Biological Approach

I believe that the biological approach to medical anthropology is the most practical due to its scientific basis and lack of political opinion relative to other approaches.  The biological approach is rooted in the science behind genetics, how the environment affects humans, and an individual’s choices.  When studying a science, I believe that is important that the topic be explained in a matter that is not up for debate, when possible; the biological approach seems to do the best job in eliminating opinion from scientific descriptions.


As defined for this course, the difference between illness and disease is that one is based on human experience and the other is based on human environment, respectively.  Originally this distinction was not obvious to me because I had mentally defined these words in a different manner, but when I stopped to think about these new definitions they started to sound more and more reasonable.  This distinction was not obvious to me from the beginning because I had always defined illness as a broader description of someone who was sick, and disease was a more narrow description of what the actual sickness was caused by.  However, when looking through an anthropologist’s point of view, these new definitions make more practical sense.


Miner is referring to the culture of Americans in his article.  When he mentioned the chopping down of a cherry tree, I immediately knew that the story sounded too familiar to not be referring to George Washington.  I went back to the beginning of the article and realized that he had reversed the word “American” to refer to our “tribe,” and had done the same thing with “Washington” when describing our “culture hero.”


Miner’s description of Americans visiting the dentist made the visits sound like a waste of time, and a form of cruelty that people are willingly submitting themselves to.  In reality, visits to the dentist are very beneficial because of a dentist’s ability to recognize and halt decay.  A dentist is also able to help prevent nerve damage by warning a patient if his wisdom teeth are coming in incorrectly.  So as gruesome as Miner described a visit to the dentist, it is undeniable that Americans have come to realize the value in maintaining a healthy mouth.


Miner describes visits to the hospital by Americans in a way that belittles one’s intelligence.  In today’s society, people are well aware that humans die every day in hospitals, but they also recognize that humans are being cured in hospitals simultaneously.  Americans have come to value hospitals because of the rational belief that one should continuously fight to stay alive.  Even though Miner may be trying to insult a hospital’s choice to reject patients without health insurance, this does not take away from the fact that it is a rational business decision to turn down a customer who is unable to pay.  Miner simply proved that Americans are willing to go to great lengths to become healthy, and they value their education enough to require payment.

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