, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 449-460
Date: 01 Dec 2011

What’s Darwin got to do with it? The role of evolutionary theory in psychiatry

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I have to admit I nearly said “no” when offered the opportunity to write a critical notice of a collection of essays on evolutionary psychiatry. Evolutionary theorizing about the mind has too often been, it seems to me, excessively speculative and overly dogmatic. But when I actually began reading Adriaens and De Blocks’ collection on evolutionary psychiatry I was both surprised and impressed. Many of these papers not only avoid the usual pitfalls, but skillfully diagnose them. Alas, one paper makes some of the same old mistakes, but it makes a useful foil.

I begin this critical notice with a brief overview of the ways in which the idea of adaptation has been used in evolutionary thinking about mental disorder. The overview serves to introduce many important issues which I subsequently take up. In Section 2, I discuss the ways in which various chapters in the collection highlight the limitations of adaptationist thinking in psychiatry, and in Section 3 I focus on depression which presen ...