Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How is Darwinian Medicine Useful?

When I think of the evolution of disease and other complications that have accumulated over time, I have always thought of these issues as harmful to the human population. In the article How is Darwinian Medicine Useful, written by Randolph M Nesse, these ‘complications’ have actually been the product of Natural Selection within the populations in order to benefit human survival and the overall increase in reproduction. For instance currently there is an obesity problem in the United States stemming from a craving of sweet, salty, and fatty foods and unwillingness to exercise. According to Nesse, these characteristics of humans have come from our origins in Central Africa where these foods were rare and full of energy and thus were consumed in large quantities when found. Also our ancestors had to walk for long periods during the day to find food so any excess exercise had to be conserved in order to survive. Human diseases and their characteristics have also been categorized as ‘human imperfection’. Symptoms of diseases like coughing and a fever are not the body’s way of breaking down but its evolutionary attributes developed in order to keep the human body healthy. These responses are not problems themselves but represent the body's attempt to remedy a problem. That’s why modern medicine is needs to work with these symptoms so as not to block them but to help the course of the disease. Every flaw within us has some evolutionary purpose that has been developed over hundreds of thousands of generations and is continuously being selected for over the future generations. There are many reasons why our body has never stopped evolving One important reason is that natural selection does not influence organisms for better health or longer lifetimes. Instead its main goal is to maximize reproduction, even at the expense of a shortened life span. So over the years there have been some diseases that benefit fecundity but may bring about an uncomfortably short lifetime. Therefore it is important to work with Darwinian medicine to look at the past and present courses of diseases and the evolutionary paths it has taken to get there. Then, after answering those questions it is important to look into a way of guiding these diseases to extinction.

Posted by Celina Keating (1)


  1. I do not think a disease can go extinct, but lay dormant and possibly evolve. Everything relates back to history/ancestry in some form or another.

    Sunni (1)

  2. I don't think every "flaw" has an evolutionary "purpose", although it may have an evolutionary past (i.e wisdom teeth or the appendix, vestigial structures).

    Unrelated, you may want to align your post to the left margin instead of center to make for easier reading.

    Joseph Starrett (3)