Is Darwinism Indispensable to Comparative Medicine? Meet Galen, Vesalius, Harvey, and Linnaeus.

Michael Egnor

Is Darwinism indispensable to modern medicine? As I noted in an earlier posts here and here, Darwinists usually use three arguments to assert that Darwin’s theory of random variation and natural selection is indispensable to medicine. They claim that Darwinism is necessary for comparative medicine, or that it is necessary for molecular genetics, or that it is necessary for understanding bacterial resistance to antibiotics. All three fields of medicine are obviously important, but Darwinism, understood as the theory that all biological structure arose by random variation and natural selection, is not necessary to understand any of them. In this post, I’ll deal with the first question: is Darwinism essential for an understanding of comparative medicine and comparative biology? No, it’s not.


For several millennia before Darwin, all biology was comparative biology. Before the scientific revolution, biologists spent their time studying and comparing the design of living things. In the 4th century B.C., Aristotle wrote extensively on comparative biology, and classified living things according to structural and functional similarities. The great 2nd century A.D. Roman physician Galen, who was the father of classical anatomy, dissected apes, not humans, and drew inferences to human anatomy from his animal dissections. Andreas Vesalius, the 16th century founder of modern anatomy, dissected humans and corrected Galen’s erroneous extrapolations from animal dissections. The great 17th century physician William Harvey discovered the circulation of blood by extensive physiological studies of animals. It is noteworthy that all these pioneering comparative biologists based their work on the inference that living things were designed.
The father of modern comparative biology was Carolus Linnaeus. The 18th century Swedish physician, botanist and zoologist laid the foundation for modern taxonomy. He advanced the binomial (“genus and species”) system of classification, and his work is the basis for biological nomenclature used throughout the world today. Linnaeus’ system was based on detailed knowledge of the physical similarities and differences between living things. Linnaeus based his classification on his inference that living things were designed.
Was Darwin indispensable to comparative medicine and biology? Consider this. Linnaeus, the father of modern comparitive biology and a devout Lutheran, died during a church service in Uppsala Cathedral on January 10, 1778. That was 31 years and 33 days before Charles Darwin was born.

Michael Egnor

Senior Fellow, Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Michael R. Egnor, MD, is a Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook, has served as the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, and award-winning brain surgeon. He was named one of New York’s best doctors by the New York Magazine in 2005. He received his medical education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completed his residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital. His research on hydrocephalus has been published in journals including Journal of Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, and Cerebrospinal Fluid Research. He is on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Hydrocephalus Association in the United States and has lectured extensively throughout the United States and Europe.

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