Lessons and Resources on Applied Evolution
there are only a few lessons on applied topics that have been developed.
Milk Makes You Sick” is a lesson that applies evolution
to medicine: what is the evolutionary explanation of lactose intolerance.
The students learn about lactose intolerance, and more specifically about
how the ability to absorb lactose evolved in humans that kept dairy animals
(the ancestral conditions is lactose intolerance). The students examine
pedigrees to understand the genetics of lactose intolerance, as well as
geographic variation in lactose intolerance to understand the selective
pressures for the ability to absorb lactose. This lesson is also available
from Science Kit. The lesson as presented on the web is a bit confusing;
the explanations are more user-friendly in the Science Kit packet.
are several other resources you can use to develop your own lessons on
applied topics. The first place to start would be Steve Palumbi’s
new book, called The Evolution Explosion: How Humans Cause Rapid
Evolutionary Change (Palumbi 2001). In this book, written for
the educated general public, he details several examples of how understanding
evolution is important to today’s society, including antibiotic
resistance, the evolution of HIV, pesticide resistance, the evolution
of exploited fish populations, and the evolution of various human diseases.
Another resource is Why We Get Sick: the New Science of Darwinian
Medicine (Nesse and Williams 1994), also written for the educated
general public. In this book, Nesse, a doctor of psychiatry, and Williams,
an evolutionary biologist, team up to examine many different medical conditions
from an evolutionary perspective. The topics covered include genetic diseases,
legacies of evolution, diseases of civilization, cancer, allergies and