Darwinian medicine has the potential to transform our medical system and health. This is something more and more health professionals and scientists have started to recognize, as evidenced by the fact that an exponentially increasing number of papers and studies related to this emerging medical discipline have been coming down the scientific pipeline over the most recent years.
At present, not that many books devoted to Darwinian medicine have been published; however, there are some out there. In this post, I thought I’d list some of the ones I’ve read and like, as well as a few that I haven’t read, but that I suspect are informative, in the hopes that more people discover the magic of Darwinian medicine. I’ve mentioned some of these books in the past; however, others are brand new additions to the site.
On the Origin of Species: The Illustrated Edition
The book that started it all. For a long time, I kept this book directly beside my bed, and I often took it up late at night to do some reading and look over some of the beautiful pictures that are found in it. I think a lot of people, in particular people who aren’t that interested in natural sciences, will find Darwin’s seminal work somewhat intricate and tedious. That doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t enjoy this book though. One doesn’t have to read the whole thing to get something out of it. Moreover, the book is filled with magnificent pictures, both of Charles himself and of various creatures found in nature.
Not all of Darwin’s postulates have stood the test of time in the face of scientific scrutiny; however, the fundamental evolutionary theories he presented in On the Origin of Species have. We now know that he was basically correct about how evolution work, in the sense that modern science has confirmed that natural selection is a chief principle by which ecosystem change occurs.
Part of the reason why I feel drawn to Darwin’s work is that I like the way he approached science. Darwin was a cautious and meticulous man; he didn’t have a habit of jumping to rash conclusions, but rather gradually built his ideology and theories over long periods of time. Moreover, he always tried to look for patterns in nature, so as to locate universal laws and principles.
Evolutionary Medicine and Health: New Perspectives
This is a book I read during the summer of 2017. I enjoyed it. In particular chapter 18, which is written by Christopher W. Kuzawa and covers concepts related to the developmental origins of health and disease, is interesting. I don’t agree with every statement and assertion the authors of the book make, and I think more attention should have been devoted to certain things; however, all in all, I think it’s a good book.
One of the things I really like about Evolutionary Medicine and Health: New Perspectives is that it’s health-oriented. In it, you’ll find plenty of tips as to how you can improve your health and well-being, at least if you manage to read between the lines. That’s not always the case with books and papers on Darwinian/evolutionary medicine. Some authors appear to operate under the belief that evolutionary theory can help illuminate the causes of disease, but that it doesn’t really have much practical or clinical value. As I’ve pointed out many times here on the site, I’m of a very different belief. Actually, I would go as far as to say that the therapeutic potential of Darwinian medicine is profound! It really goes without saying that if something sheds light on why we get sick, it can also help us make sense of what we need to do to not get sick 🙂
Principles of Evolutionary Medicine
This is another interesting book on Darwinian/evolutionary medicine. Chances are you’ll find many of the authors’ statements and theories both intriguing and thought-provoking. The book is perhaps a bit more technical than Evolutionary Medicine and Health: New Perspectives; however, the language is not so scientifically advanced as to be incomprehensible to the average Joe.
One of the intriguing aspects of this book is that it’s written by a trio of very experienced medical professionals. In particular Peter Gluckman deserves to be mentioned in this regard, as he’s written a number of scientific papers, as well as a couple of books, on topics related to evolutionary health and medicine.
The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease
This book, which I came across some years back, is so good that I actually read it two times, almost with no break in-between. I highly recommend it! It’ll teach you a lot about evolution, in particular how the human body evolved into its current state and how recent environmental changes have affected the way we live our lives, as well as our health and well-being. If you’re only going to read one book on the list, then my recommendation is that you choose this one.
With that being said, I think it’s important to note that my health & fitness ideology doesn’t completely align with Daniel Lieberman’s ideology. I take issue with some of the statements I’ve seen him make, particularly ones related to the merit of basing one’s diet and lifestyle practises on Darwinian investigations into the way of life of our Paleolithic ancestors.
