Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Dance of Evolution, or How Art Got Its Start - New York Times

The Dance of Evolution, or How Art Got Its Start - New York Times: "In the main presentation at the conference, Ellen Dissanayake, an independent scholar affiliated with the University of Washington, Seattle, offered her sweeping thesis of the evolution of art, nimbly blending familiar themes with the radically new. By her reckoning, the artistic impulse is a human birthright, a trait so ancient, universal and persistent that it is almost surely innate. But while some researchers have suggested that our artiness arose accidentally, as a byproduct of large brains that evolved to solve problems and were easily bored, Ms. Dissanayake argues that the creative drive has all the earmarks of being an adaptation on its own. The making of art consumes enormous amounts of time and resources, she observed, an extravagance you wouldn’t expect of an evolutionary afterthought. Art also gives us pleasure, she said, and activities that feel good tend to be those that evolution deems too important to leave to chance. What might that deep-seated purpose of art-making be? Geoffrey Miller and other theorists have proposed that art serves as a sexual display, a means of flaunting one’s talented palette of genes. Again, Ms. Dissanayake has other ideas."


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