Biology and Health

The Physical Basis of Mental Illness.  Ronald Chase (Prof Emeritus of Biology, McGill U).  Piscataway NJ: Transaction Publishers, Oct 2011, 166p, $39.95.   The roots of current thinking about mental illness lie in philosophical dualism promoted by Rene Descartes in the 17th century.  Chase argues that the mind-body dualism is outdated and misleading, and some form of physicalism is more likely to help us understand mental illness.  Faulty brain development is the fundamental cause of all mental illness.  Faulty brain development is the fundamental cause of major mental illness.  Genes combine with environmental influences to produce changes in brain structures and functions.  (HEALTH * MENTAL HEALTH)
Bioethics in the Age of New MediaJoanna Zylinska (Reader in Communications, Goldsmith’s, U of London). Cambridge: MIT Press, April 2009/240p/$30. The paramount bioethical issue in an age of digital technology is the transformation of the very notion of life; a new “ethics of life” is proposed, rooted in the kinship between the humans, animals, and machines.
Addiction: A Disorder of ChoiceGene M. Heyman (Lecturer in Psychology, Harvard Medical School). Cambridge: Harvard UP, May 2009/176p/$26.95. Argues that the conventional wisdom about addiction as a disease and a compulsion beyond conscious control is wrong; just as there are successful dieters, there are successful ex-drug addicts; indeed, addiction is the psychiatric disorder with the highest rate of recovery.                                       (HEALTH * DRUG ADDICTION)
More Than Genes: What Science Can Tell Us About Toxic Chemicals, Development and the Risk to Our ChildrenDan Agin (Emeritus Associate Prof of Molecular Genetics, U of Chicago and columnist for Huffington Post). NY: Oxford UP, Dec 2009/256p/$27.95. Adding to the nature-nurture debate, it is argued that the fetal environment can be just as crucial as genetic hardwiring or later environment in determining intelligence and behavior. Stress during pregnancy and environmental toxins leads to IQ differences in racial/ethnic groups.
What Is Addiction?  Edited by Don Ross (Prof of Economics and Philosophy, U of Alabama-Birmingham) and three others.  Cambridge MA: The MIT Press, March 2010/464p/$40pb.  The image of the addict in popular culture combines victimhood and moral failure, but scientific knowledge about addiction tends to undermine this cultural construct.  Leading addiction researchers discuss various questions: 1) is addiction is one kind of condition or several?; 2) is it neurophysiological, psychological, and/or social? 3) to what extent are addicts responsible for their problems? 4) is addition determined by inheritance, environment, or both?; 5) how does this affect health and regulatory policies?
Against Health: How Health Became the New Morality.  Edited by Jonathan M. Metzl (Assoc Prof of Women’s Studies and Psychiatry, U of Michigan) and Anna Kirkland (Assoc Prof of Women Studies and Pol Sci, U of Michigan).  NY: New York U Press, Nov 2010/240p/$22pb.  Health is a concept, a norm, and a set of bodily practices assumed to be a monolithic, universal good.  The way health is culturally configured and socially sustained can render individual strivings for health difficult.  Unpacks the divergent cultural meanings of health, explores the ideologies involved in its construction, and presents strategies for moving forward suggesting new ideologies and alliances.
Next Medicine: The Science and Civics of Health.  Walter M. Bortz II (Assoc Prof of Medicine, Stanford U). NY: Oxford UP, Dec 2010 /348p /$24.95pb.  A physician with 50 years of experience and an expert on aging argues that the financial interests of biotech and drug companies have eroded the values of the medical profession and placed profit before human wellbeing.  Prescribes a new approach to medicine that emphasized personal responsibility and provides incentives for healthy lifestyle choices, with a new class of medical professionals trained to promote health rather than treat disease.
The Grey Zone in Health and Illness.  Alan Blum (director, Cultures and Cities Centre, York U; Canada).  Intellect Books (dist by U of Chicago Press), Sept 2010/304p/$60.  Argues that our current understanding of health care tends to posit it as a state of permanent emergency., with a focus on medical advances and costs.  Advocates “a complete rethinking of health and sickness, self-governance and negligence.”                                 (HEALTH * ILLNESS RECONSIDERED)
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