An evolutionary psychiatrist claims that natural selection selects for mental illness:
Randolph Nesse, a professor of life sciences at Arizona State University, attributes high rates of psychiatric disorders to natural selection operating on our genes without paying heed to our emotional well-being. What’s more, the selective processes took place thousands of years before the unique stresses of modern urban existence, leading to a mismatch between our current environment and the one for which we were
In his new book, Good Reasons for Bad Feelings: Insights from the Frontier of Evolutionary Psychiatry, Nesse recruits the framework of evolutionary medicine to make a case for why psychiatric disorders persist despite their debilitating consequences. Some conditions, like depression and anxiety, may have developed from normal, advantageous emotions. Others, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, result from genetic mutations that may have been beneficial in less extreme manifestations of a trait. Scientific American spoke to Nesse about viewing psychiatry through an evolutionary lens to help both patients and clinicians. Dana G. Smith, “Susceptibility to Mental Illness May Have Helped Humans Adapt over the Millennia” at Scientific American
But, of course, Michael Behe’s point in Darwin Devolves is that natural selection primarily breaks or blunts complex things, resulting in survival at a cost. Sounds like Dr. Nesse is saying the same thing, not that he would admit it.
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