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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Neurosurgeon: Evolutionary medicine = waste of time

I recently watched a PowerPoint presentation that neurosurgeon Michael Egnor gave at Birmingham, Alabama last month on "why we got eugenics." He said pretty clearly something that I have been driving at for some time:

Evolutionary explanations are merely stories appended to the proximate (scientific) explanations. They contribute nothing to the scientific understanding of the disease beyond the contribution of the proximate explanations.

Evolutionary stories are ad-hoc and generally untestable guesses, and offer no meaningful framework for science. The proximate explanations (anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, microbiology, etc.) are the framework for science.

Strategies for disease treatment and prevention depend on data from the relevant medical sciences, not on speculative stories about origins.

Darwinian medicine is scientifically vacuous, and the Darwinian theory of human origins is the antithesis of human exceptionalism and human dignity.

Of course. The whole concept of evolutionary medicine is a waste of time for a very simple reason:

Medicine can never be a discipline without a subject. Astrobiology can be a discipline without a subject because there are no space aliens to complain that their needs are not attended to. But medicine can't be a discipline without a subject (conventionally, a patient) because medicine must offer solutions, not just theories.

Supposed ancestors, just like space aliens, are not a subject, as far as medicine is concerned.

If you go to your doctor with severe chest pain, you will hardly wish to hear that some professor somewhere has theorized that Pleistocene man did not suffer from your condition because his selfish genes gave him lots of exercise bopping his numerous squeezes around, so ...

So you are supposed to pay for this information, if - out of charity - it can be called information?

Medicine exists, in the words of William Osler to provide cure sometimes, relief often, and comfort always - but never mere theories.

In my view, "evolutionary medicine" is another example of people trying to find a use for something that isn't really any particular use.

Interesting, sure. Useful, no.

I will try to get Dr. Egnor's PowerPoint put up on line somewhere.


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