Epidemiology vs. Etiology

Over the last several years I’ve been digging into the science of cancer and systems biology, while at the same time looking at the epidemiology of disease and nutrition.  And the more I learn, the more I’m convinced that there’s a gap that our scientific tools and methodologies cannot account for.  While I’ve discussed this generally under the heading of Science 2.0 (also here), I’ve had a hard time putting into language the exact nature of the gap.

I’ve begun a series of posts that I hope will illustrate the gap, which I believe has to do with the fundamental difference between epidemiology (which is based on statistical observation) and etiology (which seeks to find causal mechanisms for observed phenomena):

Once I’ve completed these posts, I’ll attempt to explain the nature of the gap and what it means for the future of scientific inquiry.

  • Paul

    One very intriguing book you might enjoy is _Breast Cancer and Iodine_ by Dr. David M. Derry. His discussion is actually far more general than breast cancer: eukaryotes (organisms with nucleated cells) originally employed iodine to help kill prokaryotes, and then extended the function of iodine to become “the surveillance mechanism for abnormal cells in the body”. (Page 13)