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Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine Paperback – Jan 30 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (Jan. 30 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679746749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679746744
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 13.4 x 1.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 259 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #62,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Why, in a body of such exquisite design, are there a thousand flaws and frailties that make us vulnerable to disease? Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Chan on March 15 2002
Format: Paperback
-Why We Get Sick- is a discussion on novel way of thinking about sickness, an epiphany on the perseverance of human vulnerability. The book addresses whre disease come from and why we get such diseases. Nesse and Williams carefully state 6 major causes of diseases: Defenses, infection, novel environments, genes, design compromises, and evolutionary legacies. Our immune system is the frontier battefield of any intruders. Studies have shown that at the first point of contraction, the immune system proliferate T-cells against the HIV virus. These immune cells fight the best they can to prohibit HIV settling onto the CD-4 cells. The only reason the immune system loses is because the HIV virus is simply too smart that they mutate into other forms and fool the T-cells. The first sign of the cold virus triggers series of defensive action-fever and sneezing are actually not illness, but defensive/immunological responses against the virus.
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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. From disease and genetic compromises to food and environmental influences.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Sutherland on Oct. 5 2003
Format: Paperback
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 disease.
The evolution of antibiotic resistance is a good case in point. Working with advanced electromagnetic technologies to eliminate pathogens quickly demonstrates that evolution of microorganisms can occur quickly enough to affect treatment during the course of treating a single episode of a disease in a single patient. There needs to be a new field of the science of internal ecology of the body that builds understanding of the ecosystems of the microbiological agents that outnumber our cells.
That said, Nesse and Williams give an easily readable primer on some of the fundamental evolutionary thinking essential for successful understanding and treatment of disease. It is unfortunate that more physicians are not deeply familiar with these issues. The improper handling of disease with current antibiotics makes the organisms that cause them more deadly. This could easily be minimized by correctly approaching treatment from a base of understanding of evolutionary biology.
While this book is a good step into the deep waters of internal ecology, its easy reading makes it somewhat superficial. To start getting the real scoop, you need to read Ewald's work. A good starting point is Plague Time: How Stealth Infections Cause Cancer, Heart Disease, and Other Deadly Ailments.
As one simple example, Plague Time points out that the Borna virus is usually associated with Bipolar disease. After working with a few individuals with Bipolar disease, I've found they invariably have the Borna virus. This is untreatable by conventional medicine.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Oliver TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 30 2008
Format: Paperback
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). There is almost always a reason for what we see as flaws in our designs. If we keep this simple fact in mind, we can learn a great deal about how best to keep ourselves happy and healthy.

Sometimes what we perceive as a flaw is the inevitable cost of some unseen benefit. A fever may be uncomfortable, or even dangerous, but it may also play a role in fighting off a disease. At other times, our relatively recent (in evolutionary terms) move from hunter-gathers may explain the flaw. A taste for sugar and fat is a good thing if you are living on the brink of starvation on the African savanna, but it is not so helpful in a modern society.

This is not a self-help book, by any means. While the authors do provide many specific examples and hard facts, the main point of the book is to encourage doctors (and patients) to think more carefully and critically about the human body.
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Format: Paperback
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. I have a couple minor complaints (but don't let this discourage you). The authors seem to move freely between fact and speculation, without making clear distinctions. Not a problem if you're paying attention, but they may sometimes give the impression that their is more data to support a contention than there actually is. Anyway, I highly recommend this book - it's easy to read, stimulating, and bound to make you look at illness and health in a new way.
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