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.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Lindsey Green says:

    Nature versus culture it important for clinicians to understand because these two factors affect health and growth in individuals. Nature includes your parent’s genes, what you ingest, and your own genes. Differences in your genes and internal issues can influence how clinicians treat you. Based upon your parents you can have dormant diseases or chromosomal deformities. This differentiates from cultures that have affects on the human body in many ways. Culture has to do with outside sources. This could include the environment you live in, what you put into your body, who you spend time with, etc. These outside sources can cause diseases and illnesses. Clinicians need to know the differences between these two dichotomies because both have different treatments. It is true that these two dichotomies have a lot of grey area. Many cultural factors are overlapping with natural factors when dealing with diseases and illnesses. Cancer for example could be hereditary but factors of natural causes have been proven to also cause cancers. This dichotomy between nature and culture needs to be understood very well because people’s lives are at stake. Potential implications they take are the obvious ones like your background, family history, medical history on you and your family members.

  2. Laceey Ruble says:

    Entropy is something people fear, we often like to pick up all the disorder and place it into neat little boxes. I agree that, in order to hide from this fear, we create dichotomies to place more order into our lives. However, these dichotomies are often false and may lead us astray from the larger picture. Nature and nurture are important compartments of our lives that clinicians should understand in order to provide holistic health care. I believe it is important for clinicians to look and health as nature and nurture rather than nature verses nurture. Some examples of health factors from lecture are genetics, politics, environment, culture, and individual choice. If a clinician failed to address a few of these influences and merely focused on nature or the biological aspects of illness they may be missing out of the root cause and the treatment for the illness. One can look at diseases of poverty as an example of how illness in influenced by both nature and nurture. For example, tuberculosis has genetic components that influence the development of the infectious disease, but someone is at a much higher risk if they are living in poverty. Therefore, it is crucial for clinicians to understand how illness has an array of factors in order to provide and improve treatment.

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