Author Brian Boyd begins his text with a quotes from Darwin  and Appiah and goes on to state that “our minds and behavior are always shaped by the interaction of nature and nurture.” This is is sound premise as are other proposals that the author states including Darwin’s core discovery that species are rigid but in continuous transformation. According to Boyd the multilevel selection theory states that any group can compete more effectively against other groups by minimizing within group fitness differences…….and that we are as a species are continuously adapting. he also refers to intelligence and cooperation….is a more intelligent person necessarily more cooperative and I must ask, what type of intelligence would lead to increased cooperation. This appears to be in direct contrast to Dawkin’s selfish gene theory and the survival of the fittest.

Boyd poses the question can evolution account for the constant and compulsive need to create complex, time consuming works of art of poses three theories of art, the first of which is memesis, or imititation.

  • For example music imitates the harmony and cosmos of the cosmos and soul…..he cites Bach’s preludes as a poor  example of mimesis but there are examples such as Mozart’s etudes that are a good example of the memetic theory of art. The Butterfly Etude is an example of a moving piece of music that does capture the beauty of the cosmos and nature.
  • He also cites Tolstoy“Art is a human activity, consisting in this, that one person consciously, by certain external signs, conveys to others feelings he has experienced, and other people are affected by these feelings and live them over in themselves.”Boyd suggests that biology is also necessary to explain the nature of art.Steven Pinker offers a splendidly fluent and lucid survey of evolutionary psychology. Pinker propounds the view that the mind has evolved under the shaping pressure of natural selection and that it has developed a number of mental “modules”–chunks of cognitive software–designed to solve specific adaptive problems. Apart from the sense organs, these postulated modules include adaptations for understanding arithmetic, logic, language, physical objects and forces, natural kinds (plants and animals), other human minds, kinship, social status relations, sexual behavior, parent-child relations, and the sense of individual identity.The geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky famously wrote that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. We can add that nothing in culture makes sense except in the light of psychology. Evolution created psychology, and that is how it explains culture. (p. 210)
  • Boyd suggests that art is a kind of cognitive play….stimulus and training for a flexible mind…….as play does for the body.  The high concentrations of patterns engage and activate individual brains…..The functional relevance of adult neurogenesis is uncertain, but there is some evidence that hippocampal adult neurogenesis is important for learning and memory. Multiple mechanisms for the relationship between increased neurogenesis and improved cognition have been suggested, including computational theories to demonstrate that new neurons increase memory capacity,reduce interference between memories. Art appeals to our appetite for pattern…..refers to the poor ability of computers in pattern recognition but there is work being done (Bishop) in a statistical algorithm referred to as backpropagation in multi-layer perceptrons, (1996) and there has been increased success in these algorithms successfully predicting and recognizing patterns….something that has traditionally been exclusive to mammals.
  • Boyd makes some complex arguments about the importance of evolution, adaptation, and environment in our participation, understanding, and appreciation of art (music, songs, stories, dance, etc.) and suggests that cohesive societies actually engage in artforms that tend to increase cohesiveness and actually lead to increased survival.
  • Boyd presents some complex arguments concerning theories that will most likely remain very controversial for many years or even generations to come.