Why are things beautiful?

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cathryn

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Jan 16, 2006, 8:25:34 AM1/16/06
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I was driving through some breathtakingly beautiful countryside
recently, and I wondered - why are things beautiful? For example,
everyone I know agrees that part of the landscape is stunning, but why?
What makes one place ugly, and another beautiful?

And I also wondered about coastal property, why it's so much more
desirable than non-coastal or riverside. You would think riverside
would be "worth" more because of the essential ingredients to survival
it provides, whereas coastal - yeah, it's pretty, but you can't drink
it, and unless you're particularly skilled, you can't grow stuff in it.


Any ideas for texts I can read on this?

Cathryn.

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Don H

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Jan 16, 2006, 12:08:46 PM1/16/06
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"cathryn" <cathry...@gmail.com> wrote in message
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# Aesthetics (beauty) is a subdivision of Axiology (values), and,
accordingly, what may be beautiful to us humans could be repugnant to a
Martian.
Beauty attracts, ugliness repels; but what are the qualities involved?
Presumably, Beauty, as distinct from Plain, involves some degree of
perfection, or ideal. Symmetry might be one aspect; Perfection of colour,
size, shape, odour, strength, etc. - all these as applying to humans,
animals, plants.
As to Landscape, or, more specifically, Seascape; the tendency of humans
to return to the sea for holidays, could be attributed to our ancient,
evolutionary, littoral, life-style as amphibians - the same instinct which
may cause dolphins, porpoises, to move in the opposite direction, and
"beach" themselves, to escape danger. Beauty is what is desirable,
instinctively.
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder", to some extent, and perfection for
a horror-movie fan, might be the opposite it is for most of us. "Beauty is
skin deep" can also be true - and beauty fades with age and use.
Beauty is a Value, and while of Facts there's no disputing (or less so),
it may be necessary to define the term is get a better understanding. Then
list examples on which we may agree.
Married couples are an interesting study, insofar as facial appearance
relates to beauty. You may consider your wife or husband beautiful, but to
what extent does she/he resemble yourself - especially about the mouth? Who
do we love most? Ourselves. Could be something with preserving "our" genes.
I'm perfect, how about you?
"Life is beautiful" - provided we are young and healthy; but to the aged
and infirm, Death can gain in attractiveness.


Immortalist

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Jan 16, 2006, 12:20:22 PM1/16/06
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"cathryn" <cathry...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1137417934.1...@f14g2000cwb.googlegroups.com...
> I was driving through some breathtakingly beautiful countryside
> recently, and I wondered - why are things beautiful? For example,
> everyone I know agrees that part of the landscape is stunning, but why?
> What makes one place ugly, and another beautiful?
>

One theory is that those patterns that hint at ways to supply for our
physiological needs will be noticable more easily than other patterns not as
relevant to our long evolutionary past. Another theory is about how we are
attracted to wider features of our local lanscape in order to make maps of
reference to features and daily migration from camp to foods or resources.

The subsequent favored mutations probably make it easier to get aroused by
these things than others. Like in our beauty instincts and how the balance
of features on each side of the body, like eyes, breasts and sides of
beards, are inversely proportional to immune system health.

> And I also wondered about coastal property, why it's so much more
> desirable than non-coastal or riverside. You would think riverside
> would be "worth" more because of the essential ingredients to survival
> it provides, whereas coastal - yeah, it's pretty, but you can't drink
> it, and unless you're particularly skilled, you can't grow stuff in it.
>

As another poster said here, this may be more a supply/demand issue than an
instinctual attraction gradient, but those proponents of the "aqutic ape"
theory might think differently about this.

> Any ideas for texts I can read on this?
>

Environmental Preference

One of the most important considerations in the survival of any organism is
habitat selection. Until the development of cities 10,000 years ago, human
life was mostly nomadic. Finding desirable conditions for survival,
particularly with an eye towards potential food and predators, would have
selectively affected the human response to landscape-the capacity of
landscape types to evoke positive emotions, rejection, inquisitiveness, and
a desire to explore, or a general sense of comfort.

Responses to landscape types have been tested in an experiment in which
standardized photographs of landscape types were shown to people of
different ages and in different countries:

deciduous forest
tropical forest
open savannah with trees
coniferous forest
desert.

Among adults, no category stood out as preferred (except that the desert
landscape fell slightly below the preference rating of the others). However,
when the experiment was applied to young children, it was found that they
showed a marked preference for savannahs with trees-exactly the East African
landscape where much early human evolution took place (Orians and Heerwagen
1992).

Beyond a liking for savannahs, there is a general preference for

landscapes with water;

a variety of open and wooded space (indicating places to hide and places for
game to hide);

trees that fork near the ground (provide escape possibilities) with fruiting
potential a metre or two from the ground;

vistas that recede in the distance, including a path or river that bends out
of view but invites exploration;

the direct presence or implication of game animals;

and variegated cloud patterns.

The savannah environment is in fact a singularly food-rich environment
(calculated in terms of kilograms of protein per square kilometre), and
highly desirable for a hunter-gatherer way of life. Not surprisingly, these
are the very elements we see repeated endlessly in both calendar art and in
the design of public parks worldwide.

