Why Are Kids Hyper? Blame Evolution
Jon Hamilton on National Public Radio was curious why his 7-year-old kid always had more energy than he did and didn’t need coffee to get him going. So he asked an evolutionary biologist at UC Irvine and got the following explanation:
“It’s fairly clear that human evolution has been strongly shaped by very powerful selection pressures over the last two million years to build a bigger brain,” Rose told me.
That bigger brain doesn’t have much in it when we’re born, Rose says. So children need all that energy to explore the world and devour information.
“Play and activity and doing all kinds of things – including things your parents and teachers don’t like – is a big part of developing a functional human brain,” Rose says.
Brain development pays off in the long run. Kids eventually get smart enough to survive on their own.
But while they’re going full speed through childhood, they put themselves at risk. So evolution has equipped children with parents – who are slower but perhaps wiser.
Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Hamilton got a bonus from another evolutionary biologist, Steven Lima (Indiana State) who explained that without parents, kids would not survive a world of big cars and big cats:
“They spend a lot of time rough-housing, running around screaming and all this sort of thing,” he says. “This is one of the most ridiculous things you can do. It’s a giant ‘Eat at Joe’s’ sign, you know. ‘Just come kill me. I’m running around and not paying attention and making a lot of noise.’”
Parents are much more alert to danger, even if we’re not very perky. So we keep an eye out for things like tigers and traffic.
And eventually, Lima says, children grow up and start acting more like parents.
“Playing around like that becomes ridiculous,” he says. “You don’t get anything out of it anymore. It just becomes dangerous.”
What slips away, of course, is youthful energy.
This evolution, it’s so wonderful, it even explains grandparents. A consequence of not taking as many risks is living long enough to influence the next generation:
“Fifty- and 60-year-old humans can be very relevant to the future of their offspring and grand-offspring,” Rose says. “And for that reason, natural selection may indeed still have some force in keeping us alive in middle age.”
“Provided,” Hamilton quips, “we don’t fall asleep on the job.”
And with that line, we award Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week to Rose, Hamilton and Lima, for their flexibility to explain everything, even your morning coffee and grandparents, by evolutionary theory. Funny that this didn’t seem to work the same way with deer children, who will sit quietly in the thicket while their energetic parents are up and about. Isn’t it amazing that evolution produces organisms that scream for predators to come and eat them, and others that silently blend in with the background. Evolution is so powerful, it even produces reason, and wisdom! (but not the ability to stay energetic when you have the wisdom to use it).
Does anyone doubt that if the observations were reversed (parents more energetic than children), these evolutionists would have another obvious, intuitive and confident evolutionary explanation ready to serve up? It would never occur to these people that other explanations might exist, like design. It doesn’t matter to them that opposite observations can be accommodated with their Silly Putty law of natural selection, the dream gadget that does everything.*
What an elegant, beautiful system emerged in 1859, all from the fertile brain of a man whose brain emerged by nature to pronounce truths about nature. You gotta admire Charlie – the new Aristotle.