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As part of GEN's ongoing celebration of the "Year of Darwin," this week's podcast takes a close look at how disease, parasites, germs, and other microbes helped shape the evolution of the human species. We think of disease as our enemy, something we try to eradicate; germs and infections are things we battle. But evolutionary biologist Dr. Marlene Zuk, in her book Riddled with Life, reveals that, in fact, disease can be our partner not our foe and is responsible for everything from how we look to how we often behave.
During the podcast Dr. Zuk explains that disease is not merely ubitiquitous but normal. She points out that since the earliest days of life on Earth, disease has evolved alongside humans and other organisms. Dr. Zuk also explores the concept of Darwinian Medicine.She specifies the major principles of this approach to treating disease and offers her opinion on why doctors need Darwin.
In addition, Dr. Zuk provides examples of how living in an overly hygienic environment can actually make people sick.
Marlene Zuk received a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and did postdoctoral work at the University of New Mexico before joining the Department of Biology at the University of California, Riverside, where she is a professor. She is also the Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Equity and Diversity. Her research concerns evolution and behavior, with a particular interest in the evolution of host-parasite interactions in the context of sexual behavior.