Yesterday, I considered the question of why a loving God would allow chronic illness, both mental and physical, to exist. Today, I want to focus on why evolution would allow mental illness to exist. In other words, where is Darwin when the darkness comes?
Charles Darwin is of course famous for his work on evolutionary theory. Yet his theory rests on the idea that a species would select favorable traits. However, nothing about mental illness is favorable. On the contrary, some forms of mental illness, such as depression, would make someone easy pray. When trying to evade predators, depression’s common symptoms, namely a lack of energy and interest, would probably not be helpful. So why weren’t all the early depressed humans devoured by predators?
It is impossible to know an exact answer, given that there is still so much about mental illness that we don’t know. However, I’ve come across two theories that seem promising.
The first suggests that while mental illness may not seem to have any advantages, it actually reinforces social bonding, which is essential to a social species like humans. The theory goes that early individuals who showed any type of illness, mental or physical, would be cared for by other members of their tribe. This would reinforce social bonds between the individual suffering from the illness and the rest of the tribe, increasing the likelihood that once the caregivers needed care, there would be others to take care of them. In essence it suggests that there is strength in numbers, an approach to mental healthcare that remains true to this day.
The second theory ties in with what I talked about yesterday. I suggested that as we fell further from God, we found ourselves living lives He didn’t intend us to lead. This theory holds true from an evolutionary perspective as well. We all have flight or fight responses. Indeed, such responses are essential to our survival and our ability to pass on our genes to the next generation.
The catch of course is that we no longer live in a society where we are being chased by predators. So our fight or flight response must find other things to do. It instead gets triggered by traffic, by bills, by work, by family, and by all the other daily stresses we live. And since it was never meant to operate like that, it creates chronic harm in the form of mental illness. Essentially, living apart from God is also living apart from nature, and the result is the same.
These of course are just theories. It will take a lot more research to figure out where mental illness comes from and where God and Darwin are when the darkness comes. However, I’d love to hear your thoughts on either of these topics. Feel free to comment below or reach out through the contact page. Hearing feedback helps this site evolve and grow, so thank you in advance.