Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Evolutionary Function of Theorizing

I like strange loops. Here's one, at least for me.

At I just read Why Music? "Biologists are addressing one of humanity’s strangest attributes, its all-singing, all-dancing culture." The tool: human evolutionary theory. Music has, obviously to evo-naturalists, evolved to confer some sort of selective advantage. Within this noetic framework music has a "function." What might that function be?

One theory of the function of music is this. "Around 40% of the lyrics of popular songs speak of romance, sexual relationships and sexual behaviour. The Shakespearean theory, that music is at least one of the foods of love, has a strong claim to be true. The more mellifluous the singer, the more dexterous the harpist, the more mates he attracts." Music's function is for gaining a sexual partner.

I pause here. I am now thinking of some wedding receptions I have been to. And DJs I have listened to. In my part of the world here's how we do this. The bride and groom dance to "Unchained Melody" or "Endless Love" or some equivalent song. Then the father of the bride and bride dance to "Butterfly Kisses" and there is a major meltdown happening among the guests. Then, out of nowhere, the DJ plays "Super Freak," the bride gyrates sexually before her husband, and we are forced to watch this. This is followed by "Y.M.C.A." and "The Chicken Dance," and we are forced to participate in this (the alternative is to sneak back to your table and pretend you are eating). The interesting thing here when it comes to evolutionary theory is that all the arm-flapping functions, prethematically, as mate-attraction. If this explanation is sufficient I now feel embarrassed to be homo sapiens.

Which raises the meta-theoretical question: If music's function is for gaining a sexual partner, what is the function of theorizing about what the function of music is? Evolution-wise it must have a function. I'm guessing it's about conquering enemy territory. Theorizing is about expanding the land and "the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat." A theorizer is a male moose lowering its head to reveal its antlers. Theorizing is revolutionary, war-making activity. There are a lot of careers out there to be lost, and they won't go down easily. I theorize, therefore I am male (mostly), and I come to conquer. That's my theory, written as my horns lower towards my computer screen, preparing for a possible counter-attack.

I theorize about the evolutionary function of theorizing. I theorize, therefore I theorize. It's a strange question-begging loop, having an ad infinitum quality. Such is my condition if evolutionary naturalism is sufficient to explain human behavior.