Introducing Evolutionary Thinking For Medicine

Stephen C. Stearns, Randolph Nesse, David Haig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This chapter introduces the book, motivates it with examples of cases in which evolutionary approaches provide useful insights, and provides a brief sketch of evolutionary biology that describes key concepts and misconceptions. It argues that doctors need to know this about evolution: how natural selection works; why trade-offs are ubiquitous; how to distinguish and apply proximate and ultimate explanations; how to distinguish natural selection, drift, and inherited constraints as explanations; why group selection is weak and rarely an explanation; why aging is a byproduct of selection for reproductive success earlier in life; why each human differs genetically in reacting to drugs and diseases; how pathogens rapidly evolve antibiotic resistance, and how that can be managed; how pathogen virulence evolves in response to human interventions; how evolutionary conflicts help to explain reproductive problems; and how selection operates in everyday life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Apr 1 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Autoimmune disease
  • Cancer
  • Evolutionary biology
  • Infection
  • Reproduction
  • Trade-offs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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