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I’ve got a couple pseudo-science, evolutionary psychological news bits to share with you. The first is coverage of Alan Harvey music evolutionary theory that he presented at the Annual Australian Neuroscience Meeting. From the article,

“[Alan Harvey] says music is not just a pretty sound, but also a way of communicating that is just as important as language… [and] music has been central to the evolution of the modern mind.”

I really can’t think of a way to go about proving that the ability to make and appreciate music has been positively selected in humans. In Harvey’s mind, the reason why we see music in all human cultures is indicative of its selective advantage. But that’s not convincing enough for me.

I’ve been thinking about ways to show scientific basis for this hypothesis. Perhaps comparing and contrasting activity in the auditory association area of the brain, the Wernicke’s area, in the temporal lobes of different non-human primates and humans from different cultural backgrounds subjected to music will elucidate how much more activity is required to process and associate music. Anyways, that’s just one possible experiment. The rest of Harvey’s thoughts are summarized in this 2006 transcript, “History of language and music in humans,” where he mentions the book, “The Singing Neanderthals.”

To be really honest, I know little about the music throughout human evolution. The aptly titled book, “The Origins of Music” or this paper, “Music, Cognition, Culture, and Evolution,” maybe a nice place to start informing myself of this topic. I think one of our frequent commenters, Victor Grauer, will do better justice if he decides to cover this news bit.

The next pseudo-scientific topic is about, “what evolution can say about why humans kill — and about why we do so less than we used to?”

I feel as if this topic has been talked about ad nauseam, so I really don’t know why I’m giving it special coverage. I guess its because I find the ‘homicide adaptation theory’ the article describes as a dumbed-down reiteration of game theory, the theory that says individuals will choose strategies that will maximize their return. Here’s what’s actually said of the the ‘homicide adaptation theory’ from the book “The Innate Mind,”

“The theory proposes that, over evolutionary history, humans have repeatedly encountered a wide range of situations in which the benefits of killing another person outweighed the costs — particularly when the assessed costs of murder are low, success is likely and other non-lethal options have been closed off.”

The article goes on to describe the violence we see in non-human primates and compare that to human violence behavior. There’s also a run down on the history of violence. Some discussion is given to concept, the culture of violence.

I think these two news bits aren’t incredibly insightful but they are interesting topics to think about. How can one go about explaining behaviors as beneficial adaptations? I don’t wanna rehash the argument behind sociobiology as an adaptionist program, because Lewontin did a great job addressing this shortcoming in sociobiological/evolutionary psychological thinking… But I can’t help but to think, why do these behaviors have to be considered through an adaptive framework? In other words, why can’t these behaviors just be features of being human?