Arts of Seduction

 

The article, Arts of Seduction, examines and seeks to explain art as a possible sexual selection.  Is art a survival adaptation?  Is it a courtship adaptation?  It is perhaps not exclusively for courtship, but art clearly illustrates sexual choices.  Anthropologist Ellen Dissanayake provides three reason as to why art can be looked at in terms of evolutionary purposes.  First, she states that art is ubiquitous, it is present in every single culture.  It is universal across all human groups.  Art was discovered 35,000 years ago in Europe in cave paintings, 50,000 years ago among the Aborigine in Australia who created paintings on rocks, and 100,000 years ago in Africa in the form of body ornamentation.  Secondly, she argues that art is source of pleasure and pleasurable behaviors are often evolutionary adaptations.  And, thirdly, art require effort and effort is rarely present without some sort of adaptive rationale.  Furthermore, one way evolutionary psychologists distinguish between genuine adaptations and non-adaptations is its relative enjoyment and ease in learning, which we can obviously see in the process of art making- even small children can create art when presented with the appropriate materials.  Another justification for art as adaptation is the fact that it varies from culture to culture with different techniques and styles just as language does, language being a clear adaptation.  We are also not born with the ability to create art, in the same way we do not have the ability to speak when we are first born.  Most mental adaptations are not present at birth.  This is because adaptations do not generally emerge until we need them.

It does not appear, however, that art directly promotes survival.  Art is costly both in time and energy and is apparently quite useless, yet it manifests a particular sort of beauty, which Darwin would say indicates a courtship function.

            Beginning with German Romantics of the nineteenth century, art has been viewed as a “utopian escape from reality” (p. 261).  This perspective presents artists in a positive light as “overcoming their instincts, avoiding banality, striving against capitalism, rebelling against society, and transcending the ornamental” (p. 261).  It recognizes art as pleasurable, both in making and looking at it, but it looks to pleasure as being sufficient cause for the existence of art.  However, if we compare this belief to eating, we might say that we eat just for the pleasure of eating, when in fact we know this to be untrue.  We eat because we need energy.  It is for this reason why we must being with explaining pleasure.

            The hypothesis that art functions as a glue which holds society together, similar to religion, music, and dance, arose during the early twentieth century; formed from a functionalist viewpoint.  However, followers of this philosophy expressed a behavior’s function as its place in society and its “cultural stability,” which does little to provide any understanding from an evolutionary standpoint.  For example, primates such as chimpanzees have no need for mechanisms such as art.  So why, then, do humans have this need?  Some seek to explain art through what is known as the propaganda theory, thus conveying cultural values and socializing the young.  The trouble with this theory, though, is that it does not make sense that in prehistoric times anyone would have had the desire to produce propaganda.  Why spend the time and energy when language by itself has been found to be the most efficient way of communicating what to do and what not to do.  Still, others have looked to explain the presence of art as a religious function.  But if art evolved as a way of appeasing gods, dead ancestors, and animal spirits, how can we account for the possibility that these entities may not really exist and consequently provide nothing?  And, if they do exist, appeasing them does not provide a reproductive advantage.  On the other hand, if certain spiritual powers are able to grant higher status or reproductive opportunities, then such behavior could, in fact, be explained by sexual selection.  The same is true for artwork said to have the power to cure diseases, which has never been medically or empirically proven.  If it does not truly have the power to cure disease, what would the purpose be?  Evolution does not give favor to one value system or cultural practice.  If the artistic image does not do as intended or does not provide qualities needed for survival, then the only answer for evolution’s attention to art is through sexual selection.  It is, however, important to realize the differences in various functions of art.  Art may serve a social function if it supports certain organizations like religion and politics.  It may also be created through an individual motivation which includes making a living and achieving social standing.  Lastly, art may be achieved according to a biological function, which happens to be the focus of this article, concerning survival or reproduction.  But although evolutionary psychology does attempt to answer many interesting questions of human beings, it is impossible to answer all of the; nor does evolutionary psychology wish to undermine the interest so art history or artistic expression.

            Two strategies that have been taken to explain art as an evolutionary origin are top-down and bottom-up.  The top-down approach looks at the fine arts, while bottom-up focuses on visual ornamentation.  The fine arts, then, are a “recent manifestation of a universal human instinct for making visual ornamentation” (p. 266).  Scientists generally take this top-down approach to counteract the stereotype that they have forgotten beauty in the midst of their pursuit for truth.  But looking at the bottom-up and visual ornamentation presents us with the opportunity to appreciate the art that surrounds us every day.  Clothing, jewelry, big beautiful houses, furniture, gardens, even automobiles are examples of this aesthetic behavior in every day life; and really there is no clear line dividing fashion and art. 

