Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Is there an explanation. . .

Facebook: "Wonderful skies tonight near Lochwinnoch"

'via Blog this'

Does evolutionary biology have an explanation for human appreciation of the beauty of nature?

I see the obvious explanation for human appreciation of female/male beauty or sexuality. That facilitates reproduction. I see the explanation of human love, too--it encourages society and cooperation, which in turn, increase survival, and the opportunity to have sex.

But what is the explanation for the human appreciation of a beautiful sunset? It seems to me like a man gazing off at the sunset contemplating its beauty only serve to make him vulnerable to a wild animal attack.  I can't see how appreciation of beauty forwards man's survival the way increased reasoning and intelligence do.


Brett said...

Just for the fun of taking a stab at it...

While beauty can be hard to quantify, there are many examples of things considered beautiful that exhibit patterns. The frequencies of musical notes that harmonize have mathematical relationships, people that are considered beautiful tend to have a high degree of symmetry in their faces, etc.

So maybe an appreciation for beauty and an appreciation for patterns are related, and the ability to recognize patterns might have some evolutionary advantages: knowing how to find prey and avoid predators, interpreting weather indications, etc.

Ryan said...

One explanation I read was that human's appreciation of nature correlates with resources that are needed to help him survive.

I guess that works for the desert (which most people find ugly) as compared with the forest (which most people find beautiful).

But then, I think, most of the other natural things people find beautiful are pretty treacherous. Like gorges, canyons, waterfalls, cliffs, towering mountains.

And I don't see any way that a appreciating beautiful sunset helps you survive.

maybe you're making the argument a evolutionary biologist would make: there is some relationship between natural beauty and pattern recognition. But I'm currently not seeing it.

Brett said...

I've got it: finding beauty in a sunset motivates you to survive another day so you can see another.

Ryan said...

Ooooh. I think you're on to something.

Maybe we evolved to find beauty in the sunset so that we would think there is a God. Our belief in God motivates us to keep on living even though, there is no God and our lives have no higher purpose. But without this motivation we would be depressed and suicidal.

But if belief in God is a product of evolutionary biology, all those atheist scientist who believe in evolution should embrace belief in God as a useful adaptation.