When I was first introduced to Darwinian medicine, AKA evolutionary medicine, many years back, I was led to believe from reading about the discipline that: 1) It encompasses a number of different concepts and theories pertaining to the origins of disease. 2) It’s mostly of theoretical use. It has little practical/clinical value. Over time, however, as I began to thoroughly explore the fascinating world I’d discovered and apply evolutionary wisdom to mental investigations of issues related to health and disease, I came to realise that I’d been misinformed.
First of all, I recognized that while it’s true that Darwinian/evolutionary medicine is a broad enterprise that holds a number of concepts and theories pertaining to the reasons why disease exists, one concept is a lot more important than the rest. The concept I’m talking about is obviously the evolutionary mismatch concept, which I’ve talked at length about here on the site. I came to realise that there are close ties between organismal health and reproductive success in Darwinian evolution, and that most diseases and health problems can be understood on the basis of mismatch theory.
Second, partly as a result of the former realization, I recognized that Darwinian medicine is of tremendous practical use. This really goes without saying, because if something can help us make sense of why we get sick, it can obviously also help us make sense of what we need to do to prevent and treat illness.
In the infographic below, I’ve illustrated these basic ideas, with the purpose of neatly and concisely summarizing the core concept of Darwinian medicine as I see it.