Skip to Content

Martin D. Jaffe, MD

Martin D. Jaffe, MD

The Jaffe Symposium on Security and Scarcity

An exciting, cutting-edge conference took place on October 5-6, 2017 on the interdisciplinary science of security and scarcity. 

Funded by a generous gift from Dr. Jaffe, and with support from the Evolution and Human Adaptation Program at the University of Michigan, the Jaffe Symposium on Security and Scarcity was designed to create an interdisciplinary dialogue on the psychological and biological consequences of security versus scarcity. Both are broadly construed to include phenomena from early developmental conditions across species to financial decisions in human adults. The conference included speakers from a diversity of perspectives and methods, including economic inequality, life history theory, childhood adversity, attachment theory, neuroendocrinology, and animal behavior, with an eye toward uncovering connections across areas. The goal was to create a unified conceptual platform that introduces attendees to high quality research on how security versus scarcity promote unique and adaptive life strategies on the basis of evolved biological and psychological mechanisms.

To promote participation and greater dialogue, this academic conference was open to the public and featured engaging, accessible TED-style talks. The conference started on Thursday, October 5 at 4pm with an evening reception and plenary lecture in East Hall. Friday, October 6, was devoted to presentations, which were recorded and made publicly available.

Dr. Jaffe completed both his undergraduate degree and medical training at the University of Michigan, and then pursued a career in Internal Medicine in Bay City, Michigan. Since retiring from practice, Dr. Jaffe has written extensively about the fundamental role of security in human and mammalian evolution and psychology. His writings explore several topics, including the role of seeking and benefiting from security in human cognition, moral reasoning, decision-making and politics. Dr. Jaffe, and his wife of 61 years, have four children, ten grandchildren, and a great grandson, whose mother, grandfather, and great grandfather, went to UM Medical School. Of the nine members of his immediate family who trained in medicine, seven attended medical school at Michigan.

When asked what inspired him to make a gift to support this symposium, Dr. Jaffe responded, “I am a ninety-year-old inquisitive guy who retired eleven years ago from the practice of internal medicine in Bay City, Michigan in order to pursue full time what turned out to be a simple but amazingly revolutionary and productive idea. Four years earlier I had happened upon the idea that natural selection only selects for adaptations that increase security, so that everything about us is aimed at increasing our security. When I investigated this hypothesis, I discovered that security is the basis of our beliefs, belief systems, and of all of our behavior. To that end, in 2010, I authored The Primal Instinct: How Biological Security Motivates Behavior, Promotes Morality, Determines Authority, and Explains Our Search for a God and subsequently have revised and further developed the ideas presented in that book in a series of essays placed on my website: www.mdjaffe.com."

This stimulating symposium on this fast emerging theme in the sciences explored themes of security and scarcity through presentations by scientific researchers from across the nation.

Visit the Jaffe Symposium on Security and Scarcity Website.