The idea of a pervasive Pleistocene taste in landscape received support from
an unusual project undertaken by two Russian émigré artists, Vitaly Komar
and Alexander Melamid, in 1993. They hired a professional polling
organization to conduct a broad survey of art preferences of people living
in ten countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas (Wypijewski
1997). Blue turned out to be the favourite colour worldwide, with green in
second place. Respondents expressed a liking for realistic representative
paintings. Preferred elements included water, trees and other plants, human
beings (with a preference for women and children, and also for historical
figures, such as Jomo Kenyatta or Sun Yat-sen), and animals, especially
large mammals, both wild and domestic. Using the statistical preferences as
a guide, Komar and Melamid then produced a favourite painting for each
country. Their intent was clearly ironic, as the painting humorously mixed
completely incompatible elements-America's Most Wanted, as it was titled,
presented a Hudson River School scene, with George Washington standing
beside a lake in which a large hippo is bellowing. But there was also a
serious side to the project; for the paintings, though created from the
choices of different cultures, tended to share a remarkably similar set of
preferences-they looked like ordinary European landscape calendar art, both
photographic and painted. In an attempt to explain this odd cross-cultural
uniformity-which had East Africans choosing the lush calendar scenes over
landscapes they might be familiar with in their own daily lives-Arthur Danto
claimed that the Komar-Melamid paintings demonstrate the power of the
international calendar industry to influence taste away from indigenous
values and towards European conventions. While he admits that the Kenyans
preferred scenes that looked more like upper New York State than like Kenya,
the polling work also indicated that most Kenyans had calendars in their
homes (Danto, in Wypijewski 1997). What this does not acknowledge is the
question of why worldwide calendars have the same landscape themes-the very
themes that evolutionary psychology would predict. The real question is "Why
are calendars so uniform in their content worldwide?" a uniformity that
includes other, non-landscape, objects of attention, such as babies, pretty
girls, children, and animals. It is the calendar industry that has, by
meeting market demands, discovered a Pleistocene taste in outdoor scenes.

http://www.denisdutton.com/aesthetics_&_evolutionary_psychology.htm

-------------------------------

On The Evolution of Human Aesthetic Preferences
By Andrew T. Chamberlain...

...some human visual aesthetic preferences that may have originated in our
species' distant evolutionary past.

These preferences include
evolved responses to natural
landscapes, symmetry preferences,
and criteria of facial attractiveness.

In the discussion that follows I employ a very general definition of
aesthetics, best summarised as "mental appreciation of the shape or
embellishment imposed on raw materials" (cf. Dissanayake, 1992), in which
the term "appreciation" primarily denotes an involuntary emotional response
to a stimulus, rather than the deliberate intellectual stance adopted by the
modern professional or philosophical aesthete.

Landscape Preferences and the Hominid
Environment of Evolutionary Adaptiveness

An innate human preference for visual landscapes that have properties
resembling those of savanna habitats (i.e. low-relief, sparsely-wooded
tropical grasslands: Figure 1a & b) has been attributed to selection
pressures operating during early human evolution (Balling & Falk, 1982;
Orians & Heerwagen, 1992). According to Orians and Heerwagen, present-day
humans express a rapid and often unconscious affective response to those
general properties of a landscape that are perceived on initial visual
encounter. Preferred landscapes are those containing features indicative of
environmental conditions favourable for survival, such as an abundance of
subsistence resources or a minimal threat from predators. The preference for
savanna-style visual landscapes is most strongly expressed in children
(Balling & Falk, 1982), and is also manifest in the deliberate design of
artificial landscapes as exemplified by modern (i.e. post-Renaissance)
ornamental parks and gardens (Kaplan, 1992). A more specific hypothesis of
landscape preference stems from "prospect-refuge theory", which predicts
that within a given landscape preferred locations are found at interfaces
between prospect-dominant and refuge-dominant areas (Appleton, 1996). These
vantage points combine unimpeded visual prospects with a ready opportunity
for concealment and/or withdrawal to a safe refuge. Thus a treeless
landscape is less visually attractive than a habitat containing isolated
trees that can provide opportunities to hide or escape from potential
predators.

Exponents of the human preference for savanna-like habitats have reasoned
that the human environment of evolutionary adaptiveness (EEA) was located in
the Plio-Pleistocene savannas of sub-Saharan Africa. It has been argued that
habitual occupation of the savanna biome by Australopithecus and early
species of Homo provided an extended period of selection for the
reinforcement of intuitive preferences for certain topographic, botanical
and faunal features of the savanna landscape (cf. Orians & Heerwagen, 1992:
556). However, this scenario of human evolution is over-simplified, and
there is an increasing consensus among palaeoanthropologists that there is
no single unitary environment to which earlier human species were optimally
adapted (Foley, 1996). Ardipithecus ramidus and Australopithecus anamensis,
the earliest known hominids, show morphological adaptations to arboreal
substrates (White et al, 1994; Leakey et al., 1998) and the fossils of
Ardipithecus ramidus have been recovered from depositional contexts
characteristic of closed canopy woodland rather than open savanna
(WoldeGabriel et al., 1994). Furthermore there is also an extensive and more
recent history of human occupation of non-savanna biomes, especially after
1.8 million years ago when species of Homo first appear in higher latitude
regions of Asia and Europe.

Evidence of heterogeneity in hominid landscape preferences has been sought
in studies of the geological and ecological contexts within which hominid
fossils have been discovered, in an attempt to delineate ecological
differences between hominid species (Behrensmeyer, 1978; White, 1988). There
is a substantial and difficult taphonomic problem here: are the habitats
that are conducive to the deposition and preservation of hominid fossils
representative of the environments to which the hominids were originally and
optimally adapted? White's (1988) analysis of the relative frequencies of
Homo and Australopithecus fossils in different African palaeoenvironments
failed to confirm earlier suggestions that Homo fossils were relatively more
common in river bank and lake margin settings. However, most of the East and
South African Pleistocene hominid sites have palaeoenvironmental profiles
indicating a mosaic habitat, with a mixture of flora and fauna that are
individually adapted to open grassland, woodland and proximity to water.
This provides indirect support for the prospect-refuge theory of human
landscape preference, as the palaeoenvironmental evidence would be expected
to show a mixture of habitat types if hominid occupation sites were
preferentially located at habitat interfaces.

