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Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine
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Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine

4.1  ·  Rating details ·  2,212 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
The answers are in this groundbreaking book by two founders of the emerging science of Darwinian medicine, who deftly synthesize the latest research on disorders ranging from allergies to Alzheimer's and from cancer to Huntington's chorea. Why We Get Sick compels readers to reexamine the age-old attitudes toward sickness. Line drawings.
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 30th 1996 by Vintage (first published January 31st 1994)
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Sep 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
The title and physical design of this book gave me the initial impression that this book was fluff. "The New Science" made it sound, frankly, like pseudoscience. The impression of pseudoscience (perhaps I was alone in that first impression) does the book a disservice, however; the book is not pseudoscience fluff. In technical terms, it is some damn good stuff.

Randolph Nesse is a biomedical doctor well-known and respected in the academic community. Williams is an evolutionary Anthropologist and
M7md Alghanmi
May 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
كنت أتساءل لفترة طويلة عن "كيف نظرية لها فترة طويلة تحت الدراسة والتطبيق ولها قبول واسع جدا في كثير من الأوساط العلمية؛ كيف نظرية تم تطبيقها بقوة في كل المجالات العلمية تقريبا؛ كيف نظرية أثرت على مسيرة المعرفة البشرية بهذا الزخم؛ كيف نظرية بحجم نظرية دارون الى الآن لم يتم تطبيقها على الطب؟؟"

وكان هذا الكتاب جواب جميل مبدئيا على ذاك السؤال.

"لماذا نمرض؟"
الكتاب يجيب على هذا السؤال حسب وجهة نظر أكثر شمولية من معظم ما ندرسه في كلية الطب.
"لماذا يهاجم الجسم نفسه أحيانا؟"
"لماذا -في عائلة تحمل نفس الجين
Soumya Sayujya
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
When something terrible happens(and serious disease is always terrible )people want to know why. In a pantheistic world, the explanation was simple one God had caused the problem,another could cure it. In the time since people have been trying to get along with only one God,
explaining disease and evil has become more difficult. Generations of theologians have wrestled
with the problem of theodicy-how can a good God allow such bad things to happen to good people? An evolutionary approach to diseas
Nov 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
Started off good and is a great concept for a book, is almost 20 years out of date, it offers way too many questions without enough answers, and it tends to overreach in some of its explanations (especially when they start talking about matters of the mind). Also the format is distracting with a new topic every turn of the page and not always the most engaging writing. Better off as an intro to the field, and one that should be skimmed, not intently read.
Diana Pauksta
May 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who believes that there were once dinosaurs
READ THIS BOOK! it's fascinating and it makes sense. it explains a lot about why our bodies malfunction in the ways they do and how many diseases/genetic disorders were actually trade-offs for increasing our genetic fitness (the ability of your offspring to produce viable offspring themselves). i read it for ecology + evolution of human disease, and it is the most interesting and accessible science book i've read.
Jun 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Years ago I read an exceptional book on evolution by David Sloan Wilson. I say exceptional because it advocated for freeing evolution from being mere natural history: instead, Wilson argued that we should use it to understand all matters biological, including medicine. He used as his example the case of morning sickness in pregnancies, revealing research that illustrated that far from being a problem to be solved, morning sickness is an adaptive behavior which protects fetuses from foods that mi ...more
Aug 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a book for those who are not satisfied with answers to their questions that sound like: "just because that's the way things are...", or "what difference does it make?..." or "it's part of the plan.....". More specifically, the book puts common health maladies such as the common cold, heart attacks, obesity, cancer, morning sickness, senescence, etc under a spotlight called Darwinian medicine. This concept is based upon comparing contemporary humans to their stone age ancestors and essent ...more
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Your body is designed to make more humans under stone age conditions - that includes your brain. Our present circumstances are far removed from the stone age, but it'll be millions of years before our anatomy catches up. In the meantime, life is going to continue to be hard, no matter how much stuff we have.
Mar 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
Worth a read. The authors argue for the value of an evolutionary perspective to better understand disease processes and health vulnerability, rather than just looking at the "proximate" causes (the usual medical model). They do a good job of showing how "evolution" is generally misunderstood by lay people to mean some kind of advancing perfectionism of the body, when it is more like a process of kluging stuff together in a way that guarantees genetic survival. They also do a good job of showing ...more
Apr 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
This is a well written book that takes a look at why people get sick from an evolutionary perspective. This book is easy enough to understand without requiring a medical/biology degree, but not so simplified that it assumes the readers are have the attention span of a gnat and the intelligence of an amoeba. This is a meat and potatoes type of book compared to the bowl full of lettuce books that seem to be common in the popular science genre these days.

