An interdisciplinary field at the intersection of evolutionary biology, medicine, public health, and other health professions, evolutionary medicine applies the insights of evolutionary biology to improve our understanding of disease and health. Evolution, like physics and chemistry, is a basic science with implications for all of life.
Evolutionary medicine has important clinical applications, but it is not a method of practice and it does not recommend treatments. Instead, it generates hypotheses whose tests, including controlled clinical studies, provide evidence-based clinical recommendations. While evolution suggests new ways to view medical issues, it complements other approaches – it does not displace them. It includes explanations for our vulnerability to diseases as well as medical applications of evolutionary genetics, life history theory, molecular phylogenetics, and evolutionary epidemiology.
Evolution has already helped us understand the evolution of antibiotic resistance, virulence, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. Because the field is in a phase of rapid growth, it is difficult to predict where its future contributions will be greatest. Much will depend on how quickly we can provide health professionals with education in evolutionary biology comparable to what they receive in other basic medical sciences.