Most people look at my research and see self-experimentation. I see a new way to understand diseases of wealth (often called diseases of civilization). We get sick because we live differently than our long-ago ancestors. Self-experimentation is powerful enough to sort through the thousands of differences between modern life and long-ago life to find those that matter.
In an experiment about the value of circadian rhythms to chipmunks, Patricia DeCoursey, a professor of biology at the University of South Carolina, found that their value was revealed by stress created by wealth:
In one experiment she discovered that chipmunks without an internal circadian clock appear quite normal at first. They can survive in optimal conditions; during the first year after their internal clocks were disabled, “predation by weasels was minimal,” she says. But then the chipmunk population increased strikingly due to two successive years of abundant acorn crops in the forest. The weasel population also increased, following the growth of the chipmunk population. Under these more crowded conditions, the restless nighttime movements of the arrhythmic chipmunks in their burrows clued the weasels in to their locations, and predation increased dramatically. The weasels killed all but four of the 100 chipmunks in this population.