natural selection, formulated by R. A. Fisher in 1930. From the start there was great uncertainty over the proper interpretation of Fisher's theorem, which became confused with Sewall Wright's immensely influential adaptive landscape concept. In the 1960s, a new generation of mathematical biologists proved that Fisher's theorem did not hold when fitness depended on more than one locus. Similar reasoning was used to attack W. D. Hamilton's inclusive fitness theory. A new theory, known as the theory of long-term evolution, attempts to reconcile the rigorous population genetics approach with the long-standing sociobiological view that natural selection acts to increase the fitness of organisms.
    Crane, Conrad C.
  • "No Practical Capabilities": American Biological and Chemical Warfare Programs During the Korean War
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    Subject Headings:
    • Korean War, 1950-1953 -- Biological warfare.
    • Korean War, 1950-1953 -- Chemical warfare.
    • United States -- Military policy.
      Much controversy still surrounds accusations that American forces in the Far East during the Korean War used biological warfare against North Korea and China. An analysis of recently declassified documents reveals that, although the United States attempted to accelerate its development and acquisition of such weapons during that period, its efforts to create a viable biological warfare capability were unsuccessful. Plans to similarly expand chemical warfare stocks and capabilities were also frustrated. Technological difficulties, personnel shortages, bureaucratic battles between the armed services, and policy limitations combined to hold back advances in American chemical and biological warfare. In light of the recent fears of terrorist attacks with such weapons, this analysis highlights the great difficulties involved in developing, acquiring, and delivering such capabilities.

Medical Education and Practice

    Healy, David I.
  • Conflicting Interests in Toronto: Anatomy of a Controversy at the Interface of Academia and Industry
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    Subject Headings:
    • Antidepressants -- Side effects.
    • Suicide.
    • Academic freedom -- Ontario -- Toronto.
    • Science -- Moral and ethical aspects.
      In December 2000, the University of Toronto breached a contract it held with me, initiating a sequence of events that has led to a public letter to the University from a large number of senior figures in the psychopharmacology community, protesting against the infringement of academic freedom involved, and a first-ever legal action seeking redress for violation of academic freedom. This case has been intertwined from the start with a longer running debate about the possibility that the SSRI group of antidepressants may have the potential to trigger suicidality or other serious effects in a subgroup of takers. And this specific issue connects to concerns about conflict of interest in the domain of therapeutics, as well as in science in general, the ghostwriting of scientific articles, and a series of other hot-spots on the interface between academia and industry.

Culture and Society

Essay Reviews

    Zook, Douglas.
  • Symbiogenesis as a Partner of Mutation
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    Subject Headings:
    • Wakeford, Tom. Liaisons of life: from hornworts to hippos, how the unassuming microbe has driven evolution.
    • Symbiosis.

Book Reviews

    Roizman, Bernard, 1929-
  • Ahead of the Curve: David Baltimore's Life in Science (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Crotty, Shane, 1974- Ahead of the curve: David Baltimore's life in science.
    • Baltimore, David.
    Miller, Brian, 1948-
  • The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Flannery, Tim F. (Tim Fridtjof), 1956- Eternal frontier: an ecological history of North America and its peoples.
    • Natural history -- North America.
    Goedert, James J.
  • New Challenges to Health: The Threat of Virus Infection (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Smith, Geoffrey L., 1955-, ed. New challenges to health: the threat of virus infection.
    • Virus diseases -- Congresses.
    Ingram, Helen M., 1937-
  • Environmentalism Unbound: Exploring New Pathways of Change (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Gottlieb, Robert, 1944- Environmentalism unbound: exploring new pathways of change.
    • Environmentalism -- United States.
    Ford, Lincoln E.
  • Mechanics of Motor Proteins and the Cytoskeleton (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Howard, Jonathon, 1957- Mechanics of motor proteins and the cytoskeleton.
    • Cytoskeletal proteins.
    Tuteur, Peter G.
  • A Question of Intent: A Great American Battle with a Deadly Industry (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Kessler, David A., 1951- Question of intent: a great American battle with a deadly industry.
    • Tobacco -- Law and legislation -- United States -- History.
    Seaver, Paul.
  • History of Suicide: Voluntary Death in Western Culture (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Minois, Georges, 1946- History of suicide: voluntary death in Western culture.
    • Cochrane, Lydia G., tr.
    • Suicide -- History.
    Jucovy, Peter M.
  • The Moral Challenge of Alzheimer Disease: Ethical Issues from Diagnosis to Dying (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Post, Stephen Garrard, 1951- Moral challenge of alzheimer disease: ethical issues from diagnosis to dying.
    • Alzheimer's disease -- Moral and ethical aspects.

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