Evolution and the curriculum
Given the importance of evolution in explaining disease, Daniel Racey and Stuart West believe it merits more teaching time
- By: Daniel Racey, Stuart West
Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. Theodosius Dobzhansky, 19731
Charles Darwin began his academic career as a medical student. Fortunately, he found his studies at the University of Edinburgh tedious and unpleasant. He dropped out, took another degree, and embarked on the voyage of the Beagle. The rest is history.
Since then medical degrees have changed to prevent talented students such as Darwin leaving the profession. Curriculums have been explicitly designed to promote deep understanding of principles rather than rote learning of facts.2
This article assumes that evolution through natural selection has been the major mechanism in shaping the biology of humans and pathogens. This is not a controversial view within the scientific community. However, a substantial minority of medical undergraduates find the concept that humans evolved from apes difficult to accept, even though they may have no problem acknowledging the evidence for microevolution (changes