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Saturday, August 10 • 11:30am - 12:10pm
The Tinbergen Legacy in Ancestral Health: Why Medicine Needs the Ultimate Level of Analysis

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In 1973 Nikolaas Tinbergen was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his contributions to the discipline of animal behavior. Tinbergen’s contributions were especially profound and lasting because in addition to experimental work in behavior, he—echoing Aristotle’s Four Causes—outlined the so-called “Four Questions” approach to understanding why living things exist. Two of the Four Questions involve “how” organisms come into existence, and most current biomedical understanding involves how questions: genetics, gene expression, metabolic pathways, signaling systems, physiology, etc.

What is often missing in biomedical science, however, are the “why” questions—why is the organism exhibiting this trait?; is this part of normal, though sub-optimal, functionality?; is this symptom an adaptation, or a byproduct?; is this disease due to faulty mechanisms, or are the mechanisms operating outside the evolutionary norm, and thus due to mismatch?

This talk will argue that a Four Questions approach can improve medical understanding.

avatar for J. Brett Smith

J. Brett Smith

Ph.D. Student
With degrees in biology and philosophy from the University of Alabama, Brett worked for a decade as an aquatic biologist with the Geological Survey of Alabama. While working long but enjoyable hours in the field, Brett maintained an interest in personal health and kept abreast of... Read More →

Saturday August 10, 2019 11:30am - 12:10pm PDT
West Ballroom B