I do however wish the authors would update t
Nov 26, 2012 rated it did not like it
Okay, I am not finishing this book (I read about 60%) because I feel like the authors are just talking just to talk and aren't really saying anything. I will explain why:

First, before I get started on the content, on the Kindle edition titles of sections continually appear on the bottom of a page while the content starts on the next page. Did anyone think about that when this was released?

Secondly, I expected this book to be heavily scientific and detailed, I.e. knowledgable. It is not that. Thi
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is part treatise, part exposition. Nesse (a psychiatrist) teams up with Williams (an evolutionary biologist) to explain us how biology relates to medicine and why we especially doctors, should ask ourselves evolutionary questions when dealing with sickness.

If you have a fever, it's common practice to deal with this by taking fever-suppressing drugs. But this might not always be the smartest thing to do: the fever might by a bodily adaptation to deal with malignant viruses or bacteria. Suppr
Jurij Fedorov
Nov 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
A very interesting read on why we get sick and how we should think about the fact that we get sick. I learned a lot from this book and the first part of the book is great and very informative.

Very knowledgeable writers that understand things that most of medical science does not know about and does not think about. None of my doctors know anything about this science - too bad. Nesse is the definition of expert. And the book has a great writing style and is easy to read. If you are a doctor o
Aug 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: alethiology
I learned so much from this book! It gave me a very inclusive view of diseases (of all sorts from morning sickness, to cancer, to anxiety), how they effect us and why this may be. I am someone who has a hard time learning if I don't understand the point, the why's, the big picture. This book was perfect for me because that is exactly what it explains. It has given me a new 'pep in my step' so to speak, going to my college courses because I can now see the broad view that these detailed mechanism ...more
Dan Burcea
May 16, 2012 rated it liked it
More of a Darwinian Medicine manifesto than a hard science book. There are lots of "this could be done" and "that should be attainable if.." and too little of "this is what we achieved". However it raises some intriguing ideas about how medicine can be revolutionized by viewing sickness through the lenses of Darwinism.
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic ideas.
Oct 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Andrea by: Tudor Ciocarlie
Very interesting and very well presented. Akin to the work of the late Stephen Jay Gould. Excellent and highly recommended.
Gerardo Avelar
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Evolutionary medicine is probably the most neglected issue in health education and practice, despite its potential relevance to improve them is huge.

On this book, Nesse and Williams make an excellent overview in this subject, using a simple language the book is easily enjoyable for anyone, no matter if you have a former education in health sciences or not (of course, the relevance of every topic discussed in the book is even bigger for healthcare professionals).
Because of the poor state of the s
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a fantastic book about the evolutionary reasons of Disease and how some symptoms like fever and cough are actually defense mechanisms, that are supposed to protect you. While this specific piece of information was already known to me, the well reasoned conclusion, that because a cough is a defense mechanism, it is not always wise to suppress it, if you don't know what's causing it. This book is delivering a amazing way to think about the things that make our lives uncomfortable.
One majo
Samantha Griffiths
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Not a lot of people think in evolutionary terms when it comes to their health - and this book clearly demonstrates why they should. I especially appreciate that the authors make no definitive claims where there is no definitive evidence. They are forthcoming when there is doubt, and they are careful not to steer the reader in the wrong (pseudoscientific) direction. A favourite for sure!
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
I debated about giving this book one star. Perhaps it would have been better if it were newer, but this was almost always so basic for a former biology student it was painful. It was extremely short on details or reasoning for its argument.
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great book about the evolution by natural selection and why it's so important to understand in medicine. Many people believe that understanding natural selection is not necessary for medical doctors, but that is false. This book explains why.
Super Telling
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read it in 2017, so the content is not quite fresh to me any more.
Apr 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: biology, psychology
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joel Yap
Sep 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book in which the author laments the state of modern medicine as treating diseases by addressing proximate causes. Much of medicine today is guided by molecular biology; this means that most illnesses are treated by understanding how the causative agents spread, replicate & cause damage to the human body (this is especially true for the study of infectious diseases). Thus, doctors today are well aware of how we fall sick, but not why.

