College Of Arts And Sciences | Darwinian Medicine
E105 | 0211 | Jamison, P


Darwinian medicine may be defined as the application of modern
evolutionary theory to considerations of human health and illness.
Also called “evolutionary” medicine it represents the intersection of
medical knowledge and practice with disciplines such as human
biology, medical anthropology, psychology and physiology. This course
will begin with an examination of both the evolutionary and medical
explanatory models for human health and illness. It will proceed
through a series of topics designed to show the breadth of impact
that evolutionary theory may have on our lives today. A persistent
theme will be the difference between proximate or immediate causes of
disease (the medical model) and the possibility that there may also
be ultimate or very long-term causes best understood through an
evolutionary interpretation. One goal of the course is to demonstrate
the utility of the scientific method in suggesting answers to complex
questions such as mentioned above. How do scientists from diverse
disciplines use data to support their arguments? What does it mean to
test an hypothesis? A second goal of this course is to try to
emphasize those situations and conditions of health (or illness) that
appear to require both proximate and ultimate explanations rather
than simply one or the other. In reality, it is the complex interplay
of genes, environment, and human behavior that affects much of our
health and illness experience today. A third goal of this course is
to reduce the fear or uneasiness that many students feel towards data
(numbers) that appear in tables or graphs in material that they are
reading. We will devote time to the presentation and discussion of
data and how the numbers can be interpreted and used to bolster or
challenge an argument.