Snakes, Sunrises, and Shakespeare (Hardback)Gordon H. Orians (author)
Hardback 224 Pages
Our breath catches and we jump in fear at the sight of a snake. We pause and marvel at the sublime beauty of a sunrise. These reactions are no accident; in fact, many of our human responses to nature are steeped in our deep evolutionary past - we fear snakes because of the danger of venom or constriction, and we welcome the assurances of the sunrise as the predatory dangers of the dark night disappear. Many of our aesthetic preferences - from the kinds of gardens we build to the foods we enjoy and the entertainment we seek - are the lingering result of natural selection. In this ambitious and unusual work, evolutionary biologist Gordon H. Orians explores the role of evolution in human responses to the environment, beginning with why we have emotions and ending with evolutionary approaches to aesthetics. Orians reveals how our emotional lives today are shaped by decisions our ancestors made centuries ago on African savannas. During this time our likes and dislikes became wired in our brains, as the appropriate responses to the environment meant the difference between survival or death. His rich analysis explains why we mimic the tropical savannas of our ancestors in our parks and gardens, why we are simultaneously attracted to danger and approach it cautiously, and how paying close attention to nature's sounds has resulted in us being an unusually musical species. We also learn why we have developed discriminating palates for wine, why we have strong reactions to some odors, and why we enjoy classifying almost everything. By applying biological perspectives ranging from Darwin to current neuroscience to analyses of our aesthetic preferences for landscapes, sounds, smells, plants, and animals, Snakes, Sunrises, and Shakespeare transforms how we view our experience of the natural world and how we relate to each other.
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Number of pages: 224
Weight: 454 g
Dimensions: 24 x 16 x 2 mm
"The human eye for beauty is not an inexplicable preference for arbitrary shapes and colors but may be explained as an instinct for choosing surroundings that are safe, healthful, and informative. The eminent zoologist Gordon Orians, who originated this powerful idea, now treats us to a cornucopia of hypotheses on why certain things please the eye, ear, and tongue and others terrify, repel, or disgust them. This is a lovely contribution to our understanding of aesthetics and should keep scientists, artists, and humanities scholars debating its ideas for years to come." (Steven Pinker)"
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