Thus if there is an evolved human psychological preference for savanna
habitats this is unlikely to have been inherited as a phylogenetic legacy
from a much earlier (i.e. australopithecine) phase of human evolution. The
palaeoecological evidence, though sparse, suggests that Lower Pleistocene
hominids favoured either closed woodland (Ardipithecus) or mosaic habitats
(Australopithecus and early Homo). Furthermore, in living primates there are
instances of divergence of substrate and habitat preference between
closely-related species (for instance, both arboreal and terrestrial species
exist within each of the genera Cercopithecus and Macaca), suggesting that
evolved environmental preferences in primates are typically species-specific
adaptations rather than plesiomorphic traits inherited by all members of a
genus. This raises the possibility that the savanna landscape preference
that characterises modern humans arose relatively recently, perhaps
coinciding with the emergence of anatomically modern Homo sapiens. One model
of the origin of anatomically modern humans places the crucial speciation
event that gave rise to our species in sub-Saharan Africa, at about 100,000
years ago (Stringer & Andrews, 1988). It is therefore possible that the
preference for savanna habitats emerged when modern humans were confined to
these regions of Africa, prior to their expansion to other regions of the
world during the Upper Pleistocene.

http://www.beautyworlds.com/evoaesthet1.htm

http://www.shef.ac.uk/assem/5/chamberl.html


> Cathryn.
>


downint...@yahoo.com

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Jan 16, 2006, 12:44:20 PM1/16/06
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Immortalist wrote:
> One theory is that those patterns that hint at ways to supply for our
> physiological needs will be noticable more easily than other patterns not as
> relevant to our long evolutionary past. Another theory is about how we are
> attracted to wider features of our local lanscape in order to make maps of
> reference to features and daily migration from camp to foods or resources.
>
> The subsequent favored mutations probably make it easier to get aroused by
> these things than others. Like in our beauty instincts and how the balance
> of features on each side of the body, like eyes, breasts and sides of
> beards, are inversely proportional to immune system health.

I do not think, if you really believed this, any person would feel
loved by you, especially romantically. These ideas may seem 'right'
somehow to a small portion of your brain, but the vast bulk of you
probably does not believe this, or live this. But perhaps that is
wishful thinking on my part.

Immortalist

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Jan 16, 2006, 2:13:35 PM1/16/06
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<downint...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:1137433460.3...@g43g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...

>
> Immortalist wrote:
>> One theory is that those patterns that hint at ways to supply for our
>> physiological needs will be noticable more easily than other patterns not
>> as
>> relevant to our long evolutionary past. Another theory is about how we
>> are
>> attracted to wider features of our local lanscape in order to make maps
>> of
>> reference to features and daily migration from camp to foods or
>> resources.
>>
>> The subsequent favored mutations probably make it easier to get aroused
>> by
>> these things than others. Like in our beauty instincts and how the
>> balance
>> of features on each side of the body, like eyes, breasts and sides of
>> beards, are inversely proportional to immune system health.
>
> I do not think, if you really believed this, any person would feel
> loved by you, especially romantically.

Can you paraphrase what it is I am supposedly believing so I can know
whether you read me right or wrong?

Is it the instincts for landscape appreciation or why we think some things
are beautiful or particular feature of races that you are pointing out or
are you just trying to say that biology doesn't have much to do with
anything?

> These ideas may seem 'right'
> somehow to a small portion of your brain, but the vast bulk of you
> probably does not believe this, or live this.

This is a fair description of the human predicament of how things seem and
what works and how feelings are aroused about them. But if that is how it is
for everything, including your statement of it, why point it out as be
special to the case at hand, unless the case at hand is the norm which it is
not?

Brian Fletcher

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Jan 16, 2006, 5:44:28 PM1/16/06
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"cathryn" <cathry...@gmail.com> wrote in message
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All part of our spiritual development. We are each creators, so we learn
what we like , to inspire creativity within each of us.

The creator created creators. So create!

BOfL


Bryan

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Jan 16, 2006, 8:07:53 PM1/16/06
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Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, but it interesting to ask
if there is something objective about beauty or if something's utility
(making it easier to survive) makes something more attractive.

I have read that there are facial (and other body) proportions that are
universally considered to be beautiful. Also, things that are symmetrical
and ordered tend to be called beautiful more often than a chaotic mess.

As far as utility, I've also read that a beautiful face can be intepreted
as a sign of health and therefore someone with a beautiful face has a better
chance of being a better mate. As for natural scenes, a gurgling brook
might be beautiful for ineffable reasons, but so much erupting vulcano that
might kill you if you don't try to get out of its way!

"cathryn" <cathry...@gmail.com> wrote in message
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alan jones

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Jan 17, 2006, 11:33:48 AM1/17/06
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cathryn wrote:

I think the oldest answers work here. It really is in the eye
of the beholder. Its about the way you feel. Some of this might
occur as a result of evolved connections to experiance. Hardwired
connections which form the basis of our survival. These things
are universally beautiful.

Elements of 'taste' spring to mind here. So too does greenary,
follage with its clue to moisture. Other things we say are
beautiful, have connections to our state, the way they make
us feel. An ideal state, tested but not overly so. Music, Art,
ideas which challenge without leaving us perplexed. That sense
of satisfaction, having understood. Being in some way rewarded
for the experiance. All so beautiful.

Immortalist

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Jan 17, 2006, 1:04:59 PM1/17/06
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"Bryan" <bxo...@xomcasx.net> wrote in message
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> Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, but it interesting to
> ask if there is something objective about beauty or if something's utility
> (making it easier to survive) makes something more attractive.
>
> I have read that there are facial (and other body) proportions that are
> universally considered to be beautiful. Also, things that are symmetrical
> and ordered tend to be called beautiful more often than a chaotic mess.
>
> As far as utility, I've also read that a beautiful face can be intepreted
> as a sign of health and therefore someone with a beautiful face has a
> better chance of being a better mate. As for natural scenes, a gurgling
> brook might be beautiful for ineffable reasons, but so much erupting
> vulcano that might kill you if you don't try to get out of its way!
>

Nigel Barber, and many others believe that we are instinctively attracted
towards symmetry in others because it is an indicater of "health" in a
potential mate. Maybe this bleeds over into the appreciation of symmetry in
nature and art?

