New book on Darwinian medicine

I’d like to call attention to a new book on “Darwinian medicine” by my Chicago colleague Bob Perlman, an MD/Ph.D. in the Department of Pediatrics and Pharmacological Sciences. As you probably know, “Dawinian medicine” uses the principles of evolutionary theory to understand and treat disease.  The book, Evolution and Medicine, is published by Oxford University Press, and you can get it through Amazon or direct through OUP.

Here’s the Amazon precis, and you can see that there are several positive reviews on the Amazon page. You can also have a look inside and see the table of contents here.  It looks like a good text to use for a course on the topic:

Evolution and Medicine provides an accessible introduction to the new field of evolutionary medicine. Evolutionary concepts help explain why we remain vulnerable to disease, how pathogens and cancer cells evolve, and how the diseases that affected our evolutionary ancestors have shaped our biology. Evolution and Medicine interweaves the presentation of evolutionary principles with examples that illustrate how an evolutionary perspective enhances our understanding of disease. The book discusses the theory of evolution by natural selection, the genetic basis of evolutionary change, evolutionary life history theory, and host-pathogen coevolution, and uses these concepts to provide new insights into diseases such as cystic fibrosis, cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, and malaria. It incorporates the latest research in rapidly developing fields such as epigenetics and the study of the human microbiome. The book ends with a discussion of the ways in which recent, culturally constructed changes in the human environment are increasing the prevalence of man-made diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, and are exacerbating socioeconomic disparities in health. Just as evolutionary biology is concerned with populations and with changes in populations over time, evolutionary medicine is concerned with the health of populations. Evolution and Medicine emphasizes the role of demographic processes in evolution and disease, and stresses the importance of improving population health as a strategy for improving the health of individuals. Evolution and Medicine will appeal to all readers with a background or interest in medicine.

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  1. gbjames
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 6:13 am | Permalink


  2. Posted February 27, 2014 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    I’m continually amazed at the number of people who work in healthcare and refuse to accept the importance and implications of an evolution-based perspective regarding basic epidemiology. It pisses me off even more when I think of their educational background, tenure, income, and level of influence on their patients.

  3. Barry Lyons
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Another book in this vein that might interest you is “Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine” by Randolph M. Nesse and George C. Williams.

    • nikkilee1
      Posted February 27, 2014 at 7:38 am | Permalink

      Great book.

    • Peter Ozzie Jones
      Posted February 27, 2014 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      There is a review by Dr Hall @Science-based medicine, with interesting comments.

      As Dr Gorski points out there, it was published before we had the results of the Human Genome Project.

  4. nikkilee1
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the information, Jerry. I just finished Principles of Evolutionary Medicine by Gluckman, Beedle and Hanson, published by OUP. Terrific book. It’s available from Amazon:

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    This will go on my to-read list. It astounds me when I hear people who participate in a modern society and reap its medical benefits can still reject evolution.

  6. Greg Esres
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    I’ve seen creationists argue that doctors don’t need to know about evolution because it doesn’t help them fight disease. This book might have the ammo to help refute that notion.

  7. M'thew
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    This review on Amazon contains the following statement (bolding mine):

    The book is catholic in its scope, erudite, and clearly written.

    I had to snigger a little when I read that.

  8. charles
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Maybe the little girl in the infamous “Baby Fae” case would have survived had her doctors been more attuned to implications of evolution.

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 27, 2014 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      While familiar with that story, I’d totally missed the anti-evolution part.

      When asked why he had picked a baboon over a primate more closely related to humans in evolution, he replied “Er, I find that difficult to answer. You see, I don’t believe in evolution.”[2]


    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 28, 2014 at 4:37 am | Permalink

      “Baby Fae case” … news to me. Following your link. … Or perhaps so far in the distant past that I’d forgotten it. 1984.
      And they allowed people like that to practise medicine then? I’m not sure if that’s more bizarre than dangerous.

  9. Posted February 27, 2014 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, the book is called “Evolution & Medicine” but you refer to it as “Darwinian medicine.” Why? Is it because the book only discusses adapationist views of medicine?

    • Peter Ozzie Jones
      Posted February 27, 2014 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      Ah, so the dude on the front cover isn’t who I thought it was?

    • nikkilee1
      Posted February 27, 2014 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      He doesn’t refer to the book as “Darwinian medicine.”

    • nikkilee1
      Posted February 27, 2014 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, I see what you mean now, I thought you were speaking of the title, specifically.

  10. ammasbhavya
    Posted March 3, 2014 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Jerry and Nikkilee1 — I’ve added “Evolution and Medicine” and “Principles of Evolutionary Medicine” to my wish lists on IndieBound and Goodreads. With the thoughtful postings and reader comments, I’ve a lot to learn and am loving it!

    Posted March 30, 2014 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    I sent in my book review to THE MEDICAL POST, here in Canada, Oct. 2013 and am just now getting it published, March/April 2014: An Epidemic of Absence, by Moises Valesquez-Manoff – regarding the game-changer in Medicine – Gut Microbiome Modern Dysbiosis causing inflammation causing all the known auto-immune diseases. Germ theory had it’s day, now it’s a comeback for the ‘cow-shed’ human existence. Believe me, it’s a game-changer in my clinical practice of chronic pain/PTSD.

    thanks, DS

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