Nesse advocates an evolutionary approach to me
Karima Wagner
Dec 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed every second spent reading this book! In summary, Darwinian Medicine proposes that descriptions of disease in current medical textbooks omit the importance of an evolutionary explanation for why humans are vulnerable to this disease. These explanations will have immediate practical benefits for medical practice. General physicians still don't think of fever as useful and they still give iron supplements to patients with chronic infections, perhaps letting the fever run its course witho ...more
711Isabel B
Sep 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
So far, I am really enjoying Why We Get Sick, even though it's way to hard for me. I am slowly plodding through it, and learning a lot. I keep putting it down and going "Ohhhhhhh........That's REALLY interesting!"

I was suddenly sparked into an interest in Darwinian medicine when I first picked up the book. That was because it sparked my curiosity, made me question the human body.
Was there a reason that we got fevers.......Was there perhaps a reason, to burn infection out of the body (warning: if
Nov 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
My only qualm with the book is that it starts off acknowledging that evolution is only a paradigm and not the ultimate truth, but ends stating that biology only makes sense with an evolutionary perspective.

But how well the authors explain so much! They continuously call for more research on this or that, and offer a fair amount of speculation. But it's always quite clear when they are explaining fact, theory, or speculation. Make up your own mind - their explanations are awfully coherent and sci
Sep 10, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: school, medical
Read this for a medical anthropology class. Darwinian medicine is a very interesting look at not only how our body deals with sickness but more importantly why it reacts to disease (or becomes diseased) in the first place, exploring what exactly in the evolution of our bodies causes these types of reactions or pathologies.

Since I read this book chunks at a time over a few months I don't know how it all works together, but it is a bit of a slog at times to get through. What irked me the most, tho
Joe Iacovino
Apr 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
The style of the book was spot-on. There are many essay-style parts which make up the chapters. The book itself served as a medium for asking questions and often posed many of its own. An overall nice take of the evolutionary perspective especially when it comes to how we tend to view symptoms (defenses) as well as some nice tie-ins to psychology. I feel that although some of this is becoming dated as the thinking being suggested is now finding its way into curriculum, epigenetics now offering s ...more
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“Even our behavior and emotions seem to have been shaped by a prankster. Why do we crave the very foods that are bad for us but have less desire for pure grains and vegetables? Why do we keep eating when we know we are too fat? And why is our willpower so weak in its attempts to restrain our desires? Why are male and female sexual responses so uncoordinated, instead of being shaped for maximum mutual satisfaction? Why are so many of us constantly anxious, spending our lives, as Mark Twain said, "suffering from tragedies that never occur"? Finally, why do we find happiness so elusive, with the achievement of each long-pursued goal yielding not contentment, but only a new desire for something still less attainable? The design of our bodies is simultaneously extraordinarily precise and unbelievably slipshod. It is as if the best engineers in the universe took every seventh day off and turned the work over to bumbling amateurs.” 5 likes
“Natural selection involves no plan, no goal, and no direction — just genes increasing and decreasing in frequency depending on whether individuals with those genes have, relative to other individuals, greater or lesser reproductive success.” 2 likes
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