A team of scientists has published results that allegedly show how “taking an evolutionary perspective really helps to reduce suffering and to reduce the risk of death.” That’s according to Yale University’s Stephen Stearns, who adds, “Evolution and medicine really do have things to say to each other, and some of these insights actually reduce suffering and save lives.”
“Evolution and medicine really do have things to say to each other."
Among the research findings the scientists say are exemplary insights of evolutionary medicine is that high human rates of cancer are because we “aren’t adapted to the new risk factors of modern society, including tobacco, alcohol, a high-fat diet and contraceptives.” Another example given is that excessive modern hygiene “can result in allergies, asthma and autoimmune diseases.” A third example suggests a far-fetched evolutionary explanation for autism that rests on the idea that “mom and dad are in evolutionary conflict over investment of resources to their offspring”—hence problems when certain paternal or maternal genes are expressed.
None of these examples, however, requires an evolutionary perspective to explain. At most, they require a good understanding of the workings of natural selection and how genetic mutations and other mishaps cause problems.
Our fear is less that evolutionary perspectives will come to dominate medicine and more, relatively, than that these evolutionary perspectives will lead researchers to generate incorrect explanations and ineffective (or ultimately destructive) therapies. As for why disease and other biological imperfections exist in a God-designed world, Genesis 3 gives us the foundational answer.
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