Biological Psychiatry and Evolution

After a length absence due to my acceptance into Suffolk University’s clinical Ph.D. program, I intend to delve back into this blog again!

A brief entry today; I was referred to this passage from a paper by Douglas A. Kramer (2005), which I will quote at length.

Bowlby (1988) lamented the “physiological psychiatrists who have improperly kidnapped the label biological psychiatry.” Various other names for this more comprehensive biological psychiatry have been proposed, e.g., ethological psychiatry (McGuire and Fairbanks, 1977), developmental psychiatry (Bowlby, 1988), and Darwinian psychiatry (McGuire and Troisi, 1998), but none have attracted broad interest among psychiatrists. “Ethological psychiatry” does have the advantage of being the most inclusive (Kramer and McKinney, 1979), does account for the four general categories (control, development, function, and evolution) of understanding behavior biologically as described by Tinbergen (1951), and is the biological science identified by Bowlby (1969) as the scientific basis for a comprehensive biological psychiatry. However, it suffers from its origins as a science based on observing animals in their natural environment, i.e., in the field rather than the laboratory. I anticipate that the term biological psychiatry will come to designate the comprehensive biological psychiatry that Bowlby and Rutter pioneered and that the organizing principle will be developmental psychobiology. (p. 26)

When you think of “biological psychiatry,” “biological psychology,” or “biological” anything, for that matter, do you only think of physiology? I certainly often do, despite the fact that I believe that evolution is the cornerstone of biology. The term certainly has been hijacked, in my opinion, although most likely without malice.


Kramer, D. A. (2005). Commentary: Gene-environment interplay in the context of genetics, epigenetics, and gene expression. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry44(1), 19-27.


Daniel Glass

About Daniel Glass

Daniel Glass is a doctoral student at Suffolk University. He is interested in evolutionary approaches to clinical psychology. Evolved This Way explores this burgeoning field, which uses evolution to understand, classify, and treat mental disorders and other clinical phenomena.
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