The vast majority of doctors, nutritionists and other health care professionals possess very little knowledge about evolutionary theory and Darwinian medicine. This is not surprising, considering that most educational institutions haven’t opened their doors to Darwin and his evolutionary baggage. In the 150+ years that have passed since Darwin published his masterpiece On the Origin of Species – a book that revolutionized our understanding of life on Earth – the number of people who’ve recognized that Darwin’s theories are useful in medical contexts have increased progressively, and the sounds that derive from their knocking at the doors of the medical establishment have become louder and louder. Despite this, only a select few medical and nutritional institutions have opened their facilities and let the Darwinian medicine movement in; most have kept their doors shut.
Should the fact that most doctors, dietitians, nurses and other health care professionals know little or nothing about evolution concern us?
If you ask a random selection of people on the street the question above, you’ll probably get many vague and irresolute answers. You’ll probably also be met by many empty, questioning faces. Most of us have learned a thing or two about Darwin, natural selection, etc. in biology classes we had in school when we were kids, but this knowledge typically wastes away as we get older. Most adults know little about evolutionary theory and have never considered whether evolutionary principles may be useful in the prevention and treatment of disease. Hence, they don’t possess the knowledge that are needed to answer the above question and are in the dark as to the changes that Darwin and his evolutionary theories can bring to our health-care system. A lot of people just accept the status quo and live in the belief that our medical system works very well as it is.
Fortunately, not everybody drifts unquestionably along this current. A growing group of scientists, evolutionary biologists, clinicians, and also some laypeople have recognized that the paradigm that currently dominates in the world of medicine is unsolid. It isn’t firmly and securely anchored. It lacks evolutionary support. If you ask some of these people the aforementioned question, you’ll probably get very different answers from the ones you’d have gotten in the scenario described earlier. This time, the answers will probably be well thought through and firm, and you’ll probably be met by statements such as “Evolutionary theory can revolutionize our health-care system” and “Nothing in health and medicine gives meaning in the absence of evolutionary light”.
From the perspective of the average Joe, these assertions may perhaps seem quite extreme. From the perspective of those of us who are involved in the growing field of Darwinian medicine however, they seem neither radical nor crazy. In my opinion there is no doubt that a widespread incorporation of evolutionary principles into medical training and practice could transform the medical system.
Our current medical system is weak in the knees and lacks solid footing. By building fundamental evolutionary principles into its foundations, its bone structure will become a lot sturdier and its risk of fractures could be markedly reduced.
Medicine without evolution is like legs without feet
It’s nonsensical and borderline insane that Darwin has not yet been welcomed with open arms into the realm of mainstream medicine, seeing as his ideas could lift our medical system to a new and better niveau. Darwin and the people who’ve brought his ideas into the world of medicine and used them as a starting point for their work possess information that’s invaluable knowledge for doctors, nutritionists, and other health practitioners. The Darwinian movement carries a number of frameworks and models that can lift our understanding of health and disease. These evolutionary tools allow us to answer questions such as: What kind of diet are we humans best adapted to eat? How and why do cancer cells develop and spread? What can we do to reconstitute the human microbiome? Why has the global prevalence of many chronic diseases increased considerable over the past decades? How can we best go about treating acute, contagious diseases? What can we do to prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs? These and numerous other medical questions can’t be adequately answered unless one wears a pair of evolutionary glasses.
This is perhaps the most important medical transformation that evolutionary science can produce. Via the use of an evolutionary toolkit we can build good answers to deep questions and hammer our way out of difficult situations. With that said, it’s important to note that evolutionary tools aren’t just useful in theoretical/scientific contexts; they are also invaluable to have in clinical/practical situations. In other words, they can be used both to understand and practice medicine.
A good doctor or nutritionist doesn’t base his knowledge and practice solely on clinical research and training/experience, but on a combination of research, training/experience, and evolutionary health principles. Unfortunately, most people who work within the medical sector have never gotten a hold of a toolkit filled with evolutionary appliances; hence, they aren’t equipped to find evolutionary solutions to the challenges they face. There is little doubt in my mind that this is one of the main reasons why there is so much conflict and chaos within the world of medicine and why the modern man is in such poor health.
What does the future hold?
The field of Darwinian medicine stands firm on its own, largely separated from mainstream medicine. Mainstream medicine, however, does not stand firm on its own. The problem with not having principles of Darwinian medicine incorporated into the conventional medical system is that the average Joe doesn’t get the best health-care possible. Most people don’t know much about evolutionary theory and are never exposed to the science of evolutionary medicine. Moreover, a lot of people don’t take the time to read up on health and medicine for themselves; they just listen to their doctors. Hence, it goes without saying that it’s important to bring evolutionary health principles to the mainstream. Those people who’ve already discovered the power of Darwinian medicine might not benefit much health wise if this were to happen, but those who haven’t certainly may.
Hopefully, in a not so distant future, mainstream medicine will open its doors to Darwin, who’s been at its entrance knocking for quite some time.