            This article takes a bottom-down approach which makes more sense in regards to the evolutionary origins of art and tracing “the adaptive function of these seemingly useless biological luxuries” (p. 20).  It is possible that some of our bodily organs have evolved as visual ornamentation, similar to the way in which the peacock’s tail evolved.  Examples in the human body include hair, faces, and muscles, which play upon one’s senses.  Another way of understanding this phenomenon is by looking at bowerbirds and their mating practice.  They can be compared to humans doing artwork because a male bowerbird’s ornamentation does not grow out of their bodies, but rather is consciously made, an obvious adaptation to female sexual choice.  A female bowerbird will usually choose to copulate with the male who has the most sturdy, symmetrical, and well-ornamented nest.  Males will even go so far as to “paint” the inner walls of their bower by using leaves or bark in their beaks and a bluish regurgitated fruit residue, similar to an artist with a paintbrush.  In addition, the males which have evolved brightly colored feathers, dance in front of the bowers and perform for the females.  In all, this practice represents many significant adaptations.  Their skill indicates good fitness, takes time and energy, requires the to defend their bower which demonstrates strength- all indicators of good genes.  However, the bowerbird probably does not know why he creates art.  He might explain it as an instinct or desire for self-expression, much in the same way we explain human art.  Artists, themselves, tend to reject the notion that they create in order to procreate.  The bowerbird is a good example of the continuity between body ornamentation and art. Which biologists are beginning to look at more closely.  Evolution does not stop within the boundary of the body.  Although traditionally a person’s phenotype has previously only included parts of the body, a person’s “extended phenotype is the total reach of its genes into the environment” (p. 271).  This means that while some ornaments are worn on the body, ornaments also include memory and reputation.  Examples of such ornamentation of the body are tattoos, makeup, braiding, dying, and cutting our hair, and putting on jewelry and clothing.  Apart from the body, however, we decorate our homes with stylish useful objects and useless objects purely for aesthetic appeal.

            Suprisingly enough, the theory that art has emerged through sexual selection is not a new idea.  It was mentioned as far back as Darwin who “viewed human ornamentation and clothing as natural outcomes of sexual selection” (p. 271).  Darwin notes that self-adornment, vanity, and the admiration of others seem to be the commonest motives for self-ornamentation.  And similar, to nature, Darwin finds that in most cultures the men are more decorated than the females of the species in accordance with the sexual selection theory.  He continues to argue art as an evolution of sexual selection because it is seen across cultures, concluding that it could not come from any one source, making it a universal part of human nature.  Other scientists such as Herbert Spencer, Max Nordau, and Sigmund Freud agreed with Darwin in considering art as a sexual adaptation, but because sexual selection theory was not well developed at the turn of the century, their speculations did not go to far.  Instead, a theorist known as Felix Clay began to complain of equating artistic production with reproduction.  He preferred to view art, alternatively, as a common “pleasurable emotion” (p. 272).  He did agree, though, that a large part of art and music alike was inspired by sexual desire, but it was only because art itself has the power of arousing emotion and is naturally used to heighten pleasure.  Unfortunately, what these researchers were missing was the fact that “a sexually selected instinct for making ornamentation need not have any motivational or emotional connection with a sexually selected desire to copulate.  The display does not need to keep track of the fact that beautiful displays often lead to successful reproduction.  Evolution keeps track for us” (p. 273). 

            In accordance with the sexual selection theory, then, better artists must have attracted more partners or the most desirable partners.  In looking at Picasso, we see a good example in the fact that he fathered one child by his first wife, another by his mistress, and two more by a second mistress.  Picasso was also a good indicator of one who had acquired much wealth through the occupation of creating art.

            There was a lot of sexual content in prehistoric art, such as statues with large breast, genitals, phallic batons, and so on.  While it is an interesting find, the author points out that it is not relevant to the sexual choice model for evolution of art.  Such sculptures do not imply a favoring of hypersexual pieces of art, rather that the artist’s interest.  It also could be coincidence as pointed out in the example of bowerbirds resembling phallus’ and how many street outlines look like yoni (stylized labia).    

            If one chooses to view art as an example of biological signaling, it can be broken down into capacities for producing art and capacities for judging art, both are complementary.  It is no wonder that people have figured out to create things aesthetically pleasing to others in order to attract sexual partners and gain social status, as well as the fact that it has been mostly men who have produced most of the famous art in the world.  Men are the sex more likely to have the motivation to take advantage of this situation in order to attract sexual partners. 

            In answering the questions to why is beauty so compelling and why certain things are more attractive than others, the author labels are reactions to beauty as footprints of powerful selection forces.  For sexual preference, one might look to faces and bodies while our aesthetic preference looks rather capricious but upon examination, reveals a deeper logic.  If art did indeed evolve through sexual selection then our aesthetic preferences could be part of mate selection, however that is not the case.  Our aesthetic preferences are what we use in assessing one’s phenotype.  To explain these preferences, one should be able to use the exact same principles of selection theory that biologists use to explain mating preferences including runaway effects, sensory biases, and fitness indicators.

            It is supposed that human aesthetics possible emerged through runaway sexual selection with aesthetic tastes evolving as part of the female mate selection, suggesting female hominids had tastes for male ornaments.  The artist who can capture these tastes acquired more groupies and therefore able to produce more offspring who would in turn inherit their talent and taste. 

            A clear example of this is is with the Wodaabe people of the deserts of Nigeria and Niger.  Men dance vigorously for seven full nights to show off health and endurance during annual festivals.  At the end of the festival, men line up displaying themselves for the women.  Upon finding the male she finds the most attractive, she invites him for a sexual encounter. 

            While the practice of the Wodaabe people may seem strange, they are behaving normally in that the males are displaying and the women are choosing.  For men to make good art, they must hold the same aesthetic discrimination as the women have.  With the Wodaabe men, when they are decorating themselves for the women, they must use the same mindset in choosing decorations that women will be judging them. 

