Synopsis (Greenspan)

The Greenspan paper sheds light on a topic that we have been focusing on since the beginning of class: how has modern medicine changed the evolution of human diseases? This author suggests that the development of modern medical technologies and vaccines has enabled human with rare diseases to live beyond reproductive age and pass on their genes; also, the improvement of living conditions has sustained tremendous population growth that gives rise to a larger gene pool that allows for possibilities of new mutations.Essentially, the cultural evolution has relaxed natural selection on humans.

 By using the example of Cystic Fibrosis, the author provides evidence that survival rate for the once-lethal disease has dramatically increased over the years and patients with CF can easily live up to reproductive age. In addition, the author uses empirical evidence to support the idea that a small mutation could easily be magnified into deleterious conditions.

 The authors distinguishes between culture evolution, which is the development of medical care and public health interventions; and biological evolution, which is the traditionally defined “survive of the fittest”. I think it is important to note that culture evolution is unique to human, so it is difficult to fit cultural evolution into the frame of traditional evolution theories. Also, I think the author brings up a great point that “personalized medicine” might be more challenging than we have expected due to the expanding population size and the weakened elimination on deleterious alleles.

One thought on “Synopsis (Greenspan)

  1. I would say that cultural evolution is a lot broader of a category than just medical advances. I think the definition should encompass evolution of natural human behavior and man-made behavior. A good example of cultural evolution would be how we no longer grow our own individual crops, instead we go to grocery stores and rely on others to grow them. Just a thought.

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