Evolution and medicine: the long reach of "Dr. Darwin"

Speaking of the Scientific Method, I came across this today and it seems worth sharing.

Niall Shanks and Rebecca A Pyles

Philos Ethics Humanit Med. 2007; 2: 4.
Published online 2007 Apr 3. doi: 10.1186/1747-5341-2-4


In this review we consider the new science of Darwinian medicine. While it has often been said that evolutionary theory is the glue that holds the disparate branches of biological inquiry together and gives them direction and purpose, the links to biomedical inquiry have only recently been articulated in a coherent manner. Our aim in this review is to make clear first of all, how evolutionary theory is relevant to medicine; and secondly, how the biomedical sciences have enriched our understanding of evolutionary processes. We will conclude our review with some observations of the philosophical significance of this interplay between evolutionary theory and the biomedical sciences.


The relationship between evolutionary biology and the biomedical sciences has not always been a comfortable one. …


Evolutionary biology is so firmly integrated with the rest of biology that it is not possible to mark a boundary between them. But modern medicine has been a peninsula. It is broadly and firmly connected with most regions of biology. . . but has just a few thin bridges traversing the gulf to evolutionary biology. …

After 1900, with the rediscovery of Mendel’s insights about the particulate factors involved in the inheritance of characteristics, genetics emerged as a science in its own right. Of crucial importance here are events occurring from the 1920s through the 1950s – a period that gave rise to what historians of biology know as the new evolutionary synthesis. Here ideas about genetics were fused with ideas about evolution. …


And so on, it’s a heck of a read, actually haven’t made it to the end yet, but from the first half I know the 2nd will get even more insightful - and I know that it’s something worth getting on the record over here.