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PERSPECTIVES IN BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE Volume VI - Number 2 · Winter 1963 EDITORIAL: WHAT ARE THE BIOLOGICAL BASES OF SUPERIORITY? Ifwe review evolutionary biology in which failures and mistakes were as much a part ofnature as progress, and ifwe reflect on the complexity of the human body, the occasional superiority exhibited is as remarkable and challenging to explain as the ways nature has gone awry. Superiority is more than the absence ofpathology. We commonly classify living things as ill or well, but the qualities of health are multidimensional,just as are pathologies. Biology and medicine are more concerned with the study ofdisease than ofhealth, the weak than the strong, feebleness of mind rather than creativity, and with short life rather than longevity. There have been a few studies on the physiology of the superior athlete and a moderate amount ofattention has been given to the superficial biological correlates ofgenius. Centenarians are commonly interviewed by newsmen to reveal their secrets for achieving old age, but there is only a small body of information on the biology of longevity. Why do some individuals live out their lives without experiencing any of the common ailments? It is known that genetic endowment and nutrition are important, and knowledge ofinborn and acquired immunities is growing rapidly. And, then, superiority is sometimes related to pathology. Early acromegaly is sometimes linked with superior strength; virilism in the female with exceptional athleticperformance; happiness may represent the euphoria ofmental disease; and creativity may be accentuated by the neurotic state. Although we have objective measures ofstrength, speed, skills, longevity , intelligence, etc., there are other qualities ofphysique and intellect that 153 are more difficult to measure, and individual differences in some qualities that are measurable cannot be classified as "superior" and "inferior." How do we define and measure happiness, creativity, altruism, etc.? When the study ofhealth and superiority is approached positively with the aim to understand the dimensions ofeach, the outcomes should be as rewarding as the studies ofdefects and disease. D.J.I. THE SWAN Full rich magnificence ofmanor park, With lovely ladies strolling to and fro, Surrounds the pond on which the swans embark, And proves the swan an avian furbelow. Alone he is a big-billed, crow-like thing, A bird I would not meet without a club, A crook-necked goose no poet can make sing, Whose wings, when used, are only used to drub. Let others sing about its stately grace, Who think a duckling ugly, unworthwhile, Until they look a cob full in the face, Then watch a mother duck and ducklings smile. The swan is but a symbol-bird at best, While ducks are swans no poet has caressed. Franklin C. Bing 154 Editorial · What Are the Biological Bases ofSuperiority? Perspectives in Biology and Medicine · Winter 1963 ...


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