Food and Western Disease: Health and Nutrition from an Evolutionary Perspective
The book market is filled to the brink with Paleo books, many of which contain recipes for dishes created on the basis of evolutionary nutrition principles. There aren’t that many books out there that explore the Paleolithic nutrition concept from a scientific angle though. Staffan Lindeberg’s book is a notable exception. In the book, the late Dr. Lindeberg looks into how the human diet has changed over time, as well as how these changes have affected our health.
Personally, I found the first part of the book to be the most interesting. I have to admit that I started skim-reading when I got to the sections where he talks about the role nutrition plays in various diseases. That doesn’t mean that those sections are bad though; it’s just that I found them a bit tedious. Nevertheless, I’d say that the book is well worth a read. Particularly people who are deeply interested in nutrition and want to broaden their horizons should consider picking it up.
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration
Weston A. Price’s masterpiece is arguably one of the most important books on health and medicine that has ever been written. The key reason why I hold this belief is that it details the lives of traditional, non-westernized people, many of whom belonged to groups that are now extinct. Price opened and looked through a window into our evolutionary past, portrayed by people who were still adhering to certain ancient diet and lifestyle practices. This window is now about to close as a result of the disappearance of societies unaffected by modern industry and technology, but partly thanks to Price, who captured and preserved what he saw though the window, we can all still get a glimpse of what things were like in the past.
Some of Dr. Price’s beliefs regarding health and nutrition have been shown to be flawed; however, that’s not particularly surprising, seeing as not that much was known about health and nutrition back in the early 20th century, which is when Price conducted his travels. At least not compared to how much we know now. Much of the information about nutrition and health that we now have access to was generated via scientific examinations conducted after Price’s death. Nevertheless, the core of Price’s work has remained intact. His message to the world is arguably even more relevant today than it was 100 years ago.
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration is not a light read. Chances are you’ll find certain parts of the book to be too detailed or complicated for your liking; however, as with the illustrated edition of On the Origin of Species, it’s rich in captivating photos, as well as a lot of thought-provoking information, so chances are you’ll get something out of it nonetheless.
Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine
This is the book that brought the term Darwinian medicine into the world. It’s written by two of the pioneers in the field. Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine was published several decades ago; hence, it’s obviously not up-to-date with the latest science on health and medicine. Moreover, I think it’s important to point out that my approach to Darwinian medicine differs in several respects from the one that’s presented in the book. With that said, the book is undeniably a notable part of the history of Darwinian medicine. If you want to understand how the field originated, then you need to read this book.
And somewhat off-topic: Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training
As you probably gather from the title, this book is not specifically about Darwinian medicine. I felt like including it nonetheless, as I think it’s a good book that people who are into health and fitness should consider reading (In particular people who want to get into, or who are already into, strength training). Moreover, it could be argued that it touches on topics that have to do with medicine, in the sense that the author, Mark Rippetoe, talks at length about ideal human movement patterns. Not to mention the fact that exercise is undeniably a sort of medicine.
I first read Starting Strength (3rd edition) many years back, as I was first starting out as a personal trainer. I found it very interesting, and I learned a lot from it. Most importantly, it helped me gain a better understanding of various technical aspects of the squat, deadlift, press, bench press, and power clean, which are heavily featured in the book. I certainly don’t agree with all of Rippetoe’s statements and claims regarding nutrition and exercise; however, nobody can deny that he knows a lot about barbell training and human anatomy. I really like his no-bullshit approach to strength training!
You may also want to read…
Below is a selection of books that I haven’t read, but that I feel deserve to be mentioned nonetheless. All of the books cover topics related to Darwinian medicine. Chances are you’ll find them interesting and thought-provoking.
Note: If you decide to purchase one or more of the books via the affiliate links provided in this post, you’ll be supporting Darwinian medicine, as we’ll receive a small percentage of the sum you’re charged for the books. There’ll be no extra costs for you. Thanks for your support!