            With all this in mind, the runaway beauty predicts similarities in aesthetic tastes, with much higher output by males.  The runaway beauty theory can only account for its existence, it can explain why we find some things more beautiful than others, but not explain how we come to our judgments.

            The theory of sensory bias seems ideal for explaining our aesthetic preferences.  The sensory bias theory is most valuable when can trace as to why our brain circuits have evolved certain sensitivities.  Physiological studies have lacked taking the nest stake of asking the why questions.  This was a major flaw in Nancy Aiken’s study, in trying to identify brain mechanisms that favor forms, patterns, certain colors, and symbols, as she did not look at evolutionary costs and benefits of artistic behavior. 

            Unfortunately runaway and sensory bias theory cannot fully explain human aesthetics.  The theory of runaway beauty cannot explain the preferences we have and why we have them and the sensory bias theory lack evidence of our aesthetic taste.  Under the fitness indicator theory, is it suggested that our aesthetic preferences lean towards ornaments and works of art by high-fitness artists.

            In general, we tend to “find those things that could have been produced only by people with attractive, high-fitness qualities such as health, energy, endurance, hand-eye coordination, fine motor control, intelligence, creativity, access to rare materials, the ability to learn difficult skills, and lots of free time” (p. 281).  In sum, beauty is expensive and difficulty.

            Unsurprisingly, much of what we find beautiful depends upon cost.  This is a rather ancient notion that has carried on through time.  Think of fashion, it seems the more expensive an item is, the more “beautiful” it is.  The cost of an object is often measured in energy, skill, money, and time.  From all of this, one can draw the conclusion that our sense of beauty has been shaped to create an awareness of what is difficult, rare, costly, skillful, and fit.  

            Under indicator theory it is suggested that by making things specials requires them harder to create and reveals something about the creator.  The auother draws the conclusion that “almost any object can be made aesthetically:  anything can be made with speacila care that would be difficult to imitate by one who was not so careful” (p. 281).  Therefore, when creating a work of art, an artist much demonstrate his or her fitness that someone of a lower fitness could not, as it would make them appear more socially and sexually attractive. 

            Like the author states, “beauty conveys truth, but not the away we thought” (p. 284).  Beauty shows truth about the condition of the artist, no truth about human condition.  “The aesthetic features of art make sense mainly as displays of the artist’s skill and creativity, not as vehicles or transcendental enlightenment, religious inspiration, social commentary, psycho-analytic revelation, or political revolution” (p. 284). 

            Instead, the fitness indicator theory can help use understand why art connotes high achievement, exclusiveness, and superiority.  Art is the application of skill beyond the pragmatically necessary.  The fitness indicator theory gives us the framework to understand the passion with which people label things as art or not. 

While the fitness indicator works, it works better for folk aesthetics than elite.  Folk aesthetics is concerned with what ordinary people see as beautiful and elite aesthetics relates to what they consider beautiful, given their highly educated status.  In sum, folk people prefer realism while elites prefer abstraction.

            An interesting note is that while most people want to interpret the work on art in relation to an artist’s skill and creativity, certain styles of art make this a difficult task to accomplish. 

            In the beginning of time, especially in regards to art, there was a lack of technology to reproduce images, ornaments, or works of art.  In those times, items with perfect symmetry, finish, and detail were considered to be of the highest quality and craftsmanship.  Today, the opposite is true.  We have the technology available to create perfect works of art, such as spoons, in mass quantities, therefore seen as cheap.  In order for works of art, such as spoons, to be considered art and expensive, they need to be unique, thus spoons desired are the ones with irregular finishes, crude orientation and so because it is a sign they were hand crafted.

            The same example carries over to paintings. Prior to the invention of the camera, paintings considered to be valuable were exact replications, now today pictures capture the same thing.  Valuable paintings of today stray from exact realism, as the cheaper camera captures the moment. 

            In sum, technology has made accuracy and precision cheap, which in turn has left art to become more abstract, as it shows uniqueness and an individual’s work. 

            One indication from history that hominids took care into form and finish can be seen in handaxes.  Over two and a half million years ago, our ancestors made instruments to serve in their hunting and gathering societies.  Then some 1.6 million years ago their instruments evolved from mere choppers to handaxes.  Such instruments were extremely popular. 

            The evolution of the handaxe grew into a rather complexly designed tool.  Many of the handaxes show signs of skill, design, and symmetry, far advanced for their times.  Such designs seemed to be not necessary for their practical usage.  Scientists have argued that such designed were indicators of high levels of fitness, a lot of time consumed to produce, extensive learning to create, along with “a combination of physical strength, hand-eye coordination, careful planning, conscientious patience, pain tolerance, and resistant to infection” (p. 291).  Such tools were hard to produce. 

            The purpose of this example is to highlight how taking a simple object that seemed to appear as a survival tool, has been tailored in more important ways and serves as a fitness indicator. 

