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May 11, 2014 | by  | in Conspiracy Corner Opinion | [ssba]

If Music be for Fools and Lovers

Rock and roll has been around since we were still rolling rocks, with the earliest instruments being 40,000 years old. Biology insists that our musical side has to serve some sort of purpose. After all, two drums and a cymbal didn’t just fall off a cliff *ba-dum tish*; it had to be deliberately invented or extrapolated from something we do naturally. Monkey-man Charles Darwin first proposed that music played a part in mate selection in one of his less incendiary books The Ascent of Man. While this makes sense to the birds and bees, to self-important humans the idea can produce a brown note.

Everyone (well, straight men, so “everyone”) subscribes to the idea that an ability to play music will get you laid. It might just be a by-product of the fame and wealth most musicians enjoy, but this isn’t satisfying to a purpose-minded insert-field-of-ologist. Recently, a study at the University of Sussex has shown that, during their menstrual cycle, women show preference for composers capable of making more complex music. Better music-making capability is taken as an indicator of greater fitness, so more accomplished musicians would presumably be more likely to reproduce. But before you start picking up a guitar thinking you can ‘Wonderwall’ your way to procreative success, I’ve got my own piece on the matter: it’s called “Stop Using the Nouveau Field of Evolutionary Psychology to Justify Your Lame Pick-Up Attempts”. Sing along if you know the words.

While religion explains a higher power as the inventor of our inner workings, and humanism heralds our natural rationality, evolutionary psych grounds everything as if on a savannah plain. We march to the beat of a drum telling us to survive, fall in love and procreate, and no trappings of technology or social attitudes are going to change how we act naturally. The intent is to point out that we are no more than clever animals with easily exploited mental biases. The problem I see is using this idea to excuse everything that people do, and it can lead to some really medieval defences of the sort of behaviours we thought we were past. Evolutionary psych exists not just to explain our nature but to aid us in finding a way around it.

Look, we’re all starved for affection to some degree, but if you need any encouragement that things will work out for you, remember that we’ve been winging this for thousands of years. Someone out there thinks you’re the cutest thing since bees evolved knees. But if you have to take a scientific approach, I personally prefer the coleopterist’s view: the love you take is equal to the love you make.



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