If you’ve followed this website, you’ll know that I was once down on the practical uses of evolution: I thought of the discipline more as a way to understand the world than to improve it. But I’ve changed my mind, largely at the instigation of Dave Hillis at the University of Texas at Austin, who has enlightened me about the real applications of evolution in medicine.
Coyne, a man not easily converted, was led to the belief that speculation about the Darwinian origins of disease can be of help to medicine. For example:
...the fact that malaria makes you prostrate, for instance, may actually be an adaptation of the malaria parasite to facilitate its spread; you’re more likely to be bitten by a mosquito, who transmits the parasite, if you’re laid out flat in bed...
Darwinian Medicine is a fertile science, and all sorts of insights emerge with surprising little thought and even less science. For example, the corollary to Coyne's 'malaria makes you motionless so mosquitoes can bite' would be what one might call Egnor's corollary to Coyne's malaria hypothesis: the shaking chills that accompany a malaria relapse may be a human evolutionary adaptation against malaria: a mosquito trying to land on a shaking malaria victim is like Tom Cruise trying to land a plane on an aircraft carrier in choppy seas. Laying prostrate with shaking chills? It's an evolutionary struggle!
Darwinian Medicine is of value to medical education in only one way: laughter is the best medicine.