           

 

The Myth of Monogamy – David P. Barash, Judith Eve Lipton

 

            Barash and Lipton go into detail in Chapter Five of The Myth of Monogamy about what causes the occurrence of monogamy in various species for the purpose of applying it to human beings relationships.  The chapter explains some animals’ sexual relationships and what causes them to be monogamous or polygamous.  The goal is not to criticize polygamy or condone monogamy or even to say which one is better, but to offer factual evidence of what can cause these two very different lifestyles.  Ultimately, Barash and Lipton want to create a different perspective for the reader to provoke new thought on the subject and to be able to understand the behaviors of humans and other animals.  Overall, they say that monogamy “is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”  An interesting point and one that can be understood by many on the surface in terms of seeing monogamous relationships work and fail an almost equal amount of times.  However, the authors say that even though monogamy does not seem like a very attractive life choice, there must be some good in it since it is accepted and practiced, not always well, by the civilized world.  In the following, we will introduce and explain various traits of polygamy and monogamy explained by Barash and Lipton in order to better educate on why monogamy occurs at all.  Be flexible with the manner in which Barash and Lipton give their information.  They do so in a relatively random order.  They change subjects quickly and with little warning or lead-in.  They also speak on a topic and address the same topic several pages later.  So to may the information written in this summary.

 

            Barash and Lipton suggest early on that monogamy may be the accepted lifestyle of a “conservative” species.  After all, the time and energy that go into courting the opposite sex is rigorous and filled with “rejection, injury, bad choices,” and the like which leads those who do successfully mate to settle down with that mate and give up all future courting escapades.  In this situation if you are well matched with your mate you will be better equipped to handle parenting with future offspring.  This is a plausible assumption considering more often than not, good mates produce good children.  The opposite of this is the occurrence of divorce, which may be attributed to unsuccessful reproduction according to the authors.  For example, kittiwake gulls are very likely to split up if they are unable to breed after one year.

 

            In terms of finding an acceptable and successful mating partner, there is a “phenomenon whereby mates tend to be similar.”.  The authors find it amuzing how “individuals choose members of the opposite sex who are similar to themselves.”  They say this characteristic of mate selection relates to monogamy because if the mates are well matched, as said before, there is greater stability and a better environment for a strong relationship.  The best possible case scenario is when each member feel “a bit less desireable than the other!”  This creates the feeling that they have entered into a “good deal.”  However, if one feels they are far superior and attractive than their mate, they are more inclined to venture into relationships outside the monogamous bond. 

           

            Going on the point of perceived attractiveness and how it relates to a couple’s relationship, it is generally known that males are the least choosy of mates and females are very choosy.  However, these roles can be reversed based on a given attractiveness of a male or female.  If a male perceives himself to be highly attractive and high-class, he will be far more picky about his mates than would a less attractive male.  Females may become less choosy based on their attractiveness and situation.  This point about females will be addressed later in an example. 

 

            This idea of the authors of people or animals choosing their mates based on their own attractiveness is comparable to a couple’s situation and how it can cause monogamy or polygamy.  In other words, a couple may choose to be monogamous “simply because there is little alternative.”  The couple may be monogamous, but not because of love or great mating or even being excellent parents together.  They may be monogamous “simply out of necessity.”  For example:

In one case, researchers designed an experimental setup in which female fish had to swim against a current of water in order to get to different males.  In this situation, males that had been unacceptable suddenly became highly attractive, if the normally preferred alternatives were unattainable.

This shows how monogamy or mate choosing relies on lack of alternatives and ease of copulation and not always on attraction.  There is another experiment talked about in this chapter where Silvia Lopez of Oxford University raised two populations of guppies, one healthy and the other parasitized, and analyzed their mating habits.  The overall result in this experiment is clear from her book title, “Parasitized Female Guppies Do Not Prefer Showy Males.”  The female guppies became less choosy as a result of their condition.

 

            Here is a poem by Dorothy Parker inserted into this chapter to illustrate that “males are more likely, in general, to seek multiple mating opportunities than are females.”  “Woman wants monogamy; Man delights in novelty.  Love is woman’s moon and sun; Man has other forms of fun.  Woman lives but in her lord; Count to then, and man is bored.  With this the gist and sum of it, What earthly good can come of it?”  The authors continue to speak about how a man’s EPC’s (extra-pair copulations) can lead to negative impacts on his female mate in the form of bad parenting, STD’s, deserting his mate and children, or, worst of all, “devoting time an effort to his lover’s offspring.”  Males, however, can be more successful in sexual reproduction if he has more than one mate.  They see it as a natural way of guaranteeing there are plenty of his genes in the next generation.  Females, being the ones who can experience more harm than good in this situation take strides to not “let them bring their girlfriends home.” 

 

            The authors go into detail about different species and how the females assure that their man is forbidden from EPC’s and polygamy.  “In the species of lizards common in the Southwest, females defend small territories from which they exclude other females.”  However, when the male offers nothing more than sperm to the relationship, the females do not care as much about other females occupying their male.  On the other end are the extremely feisty females who force their male mate into a monogamous relationship.  More often than not, when a male is given the opportunity to enter into an EPC, they normally accept it accept when they are mated with an “unusually aggressive female” in which case they refrain from the EPC.  Aggressiveness can lead into deadliness when females become violent with other females who have been trying to attract their male mate.  This is the case with the house sparrow where the females will go as far as killing another females offspring if she had been copulating with her male mate.  The female bird wants to chase away the intruding female also because she does not want to have another bird dropped in her nest to be raised by her.  This female feistiness is also seen in such mammals as beavers, baboons, and wolves.  In the case of insects, the beetle also has a feisty female to make sure her mate is being monogamous.  The female beetle will push the male of off the other female to stop the copulation.  Researchers studied this act by tying the female so that she could not reach her male copulating with another female.  When the male beetle is liberated from her mate, the are “rewarded with additional girlfriends.” 

