Principles of evolutionary medicine
by Peter Gluckman, Alan Beedle and Mark Hanson
The evolutionary medicine community has long emphasized the need to teach evolution in relation to medicine to medical students. In their efforts to bring evolution into medical schools, advocates of evolutionary medicine encountered various obstacles. These ranged from the unwillingness of school deans to commit ‘precious’ curriculum time to a new, uninstitutionalized subject, to a general lack of appreciation, within the medical community , of contribution that the knowledge of evolution may make to medicine. One obstacle that received less attention was the lack of an appropriate textbook. The field of evolutionary medicine by no means lacks good book-length studies-starting with Randolph Nesse’s and George C. William’s now classic Why we get sick or the more recent Evolution in health and disease, edited by Stephen C. Stearns and Jacob C. Koella-but none was written with medical students, who will know something about human disease but in most cases very little about evolution, as target audience in mind.
This gap should be filled by the new textbook by Peter Gluckman, Alan Beedle and Mark Hanson, Principles of evolutionary medicine, published this month by the Oxford University Press. The aim of the book is to cover the basics of evolutionary biology and then explain how human disease could be understood from an evolutionary viewpoint. The book is divided as follows:
Part 1. Fundamentals of evolutionary biology
Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. Evolutionary theory
Chapter 3. The molecular basis of variation and inheritance
Chapter 4. Evolution and development
Chapter 5. Evolution of life histories
Chapter 6. Human evolution and the origins of human diversity
Part 2. Understanding human disease from an evolutionary perspective
Chapter 7. Reproduction
Chapter 8. Nutrition and metabolic adaptation
Chapter 9. Defence
Chapter 10. Social organization and behaviour
Part 3. An evolutionary framework for health and disease
Chapter 11. Evolutionary principles applied to medical practice
Coda. Evolutionary medicine and society
A more detailed description of the content is available on the book website: http://evomedicine.org/.
It is hoped that the book will be taken up by those teaching evolutionary medicine, and that it will provide a helpful argument to those who are trying to persuade medical schools to introduce a new course.