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From an evolutionary perspective, why would this happen?

  1. Nov 18, 2014 #1
    For those who believe human behavior is explicable in terms of evolutionary biology, can you please explain the following event. I'm personally at a loss for words. Maybe somebody else can help me make sense of this.

     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 18, 2014 #2

    phinds

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    I don't know about others, but I'm not going to watch a 1/2 hour video just to see what your question is. How about you boil it down to a sentence or two?
     
  4. Nov 18, 2014 #3
    Try this one then:
     
  5. Nov 18, 2014 #4

    phinds

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    I see a girl playing a violin. What is your question? Be specific.
     
  6. Nov 18, 2014 #5
    From an evolutionary perspective, why would a human ever play a violin, write poetry, open their mouth to sing, paint a scenery, or compose a symphony? What purpose does it fulfill? Why do these works of art arouse the feeling of awe and beauty in the audience?

    In short, how does the human artistic experience fit into evolution?
     
  7. Nov 18, 2014 #6

    Evo

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    It doesn't have to. Things we do for pleasure are just that, they're things we do for pleasure. I don't think you quite grasp evolution.

    I suggest that you start by reading this. https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/learn-about-evolution-evolution-introduction.543950/
     
  8. Nov 18, 2014 #7

    phinds

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    Yeah, what she said.
     
  9. Nov 18, 2014 #8

    Pythagorean

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    When genetic drift or even selected mutations and adaptations lead to secondary consequences, evolutionary biologists call that a "spandrel":

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spandrel_(biology)
     
  10. Nov 18, 2014 #9

    Doug Huffman

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    Isn't asking why explicitly begging the question, MP, of teleology?
     
  11. Dec 11, 2014 #10
    Consider this: humans wouldn't play music if not for other humans. Artistic expression can be thought of as an adaptive behavior. It takes place within the context of society.
     
  12. Dec 11, 2014 #11
    Tantalize our senses, we "feel" the rhythm, we see the symmetry or chaos or what ever stimulant is provided, and we in turn "emote" from the communication/message. Good Fun! Monkeys didn't evolve to "spill their seed alone." I guess that's called a spandrel.
     
  13. Dec 11, 2014 #12
    Frankly I don't understand the consternation. It makes sense to me on many levels. Please allow me to stick more closely to music than poetry, painting, etc. while understanding that they follow similar paths, serving similar evolutionary advantageous traits.

    Sound is a very important part of our our awareness of our environment even though it is rather outweighed by vision. We have visceral reactions to certain types of sound based on frequency, harmonic content, rhythm, and sound pressure level. These seem likely learned over time and reinforced over many generations because of their usefulness in discriminating between threats, neutral events and benefits. Very low frequencies, for example, tend to be produced by possibly cataclysmic events like thunderstorms and earthquakes and we equate lower frequency sounds not only with bigger events but with bigger animals which at the very least demand attention, since those that didn't pay attention likely got eaten, crushed by landslides, lost in sinkholes,, struck by lightning, or suffered hypothermia, etc.

    Repeating or cyclic auditory cues add another dimension, many of which originally seem to have came from bio-rhythms. For example we have been bipeds for a very long time and for the vast majority of our history this has been our sole means of transportation. It is nearly intuitive information that a very slow rhythm like a dirge coincides with labored walking, while a slightly brisk pace connotes confidence and optimism and a rapid rhythm is more like running, either to something exciting or away from something threatening.

    We have had vocal cords for longer than we have been even remotely human so we could mimic these sounds and cycles and communicate some information about an event even before formal language. So far we aren't talking about music per se just our ability to make and hear sound and to possibly communicate very simple concepts useful if a group, family or tribe, is to survive.

    To extend this through Evolution into an actual intended compilation of any complexity is necessarily contentious because it happened so very long ago and the only evidentiary records are exceedingly rare by their very nature ie no tape recorders and instruments originally were simply hollow logs and branches that are biodegradable in a very short time. So while it is speculation or "guestimation" to go back much further than 60,000 years ago for what we would call music, the fundamental tools were in place for a very long time before that. Aside from immediate survival concerns, there is obviously a survival evolutionary benefit to communication and "team spirit". Also, abstract thought is a key element in human evolutionary success and all manner of storytelling has a long history. Art seems part of that history.

    There is a decent wiki on the subject here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prehistoric_music
     
  14. Dec 11, 2014 #13

    atyy

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    nitsuj and enorbert present two different hypotheses. Here's yet another discussion of the subject by Daniel Levitin, based on Pinker's famous characterization of music as "auditory cheesecake".





     
  15. Dec 11, 2014 #14
    Isn't this missing the point? Most of the things we do are for pleasure, or avoid doing in case of displeasure. Surely the role of evolution is to determine which things we find pleasurable or not. For example, the reason people have sex is mostly for pleasure, but it doesn't mean there's no evolutionary reason behind it.
     
  16. Dec 11, 2014 #15

    Pythagorean

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    “Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that's not why we do it.”

    ― Richard P. Feynman
     
  17. Dec 11, 2014 #16
    Thank you, atyy, I watched all 3 videos with considerable interest and I liked it, all in all. The only 2 things that give me pause is that it seems a non-sequitur given the points of the talk, to conclude that this constitutes "cheesecake" as explained here. It seems to me they help make the case that visceral communication, possibly predating language was the likely role in prehistoric man. I was particularly fascinated by mention of the bullhorns as some of the earliest artifacts ever discovered, since these could have conceivably been used to frighten predators as well as signalling props to their fellows. While I do see an aspect of "cheesecake" in that it is no longer the sole or even major form of communication, the near instantaneous recognition through timbre is easily as, if not more, important than body language. His example of his Mother on the phone saying "Fine" when she is clearly not fine speaks deeply on this issue.

    The 2nd issue is that for people who are learned in the field of sound why didn't they mic the speakers better? ;) The intelligibility is less than optimal due to relative ambient reverberation levels and could have easily been cancelled by either mechanical or electronic means.

    Anyway, thanks :)
     
  18. Dec 11, 2014 #17

    Pythagorean

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    Note, there is no "role" for evolution. Evolution is just a collection of events that occur in biology in a specific context. And certainly, we've evolved a pleasure center that helps motivate us... but we've also learned to exploit it. For example, finding the sweet taste of sugar 50000 years ago most likely meant a healthy, nutrient-rich substance. Today, we can take all the sugar out and leave the nutrition behind, fooling our sensory system into thinking it's doing the "right" thing.
     
  19. Dec 11, 2014 #18

    Evo

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    Since the OP stopped posting, thread closed.
     
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