I’ve talked at length about the importance of evolutionary science to medicine here on the site. Among other things, I’ve pointed out that evolutionary theory needs to be invoked to understand how we’ve come to be in the midst of war against an army of antibiotic resistant germs; what types of foods our digestive systems are well-suited to deal with; and why our bodies respond to noxious, inflammatory stimuli in the manner they do. One of the key points I’ve been trying to get across with these writings is that the applications of evolutionary science to medicine are mighty diverse. There are few, if any, medical conundrums that Darwin can’t help us solve.
Historically, this is something the medical community has largely overlooked. To this day, it’s still ignored by many; however, concurrent with the rise of evolution-based medicine, it’s gradually been making its way out from obscurity…
The broad scope of Darwinian medicine
Not so long ago, I put up a two-part article (part 1, part 2) here on Darwinian-Medicine.com in which I included a graph showing that evolution-oriented medicine has gained scientific traction as of late, with more and more papers related to the discipline being published every year. One of the things that makes this body of work unique is that the papers are highly diverse with respects to the topics and issues they cover; yet still highly homogenous with respect to the conceptual approach that’s at their core.
This is an anomaly in the context of medical research. Historically, medical researchers have had a habit of studying different diseases and organ systems in isolation, utilizing different approaches to each distinct challenge, which helps explain why medicine has become a highly scattered enterprise. Evolutionary science may change that…
This is clearly highlighted by the following quote, derived from a scientific article entitled Medicine in the Light of Evolution, which was published earlier this year…
… evolutionary thinking helps to understand and manage most health challenges in the modern world, including emerging infectious disease, evolution of antimicrobial resistance, aging, reproductive health, increasing prevalence of autoimmune diseases and immune function, obesity epidemics, threats to food safety and diet, neurodegenerative diseases, behavioral disorders and mental health, cancer, microbiomes, veterinary medicine, inflammation, among others. (1)
Other researchers (e.g., 2, 3, 4) have also made similar assertions regarding the importance of evolutionary thinking to medicine, which emphasizes that such ideas are gaining increased recognition and support within the scientific community.
The key point
Evolutionary science is unique in that it can help us understand and make sense of pretty much everything that has to do with biological beings, including all health and medical-related affairs. This is one of the key things that makes the evolutionary approach so appealing; it’s applicable to most parts of medicine. It’s not limited to just one or two
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