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A darwinian perspective: right premises, questionable conclusion. A commentary on Niall Shanks and Rebecca Pyles' "Evolution and medicine: the long reach of "Dr. Darwin""

Author(s): Vineis Paolo | Melnick Ronald

Journal: Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine
ISSN 1747-5341

Volume: 3;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 6;
Date: 2008;
Original page

Abstract As Dobzhansky wrote, nothing in biology makes sense outside the context of the evolutionary theory, and this truth has not been sufficiently explored yet by medicine. We comment on Shanks and Pyles' recently published paper, Evolution and medicine: the long reach of "Dr. Darwin", and discuss some recent advancements in the application of evolutionary theory to carcinogenesis. However, we disagree with Shanks and Pyles about the usefulness of animal experiments in predicting human hazards. Based on the darwinian observation of inter-species and inter-individual variation in all biological functions, Shanks and Pyles suggest that animal experiments cannot be used to identify hazards to human health. We claim that while the activity of enzymes may vary among individuals and among species, this does not indicate that critical events in disease processes occurring after exposure to hazardous agents differ qualitatively between animal models and humans. In addition, the goal is to avoid human disease whenever possible and with the means that are available at a given point in time. Epidemics of cancer could have been prevented if experimental data had been used to reduce human exposures or ban carcinogenic chemicals. We discuss examples.
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