Art as adaptation (WAS: Robin's Arts Post)

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Mon, 27 Sep 1999 19:47:18 -0500

Eric Watt Forste wrote:
> Robin Hanson apparently wrote:
> > I have hope that evolutionary psychology is onto some insights into
> > why we have evolved to be the sort of creatures who like to do art.
> > Hopefully these insights will help explain many of these puzzling
> > details.
> It has long been my opinion that human artistic behavior is primarily
> a product of sexual selection, not natural selection. People who
> can sing, paint, draw, dance, etc. in a very pleasing way give
> evidence of having sufficient wealth (in the form of leisure time)
> to be attractive mates.

I've also come to the same conclusion, from a completely different starting point - I observe that in most/many/all cases where there's a perception of "beauty", it seems to be involved in attracting mates - poetry (typical lovesick behavior, I hear), music (rock bands and groupies), even humor (top response on "What do you want in a husband?" questionaires: "A sense of humor"), and of course the obvious case of the "beauty" of a female/male form. In my opinion, most of the "mysterious" beauty - the beauty that people claim mere computer programs will never see; i.e., poetry, music, and humor - is the result and insignia of sexual selection.

On the other hand, I know of at least one case where the flow of causality is reversed - flowers may be used to woo the fair, but flowers are (started out as being?) beautiful because they indicate healthy foraging grounds. So it's by no means certain.

           Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Running on BeOS           Typing in Dvorak          Programming with Patterns
Voting for Libertarians   Heading for Singularity   There Is A Better Way