Darwinian Medicine 2.0 - Evolution News & Views

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Darwinian Medicine 2.0

I recently pointed out that Darwinian stories about the evolution of diseases were of no tangible use to medical science. Few physicians and medical scientists and educators with genuine experience with medical education, research, and practice, and who are not ideologically committed to the materialist-atheist metaphysics for which Darwinism is the creation myth, honestly believe that evolutionary biology is important to medicine. There are many important disciplines in medicine today, such as microbiology, epidemiology, molecular and population genetics, and mathematical biology, that deal with the real science for which evolutionary biologists routinely claim credit, and these genuine medical disciplines, unlike evolutionary biology, are very important to medicine. We've done very well for more than half a century without Darwinian medicine. The recent drive to introduce Darwinian Medicine 2.0 into medical education was initiated by Darwinists. They weren't invited.

Years ago, medicine turned away from Darwinian "science" after eugenics was widely exposed and denounced in the aftermath of WWII. Of course, like Darwinian medicine 2.0, eugenics (Darwinian Medicine 1.0) was based entirely on Darwinian stories -- on the theory that man was merely an evolved animal. Darwinists concocted stories about the evolutionary origin of all sorts of maladies, real and imaginary. If you can, get an copy of Charles Davenport's Heredity in Relation to Eugenics, published in 1910. It's loaded with Darwinian stories -- the Darwinian and eugenic science of eye color, Meniere's disease, Chorea, Hysteria, Myopia, Deafness, "Catarrhal affections," Splenic anemia, and Hypospadius, to name just a few of the disorders on which Darwinian medicine could shed light.

Eugenics was based on the explicit Darwinian postulate that man is an animal evolved by the process of natural selection. We are human because our ancestors struggled, often to the death. The Darwinian concern was that human civilization was corrupting natural selection by foolish solicitude for the unfit. The solution was to "take evolution into our own hands," which was to breed human beings. Eugenics was a major part of American medicine for the first half of the 20th century, until growing public and professional awareness of the banality and the venality of eugenics, capped by the Nazi atrocities that were motivated in significant part by the same Darwinian science and Darwinian metaphysics, got evolutionary biology, as an explicit discipline, kicked out of American medicine.

We haven't missed it. For more than half a century, "evolution-free" medicine has done very nicely. Heart, kidney, and lung transplants, cardiopulmonary bypass (the heart lung machine), extraordinary advances in brain surgery, joint replacements, major advances in the treatment of heart attacks, congenital heart disease, stroke, and infectious diseases, and remarkable improvements in the survival of patients with cancer and the survival of premature babies, to name just a few, have come about very nicely without evolutionary biology in the medical school curriculum. We haven't missed the mass sterilizations, the pseudo-diagnoses of "feeble-mindedness" and the carefully planned quarantine and even exterminations of the handicapped (merely planned in the U.S. -- at the Eugenic Records Office at Cold Spring Harbor -- but actually carried out in Germany). In American medicine in the past half-century, evolutionary biology wasn't missed at all.

Now, there is a push among Darwinists to bring evolutionary science back to medicine. Of course, no one talks anymore about mass sterilizations and exterminations. That was Darwinian Medicine 1.0. Darwinian Medicine 2.0 is gentler, interested in finding "evolutionary causes and remedies for diseases." Of course, eugenics was the search for "evolutionary causes and remedies for diseases," in the sense that it attempted to explain human maladies in terms of natural selection and the impediment to the beneficial influence of natural selection on man that was caused by human benevolence toward the disabled, and to correct those perversions of natural selection by scientifically directed social policy.

Darwinian Medicine 2.0 retains the silly stories at the heart of eugenics, but leaves out, at least explicitly, the genocide. The problem is that the inference that care for the ill and disabled "sins" against natural selection is the logical denouement of Darwinian metaphysics. "Survival of the fittest" is the origin of the human animal. Natural selection is our creator. Human benevolence often sins against its creator. Darwin himself pointed out the problem: lamenting the life-saving effectiveness of the recently developed smallpox vaccine, he asked whether it was wise to risk the degradation of mankind by "allowing our worst animals to breed."

Can we reintroduce Darwinian Medicine 2.0, despite its obvious banality, into modern medicine without opening the door again to its lethal doppelganger?

Do we really want to find out?