Body by Darwin: How Evolution Shapes Our Health and Transforms Medicine

Jeremy Taylor. Univ. of Chicago, $30 (304p) ISBN 978-0-226-05988-4
Taylor (Not a Chimp), a science writer and former BBC producer and director, celebrates the work of Charles Darwin and his successors in this densely packed survey of modern ailments with an evolutionary twist. “The value of thinking in evolutionary terms is that it acts like a forensic tool to ask fundamental questions that allow us to reframe illness in a different way that might then lead to new answers,” Taylor says. He applies this approach to asthma, autoimmune disorders, backache, preeclampsia, diseases of the eye and heart, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease, among many others. Taylor gives credit to researchers looking at human evolution to explain modern medical terrain, even though their research is often met with skepticism and discomfort. Though his book’s scientific content is firmly directed at medical practitioners and researchers, Taylor balances the text with humanizing case studies, including a father whose work on immunity and the human microbiome helped spare his autistic son from life in an institution, and the “heretical band of scientists” looking for guidance from evolution as they race to relieve the agony of Alzheimer’s sufferers. Taylor covers fascinating territory, and readers willing to wade into its technical aspects will find much to ponder. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/14/2015
Release date: 10/01/2015
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