Evolutionarily Speaking, Colic Makes No GD Sense

Next to beached manatees, crying babies have to be the easiest prey in the entire animal kingdom. Although, I don’t think manatees are known for their boisterousness. They probably just lay there contentedly, waiting for the tide to take them back out. Hmm, I guess I was wrong—even a stranded half-metric-ton of lard has better survival skills than the animal supposedly at the top of the food chain.

I tweeted this out about a week ago, and it might be the truest tweet of them all: evolutionarily speaking, colic makes no GD sense. And really, not just colic. All fits of screaming cry-rage are clear examples of evolutionary mistakes. Like redheads. We probably shouldn’t exist… pretty hard to blend into a lush forest background with pale-white skin and flaming red hair. No doubt our redheaded ancestors were the first to be eaten by hungry lions and tigers.

So, too, would our inconsolable screaming babies be targeted first, their cries calling predators from miles around. I’m right here! Can’t you hear me? I’m nicely marbled and fresh out of the womb. Come, eat me… I’ll be screaming all night!

BabyCenter.com lists 12 reasons why your baby might be crying. It’s what I would call the amateur list, created for people who probably shouldn’t be having babies in the first place. Oh, babies get hungry and sometimes need to get changed? Brilliant! It’s a good checklist to run through anytime you’re having a hard time consoling your child.

But missing from the list are important things items spite, revenge, and boredom. The more subtle motivations behind your baby’s’ audible button-pushing. Also missing: an explanation of why crying was nature’s go-to solution. The theory of evolution would have us believe that only those traits that are beneficial for the survival of the species are passed down from generation to generation. I just don’t see how crying fits in when other options exist.

For example, why couldn’t babies be born with a Psst instinct? You know, instead of escalating immediately to max-level screaming the second they need something, why can’t they get our attention with a civilized Psst—it would quickly and easily convey the message of Hey, I require some assistance without attracting ferocious lions all jacked up for some oh-so-tender baby meat. Parents would be happier, and babies wouldn’t get eaten. I’d call that a win-win.

The one thing evolution got right was instilling a modicum of tolerance for your own baby’s cries. Other crying babies can just go straight to hell, but the sound of my son crying in his crib at 2 AM does evoke the natural parenting instincts of love and a desire to soothe him back sleep. That wears off in about ten minutes, but it’s ten more minutes than a stranger’s baby would get out of me.

Also, I’m a terrible babysitter.

Science tells us that babies cry simply because that’s the only way they can communicate. Well, I’m sorry, Mother Nature, but WTF? Do puppies emit non-barking sounds before they grow up and learn how to properly bark? Do kittens release anything other than cute little kitten meows when they’re just weeks old? Do ugly baby chicks not chirp just the same as their beautiful bird parents? Not that I’m aware of.

So why are humans the only animals that have two distinct forms of communication? I’d much prefer little baby chit-chat over the sounds I woke up to five times last night.

I argue evolution has failed us. Human crying makes no sense. It’s really amazing to think we survived as a species when we, a little helpless lumps of meat, literally screamed out our location to indiscriminate killer predators. Our ancestors must have really loved their kids to be on constant lookout. Thank God my son is immeasurably adorable… and that we don’t live in the Serengeti.  

Featured image via Flickr user Christopher_Hawkins

1 Response

  1. Collette W

    I can’t believe no one has ever pointed out this perplexing biological question before. WTF Mother Nature, indeed. Great piece.

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