Paradigms of Psychiatry: Eclecticism and Its Discontents

Seyyed Nassir Ghaemi


Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2006;19(6):619-624. 

In This Article

'Darwinian' or Evolutionary Psychiatry: The Science of Everything

Another paradigm involves the application of evolutionary theory to psychiatry, popularized in a text called Darwinian psychiatry.[31] In this approach, mental illness is seen as the outgrowth of the misapplication of mental states initially adapted to the caveman era (evolutionary environment of adaptation [EEA]), which is now dysfunctional in modern civilization. Implications of this hypothesis are drawn for our diagnoses as well as treatments.[32*] For instance, depression can be seen as a plea for help or a means of inducing others to help one because of the passive, helpless stance of the depressed person.[33] Although there are advantages of the application of Darwinian methods to any field,[34] a dogmatic application of this paradigm also would tend to induce some skepticism in those committed to scientific methods. For instance, as Popper[35] long ago demonstrated, evolutionary theory is not a scientific theory that can be assessed properly on the refutation standard, as it cannot be refuted. This leads to the uncomfortable fact that the theory can be twisted to fit any data, a hallmark of the vagaries of other dogmas such as psychoanalytic orthodoxy.


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