Gene-Environment Mismatch

One of the most useful and illuminating ideas to emerge from thinking in evolutionary or Darwinian ways is the gene-environment mismatch. Genes adapted to an ancestral environment will be mismatched in a modern one.

If human nature is entirely malleable, a blank hard drive, then there can be no mismatch. Only if human nature is real, if our mental hard drives come preinstalled with apps, can there be mismatch.

Any major change in environment would lead to mismatch. The advent of agriculture probably brought a mismatch—until presumably the most mismatched genes were selected out.

Food is one modern mismatch. The abundance, the pleasing taste, the sugars and refined starches, all are likely mismatched to our digestive systems and satiety-signalling systems. This is probably the root of the obesity epidemic of recent decades. Here’s an illustration of the differences:

Food motivation fulcrum

From: Whole Health Source

Utopian ideologies are another modern mismatch. The communal kibbutz turned out to be mismatched with the desire for family life. The idea that there could be a world communist order, a perfectly harmonious, cooperative society is mismatched with our known imperfections. The feminist idea that fathers should have the same desire to care for infants as mothers is a mismatch. Multiculturalism may turn out to be another mismatch.


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