Ask Eirik: How Did You Become Interested in Darwinian Medicine?

dna-manYesterday I was interviewed by an Italian friend of mine who I came in contact with through his comments here on the site. Like me, he’s an evolutionary health aficionado and a proponent of Darwinian medicine. One of the questions I was asked as part of the interview – which is to be published on an Italian health/fitness website – was how I got interested in evolution-based nutrition and lifestyle concepts. I think that was a good question that at least some of the readers of this site may want to hear my answer to. For that reason, I decided to create this edition of Ask Eirik, in which I intend to briefly describe how I got interested in Darwinian medicine.

My answer:

In my adolescence, I started getting increasingly more interested in health and nutrition. At that time, I was doing a lot of sports, and starting from the age of 15-16, I also began lifting weights multiple times per week. Besides being very physically active and concerned about what I put in my mouth, I developed a deep interest in the theoretical aspects of nutrition and fitness, an interest that largely arose because I wanted to optimize my workout results and build a fit body. Also, more importantly, I was looking for ways to improve my health, which had started to markedly deteriorate in my late teens (In retrospect I realise that this was largely because I was adhering to a species-inappropriate diet and exercise regime).

My practices and beliefs at the time were shaped by conventional wisdom regarding what constitutes a healthy diet and a good strength training program. Over time, though, it became increasingly clear to me that the approach I was following wasn’t getting me where I wanted to go. I had built up a strong, muscular body and looked pretty fit; however, I didn’t feel like I was on top of the world health wise. Far from it.

In retrospect I realise that one of the primary reasons I clinged to the species-inappropriate diet and exercise regime I adhered to back then for so long is that was completely submerged in a pool composed of dogma, myths, and conventional wisdom pertaining to health and nutrition. It took quite some time before I fully acknowledged this fact and started swimming towards safer waters.

One of the things I discovered as I started reading up on nutrition and health is that that the belief system that fitness websites, official health authorities, and the mainstream media had installed into me was highly flawed. Moreover, I recognized that I had made a lot of stupid mistakes health/fitness wise.

When I delved into the science on health, medicine, and fitness I eventually stumbled upon scientific papers and blogs written by various evolutionary thinkers. This information acted as a gateway into a new world; a world that was very different from the one I had lived in previously. Suddenly, things that I had never been able to make sense of made sense and I found answers to questions that had long been nagging in the back of my mind. Most importantly, I found a system that helped me understand how the world hangs together.

Over time, as I’ve become more knowledgeable about evolutionary science and Darwinian medicine, I’ve had to acknowledge that our current medical system is royally messed up. There is no conceptual framework in place that guides clinicians and researchers in their work. Moreover, mainstream medicine overlooks and fails to address the two major causes of chronic illness. The drug-centric, symptom-suppressing approaches that dominate our modern health care system emerged out of a faulty understanding of how the human body functions. Perhaps needless to say, mainstream medicine, as it exists today, does get some things right. Unfortunately though, it also gets a lot of things wrong, at least in my opinion.

As I see it, the biggest issue by far is that conventional medicine/nutrition is largely devoid of evolutionary science. This is extremely worrying, seeing as it’s impossible to understand why organisms look, behave, and function as they do if one doesn’t possess knowledge about the evolutionary processes that shaped the world. Moreover, it’s impossible to understand why organisms are vulnerable to disease.

I can’t emphasize enough how important evolution is to medicine. It’s very concerning that the nutritional/medical establishment doesn’t recognize that evolutionary theories and concepts are integral to medicine/nutrition. From the perspective of a Darwinist such as myself, who sees the world through evolutionary glasses, modern medicine looks very disfigured.

The only reason I discovered the world of evolutionary health is that I grabbed my traveling cloak and went out to look for ways to improve my own health. It wasn’t until I ventured into corners of PubMed that are far outside of the mainstream’s field of vision that I found what I was, perhaps unconsciously, looking for. I learned nothing about hunter-gatherers, Darwinian theories, or Paleolithic nutrition in school. Moreover, I learned very little about the human microbiome and the symbiotic relationships that exist between different organisms.

It’s long past time that these things are brought out into the open 🙂

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Comments

  1. Modern medicine not only looks disfigured, it IS disfigured. That’s partly because it has, by and large, stopped being about health and has become mostly about profit. Once upon a time, here in the US, doctors made house calls and dispensed more common sense than drugs. Often they got paid in trade rather than money. They actually wanted to help people get well and didn’t care if they didn’t get rich. Those days are long gone. Now most physicians just want to dispense drugs and get paid, whether they actually help the patient or not. Neither they nor the pharmaceutical industry see any reason to change things.

    The thing is, the body will either heal itself or it won’t. Medical treatment should, first and foremost, assist the healing process in as natural a way as possible–NOT just dispense often-toxic drugs that only treat symptoms while creating a raft of other problems (euphemistically known as side effects). In fact, I’ve personally found the medical profession’s attitude regarding potentially deadly side effects to be so cavalier that it’s absolutely astounding.

    I think that if the government were to institute a system whereby payment is based on merit (successful outcome, in other words, rather than treatment that costs a lot of money but either doesn’t help or makes one worse), then we might see a much stronger interest in Darwinian/evolutionary medicine.

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