The evolutionary significance of the arts: Exploring the byproduct hypothesis in the context of ritual, precursors, and cultural evolution

D. Hodgson, J. Verpooten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

The role of the arts has become crucial to understanding the origins of ‘‘modern human behavior,’’ but continues to be highly controversial as it is not always clear why the arts evolved and persisted. This issue is often addressed by appealing to adaptive biological explanations. However, we will argue that the arts have evolved culturally rather than biologically, exploiting biological adaptations rather than extending them. In order to support this
line of inquiry, evidence from a number of disciplines will be presented showing how the relationship between the arts, evolution, and adaptation can be better understood by regarding cultural transmission as an important second
inheritance system. This will allow an alternative proposal to be formulated as to the proper place of the arts in human evolution. However, in order for the role of the arts to be fully addressed, the relationship of culture to genes and
adaptation will be explored. Based on an assessment of the cognitive, biological, and cultural aspects of the arts, and their close relationship with ritual and associated activities, we will conclude with the null hypothesis that the arts evolved as a necessary but nonfunctional concomitant of other traits that cannot currently be refuted.
Keywords: adaptation, arts, by-product, evolution, ritual
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-85
JournalBiological Theory
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

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