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Evolution and nursing

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Evolutionary theory has been a very popular topic in recent years and it has been claimed that it can make a major contribution to the advance of several sciences such as medicine, psychology, psychopathology and sociology: even providing them with new paradigms. This paper explores the possibility that nursing could benefit similarly by adopting an evolutionary perspective. After sketching the scientific and philosophical background to the recent developments concerning evolution, and briefly mentioning the chief features of evolutionary theory, the paper discusses whether it makes sense to talk of ‘evolutionary nursing’, and whether there are any benefits in doing so. It uses a comparison with Darwinian medicine and evolutionary psychology. Several problems and objections are considered. The modest conclusion is reached that nurses need to adopt an evolutionary perspective to serve as a guide for some of their research and a source for research hypotheses. They also need to be informed about evolutionary ideas so as to be aware of the developments in the disciplines with which they work, and this understanding will assist them in maintaining vigilance against the misuse of science, religion and politics on behalf of their patients.
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Keywords: distal and proximate explanations; evolution; evolutionary nursing; nursing research

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2002

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