           

            In order to understand polygamy and a female’s aggression towards a male’s actions, one should understand more about the sexual nature of the male and female.  One of the reasons some males stay in a monogamous relationship with their mate is because their present mate is in close proximity to him.  However, when the male is open to some other female his primary mate does not usually sit back and let it happen:

A female starling is especially likely to solicit copulations from her mate when he is actively courting other females!  There is nothing as likely to make a female starling feel friendly and sexy than the prospect that her mate is showing interest in another female.  Equally interesting: A large proportion of these solicitations are refused by her partner, but they nonetheless succeed in causing any prospecting females to depart.

The male will usually refuse these copulation offers for two reasons.  First, they may be broadcasting to other females that he is already taken, and second, they may waste away more sperm, which may lessen his resources.  So what else could the female do?  For some reason, some species will not simply attack the threatening female.  They may refrain from this because it is “likely to evoke the wrath of the male.”  This is especially true of very attractive males since they are followed more and are more likely to cheat.  Presumably, females with unattractive mates are more confident that their males will not be hit on. 

 

            Female protectiveness of their mates is surprisingly more common in polygamous species rather than monogamous.  This seems to be wrong since one would think that the more protective a female is the more monogamous the males will be.  However, in monogamous species, it is rare for the male to follow-up with child rearing with the female he had an EPC with as opposed to males in a polygamous setting.  Another interesting and counterintuitive point is that female lionesses copulate with males near 100 times a day during mating season.  However, female lionesses are capable of becoming pregnant with simply 10 or 15 minutes of copulation a day.  They do this because they want to avoid the male impregnating another female and cause competition between the two offspring.  The way in which this keeps the male from impregnating another woman has to do with a group of females’ menstrual cycles.  Groups of women living together tend to synchronize their cycles and “agree to ovulate at the same time.”  This keeps a male from being able to impregnate many women during a course of several days and causing competition between the offspring.

 

            Caring for offspring emerges time after time as a key issue in the maintenance of monogamy.  Most biologists’ ideas about the evolution of monogamy have long centered around the presumed necessity of male parental care…polygyny becomes possible when males can be ‘emancipated’ from parenting duties; that is, when females are capable of carrying the whole burden by themselves.

This opening quote is a very accepted theory about why monogamy occurs at all.  From this we can understand why is it rare for monogamy to occur in mammals; “male mammals…have comparatively little to contribute.”  Women will tolerate polygyny when the male with more than one mate can still provide more than one male could in a monogamous relationship.  However, parental care still has to be observed in this matter:

Infant Homo sapiens remain helpless for months…and then they become helpless toddlers!  Who in turn graduate to being virtually helpless youngsters.  (And then?  Clueless adolescents.)  So there may be some payoff to women being mated to a monogamous man after all.

This seems to be the case for humans. 

 

            Another idea presented in the text is that perhaps monogamy became more practiced:

…as a way for males to minimize the risk that someone else’s sperm will fertilize the eggs of a given females…Accordingly, it is quite possible that such males find that in the long run their reproductive success is higher if they have only one mate, and keep close tabs on her extracurricular sex life, than if they accumulate many, each of whom might be unfaithful to him.

In other words, males may have wished to eliminate the effort and uncertainty of parenting caused by mating with females who in turn mate with other males.  Although monogamy would limit a males reproductive output to the females reproductive output, he would be given more parental certainty and therefore take more effort in raising the child and being faithful to the female in return for her faithfulness. 

 

            Parenting responsibilities taken on by the father have various points to be made.  What initially causes the male to want to parent the young?  It does not make sense that a male who witnesses a birth will want to father the child, but when the male has “been in attendance not just at the birth of their young but also throughout their mate’s estrous.”  Parenting also depends on alternatives available to the male.  If their our several eligible females around, the male may wish to skip out on the parenting of his young and mate with more females.  With little or no distractions, the male may settle down and stay faithful to the family.  The male thinking is basically this, “‘If there are no other females to solicit, and no other males to worry about, then I may as well help take care of the kids.’”

 

Monogamy can be beneficial for a species since both “the needs of male and female are equally met.”  In other words, since the sex population is about 50/50, nearly all members will be able to copulate as opposed to a polygamous society where not all members will copulate.  Basically through mate-guarding, “each sex is equally successful in thwarting the other’s desires!” 

 

In terms of sexual reproductions of males and females, the text goes into several characteristics.  Males wish to mate with virgins.  This increases their chances of having parental certainty if the female becomes pregnant.  “Among many human societies, it is still considered a major transgression for a woman to have lost her virginity before marriage.”  Males attract this females and other females often with resources.  “Males who compete successfully for choice real estate, for example, may be doing so in an effort to prevent their eventual mates from looking elsewhere for mating opportunities.”  It is likely that the male who has the best resources and land will also have the best genes. 