<quote>

Symmetry, or the exact match of the left and right sides of the body, is
important to the attractiveness of both sexes. Both sides of the face should
be exact mirror images of each other. Kevin Costner has a far more
symmetrical face than Lyie Lovett and thus Costner is considered better
looking. Careful investigations by biologist Randy Thornhill and his
colleagues at the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque have shown that
people with symmetrical faces generally have symmetrical bodies.

Bodily symmetry is an esthetic cue used to assess the biological fitness of
potential mates among other species. For example, research on swallows,
which have forked tails, has shown that females prefer to mate with males
having symmetrical tails. Asymmetry is caused by interference with normal
development, which might be due to poor nutrition early in development or
might reflect the impact of viruses. Symmetrical animals have superior
biological qualities either because they experienced a favorable early
environment or because their immune systems were effective at warding off
viruses and other pathogens. Swallows and people attracted to mates with
symmetrical bodies acquire a superior immune system for their offspring.

This explains why women should be attracted to highly symmetrical men.
Thomhill and his colleagues have discovered that symmetrical men have more
sex partners, and even that women get more excited during intercourse with
these physically attractive men. Symmetrical men produce a pheromone (or
airborne hormone) that is more attractive to women than the secretions of
less symmetrical men, suggesting that women's attraction to men is based on
assessment of biological fitness through different sensory channels. Men's
biological quality declines with age, which is reflected in declining facial
symmetry, for example. This may have important implications for off- spring.
Thus, declining sperm quality of older men increases the risk of Down
syndrome and other chromosomal disorders.

The Science of Romance - by Nigel Barber
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1573929700/

alan jones

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Jan 17, 2006, 1:22:54 PM1/17/06
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Immortalist wrote:

> "Bryan" <bxo...@xomcasx.net> wrote in message
> news:ApmdnZ8fp8b...@comcast.com...
>
>>Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, but it interesting to
>>ask if there is something objective about beauty or if something's utility
>>(making it easier to survive) makes something more attractive.
>>
>>I have read that there are facial (and other body) proportions that are
>>universally considered to be beautiful. Also, things that are symmetrical
>>and ordered tend to be called beautiful more often than a chaotic mess.
>>
>>As far as utility, I've also read that a beautiful face can be intepreted
>>as a sign of health and therefore someone with a beautiful face has a
>>better chance of being a better mate. As for natural scenes, a gurgling
>>brook might be beautiful for ineffable reasons, but so much erupting
>>vulcano that might kill you if you don't try to get out of its way!
>>
>
>
> Nigel Barber, and many others believe that we are instinctively attracted
> towards symmetry in others because it is an indicater of "health" in a
> potential mate. Maybe this bleeds over into the appreciation of symmetry in
> nature and art?

Good point. Its often the case that biologial systems evolved for
one purpose finds itself contributing to [or adopted by] quite
unrelated areas.

alan jones

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Jan 17, 2006, 1:30:14 PM1/17/06
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Immortalist wrote:

> "Bryan" <bxo...@xomcasx.net> wrote in message
> news:ApmdnZ8fp8b...@comcast.com...
>
>>Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, but it interesting to
>>ask if there is something objective about beauty or if something's utility
>>(making it easier to survive) makes something more attractive.
>>
>>I have read that there are facial (and other body) proportions that are
>>universally considered to be beautiful. Also, things that are symmetrical
>>and ordered tend to be called beautiful more often than a chaotic mess.
>>
>>As far as utility, I've also read that a beautiful face can be intepreted
>>as a sign of health and therefore someone with a beautiful face has a
>>better chance of being a better mate. As for natural scenes, a gurgling
>>brook might be beautiful for ineffable reasons, but so much erupting
>>vulcano that might kill you if you don't try to get out of its way!
>>
>
>
> Nigel Barber, and many others believe that we are instinctively attracted
> towards symmetry in others because it is an indicater of "health" in a
> potential mate. Maybe this bleeds over into the appreciation of symmetry in
> nature and art?

Good point. Its often the case that biologial systems evolved for


one purpose finds itself contributing to [or adopted by] quite
unrelated areas.

eg the golden ratio. A relationship which we are almost biological
predisposed to seeing as beautiful, which we are then are drawn to,
in other areas of life.

Bryan

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Jan 17, 2006, 1:25:15 PM1/17/06
to

> Nigel Barber, and many others believe that we are instinctively attracted
> towards symmetry in others because it is an indicater of "health" in a
> potential mate. Maybe this bleeds over into the appreciation of symmetry
> in nature and art?

It might. Or a well-ordered world looks safer and one easier to survive in.
OTOH, one could be struck by the beauty of a random heap of leaves or trash
where no order is evident.

BuddhaThu

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Jan 17, 2006, 2:46:10 PM1/17/06
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Dear Cathryn,

Your question is indeed a real one.

When you ask the question "why" you are, of course, asking for a
rational explanation.

I follow along the line of Damasio's model. Reasons rests on the
emotions and not emotions rests on reasons. The reference is to his
book "Descartes' Mistake."

First, let me delineate a key difference between giving reasons for our
emotions and having rational control for them.

When I have an emotive feeling i.e. desire for what is beautiful, I can
give reasons for them. In fact, the emotive drive toward what is
beautiful is also a reason. When asks, "why do you like this
flower?" And you say... "because it is beautiful," the emotive
drive is supplying your reason.

What I cannot have is rational control by way of a planning procedure
to have a feeling for what is beautiful. To have rational control to
what is beautiful is in a sense diminishing.

When things are beautiful it is a spontaneous emotive feel. When you
have an attraction to a man, you don't have a rational control of it
by way of "I will love this man." You just feel it. In this way,
there should not be any "rational explanation," in the form of a
***predictive theory in your head.*** You just feel it. Love is rarely
a predictive theory. ;-)

Therefore, the "why" in your question must be given over to context
of giving reason for emotions and not to have rational control over it.


