This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

Comment

← Why do we find mountains beautiful?

SaganTheCat's Avatar Jump to comment 39 by SaganTheCat

I think one barrier to finding any evolutionary benefit for anything we find pleasurable, be it beauty or humour or whatever, is that the pleasure we feel is likely to be a by-product rather than a driving force. evolution, as we know, cares nothing for our pleasure, and fitness in an evolutionary sense does not assume happiness.

it may be the other way round however. just as what starts off as a resistance to something detremental to survival in an environment becomes a dependancy down the generations.

a very unlikely response to the mountains, for example (unlikely in that it's simplistic) is that a genetic tendancy to a specific form of pattern recognition (huge pointy things that seem to remain static in the background) or a particular neural response such patterns, could give one group of early humans a minor advantage in navigation. a neural reward response triggered by that pattern increases the chance of that gene's survival. the gene vehicle in the meantime simply registers pleasure.

humour is one of those things that on the face of it seems a bad idea for survival as finding another human's actions funny can leave us at a physical disadvantage. however laughter is contageous and I have a pet belief that social evolution has selected traits that put individuals at a disadvantage because they create signals that bypass our learned behavior of intentional communication (e.g. I can tell you I find you unattractive to protect myself from rejection but I'll still blush if i'm lying). Laughter is part of a non-verbal communication system that predates words

we laugh when we discover something new. maybe this is a signalling response so others in the group gather to find out what it is so knowledge is shared quickly? jokes are stories constructed to simulate this, we laugh at our own ignorance and preconceptions created in the build up that are superceded by the punchline. children and babies laugh more than adults because they're learning all the time (and experiencing the pleasure of learning). maybe laughter is contageous because it makes us child-like and appeals to parental instinct?

Thu, 19 Jul 2012 13:09:05 UTC | #949565