 

This view was flushed out by Friedrich Engels who wrote that in the beginning a child born was everyone’s child.  There was no exclusive parental care.  However, when males began acquiring more land and property, they wanted an heir to pass it on to and thus developed monogamous relationships with parental certainty.  However, Barash and Lipton believe he got it backwards, as was stated in the previous paragraph.  Once a monogamous bond is formed, the male promises parenting services in return for sexual fidelity.  However, studies show that a human father does not spend as much time with his children as the mother does, and most of his time is usually play.  However, studies also show that a child without a father has a much larger risk of dying than a child with a father. 

 

            “Monogamy is widely seen as benefiting women, while it is often assumed that polygyny is a patriarchal, male-dominated system that oppresses women.”  However, as was stated before, since the population is about 50/50 male and female, “if one man has ten wives…then there are nine without wives at all.”  “With polygyny, more women have the opti0on of associating themselves with a powerful, successful man.  For subordinate, less successful men, it is a serious problem, but very few women are likely to be shut out.”  Monogamy may actually be more beneficial for men than women. 

 

            Monogamy has other pieces, which help it work in society.  The one made most interesting by Barash and Lipton is the fact that some parents stay together simply for the sake of the children.  “It sounds trite, but is nonetheless real for thousands, probably millions, of couples.  This may be the critical reason keeping parents from divorce, although sad and unromantic. 

 

            Kristen Hawkes did a study on Hadza in northern Tanzania and found that:

…successful Hadza hunters have younger wives, have more EPC partners, and father more children than do the less successful hunters…According to Hawkes, monogamy may have arisen as a result of ‘negotiations among males,’ whereby access to women is divided up and harmful fighting is avoided.

However, we still beg the question, “Why is monogamy approved-in theory in not in practice-in these Western countries?”  Overall, as state earlier, monogamy offers a chance for all members of a society to have the possibility of mating and rearing offspring.  “In a sense, maybe (he) wasn’t altogether wrong, after all, when he suggested that people were primitively egalitarian, with this Eden disrupted by the invention of private property!”  However, with the growing importance of private property and “highly stratified societies,” polygamy became the “preferred system for wealthy, powerful men.” 

Monogamy may thus be, at least in part, a result of male-male equality; even more so, however, it is a cause of equality, a great reproductive leveler (for men)-at least in biological terms…The wealthy and powerful would in effect have agreed to give up their near-monopoly on women in return for obtaining greater social involvement on the art of middle- and lower-class men, who, if reproductively excluded, might have refused to participate in the social contract necessary for the establishment of large, stable social units.

Along with the leveling off of classes and growth of a large middle class in the world where more and more men were equal, there was also Christianity promoting monogamous relationships. 

 

            We will end this subject with the last paragraph printed in this chapter, typed here in its entirety.  It aims at stating the present state all of us are in, in the world today:

Even Bill Gates is legally forced to be monogamous…although successful sports and rock stars often have multiple sexual liaisons, and, for all we know, so does Mr. Gates himself.  Bill Clinton, too, is legally forced to be monogamous…although powerful men are typically inclined to seek additional pairings (if only briefly) and – because of the nature of female sexual psychology – are generally able to find willing partners.  It is easy , as well, to imagine queen bees such as Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna, or Oprah Winfrey being in demand – and command – as polyandrous females…except for the legal restraints.  The point is that although social ideology and legal restrictions cannot change human  nature, they can and do impose egalitarianism in several forms:  Everyone is supposed to be equal before the law, equally deserving of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and entitled to – or bound by – monogamy.

 

 

 

 

 

Review

-         One thing I still have a question about:

Why is it, that in the Western culture, women are generally more ornamented (i.e. makeup, clothing, jewelry, hair) if men are the ones competing for women?

-         One thing I still have a question about:

The author briefly explains how the work of Immanuel Kant and his supposed understanding of beauty; in the end he only recommends reading Nietzsche to understand the biological functions of beauty.  What I/we don’t understand is what is the purpose of the example if he doesn’t even go on to further explain it.

 

 

-         One interesting point:

The author imagines what a bowerbird might say if interviewed by Artforum magazine.  I found it interesting what he predicts the bowerbird will say in response.

-         One interesting point:

The author explains how for men to make good art, they must be as aesthetically discriminate as women.

 

-         One weak point:

If art is a sexual adaptation it must follow that the best artists would then attract the most mates as well as the most desirable.  However, the author was only able to give one example, that being Picasso.  Why is it that oftentimes those who create art for a living are labeled “starving artists?”

The author explains how males have more motivation to play on human preferences to attract sexual partners but he lacks any real clear explanations and examples.

 

Barash and Lipton

 

Interesting Point:

Females in many species can be so feisty, the men are almost forced into a monogamous relationship.

Weak Point:

Males may have wished to eliminate the effort and uncertainty of parenting by staying monogamous and having questions over parental certainty.

Still have questions about:

So what is the main reason why humans are monogamous.  The authors say in the end it is laws, but is this main reason? They speak mainly about other species, but what is the bottom line?