When you feel something is beautiful, you don't think in terms of it
being rational. You just feel it to be beautiful. You are not a robot.

When you feel something as not being beautiful, you don't think in
terms of it being "irrational" either. You just feel that it is not
beautiful.

My views are taken from Wittgenstein and aesthetics. He was a musician
as well as a logician.

Don H

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Jan 17, 2006, 3:30:09 PM1/17/06
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"alan jones" <o...@freeukFromSpam.com> wrote in message
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# There is one aspect of humans (and parrots) in which we are not
symmetrical - right-handedness or left-handedness - unless "ambi-dextrous"
(sic).
Our prejudice in this regard, in favour of Right, is reflected in the
terminology. The Right are "dextrous", while the Left are "sinister".
Fortunately, prejudice is waning, so school children who perversely insist
on writing with their left hand are no longer forced to use the right.
Why aren't we symmetrical, and able to use either hand? or kick a
football with either foot? (though many footballers train themselves to do
so). My own theory is that, back in our evolutionary past, it was a
survival technique: to throw a rock at an advancing predator with right (or
left hand) - those who hesitated as to which hand to use, got eaten.
Is a planarian (flatworm) the simplest animal with bilateral symmetry?
Most things which are not completely amorphous can be said to have
symmetry - at least along one axis; or can be made to seem so.
Perhaps it has to do with balance, where living things are concerned?
Get too lopsided, and you fall over.
Fractal geometry? And Solar Systems - here, while planets may revolve
in different orbits around their sun, the gravitational and inertian forces
need some zero product balance to hold the whole system together. The tides
on Earth bulge in opposite directions on opposite sides of the globe.
Hence, to us, symmetry is "beautiful", as it implies a trend to survival;
the hunchback and other deformed person is "ugly", and a "loser" - though if
the mind is alert, then we might change our attitude, and overlook the
purely physical imperfection, as, for humans, mental ability is a key
survival mechanism.


Wordsmith

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Jan 17, 2006, 3:33:28 PM1/17/06
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I've never heard of a left-handed (winged?) parrot before.


W : )

Immortalist

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Jan 17, 2006, 3:39:13 PM1/17/06
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"alan jones" <o...@freeukFromSpam.com> wrote in message
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> Immortalist wrote:
>
>> "Bryan" <bxo...@xomcasx.net> wrote in message
>> news:ApmdnZ8fp8b...@comcast.com...
>>
>>>Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, but it interesting to
>>>ask if there is something objective about beauty or if something's
>>>utility (making it easier to survive) makes something more attractive.
>>>
>>>I have read that there are facial (and other body) proportions that are
>>>universally considered to be beautiful. Also, things that are
>>>symmetrical and ordered tend to be called beautiful more often than a
>>>chaotic mess.
>>>
>>>As far as utility, I've also read that a beautiful face can be
>>>intepreted as a sign of health and therefore someone with a beautiful
>>>face has a better chance of being a better mate. As for natural scenes,
>>>a gurgling brook might be beautiful for ineffable reasons, but so much
>>>erupting vulcano that might kill you if you don't try to get out of its
>>>way!
>>>
>>
>>
>> Nigel Barber, and many others believe that we are instinctively attracted
>> towards symmetry in others because it is an indicater of "health" in a
>> potential mate. Maybe this bleeds over into the appreciation of symmetry
>> in nature and art?
>
> Good point. Its often the case that biologial systems evolved for
> one purpose finds itself contributing to [or adopted by] quite
> unrelated areas.
>

Well the theory is that those that were aroused by symmetrial aspects of a
mate's appearance were the ones that increased their gene frequencies in the
population generally and hence the trait spread throughout the gene pool.
You are probably right that this beauty seeking adaption would needs be
achieved through the aquisition of pre-existing structures and processes
which performed in similar ways before there was an attraction towards the
current traits.

Immortalist

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Jan 17, 2006, 3:41:46 PM1/17/06
to

"Bryan" <bxo...@xomcasx.net> wrote in message
news:0_ednc1ppbB...@comcast.com...

[A new theory of cognitive biases, called error management theory (EMT),
proposes that psychological mechanisms are designed to be predictably biased
when the costs of false-positive and false-negative errors were asymmetrical
over evolutionary history. This theory explains known phenomena such as
men's overperception of women's sexual intent, and it predicts new biases in
social inference such as women's underestimation of men's commitment.]

Humans live in an uncertain world. We rely on our senses to pick up
information from the world, and then use our information processing
capacities to make inferences about the true state of the world. Real
threats to our survival and relationships are not always readily apparent,
given the ambiguity and uncertainty of the information.

Consider a relatively simple problem of walking through the woods and
fleetingly sensing a slithering object scurry underneath some leaves in the
path directly in front of you. There are two possible states of reality:
either there is a dangerous snake in your path or there is not a dangerous
snake in your path. Given the incomplete and uncertain information that you
have percieved, there are also two inferences you could make. There is
indeed a dangerous snake, and you act to avoid it. Or you could conclude
that there is no snake and continue walking down the path.

There are also two possible ways that you could be wrong. You could believe
that there is a snake when in fact no snake exists. Or you could believe
that no snake when in fact a venomous rattler is lurking right in your path.
The costs of these two types of errors, however, are vastly different. In
the first case, your belief causes you to incur the trivial metabolic cost
of taking an unnecessary evasive action. By giving a wide birth to the area
that you believe harbors a snake, you have merely gone out of your way a
little, incurring a minor delay in your walk. In the second case, however,
failing to detect a snake that is in fact lurking in your path can cost you
your life. THe two ways of being wrong carry substantially different costs.

