Evolving Health, the Origins of Illness and How the Modern World is Making Us Sick was the title of a book on Evolutionary Medicine that I published in 2002, almost twenty years ago. Its thesis was stated on the dust jacket,
Human illnesses can be understood as damage to those adaptations that we took on at various stages in our evolution from pre-life molecules to modern Homo sapiens. Preventing these illnesses entails avoiding what causes the damage – which too frequently are the everyday hazards of twenty-first-century life.
As the world begins to enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, a scourge which has so far killed over two and a half million people globally, not only is the sheer number of deaths astounding but the pandemic’s disproportionate effect on those individuals and cultures already marginalized has been horrific. Yet, no-one has escaped. The daily life patterns and habitual “mazeways” of those in the mainstream Developed World have also been utterly disrupted. I have been struck at how little the voices of anthropologists and evolutionary physician-scientists, whose work bears directly on these issues, have been heard. In an effort to fill this void I am starting this blog, which I hope will disseminate useful knowledge, stimulate discussion, and motivate action to improve health. Appropriately our first topic will be “Human Population Density and the Pandemic.”
Noel T. Boaz, Ph.D., M.D. is a paleoanthropologist who studies “anthropogeny,” a term he coined, an evolutionary physician-scientist, and an anatomist. He founded Virginia’s state museum of natural history and the non-profit Integrative Centers for Science and Medicine, which he now directs.