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 (email@example.com)
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