Now imagine that this scenario not only repeats itself thousands and
thousands of times in your liftime, but billions and billions of times over
human evolutionary history. Those who made the first kind of mistake tended
to survive, whereas those who made the second kind of mistake tended to die.
As a result, modern humans have descended from a line of ancestors whose
inferences about the uncertain world erred in the direction of believing
that snakes existed more than they do. These can be called adaptive errors.

Consider uncertainty about whether your romantic partner is having an affair
or is likely to have an affair.... Continued on page 76 The Dangerous
Passion - Why jealousy is necessary as love and sex - David M Buss

Chapter 1 of this book:
http://makeashorterlink.com/?Z1CE230B

Reference material below....

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Error management theory: a new perspective on biases in cross-sex mind
reading.

A new theory of cognitive biases, called error management theory (EMT),
proposes that psychological mechanisms are designed to be predictably biased
when the costs of false-positive and false-negative errors were asymmetrical
over evolutionary history. This theory explains known phenomena such as
men's overperception of women's sexual intent, and it predicts new biases in
social inference such as women's underestimation of men's commitment.

Buss comments on Error Management Theory. In an uncertain world, two
potential errors in thinking: a. partner having affair (but isn't) b.
partner isn't having affair (but is) The cost of making those two errors are
very different. Those making the first error have less cost (from a
reproductive success standpoint) than those who make the second.
Theoretically we evolved toward vigilance and are more likely to make
adaptive error. Explains why men and women sometimes have delusions that a
partner is unfaithful or might be. "It's not paranoia if they're really out
to get you!"

Shedding Light on Sexual Misunderstandings
Do men possess a "sixth sense" that calculates the risk of missing a sexual
encounter? Are women's guarded perceptions that men have no desire for
commitment true?

A fresh look at the misunderstandings between the sexes by David M. Buss,
University of Texas-Austin, uncovers new insights into why men and women
sometimes just don't get it when it comes to understanding each other's
views on sex and romance. Buss's report appears in the December 2001 issue
of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the American
Psychological Society.

Buss uses two theories he developed to explain the different perceptions
between the sexes -- Error Management Theory and Strategic Interference
Theory. The theories explain how the biases and emotions of women and men
may actually be adaptive behaviors.

He says that two basic errors are often at work in relationships --
inferring that a misdeed was done or overlooking a misdeed. For example, a
spouse may falsely suspect a partner of sexual treachery, or fail to detect
actual infidelity.

Buss applies Error Management Theory to explain cognitive biases that have
evolved over time. These biases are, Buss wrote, not an irrationally focused
lens used to view a situation or circumstance, but a functional adaptation.
For example, men have developed a sexual overperception bias designed to
minimize their chances of missing opportunities for sex. Women on the other
hand are believed to have an opposite kind of bias toward men, a
commitment-skepticism bias whereby men's actual level of commitment is
underestimated to compensate for the possibility of being sexually deceived
by men who feign commitment.

This mismatch of biases can lead to problems. For example, setting a low
threshold for inferring infidelity means you increase your chances of
detecting infidelity if it happens, but at the same time, you increase your
rate of false accusations.

This or any similar scenario is bound to inspire a plethora of emotions that
traditional theorists have labeled "negative." But according to Buss, the
traditional notion that these "negative" emotions - anger, fear, and
jealousy - only get in the way isn't so. He uses his Strategic Interference
Theory to explain that these emotions are actually motivators that help a
victim deal with a situation.

"They [these emotions] focus attention on the source of strategic
interference, temporarily screening out other information less relevant to
the adaptive problem," Buss wrote. The Strategic Interference Theory says
that the traditionally "negative" emotions have a purpose. They:

Focus attention on the source of strategic interference
Prompt storage of relevant information in memory for subsequent retrieval.
Motivate action to eliminate or reduce the interference and future
recurrence of the interference.

"Because men and women have evolved somewhat different sexual strategies,"
Buss wrote, "the events that cause strategic interference are predicted to
differ for the sexes. The events that trigger emotions such as anger,
jealousy, and subjective distress should differ for the sexes."

///////////////////////////////////////////
from page 224

The principle of rror management helps to explain why jealousy sometimes
seems so irrational. We live in a world with uncertainty, a booming, buzzing
chaos of cues requiring inferences about an unseen reality. Over
evolutionary time, some errors of inference were more costly than others.
Failing to detect an actual infedelity was more costly than mistakenly
accusing an innocent partner of betrayal. Evolution, as a consequence,
forged a hypersensitive defense system, designed to sound the alarm not just
when an infidelity has been discovered, but also when the circumstances make
it slightly more likely. These adaptive biases explain why these mistakes
may not really be "errore" over the long run.


>
>


Immortalist

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Jan 17, 2006, 3:45:55 PM1/17/06
to

"alan jones" <o...@freeukFromSpam.com> wrote in message
news:WIazf.44627$zt1....@newsfe5-gui.ntli.net...

> Immortalist wrote:
>
>> "Bryan" <bxo...@xomcasx.net> wrote in message
>> news:ApmdnZ8fp8b...@comcast.com...
>>
>>>Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, but it interesting to
>>>ask if there is something objective about beauty or if something's
>>>utility (making it easier to survive) makes something more attractive.
>>>
>>>I have read that there are facial (and other body) proportions that are
>>>universally considered to be beautiful. Also, things that are
>>>symmetrical and ordered tend to be called beautiful more often than a
>>>chaotic mess.
>>>
>>>As far as utility, I've also read that a beautiful face can be
>>>intepreted as a sign of health and therefore someone with a beautiful
>>>face has a better chance of being a better mate. As for natural scenes,
>>>a gurgling brook might be beautiful for ineffable reasons, but so much
>>>erupting vulcano that might kill you if you don't try to get out of its
>>>way!
>>>
>>
>>
>> Nigel Barber, and many others believe that we are instinctively attracted
>> towards symmetry in others because it is an indicater of "health" in a
>> potential mate. Maybe this bleeds over into the appreciation of symmetry
>> in nature and art?
>
> Good point. Its often the case that biologial systems evolved for
> one purpose finds itself contributing to [or adopted by] quite
> unrelated areas.
>

It might be such a case since natural selection may have brought about the
biological structure or function but sexual selection appropriated it and
controlled the selection of mutation types that continued to happen.

http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/miller/miller_p2.html

Immortalist

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Jan 17, 2006, 3:58:50 PM1/17/06
to

"Don H" <donlhu...@bigpond.com> wrote in message
news:ltczf.219522$V7.1...@news-server.bigpond.net.au...

