A book. By the name 'Why We Get Sick' (1) caught the medical establishment by surprise, since it spreads some unorthodox ideas, like 'sickness can be good for you' (2), 'fever, nausea, and running nose' are defensive measures and should not be treated as such‘ or : 'much of clinical medicine relieves people's discomfort by blocking defenses.'
Darwinian (or evolutionary) Medicine studies medical problems in light of the Theory of Evolution. It attempts to understand what might be the benefit of disease. Disease cannot be entirely negative since it includes also defensive mechanisms, and these, according to Darwinism, evolved (3). We ought therefore to distinguish between disease trigger and defense. Treatment ought to support defense:'Fever is a defense that protects against infection. The low iron levels associated with infection are the body's way of keeping iron away from invading bacteria. Nausea and vomiting and diarrhea are useful ways to rid the body of infection and toxins. The nausea that accompanies pregnancy discourages the mother from eating toxic substances that may harm her baby. . . . . Much of clinical medicine relieves people's discomfort by blocking defenses like fever, pain, nausea and diarrhea.' (4)
'Genes that cause disease usually turn out not to be simple mistakes. Many offer a benefit, like the sickle cell gene that protects against malaria, or a tendency to gout that may delay aging. The gene that causes cystic fibrosis may protect against death from dehydration.' (4).
Organism anticipates diseases
Hitherto such statements were made only by ‘alternative medicine’. Now this 'heresy' makes its way into academic medicine. Long ignored ideas, like Healing force of Nature (5), or that the organism has a wisdom, are interpreted from the perspective of Darwin's theory of natural selection. And since Darwin is respected by academia, the refurbished concepts threaten to be incorporated into the medical dogma. Throughout evolution human kind encountered a variety of diseases, and learned how to handle them. Today’s organism is better equipped to deal with disease than previous generations, otherwise it would not have survived. Organism anticipates diseases. This is the medical interpretation of Darwin's 'Survival of the Fittest.' However, long before Darwinism caught the attention of medicine, doctors realized that our organism is 'the best among physicians' (6). It has a wisdom, called here Wisdom of the Body (WOB) (7). It seems as if Darwinian Medicine has hardly any new ideas to offer.
Darwinian Medicine proposes that descriptions of disease in current medical textbooks omit a crucial section - an evolutionary explanation for why humans are vulnerable to this disease. Yet it fails to explain why did the natural selection process fail to select genes that improve our capacity to resist cancer and arteriosclerosis . Questions like 'What is the utility of cough, fever and anxiety?' bring back Aristotelian teleology (8). Medicine does mot accepts such suggestions.
Since the ideas introduced by
Darwinian Medicine have been with us for ages, it seems as if Darwin’s
theory has very little to offer to our understanding of disease. Evolutionary
biology is a historical science. A guessing game about how we think evolution
worked in the past on humans (9).
Medicine does not need Darwin
in order to realize that our organism is 'the best among physicians'.
1. Nesse R., and Williams G. “Why We Get Sick”: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine, Vintage Books. 1996
2. Nesse R.. Sickness can be good for you
3. Zajicek G. What is a disease? The Cancer J. 4: 5: 296,1991
4. Nesse R. What is Darwinian Medicine ?
5. Zajicek G. Healing force of nature The Cancer J. 8, 1,1995
6. Zajicek G. The Normal and the Pathological The
Cancer J. 7: 2:48-49,1994.
http: // www.what-is-cancer/papers/NormalPathological.html
7. Zajicek G. Medical significance of WOB
8. Zajicek G. Four Causes of Disease
G. Decline of Darwinism The Cancer J. 10, 1
http: // www.what-is-cancer/papers/DarwinismDecline.html