Natural selection is the process organisms adapt to their environment to give them a better chance at survival. Though he proposed and defended this theory, Charles Darwin did not believe it could explain everything. That’s why he also proposed sexual selection, by which he meant that females choose the most appealing males and males evolve toward that standard.
Darwin did not think it was necessary to link aesthetics and survival. Animals, he believed, could appreciate beauty for its own sake. Many of Darwin’s peers and successors ridiculed his proposal.Ferris Jabr, “How Beauty is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution”
Even though this idea was dismissed, many scientists are now beginning to rethink this ‘forgotten’ Darwinian idea. Maybe beauty does not have to be indicative of health and fitness. Maybe it could merely be pleasurable.
Sometimes beauty is the glorious but meaningless flowering of arbitrary preference.Ferris Jabr, “How Beauty is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution”
In “How Beauty is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution,” Ferris Jabr explores this renewed focus on beauty in the theory of evolution. It seems to be false that evolution only favors traits that directly lead to survival. There are other factors at work. Jabr mentions that it is time people realize that there are really two environments: the external world in which we live and the internal world that we construct. The link(s) between these two environments will help us solve the mystery of beauty (and its apparent uselessness).
Jabr cites evolutionary biologist, Richard Prum, as advocating for a theory of aesthetic evolution. Some fellows have derided Prum’s view; one even referred to it as ‘nihilism.’ Like Darwin before him, Prum continues to push for a notion of aesthetic evolution, despite many skeptical responses.
Even though Prum is concerned with the aesthetics preferences of various animals, he is not very concerned with the origins of aesthetic taste.
To read more about Prum’s idea, you can see the entire article by Ferris Jabr in the New York Times Magazine in the following link: “How Beauty is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution.“