Through comparative gross anatomy it has been shown all higher apes
(chimpanees, gorillas, and orangutangs) have like people, a longer Sylvian
fissure in the left than the right side of the brain. This possibly
indicates some laterality of function in apes, and the evolution of further
types of a division of labor already present in the mammilan family brain.

Accourding to some evolutionists we have many traits that require sensory
information from human cultural situations in order to develop the minimally
neccessary traits of each person's human nature or the parts of the brain
that contribute to it will atrophy. Whatever portion of self awareness
depends upon learning and useing a particular language would contribute to a
weakened degree of those parts of self awareness depending upon connections
and interactions with the language centers of the brain.

Some theories define learning as an environment in which the individual
learner is encouraged and nurtured to develop naturally according to his/her
level or genetically set stages of development. In this theory cultural
settings provide lots of social models, books ,writing styles, etc.., so
that people can follow their natural course of development, which is
pre-ordained. In the absence of these influences we might suppose that there
would be at least a minimal self awareness as far as it as a trait depends
upon such factors for it neural manifestation.

My guess is that the individual deprived of all cultural influences would
think in something like words, as far as the genetically programmed stage
where the Brocas and Wernickes areas make connectionions, which mainly cause
these language phenomenon, proceed to develop without cultural input.
Whatever kind of thinking would take place without, cultural learning would
probably be a modification of these abilities, as they would be in the stage
before a child learned language, only without cultural models. Since these
trait evolved with the necessary component of cultural influence, when those
influences are not present at the critical developmental stages, they likely
wouldn't be up to what they evolved for.

But instead of listening to my post morning coffe ramblings, John McCrone is
interested in this subject also, and some time ago he wrote about "wolf
children:"
http://www.btinternet.com/~neuronaut/webtwo_features_feral_kids.htm

> Is a planarian (flatworm) the simplest animal with bilateral symmetry?
> Most things which are not completely amorphous can be said to have
> symmetry - at least along one axis; or can be made to seem so.

But the trait doesn't really matter as long as the potential mate notices
it, remembers other individuals with such a trait, compares this
individual's trait to other individuals' trait, and then choses on that
basis. Like with the peacocks tail the female picks the male with the
biggest one but in other species the selection is made on more complex
criteria, but the peacock dragging the biggest tail around is probably the
healthiest at least it works for peacocks.

Mind, a software peacock's tail?

The mind is an entertainment system, evolved only for the purpose of
stimulating other brains. (((An software peacock's tail.)))

Why the human mind evolved? Intelligence is not a by-product of surplus
brain size, it actively evolved, like the peacock's tail, for courtship and
mating, and thereby shaped human nature.

Why does our species tell jokes, build monuments, compose sonatas, give to
charity, compete in sports, follow fashion? Our endless inventiveness, our
elaborate culture, seem to defy Darwinian explanation. They are our sexual
ornaments, our peacocks' tails, displaying our value to potential mates.

Consciousness, morality, creativity, language, and art: these are the traits
that make us human. Scientists have traditionally explained these qualities
as merely a side effect of surplus brain size, but they are rally sexual
attractors, not side effects. This argument is based on Darwin's theory of
sexual selection, which until now has played second fiddle to Darwin's
theory of natural selection, and draws on ideas and research from a wide
range of fields, including psychology, economics, history, and pop culture.

Sexual selection theory rather than natural selection-- is a theory about
how the human mind has developed the sophistication of a peacock's tail to
encourage sexual choice and the refining of art, morality, music, and
literature. Mate choice, male or female may be the reason we have art and
possibly even the (self).

Why human brains have so much capacity for creativity, language, and
consciousness-- are not fully explained by Darwinian natural selection, but
sexual selection by mate choices for and by breeding brutes. Sexual
Selection, Darwin's 'other' theory, has finally come in from the cold and is
now one of the hottest topics in modern Darwinism. The idea that the human
mind evolved as a sort of software peacock's tail has been mooted before,
usually to be dismissed in favor of some alternative theory.

That large personalities can be as sexually enticing as oversize breasts or
biceps may indeed prove comforting, but denuding sexual chemistry can be a
curiously unsexy business, akin to analyzing humor. As a courting display of
my own arogent intellectual plumage, though, my ideas are an
agent-provocateur an chest swelled with ideas and articulate conjecture.
While occasionally my magpie instinct may loot fool's gold, overall it
provides an accessible and attractive insight into modern Darwinism and the
survival of the sexiest. Join me now as we go down in spectacular flames.

http://tinyurl.com/pwb6
http://tinyurl.com/pwbo
http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/miller/miller_p2.html
http://tinyurl.com/pwd7
http://tinyurl.com/pwd9


> Perhaps it has to do with balance, where living things are concerned?
> Get too lopsided, and you fall over.

Well the symmetry didn't necessarily have to be balanced. Suppose that
imbalance of feature was the trait that indicated a stron immune system, in
a matter of a few thousand generations sexual selextion could eliminate
those who would not get aroused by unequal ratios of body part compared to
body part.

