Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine Paperback – Jan 30 1996
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Is our tendency to "fix" our bodies with medicine keeping them from working exactly as they're supposed to? Two pioneers of the emerging science of Darwinian medicine argue that illness is part and parcel of the evolutionary system and as such, may be helping us to evolve towards better adaptation to our environment.
From Publishers Weekly
Nesse and Williams have written a lively discourse on the application of the principles of evolutionary biology to the dilemmas of modern medicine. Nesse, a physician and an associate professor of psychiatry, and Williams, a professor of ecology and evolution, provide a primer on Darwin's theory of natural selection. They explain that the functional design of organisms-e.g., our bodies-may suggest new ways of addressing illness. The book begins with a look at the causes of disease and their evolutionary influences. But the book mainly assesses the concept of adaptation by natural selection, and illustrates the ways Darwinian thinking can be applied to medical problems. As one example, the authors examine the use of penicillin over the past 60 years against bacterial infections. The book's quirky information may speak to a broad audience: researchers, for instance, have found that relatives of schizophrenics have an unusually high frequency of inclusion in Who's Who-which may counterbalance drawbacks of the disorder in evolutionary terms. The tendency toward child abuse, too, may be influenced, the authors say, by evolution and the passing on of genes. And there may well be an evolutionary reason to welcome morning sickness, they argue: nausea and food aversions during pregnancy apparently evolved to impose dietary restrictions on the mother so as to correspond with fetal vulnerability and, thereby, minimize fetal exposure to food toxins.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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The authors begin by asking, "Why, in a body of such exquisite design, are there a thousand flaws and frailties that make us vulnerable to disease?" Through evidence and insights from evolutionary biology, the authors carefully give a detailed answer to this question, which might be summed up thus: The mechanism of evolution fits our bodies for reproduction, not for optimum health. Furthermore the mechanism is imperfect and subject to mutation. Additionally we are in competition with other organisms, e.g, viruses, bacteria, etc., that work toward their fitness, sometimes at our expensive (the parasite-prey "arms race"). Noteworthy is the idea that natural selection cares little for the maintenance of the organism after the age of reproduction, and that sexual reproduction actually fosters mechanisms that increase the fitness of youth while neglecting the aged, leading to the phenomena of senescence and death.
Seeing disease from the viewpoint of evolution, the authors argue, helps us to understand disease and the mechanisms involved, which in turn can help us to fight disease. Allergy, for example, is a disease characterized by an over active immune system. Copious amounts of histamine are produced to fight off a few molecules of pollen. Why? The authors make the point that our immune systems operate on the principle that better an overreaction to something harmless than an under reaction to a real threat. It's like jumping at the sight of a piece of rope lying on the ground.Read more ›
Bacteria can evolve as much in a day as we can in a thousand years, and this gives us a grossly unfair handicap in the arms race. That's right, according to the authors of this book, we are in an ever-lasting struggle with bacteria and virus because they evolve so much faster than we can imagine. TB disappeared more than 40 years ago after the discovery of antibiotics. TB is now coming back with an even more potent form-a kind that no longer can be treated by the old antibiotics. Evolution of the virus plays a significant role here. The possibile treatment would be chemical mimetics, synthesizing structurally similar compound to treat the new strain.
The more I read the more I'm refreshed by the authors. They discussed the cause of allergy and why some people are so allergic to plants and pollen while others are completely immune to them.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
My friends, once try a few pages, always trying to "steal" it . When caught , they beg for title to order same for themselves.Published on Jan. 29 2013 by Eugene Kirillov
Brilliantly written, the book is easy to read even though it attacks complicated topics. The book covers various topics on how evolution has impacts on many aspects of our lives. Read morePublished on Nov. 7 2012 by Andrew
Nesse and Williams offer a brilliant new way to look at medicine. The human body is designed by evolution (if you do not believe that, do not bother buying this book). Read morePublished on July 30 2008 by Oliver
From an evolutionary standpoint, it is reasonable to ask why we are plagued with disease, both physical and "mental", and why we age. Read morePublished on March 1 2004 by algo41
There is a growing realization that many diseases are related to or caused by pathogens. Lack of understanding of evolution of microorganisms makes us ineffective at treating... Read morePublished on Oct. 5 2003 by Jeff Sutherland
This book is extremely readable, and hard to put down. The authors make a very compelling case for the usefulness of a evolutionary perspective in medicine. Read morePublished on Jan. 4 2003 by N. Gray
Dr. Nesse's book is a certainly very useful for those studying the medical sciences. His ideas on evolution and disease are intriguing and command the reader's attention. Read morePublished on Dec 23 2000 by Thomas P. Ambrose
This book offers a stimulating challenge to medicine and a thoughtful discussion of how (Darwin) evolution theory applies to us. Mr. Nesse and Mr. Read morePublished on Aug. 15 2000 by Matthew M. Yau
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