Art and Evolution
Creating visual art is one of the defining characteristics of the human species, but the paucity of archaeological evidence means that we have limited information on the origin and evolution of this aspect of human culture.
The components of art include colour, pattern and the reproduction of visual likeness. The 2D and 3D art forms that were created by Upper Palaeolithic Europeans, at least 30,000 years ago, are conceptually equivalent to those created in recent centuries, indicating that human cognition and symbolling activity, as well as anatomy, were fully modern by that time.
The origins of art are therefore much more ancient and lie within Africa, before worldwide human dispersal. The earliest known evidence of ‘artistic behaviour’ is of human body decoration, including skin colouring with ochre and the use of beads, although both may have had functional origins. Zig-zag and criss-cross patterns, nested curves and parallel lines are the earliest known patterns to have been created separately from the body; their similarity to entopic phenomena (involuntary products of the visual system) suggests a physiological origin.
3D art may have begun with human likeness recognition in natural objects, which were modified to enhance that likeness; some 2D art has also clearly been influenced by suggestive features of an uneven surface.
The creation of images from the imagination, or ‘the mind’s eye’, required a seminal evolutionary change in the neural structures underpinning perception; this change would have had a survival advantage in both tool-making and hunting. Analysis of early tool-making techniques suggests that creating 3D objects (sculptures and reliefs) involves their cognitive deconstruction into a series of surfaces, a principle that could have been applied to early sculpture.
The cognitive ability to create art separate from the body must have originated in Africa but the practice may have begun at different times in genetically and culturally distinct groups both within Africa and during global dispersal, leading to the regional variety seen in both ancient and recent art. At all stages in the evolution of artistic creativity, stylistic change must have been due to rare, highly gifted individuals.
Gillian M Morriss-Kay
It remains to consider if the arts serve similar or related evolutionary functions in our modern context. Perhaps as by-products they went on later to become adaptive in some new way. Perhaps as adaptations their evolutionary advantages came to be negated by changes in the human social and physical environment.
We can say at least this much: even if all art behaviors are near-universal, they are so complex and varied that each individual person expresses them in a subtly distinctive fashion. Some people love novels, others are mainly interested in movies, a person who is insensitive to poetry might be a fine dancer, etc.
We can also observe that, unlike other universal behaviors that are mastered relatively cheaply, such as bipedalism, art behaviors involve significant costs and ongoing commitments. These two facts together suggest that these behaviors can serve as informationally rich signals about fitness-relevant characteristics of those who display them. That is sufficient to show an important link between art and evolution.
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Auckland; the author of The Artful Species: Aesthetics,
Art and evolution are two seemingly unrelated concepts, but they are in fact deeply connected. The way we think about and create art is constantly evolving, and art itself plays a role in shaping our understanding of the world and our place in it.
Art has been a part of human culture for thousands of years. From cave paintings to contemporary installations, art has always been a way for people to express their thoughts, emotions, and ideas. It is a reflecti
Evolution, on the other hand, is the process by which living organisms change over time. It is a gradual process that takes place over many generations, shaped by natural selection and genetic variation.
The connection between art and evolution is rooted in the fact that both are driven by human curiosity and creativity. As we evolve, our understanding of the world and our place in it changes, and this is reflected in the art we create.
For example, the earliest known art, such as cave paintings, often depict animals and hunting scenes. This reflects the importance of hunting and survival in early human societies. As human societies evolved and became more complex, so did the art they created. The art of ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptians and Greeks, often depicted gods and goddesses, reflecting their religious beliefs and understanding of the world.
In more recent times, art has played a role in shaping our understanding of the world and our place in it. The Impressionist movement, for example, revolutionized the way we see and depict the world around us. The artists of this movement, such as Monet and Renoir, focused on capturing the light and movement of the world, rather than creating a realistic representation of it. This reflected the growing understanding of the world as a constantly changing and dynamic place.
In the modern era, art continues to play a role in shaping our understanding of the world and our place in it. Contemporary art often reflects the social and political issues of our time, such as climate change, inequality, and social justice. These artists use their art as a way to raise awareness and inspire change.
In conclusion, art and evolution are deeply interconnected. As we evolve, our understanding of the world and our place in it changes, and this is reflected in the art we create. Art, in turn, plays a role in shaping our understanding of the world and our place in it. It is a powerful tool for expressing our thoughts, emotions, and ideas, and for inspiring change.on of the human experience and our connection to the world around us.
Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge