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Medicine and Evolution

Medicine and Evolution

Human beings exist in a close relationship with the environment, which includes the non-living and the living environment as well. This relation has a long evolutionary history, which is studied by general evolutionary biology. Based on this knowledge the perspective of anthroposophy especially adds a strong focus on the origin and evolution of the unity of body, soul and mind as equally real entities. A basic assumption is that human beings – or at least the principle of humanity in general - influenced the whole course of evolution, although humans are the latest ones appearing in the fossil record. This is in accordance with considerations like the “anthropic principle,” which assumes that the whole course of evolution is more or less directed towards the generation of man or at least has enabled his appearance. A central question is, which role the individuality of man has played during the course of evolution. 

According to modern scientific knowledge it is highly improbable that evolution is generated purely by a genetic random puzzle combined with some selection, as the synthetic theory of evolution assumed. This is increasingly acknowledged in evolutionary biology today (Link: In recent years additional aspects are being discussed, including new concepts in genetics, a much greater role of the phenotype (“phenotypic plasticity”), systems aspects of evolutionary transitions, changes during embryonal development and a much more complicated interdependence between the organism and its environment (“niche construction”). Anthroposophically oriented investigations contribute to these questions the perspectives of a stepwise generation of autonomous functions of individual organisms during evolution, development and generative processes of organismal form in the sense of formation and transformation studied by morphology, the significance of time processes in evolution, the role of self-generated activity of organisms (“agency”) and many more. Topics like morphogenesis, neurobiology, problems of the understanding of life processes in general, mind-body interactions and free will are studied, adding non-reductionistic aspects to anthropology.

For Anthroposophic Medicine this basic research adds some interesting perspectives. One perspective concerns the general understanding of the human organization as a result of his long evolution. A second perspective concerns the development and discovery of medicines and therapeutic interventions, based on our relationship with other living beings.

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July 2017

Dr. Priv.-Doz. Bernd Rosslenbroich 
Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Morphology 
Faculty of Health, School of Medicine, Witten-Herdecke University, Germany