Professor Emeritus

Research Summary

Evolutionary medicine.

Research Description

The goal of my academic work is to help physicians, biomedical scientists, and students appreciate the value of evolutionary biology for medical research, education, and practice. Evolutionary concepts provide a framework for understanding why we remain vulnerable to disease. Several aspects of evolutionary biology have special relevance to medicine. The theory of host-pathogen coevolution helps to explain the natural histories of infectious diseases and calls attention to the idea that the manifestations of disease may be part of our evolved defense mechanisms. Life history theory enriches our understanding of aging and provides novel insights into socioeconomic disparities in health. Finally, evolutionary theory helps us appreciate the origins and significance of human variation. Integration of an evolutionary perspective into medical research may lead to new interventions to prevent, cure, or ameliorate disease.

Selected Publications

Weisfeld, A., and Perlman, R.L. (2005) Disparities and discrimination in health care: An introduction. Perspect. Biol. Med. 48, S1-S9.

Perlman, R.L. (2005) Why disease persists: An evolutionary nosology. Med. Health Care Philos. 8, 343-350.

Perlman, R.L. (2007) The socioeconomic context of health and healthcare. Midway Review 2(2), 16-23.

Perlman, R.L. (2008) Socioeconomic inequalities in ageing and health. Lancet 372, S34-S39.

Perlman, R.L. (2009) Life histories of pathogen populations. Int J Infect Dis. 13, 121-124.

Schechter, A. N., and Perlman, R.L. (2009). Evidence-based medicine again. Perspect. Biol. Med. 52, 161-163.

Nesse, R.M., Bergstrom, C.T., Ellison, P.T., Flier, J.S., Gluckman, P., Govindaraju, D.R., Niethammer, D., Omenn, G.S., Perlman, R.L., Schwartz, M., Thomas, M.G., Stearns, S.C., and Valle, D. (2010) Making evolutionary biology a basic science for medicine. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 107,1800-1807.

Perlman, R.L. (2011) Evolutionary biology: A basic science for medicine in the 21st century. Perspect. Biol. Med. 54, 75-88.