 

Outline

Arts of Seduction

I.                    Justifications for Art as Sexual Selection

A.     Art is ubiquitous

1.      Discovered 35,000 years ago in Europe in the form of cave paintings

2.      50,000 years ago among the Aborigine in Australia in the form of paintings on rocks

3.      And 100,000 years ago in Africa in the form of body ornamentation

B.     Art is a source of pleasure and pleasurable behaviors are often evolutionary adaptations

C.     Art requires effort and effort is rarely present without some sort of adaptive rationale

D.     Art can be distinguished as a adaptation by considering its relative enjoyment and ease in learning which is a characteristic of genuine adaptations

E.      Varies from culture to culture as language does with different styles and techniques

F.      It is not present at birth as most mental adaptations are not, since adaptations do not emerge until we need them

II.                 Art as a Courtship Function

A.     Art is costly both in time and effort and is apparently quite useless, yet it manifest a sort of beauty- this, Darwin says, indicates a courtship function

III.               Problematic Theories of Explaining Art

A.  Art as a “utopian escape from reality”

1.      Presents artists in a positive light as “overcoming their instincts, avoiding  

      banality, striving against capitalism, rebelling against society, and  

      transcending the ornamental” (p. 261).

2.      Problem with this theory: Recognizes pleasure as sufficient reason for the existence of art, which, if we compare to the pleasure of eating is a faulty assessment.  We know that we don’t eat simply for the pleasure of eating, we eat because we need energy.

3.      This theory does little to explain art from an evolutionary standpoint, since other animals have no need for art

B.     Propaganda Theory

1.      This theory explains art as a means in which to convey cultural values and socialize the young

2.      Problem: Why would anyone in prehistoric times have wanted to spend the time and energy when language by itself has been found to be the most efficient way of communicating what to do and what not to do

C.     Art as a Religious Function

1.      Art evolved as a way of appeasing gods, dead ancestors, and animal spirits

2.      Problem: How do we account for the possibility that the entities do not really exist and consequently provide nothing?

IV.              Differences in Various Functions of Art

A.     Social Function if it supports certain organizations like religion and politics

B.     Individual Motivation, which includes making a living and achieving social standing

C.     Biological Function, which concerns survival and reproduction and is supported by evidence in this article

V.                 Two Different Strategies Taken to Explain Art as Being Evolutionary

A.     Top- Down: Looks at fine arts (“recent manifestations of a universal human instinct for making visual ornamentation” (p. 261))

B.     Bottom-Up: Focuses on visual ornamentation, looks at art that surrounds us everyday (e. g.  clothing, jewelry, houses, furniture, gardens, cars); this approach makes more sense from an evolutionary standpoint

VI.              Bowerbirds as an Example of Adaptive Art

A.     A male bowerbird’s ornamentation is not a physical part of their bodies, but is rather consciously made as an adaptation to female sexual choice

B.     They “paint” the walls of their nests by using a leaves or bark in their beak and a bluish regurgitated fruit residue, similar to an artist with a paintbrush

C.     The bowerbird probably does not know why he creates art though, he would probably explain it in much the same way we attempt to explain human art—as instinct or desire for self-expression

VII.            Art as Sexual Selection is Not a New Idea

A.     It was Darwin who “viewed human ornamentation and clothing as natural outcomes of sexual selection” (p. 271)

B.     Other scientist also agreed with Darwin at the turn of the century—Herbert Spencer, Max Nardau, and Sigmund Freud

VIII.         Sexual Function Verses Sexual Content

  1. Statues found in prehistoric art that had either large breasts, genitals, or phallic batons
  2. However it is not relevant to sexual choice model for evolution of art
  3. Such pieces imply the artist’s interest or merely coincidence that they are sexual objects

1.   Example of how street layouts can look like stylized labia

2.   Example of bowerbirds resembling phallus’

IX.              Darwinian Aesthetics

  1. If you choose to view art as an example of biological signaling, it can be broken down into 2 capacities

1.                                                   Producing art

2.                                                   Judging art

  1. By creating aesthetically pleasing pieces of art, one can attract sexual partners and social status
  2. Men tend to take advantage of this more frequently
  3. Our aesthetic preferences is the tool we use in assessing one’s phenotype

1.                                                   These preferences are explained by selection theory

2.                                                   Selection theory explains mating preferences including runaway effect, sensory biases, and fitness indicators

X.                 Runaway Beauty

  1. Female hominids had tastes for male ornaments

1.                                                   Therefore, one who can capture such tastes will get more groupies and as a result be able to produce more offspring who will inherit their taste and talent

2.                                                   Example of the Woodabe people

a.                                                 Men would dance for seven nights to show off health and endurance

b.                                                At the end, men would line up and women would pick the male they find the most attractive to have a sexual encounter with

  1. While the Woodabe people may seem strange, they are only behaving normally biologically with the men displaying and the women choosing
  2. For men to create good art, they must be as aesthetically discriminate as females
  3. Runaway beauty theory predicts similarities in aesthetic tastes

1.                                                   Can only account for its existence

2.                                                   Can explain why we find some things more beautiful then others

3.                                                   Can’t explain how we come to our judgements

XI.              Aesthetic Tastes as Sensory Biases

  1. Theory of Sensory Bias seems ideal for explaining aesthetic preferences
  2. Theory is most valuable when you can trace why our brain circuits have evolved certain sensitivities
  3. Flaw in Nancy Aiken’s study

1.                                                   Study looked at brain mechanisms that favor forms, patterns, certain colors, and symbols

2.                                                   Lacked looking at evolutionary costs and benefits of artistic behavior

XII.            The Beautiful, The Difficult, and the Costly

  1. Fitness indicator theory suggests that our aesthetic preferences lean towards ornaments and works of art by high-fitness males
  2. Beauty is expensive and difficult

