IT’S RELATIVELY easy to accept the fundamentals of evolutionary science when it seeks to describe changes in physical features through the processes of natural selection. But it becomes harder when evolutionary pyschologists argue that our ways of thinking, use of language and even creating and appreciating art also evolved during the time of our Pleistocene ancestors. In 1994, Stephen Pinker was praised and attacked for his book The Language Instinct. Now, a philosopher of art from the University of Canterbury, Denis Dutton, has “reverse engineered” his analyses of our artistic creativity and cultural behaviours in the twenty-first century to argue that humans evolved an aesthetic urge from the dawn of the species. The inevitable fierce debate has erupted again both within the evolutionary science community and across the science–religion fault lines. Via Skype from his home in Christchurch, New Zealand, Professor Dutton tells about the thrust of his new book, The Art Instinct.
Arts and Letters Daily edited by Denis Dutton
Podcast theme created by Ivan Clarke, Pang Productions.