[SydPhil] title/abstact for Paul Griffiths Dept Seminar

Brian Hedden brian.hedden at sydney.edu.au
Mon Sep 21 10:17:45 AEST 2015

Hi all,

Here is the title and abstract for Paul Griffiths' (Sydney) department seminar talk this Wed, Sep 23 from 1-2:30pm in the Muniment Room, Quadrangle Building, University of Sydney:

Holding pathology hostage

In The Biological Foundations of Bioethics (2015) Tim Lewens states that the concept of pathology should not be “hostage to evolutionary enquiry”. In this talk I disagree, and discuss some ways in which recent advances in biology ought to change ideas about about health and disease.  First, traditional biomedical thought is at least insufficiently sensitive to the fact that each stage in an organism’s life-history is adapted to the particular needs of that life-stage. Children are more than ‘immature’ adults and ageing is not merely a failure to stay young. Second, the role of adaptive phenotypic plasticity in the new DOHaD (developmental origins of health and disease) paradigm implies that phenotypic differences can reflect different trade-offs that organisms have made with their limited developmental resources. Whether a phenotype is dysfunctional needs to be assessed in light of the overall strategy reflected in that and other phenotypes of the individual. Moreover, since individuals respond to the varied environments in which they find themselves by developing different phenotypes (on multiple timescales) the question of whether a phenotype is dysfunctional depends on the environment with which the organism is trying to cope. The health of an organism and the quality of its environment are entwined conceptually, as well as causally.

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