Survival of the Beautiful

Survival of the Beautiful

Art, Science, and Evolution

Book - 2011
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"The peacock's tail," said Charles Darwin, "makes me sick." That's because the theory of evolution as adaptation can't explain why nature is so beautiful. It took the concept of sexual selection for Darwin to explain that, a process that has more to do with aesthetics than the practical. Survival of the Beautiful is a revolutionary new examination of the interplay of beauty, art, and culture in evolution. Taking inspiration from Darwin's observation that animals have a natural aesthetic sense, philosopher and musician David Rothenberg probes why animals, humans included, have innate appreciation for beauty-and why nature is, indeed, beautiful.

Sexual selection may explain why animals desire, but it says very little about what they desire. Why will a bowerbird literally murder another bird to decorate its bower with the victim's blue feathers? Why do butterfly wings boast such brilliantly varied patterns? The beauty of nature is not arbitrary, even if random mutation has played a role in evolution. What can we learn from the amazing range of animal aesthetic behavior-about animals, and about ourselves?

Readers who enjoyed the bestsellers The Art Instinct and The Mind's Eye will find Survival of the Beautiful an equally stimulating and profound exploration of art, science, and the creative impulse.

Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury Press, c2011
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 9781608192168
Branch Call Number: 701.05 R743s 2011
Characteristics: viii, 311 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 25 cm
Alternative Title: Art, science, and evolution


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Jun 12, 2012

I can't believe I read the whole thing! The book contains some interesting facts. That prompted me to try and get through it, although I almost gave up several times. Some of the research Rothenberg includes on the commonalities of human visual perception and preferences intrigued me. Yet, the flaws in his thesis became increasingly apparent, and, ultimately reading Survival of the Beautiful was a frustrating and unsatisfactory experience. Like a number of my students, this author seems to confuse gathering compelling tidbits of information with acquiring knowledge. What's missing here is rigorous inquiry and critical thinking. At no point, for instance, does Rothenberg problematize the terms "art" or "beautiful". More flaky than scholarly and riddled with pompous (unexamined) pronouncements, avoid.


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