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A letter from a reader about Evolution and modern medicine

August 10, 2006

I was taken aback, and expect other doctors were also, by Professor James Gould’s statement (feature, June 7) that it wouldn’t matter whether a doctor thought intelligent design or evolution accounted for the diversity of life on earth. From antibiotic resistance of microbe to oncology recapitulating phylogeny in embryology, from the presence of vestigial parts to organization of the neuraxis, evolution is always in the forefront of modern medical understanding. Even the psychoanalytic institute at Columbia Physicians and Surgeons had a course in the evolutionary biology of behaviors such as maternal attachment as early as the late ’60s. And back when I was still a Princeton pre-med, Colin Pittendrigh made all of our pre-med biology course make evolutionary sense. None of this makes us less likely to heed what is written in stone over the entrance to New York Presbyterian Hospital: “From the most high cometh healing.”

Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons     

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