Is Evolutionary Medicine a Valid Concept?

Not Harriett Hall, M.D.

Dr. Harriett Hall over at Science-Based Medicine has written a couple reviews of “evolutionary medicine” books.

Of the 2009 book, Dr. Hall writes:

Seeing everything in medicine through evolutionary glasses impresses me as more of a gimmick than as a clinically useful approach. Evolution clearly informs medical practice, but I can’t see the value of “evolutionary medicine” as a separate discipline and I can’t recommend this book.

 Her conclusion about the 1994 book:
I’m sorry, but I just don’t “get it.” Am I missing something? Am I just a contrary curmudgeon? Evolution is already an essential part of all science. Medical scientists already understand evolution and apply its principles appropriately. I didn’t see a single example in their book of any significant practical development in medical care that would not have occurred in the general course of medical science as it is commonly practiced, without any need for a separate discipline of “Darwinian medicine.” Evolutionary explanations, whether true or speculative, may satisfy our wish to understand “why,” but I can’t see that they have much objective usefulness.  Instead, they have produced at least one major annoyance: a movement that preaches to us how we ought to revert to the supposed diet of our ancestors (the Cave Man Diet, etc.).
My sense at this point is that evolutionary concepts do have a place in modern medicine, a role that has not been adequately explored and exploited.
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