> Fractal geometry? And Solar Systems - here, while planets may revolve
> in different orbits around their sun, the gravitational and inertian
> forces
> need some zero product balance to hold the whole system together. The
> tides
> on Earth bulge in opposite directions on opposite sides of the globe.
> Hence, to us, symmetry is "beautiful", as it implies a trend to survival;
> the hunchback and other deformed person is "ugly", and a "loser" - though
> if
> the mind is alert, then we might change our attitude, and overlook the
> purely physical imperfection, as, for humans, mental ability is a key
> survival mechanism.
>

But what if the genes that direct the assembly of the parts of the brain
who's activities are mental abilities couldn't stupidity be selected for in
a way that lets the species reproduce but does everything else immaginable
wrong?

>


Don H

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Jan 17, 2006, 4:27:34 PM1/17/06
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"BuddhaThu" <softspok...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:1137527170.1...@g44g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...
# Ah, yes, Romantic Love - is it something we can't control or understand?
a certain "chemistry" that exists as an irresistible urge?
Maybe so, in some cases, as when a spurned suitor will murder his
previous lover, and her new boyfriend. Pure emotion.
At the other extreme, there was the case of E.W. Cole, an eccentric
Melbourne (Australia) book retailer, who decided to marry, and advertised
for a Plain Woman; one such responded, they married, and lived happily ever
after.
Then there are Arranged Marriages, where the parents decide, usually for
mercenary reasons, and the betrothed have no say in the arrangement. In
most Western countries this practice has faded - but whether purely
romantic, and quick, attractions, should lead to marriage, is another
matter. Usually such couples opt for premarital cohabitation, as a trial; a
sensible idea.
Marriage is under strain in the West due more to job insecurity, low
wages, etc, than to dissatisfaction with the original marital choice and
feeling.


Brian Fletcher

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Jan 17, 2006, 7:01:30 PM1/17/06
to
It didnt survive very long, due to the fact it could only fly in "ever
decreasing circles".

BOfL

"Wordsmith" <word...@rocketmail.com> wrote in message
news:1137530008.3...@f14g2000cwb.googlegroups.com...

ta

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Jan 17, 2006, 10:03:15 PM1/17/06
to

I don't know, but isn't this beautiful?

http://tinyurl.com/cpg5h

cathryn

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Jan 18, 2006, 4:03:45 AM1/18/06
to
Wow, thank you all for your interesting and thoughtful responses. It
sure beats my simple theory of "that which appears fertile appears
beautiful" (which I was never really happy with) or the more elusive
(from the Tao Te Ching) "all can see beauty only because there is
ugliness". I think I'll go read some Wittgenstein and whatever I can
find of Orians & Heerwagen as a starting point.

I also recall that Pythagoras (whom I will geekily admit to being a bit
of a fan of) had notions of beauty being based on harmony and
proportion (the golden ratio) which in turn has its basis in
mathematics. I reckon I'll go dust off my old pythag books as well.

Thanks again,
Cathryn.

Brian Fletcher

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Jan 18, 2006, 5:40:21 PM1/18/06
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"cathryn" <cathry...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1137575025.7...@g47g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...


While your at it, look at his 'mathematics of the human spirit'. Now THATS
beautiful.

BOfL


Don H

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Jan 19, 2006, 2:37:10 PM1/19/06
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"Wordsmith" <word...@rocketmail.com> wrote in message
news:1137530008.3...@f14g2000cwb.googlegroups.com...
> I've never heard of a left-handed (winged?) parrot before.
>
>
> W : )
>
# Next time you view a group of parrots, take note of each individual.
You'll find each bird consistently uses the same claw (right, or left) to
lift a nut to its mouth. I haven't checked with the anthropoid apes (apart
from ourselves) but would expect to find the same disposition.


Don H

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Jan 19, 2006, 3:04:31 PM1/19/06
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"Immortalist" <Reanima...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:rUczf.6062$bF.3744@dukeread07...

# Nature will tolerate some excessive characteristic in a species, eg. male
peacock's tail, while the species can continue to survive: because of it,
or, more likely, in spite of it. However, a point can be reached when such
embellishment becomes a real liability. A male peacock might find it hard
to escape predators with such encumbrance, and the species may then die out.
Same with us humans. I speculate that our brain has been a boon to us -
until now. But the real test is yet to come; can we recognise "global
warming" as a significant problem, and counter it? Or, have our brains an
inbuilt defect (complacency, arrogance?) which means they are more of a
liability than an asset?
Human conceit knows no limit, and our self-admiration can hide from us our
impending doom.
"Adapt, or perish" is Nature's only injunction. The "over-specialised"
species can be handicapped when it comes to "adaption to habitat". Humans
now have the technological ability to alter their habitat (even climate),
but have they the wisdom to recognise any problem so created, and deal with
it?
What then of Homo Sapiens? A brilliant, but flawed, species, whose
existence on planet Earth was characterised by meteoric rise, then fall - a
brief flicker of cosmic time. Even the dinosaurs lasted longer.
I give our species a couple of decades. Survive that period, and all may
be well. Our brain has then proved itself more of an asset than a
liability.


tg

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Jan 19, 2006, 5:32:25 PM1/19/06
to

Damn, ta, I haven't been to the mountains for a couple of years
now---work and injuries----and you almost made me cry. (Wipes
keyboard.)

tg :-/

Edgar Svendsen

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Jan 19, 2006, 9:43:24 PM1/19/06
to

"Don H" <donlhu...@bigpond.com> wrote in message
news:jhSzf.220960$V7.3...@news-server.bigpond.net.au...
We are an adaptable species, we will survive global warming just as we
survived several ice ages. What we almost certainly will not do is survive
in the same large numbers that we are at now.
Another interesting question is, can we make Western culture and it's
scientific accomplishments survive, albeit in a less profligate style?

Ed


ta

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Jan 19, 2006, 11:50:59 PM1/19/06
to

What a sight, eh? I'm imagining the south island of NZ to be about as
close to "paradise" as one can hope for. If it makes you feel any
better, I haven't been to *those* mountains . . . yet.

At the other end of the spectrum:

http://www.ohvec.org/galleries/mountaintop_removal/007/43_tn.jpg

Back problems still?

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