Evolution predictions and medicine: (was re: Challenge)

From: tikeda@sprintmail.com
Date: Thu Oct 11 2001 - 13:40:45 EDT

  • Next message: Moorad Alexanian: "Re: Evolution predictions and medicine: (was re: Challenge)"

    Moorad wrote to George:
    >I grant all what you say but all the theories you mention give rise
    >to predictions. What are the predictions that evolutionary theory has
    >made in medicine, for instance, that could not have been made without
    >invoking evolutionary theory?

    I'm a bit confused.

    If I take the question literally, the answer is none.

    Understanding of biology (and other sciences) involves numerous core
    discoveries. We could call it a bundle of core ideas and known
    mechanisms. Depending on a particular case or question, a particular
    subset of known phenomena/ideas may provide sufficient explanation.
    Evolutionary "theory" (actually theories) may encompass a particular
    set (actually, most of biological understanding probably relates to
    evolution) and particular cases/examples of evolution may involve a
    subset of these. Medicine, as it relates to biology also pulls from
    the same pool or bundle and again, specific cases in medicine will
    rely more heavily on a particular subset of the bundle.

    As for the relationships between medicine and evolutionary studies,
    in specific cases they'll be overlap of the core mechanisms.
    Thus it's hard to ask what exclusive predictions could be made
    from evolutionary theory wrt medicine because any such predictions
    would necessarily require a sharing of mechanisms & ideas. You
    can't easily disentangle the two.

    So how would individual mechanisms or components of evolutionary
    theories have impact on medicine? That can be asked.

    Consider common descent with modification: This invokes inheritance
    and genealogy -- Definitely has a strong impact on our understanding
    of the transmission of some diseases (e.g. Tay-Sachs).

    Consider mutation: Has impact on cancer, antibiotic resistance,
    and microbial pathogenesis.

    Consider natural selection: Explains the emergence of resistant
    pathogen populations, new pathogens and new mechanisms of

    Consider neutral theory: Explains much of the diversity in
    human and pathogen populations that can contribute to
    differential responses to treatments under different

    Basically, I don't the think question being asked makes
    much sense because the predictions made by "evolutionary
    theory" can never be considered exclusive to just
    evolution because all of biological thought derives
    from the same pool. That separation doesn't exist because
    evolutionary theory is not composed of a single, stand-alone

    Suggested: Ernst Mayr's _The Growth of Biological Thought_
    or Sober's _Philosophy of Biology_ for background reading.

    Tim Ikeda (tikeda@sprintmail.com)

    mail2web - Check your email from the web at
    http://mail2web.com/ .

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