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Evolutionary Medicine

Edited by Wenda R. Trevathan, E. O. Smith, and James J. McKenna

Publication Date - June 1999

ISBN: 9780195103564

496 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

Collecting work from leaders in the field, this volume describes an array of new and innovative approaches to human health that are based on an appreciation of our long evolutionary history.


Evolution is the single most important idea in modern biology, shedding light on virtually every biological question, from the shape of orchid blossoms to the distribution of species across the planet. Until recently, however, the theory has had little impact on medical research or practice. Evolutionary Medicine shows how this is beginning to change.

Collecting work from leaders in the field, this volume describes an array of new and innovative approaches to human health that are based on an appreciation of our long evolutionary history. For example, it shows how evolution helps to explain the complex relationship between our immune systems and the virulence and transmission of human viruses. It also shows how comparisons between how we live today and how our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived thousands of years ago illuminate a variety of contemporary ills, including obesity, lower-back pain, and insomnia.

Evolutionary Medicine covers issues at every stage of life, from infancy (colic, jaundice, SIDS, parent-infant sleep struggles, ear infections, breast-feeding, asthma) to adulthood (sexually transmitted diseases, depression, overeating, addictions, child abuse, cardiovascular disease, breast and ovarian cancer) to old age (osteoporosis, geriatric sleep problems). Written for a wide range of students and researchers in medicine, anthropology, and psychology, it is an invaluable guide to this rapidly developing field.


"Evolutionary medicine is a new, interdisciplinary field that brings together physicians, biologists, anthropologists, psychologists, and others to address questions about the evolutionary origins of many medical problems facing modern humans. The primary goal of the discipline is to compare modern human environments and behaviors with the conditions under which humans evolved to determine the extent to which medical conditions of the present may be a consequence of adaptation to different conditions of the past. . . . Evolutionary Medicine provides readers with a well-balanced and broad overview of the kinds of research being done in the area. . . . The book is primarily a reader in evolutionary medicine ... and ... a good introduction to a new field. . . . [A]nyone interested in learning more about how evolutionary theory is being used to gain insights into medical problems will find much in the volume to stimulate their creative juices."--Journal of the American Medical Association

"This book might be easier to read for nonspecialists. . . .Nevertheless, for anyone with an interest in the evolution of disease, Evolutionary Medicine offers thought-provoking material." The Quarterly Review of Biology the chapters in Stearns's book are generaly

"With its evolutionary framework and cross-cultural perspective, this book could be successfully utilized as a valuable resource in advanced undergraduate and graduate Medical Anthropology courses, especially those with a physical anthropology orientation. Every selection contains multiple novel insights in the rapidly emerging field of evolutionary medicine." -- R.A. Halberstein, American Journal of Human Biology, Vol 13, No 3, Mar/Apr 2001

Table of Contents

    Foreword: Historical Overview, Michael H. Day
    1. Is Neonatal Jaundice a Disease or an Adaptive Process?, John Brett and Susan Niermeyer
    2. Infant Crying Behavior and Colic: An Interpretation in Evolutionary Perspective, Ronald G. Barr
    3. Evolutionary Pediatrics and Implications for SIDS, James McKenna, Sarah Mosko, and Chris Richard
    4. Otitis Media: An Evolutionary Perspective, Hal J. Daniel III
    5. The Evolutionary Ecology of Childhood Asthma, A. Magdalena Hurtado, I. Arenas de Hurtado, Robert Sapien, and Kim Hill
    6. Evolutionary Perspectives on the Onset of Puberty, Carol M. Worthman
    7. Incest Avoidance: Clinical Implications of the Evolutionary Perspective, Mark T. Erickson
    8. Evolutionary Obstetrics, Wenda R. Trevathan
    9. Darwinian Medicine and the Emergence of Allergy, Kathleen C. Barnes, George J. Armelagos, and Steven C. Morreale
    10. Using Evolution as a Tool for Controlling Infectious Diseases, Paul W. Ewald
    11. Evolutionary Control of HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Viruses, Paul W. Ewald
    12. Paleolithic Nutrition Revisited, S. Boyd Eaton, S. B. Eaton III, and Melvin J. Konner
    13. Human Evolution, Low Back Pain, and Dual-Level Control, Robert Anderson
    14. What Darwinian Medicine Offers Psychiatry, Randolph Nesse
    15. Evolution, Substance Abuse, and Addiction, E. O. Smith
    16. Menopause in Evolutionary Perspective, Lynnette E. Leidy
    17. Breast Cancer in Evolutionary Context, S. Boyd Eaton and S. Boyd Eaton III
    18. Evolutionary Perspectives on Chronic Degenerative Diseases, Linda M. Gerber and Douglas E. Crews

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