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Medical Microbiome Research and Its Parallels with Galenic Medicine
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Associate Professor Maureen O’Malley (School of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Sydney) will examine some of the problematic concepts in microbiome research from a novel angle. Human microbiomes (the microbial communities in human bodies) have been linked to every bodily and mental illness that exists. Many of these connections are weak or contradictory, in part because of limited conceptual development in the field.
Based on her work with Laura Sumrall (Wollongong), Prof. O'Malley will show the surprising conceptual parallels that exist between medical microbiome research and the ancient Western medical tradition developed by Galen in the second century CE. His tradition bases its diagnoses and treatments on the four humours (yellow and black bile, phlegm, blood) and subscribes to notions of health that are now considered outdated in modern medicine. The parallels include shared commitments to balance, omnicausality, teleological function and holism.
Professor O'Malley will offer some general explanations for why these parallels might exist in microbiome research and not other areas of medical research, and then focus on their implications for microbiome science research and its applications, but also try to consider more broadly about what philosophers should make of such historical parallels, and whether they can truly help understand what’s going on in contemporary science.