Evolutionists, how does evolution explain maladaptive behavior?

This is a legit question, not meant to raise an argument. I actually want to know from the evolutionist's point of view how maladaptive behavior (behavior that does not advance the human race) is explained. An example of maladaptive behavior would be a phobia (extreme fear of doors, for example) or OCD.

23 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Often these things are an unfortunate byproduct of other mental aspects that DO help with survival. Remember that evolution isn't a guided process nor is a strive for "perfection".

    We evolved to be skilled, pattern-seeking, casual-finding creatures. Those who were best at finding patterns (e.g., standing upwind of game animals is bad for the hunt, cow manure is good for the crops, etc.) left behind the most offspring. We are their descendants.

    The problem in seeking and finding patterns is knowing which ones are meaningful and which ones are not. Unfortunately, our brains are not always good at determining the difference. The reason is that discovering a meaningless pattern (painting animals on a cave wall before a hunt) usually does no harm and may even do some good in reducing anxiety in certain situations. In some cases, neither of these errors will automatically get us killed, so we can live with them. But this can lead to making associations to things that don't really go together. So in some isolated extreme cases, you get things like phobias and OCDs.

    In fact, these imperfections are the sorts of byproducts that we WOULD expect to find from evolution. They sure don't sound like the work of an intelligent designer. Unless he's a sadist, of course. Most Christians I know do not believe God to be a sadist or deceitful, and thus accept evolution.

    Evolutionary imperfections are similar to why the letters on your computer's keyboard are in that particular order. They're only in that order because that's how they were on typewriters, which is because the very first type writers needed to have common letters spaced apart to help avoid the letter hammers from jamming. Since computer keyboards were a gradual replacement for typewriters, and it was easier for people to use a keyboard that looked like a typewriter, we're still stuck with the letter order. If computers had actually be designed special and from scratch (which is what creationists believe about humans), then we'd have a more practical letter lay-out.

    Source(s): Some of this was taken from "How We Believe" by Michael Shermer, p38-39
  • Aliya
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    Going with the OCD example... When disease comes around they won't get sick because of what would otherwise be excessive hand washing (not a universal OCD behavior, but a very common one). If the disease was deadly and we didn't have a cure, the OCDs with this habit will be the survivors. In other words just because it's considered a disorder in today's society doesn't mean it hasn't or can't be useful for survival. Given that I don't think it can really be termed maladaptive behavior. You should also take into account that genetics are not the only causes of disorders they can be induced by the environment. Even then it still develops as a reaction that still has survival as the ultimate goal. For example a person raised in a hostile environment may develop ADHD because that is useful in such an environment. Phobias are usually caused by traumatic events - a person associates the object of fear, such as a door, with the traumatic event, and then the phobia develops. It's a survival tool. While doors may be considered an irrational phobia, the real goal of the workings of a phobia is to protect you from the traumatic, possibly life-threatening event. The phobia only takes the form of fear of doors because you, whether consciously or subconsciously, associate doors with the trauma.

    Source(s): like to study psychology and science in my spare time
  • 4 years ago

    Examples Of Maladaptive Behavior

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Maladaptive behavior is usually a case of a certain behavior that WOULD be beneficial in a particular context being poorly suited for a new environment.

    For example, eating as many calories as possible is a very GOOD behavior if you live in Ethiopa, and a very BAD behavior if you live in America. But if you have Ethiopian genes in America... well, you're screwed.

    You should read Survival of the Sickest by Sharon Moalem. That book explains exactly what you're referring to: how certain traits which can be detrimental now may actually have conferred an evolutionary advantage to our ancestors.

    Another explanation is that it may be a mutation or condition that isn't beneficial, but is a recessive trait and thus cannot be eliminated from the gene pool by natural selection.

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  • caprio
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    Maladaptive Behavior Examples

  • 1 decade ago

    If it is neither a benefit or harmful or if it is a part of a more helpful mechanism (many plants are green, though their being green does not effect how well they survive, however chlorophyll is green and Is helpful) then the gene may be passed on.

    Also humans are interesting in that technology makes those who would otherwise have died (my eyes aren't great, so I probably wouldn't be alive if I was to exist in a world without glasses) a chance at survival.

    Many phobias are learned behaviors.

  • 1 decade ago

    I don't really know where to begin or how to explain this...

    There are errors in genetic code causing chemical imbalances which result in mental ailments such as OCD and schizophrenia. Evolution deals more with physical and mental traits rather than personality deficiencies such as phobias and irrational beliefs, those are products of societal grooming and tradition. That's the best answer I can give you, I'm afraid. I'll look into this more and if I find anything interesting I'll send it to your inbox.

  • Emely
    Lv 4
    5 years ago

    Hey troll, in some broad sense, "evolution" does explain cosmology. In the first seconds of the Big Bang, the Universe was very hot, very dense, and very, very smooth. Early inflation (not at all well understood) smoothed out most of the initial density irregularities, leaving just a few "seeds". As the Universe expanded and cooled over billions of years (an observed fact), these seeds developed, through gravitational instability, into small galaxies. Stars formed within them, by gravitational instability of the gas---the stars created the elements, in just the right abundances. Star and planet systems are "evolutionary", with some of the early lumps in a protostellar nebula absorbing others, and the whole system evolving into a stable whole, with a star in the middle and planets that no longer collide with each other. The small galaxies "ate" each other, with the largest surviving until the current time.

  • Corey
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Fear of doors isn't biological. I'm certain there is no gene for door-fear.

    In the past, when natural selection had more of an effect on humanity, OCD may have been more useful. More specifically, a population in which OCD was possible may have had a higher baseline vigilance (for predators, telling which foods were edible, etc). Evolution never says that every individual, every trait, or every genome is ideal.

  • billb
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    Maladaptive behaviors refer to types of behaviors that inhibit a person’s ability to adjust to particular situations. This type of behavior is often used to reduce one’s anxiety, but the result is dysfunctional and non-productive. For example, avoiding situations because you have unrealistic fears may initially reduce your anxiety, but it is non-productive in alleviating the actual problem in the long term. In other words, it's not the fear of something that is maladaptive behavior but your reaction to that fear. Humans use different things to control these reactions from drugs to laws. These outside influences can circumvent evolution by masking the problem and allowing the person to pass on the tendency to have the phobias which, depending on the individual, can result in maladaptive behavior.

    Without outside influences, many of the people who are affected by this, would not have the opportunity to procreate. Thus the normal course of evolution is fulfilled.

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