1.                                                   We tend to find things beautiful which are costly in terms of time, skill, health, energy, endurance, coordination, intelligence, rare materials, and creativity

2.                                                   As making things special requires them harder to make and to reveal something about artist

3.                                                   An artist must demonstrate his or her fitness that someone of a lower level could not in creating art, which in turn makes them more socially and sexually attractive

  1. Beauty shows true about condition of the artist, not the condition of humans as a whole
  2. Fitness indicator theory can help explain why art connotes high achievement, exclusiveness, and superiority.
  3. Art is application of skill beyond pragmatically necessary
  4. It gives us the framework to understand the passion with which people label things as art or not

XIII.         But is it Art?

  1. While the fitness indicator works, it works best for folk aesthetics than elite

1.                                                   Folk aesthetics is concerned with what ordinary people see as beautiful

2.                                                   Elite aesthetics relates to what they consider beautiful, given their higher level of education

3.                                                   Folk people prefer realism while elites prefer abstraction

  1. Most people want to interpret the work on art in relation to an artist’s skill and creativity, certain styles make this a difficult task (i.e. abstract art)

XIV.         The Work of Art Before the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

  1. There was a lack of technology in art production in the past

1.                                                   In such times, items considered to be of the highest quality were perfect

2.                                                   Perfection in symmetry, finish, and detail

  1. Today the opposite is true

1.                                                   Technology has allowed perfection to be created in mass qualities

2.                                                   This has lead to such products being viewed as cheap and inferior

3.                                                   Costly goods today are now ones with irregular finishes, crude orientation, and other unique attributes

a.       Example of spoons

                                                                                    i.         Before expensive spoons were perfect ones

                                                                                  ii.         Today, expensive spoons are all unique with the touch of the craftsman

  1. Technology has made accuracy and precision cheap which has lead to art becoming abstract

XV.           Handaxes as Ornaments

  1. Example from history of evolution of art
  2. Handaxes originally served as instruments in hunting and gathering societies
  3. Evolution of handaxe lead to a rather complicated designed tool

1.                                                   Many of the axes show signs of skill, design, and symmetry far advanced for their time

2.                                                   Such designs were not necessary for their practical usage

3.                                                   Example of handaxe was to show how taking a simple object that appears to be a survival tool, has been tailored in more important ways and serves as a fitness indicator

 

 

 

 

 

Outline-Barash and Lipton – The Myth of Monogamy, Chapter 5

 

  1. Monogamy may be the accepted lifestyle of a conservative species after a male and female find a good relationship.
    1. Courting the opposite sex is rigorous and filled with “rejection, injury, bad choices.”
    2. If you are well matched with your mate, you will be better equipped to handle parenting with future offspring.
    3. Divorce may be attributed to unsuccessful reproduction according to the authors.  Kittiwake gulls are very likely to split up if they are unable to breed after one year.
    4. There is a “phenomenon whereby mates tend to be similar.
    5. “Individuals choose members of the opposite sex who are similar to themselves. 
    6. Monogamy is more likely in situations where there are few alternatives to the male. 
    7. When finding a mate, males are generally less choosy unless he has a attractive, high-class status.
  2. Different species female sex have various ways of forbidden their male from EPC’s and polygamy.
    1. When males offer nothing more than sperm to the relationship, the females do not care as much about other females occupying their male. 
    2. Other feisty females force their male into monogamous relationship. 
    3. Aggressiveness can lead into deadliness when females become violent with other females who have been trying to attract their male. 
    4. Females are “especially likely to solicit copulations from her mate when he is actively courting other females!”
    5. Females with unattractive mates are more confident that their males will not be hit on.
    6. Female lionesses copulate with  males near 100 times a day to avoid the male impregnating another female and cause competition between the two offspring.  This is because groups of women living together tend to synchronize their cycles to avoid a male monopolizing a large group of women.
  3. Many believe monogamy came about in the necessity for male parenting.
    1. “Most biologists’ ideas about the evolution of monogamy have long centered around the presumed necessity of male parental care.”
    2. However, “male mammals…have comparatively little to contribute.”
    3. Males may have wished to eliminate to effort and uncertainty of parenting caused by mating with females who in turn mate with other males.
    4. “If there are no other females to solicit, and no other males to worry about, then I may as well help take care of the kids.”
    5. Some parents stay together simply for the sake of the children.  This may be the critical reason keeping parents from divorce, although sad and unromantic. 
  4. Monogamy seems to be a better deal for all.
    1. Since the population is about 50/50 female to male, all members will have a very good chance of mating in a monogamous society as opposed to a polygamous.
    2. “Monogamy is widely seen as benefiting women, while it is often assumed that polygyny is a patriarchal, male-dominated system that oppresses women.” 
    3. However, “if one man has ten wives, then there are nine without wives at all.”  Monogamy may actually benefit males more than females.
    4. Perhaps people are more egalitarian than they seem.  Along with the leveling off of classes and growth of a large middle class in the world where more and more men were equal, there was also Christianity promoting monogamous relationships.

“The point is that although social ideology and legal restrictions cannot change human nature, they can and do impose egalitarianism in several forms:  Everyone is supposed to be equal before the law, equally deserving of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, and entitled to – or bound by – monogamy.”