Brian Boyd’s book, “the Origin of Stories” attempts to put the human desire to make art in an adaptions context and explain by Darwinian logic, and storytelling exists as a means to helping humans survive. Boyd makes the argument that “that genes shape us”. We are a product of our environment and that the randomness of genetic recombination in sexual reproduction result in an unpredictable generated variation which is unique to each of us rather than anything imposed from without. I can to a certain degree agree in the formation of the human through genes but, does this argument carry forth to support the idea of a species that is embedded with storytelling messages that put forth messages for survival of the fit? And, that we are victims to our biology? Are we all connected to psychic humankind? And, are we more about commonalities than differences? Boyd would argue yes, I would argue no.
My question is we merely surviving? And, this question can be looked at in two ways. First, is human nature about the survival of the fit? And, that this idea is applicable to all of human nature. How do we explain that we are embedded with storytelling messages to put forth a fit species when we see human’s making decision that actually are destroying human nature? And, how do we explain the great inventions that have protected humans or made for a better way of leaving? Boyd suggests universality exists and focuses on what is common and avoids explaining our differences. Boyd’s premise is that we share the same genetic wiring and our brains continually evolve to help us adapt successfully to our environment for survival. If we are all hardwired genetically the same wouldn’t we adapt the same to our environment? My experience is that we are not all universal in our adaption to the environment nor do are we from the onset begin our human existence universal. Wouldn’t we work in cooperation to promote the survival of our species How do we explain that individuals that act without morality and want to destroy others like in on Sept 11 when hijackers flew planes into the world trade center. This act seems not to be from an evolvement of our brain to a psychic humanity of storytelling embedded in humans from the past. Wouldn’t there be a universal story? Wouldn’t there be a morality we would all adapt to work in cooperation for survival? I do not think this is what he meant about survival of the fit?
Second, are we merely about surviving? Is not art or storytelling more than an adaptation of survival? Boyd suggests that art as become ingrained in the psyche of species and the individual is an adapter with special functions. This seems to be a contraction to the idea that we have universal concerns? Wouldn’t art contain universal concerns? How do we explain technology or other inventions? Does all art contain adapted features for survival? There is no discussion of the mind or “creative” intelligence or imagination. He argues unevenly in favor of our commonalities and avoids discussion of depth to explain the mind, imagination and the differences that exist in the human species.
I would argue that there are more differences than universal commonalities. Where does intelligence come from? Where do great works of art come from? Or, great inventions or technology? And, why would we bother if our existence was about merely survival? Do we communicate with our genes only? Or, does nature set an individual foundation for each of us that make us unique and then, we are nurture with our mind? Boyd attempts to push away the discussion of the mind and focus on cognitive functioning…there is no discussion of the human mind, or nurture or explanation of our differences which I believe is what separates humans from all other species and it is human’s ability to experience remarkable differences that make us human and create storytelling to help future generations to adapt to their environment.