The culture of biomedicine, or allopathic medicine, explains health in the terms of biology. In biomedicine in the U.S., anatomy and physiology are the focus of optimal health, and other cultural approaches are seen as secondary (1). The concept of the culture of biomedicine is important to understand because it objectifies the approach to reveal underlying truths about the way health is viewed in western society. By taking this objective approach, individuals in medicine can look at problems and potential problems with the system more critically to improve the concept and attainment of health to the large U.S. population.
Dichotomy in general holds deep roots in human history and psychology. The human inclination to classify or define or put into categories arises from the ‘natural’ longing for comfort. The dichotomy nature/culture is one of the most ancient divisions since the beginning of humanity and society. Historically, during the neolithic era, societies formed around farmlands, and the hunter/gatherer way of life was more or less abandoned. With the emergence of the division of labor, culture emerged as a means to communicate with others and create tools for ease of living. Nature and nurture are a similar dichotomy. Nature is the biologically acceptable, Darwinian approach like survival of the fittest. The human capacity to love and care for others and to empathize takes over the actions of one human being to another human being. This is also a key difference between humans from many other animals in the animal kingdom.
This dichotomy, nature/culture, is regarded as true in western society because it separates savage (nature, chaos) from non-savage (culture, modernity, control). With this clean separation, the human brain can easily (and in a socially acceptable fashion) blame events that cannot be controlled as nature’s fault. For example, the development of a disease may be blamed solely on genetics and not on culturally influenced environmental factors.
(1) “Medical Anthropology Culture of Biomedicine.” Michigan State University Department of Anthropology. Viewed July 30, 2014.