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BRIEF PROPOSAL INDIVIDUALITY AND BIOLOGY ROGERf. WILLIAMS* This communication is intended for those who teach biology or any ofits branches or write textbooks in these fields. Most students and most biological scientists have a direct or indirect interest in applying biological knowledge to human health and welfare, and what I have to say is pertinent to this interest. In the evolution ofbiological science it is obvious that generalizations have played and will continue to play an exceedingly important role. The temptation to overgeneralize is ever with us, as Stuart Chase has ably pointed out, and yielding to it is nowhere more apparent than in connection with the concept of"normal" man. Human biology as a science need not be concerned exclusively with averages and normals, especiallyso sinceeveryindividualwouldprobably exhibit, ifenoughparameters were measured, a substantial number of striking disconformities. Whenever we apply biological knowledge to human beings, we deal with individuals, because all human beings possess individual characteristics. Tools have become available in recent years which make possible the study ofindividuals in a sophisticated manner and their classification with respect to their various health and other problems in far more useful ways than merely placing them in the two grand categories "normal" and "abnormal." Human biology will certainly develop the use ofthese tools for this purpose, and expertness in this area will be recognized. Individuality in its innumerable aspects has become a matter ofprimary interest to me in recent years, as is reflected in Biochemical Individuality (New York: John Wiley & Sons) and more recently You Are Extraordinary (New York: Random House). It is disconcerting for a generalization-loving biologist to accept that "normal" individuals often exhibit tenfold or even one hundred-fold différences in some parameters, but these are facts that need to be faced if biology is to be successfully applied. Many students are attracted to biology and its branches because ofits potential applications to the human scene. For their sakes I make a plea that the role ofindividuality be openly considered and discussed in every book on biology—and in every course—including those in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, psychology, and anthropology. With a reorientation ofthinking along these Unes will come many advances. Biology will take on a "new look," and its importance and its pertinence to human problems will become more generally evident. * Department of Chemistry, Clayton Foundation Biochemical Institute, University of Texas, Austin. 162 Rogerf. Williams · BriefProposal Perspectives in Biology and Medicine · Autumn 1968 ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
p. 162
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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