ON ART, NATURE

Published July 26, 2021 by Nan Mykel
NATURE

The roots of the arts “date back in deep history to the genetic origins of the human brain, and are permanent.” So writes Edward O. Wilson in one of my favorite books, Consilience, 1998….

“While biology has an important part to play in scholarly interpretation, the creative arts themselves can never be locked in by this or any other discipline of science.  The reason is that the exclusive role of the arts is the transmission of the intricate details of human experience by artifice to intensify aesthetic and emotional response. Works of art communicate feeling directly from mind to mind, with no intent to explain why the impact occurs.  In this defining quality, the arts are the antithesis of science. (p 218)

“….Several special powers were granted the arts by the genetic evolution of the brain.  First is the ability to generate metaphors with ease and move them fluidly from one context to another.”   Wilson maintains that metaphors, the “building blocks of creative thought,” are the  consequence of  spreading activation of the brain  during learning.

Wilson also recognizes the importance of our natural environment for our present and future.  On page 278 he writes, “What we idealize in nature and seek to re-create is the peculiar physical and biotic environment  that cradled the human species.  The human body and mind are precisely adapted to this world , notwithstanding its trials and  dangers, and that is why we think it beautiful. In this respect Homo sapiens  conforms to a basic principle of organic evolution, that  all species prefer and gravitate to the environment in which their genes were assembled.  It is called ‘Habitat selection.’

“There lies survival for humanity, and there lies mental peace, as prescribed by our genes.  We are consequently unlikely ever to find any other place  or conceive of any other home as beautiful as this blue planet was before we began to change it.”

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