Duration of Rotation: One Academic Semester


 Prerequisite:  Have completed and approved Medicine I       

“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” said the noted evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky. Evolution, with its guiding principles of descent with modification and natural selection has been biology’s organizing principle for more than a century, but only in the last few decades has it been applied to the social sciences and medicine. Its application to medicine, known as evolutionary or Darwinian medicine, uses an evolutionary perspective to understand why the body is not better designed and why, therefore, diseases exist at all.  The course explores the evolution of biological traits relevant to disease over the Hominini radiation (Pan paniscus, Pan troglodytes and Homo sapiens) beginning in the Pliocene epoch (5.3MYA) and extending to the current Holocene/Anthropocene period.  Everyone uses metaphors to understand the world. The dominant metaphor for the body has been a machine. Disease has been viewed as a defect arising in an otherwise perfect device. An evolutionary view offers a richer and more nuanced view of the body as a product of natural selection: extraordinary in many ways, but also flawed in many ways, for good evolutionary reasons. Furthermore, it reveals that the body has no master plan and there is no such thing as “the” human genome..  Humans have genes that make phenotypes that effectively make new copies of themselves. We care less about the fate of our genes, however, and more about the health and welfare of individuals. Darwinian medicine will most powerfully advance our goal of helping individuals by inspiring a form of clinical practice that yields guides for health care practice grounded on our biological and our cultural evolution and the convergence or conflicts between them. The Darwinian medicine approach takes every symptom and asks whether it is pathological or the body’s adaptive response.  A Darwinian epistemology can help clinicians answer old questions, pose new questions, and provide a more natural view of disease.  This course outlines the basic principles of Darwinian medicine. It explores the rationale for debunking the concept of “race,” and its fallacious application to clinical trials, the genesis of diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, degenerative neurologic disorders, obesity, atherosclerosis and metabolic syndrome and explores the applicability of evolutionary principles to medicine.  Students will be provided with selected cardinal scientific papers exploring the central tenets of Darwinian evolution from a biological and a cultural perspective.  The same will be studied and discussed over twelve sessions.  Students will be evaluated on the basis of their compliance with the analysis of the literature and the quality of their contributions to the discussions.


Faculty in charge  :         Dr. Ángel A. Román-Franco