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April 14, 2016, in the Main Reading Room of the Linda Hall Library
14th Annual Paul D. Bartlett, Sr. Lecture with Richard Prum, William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology, Ecology, and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University
About the lecture:
Why is bird song so rich, complex, and variable? Why do animals perform elaborate courtship displays? Unlike adaptations that solve challenges to survival, bird song and courtship displays function through sensory seduction. Darwin proposed that some of these aesthetic traits evolved by sexual selection. Today, most evolutionary biologists view sexually selected displays as adaptive, honest advertisements of mate quality. But how do we account for the diversity of aesthetic preferences? And what is the relationship between aesthetic evolution and human culture? I expand on Darwin’s original views, proposing that a fundamental feature of mate choice is the co-evolution of mating displays and aesthetic mating preferences. This research provides a framework for a “post-human” aesthetic philosophy that spans all biology, human arts, and culture—from warblers to Warhol.
About the speaker:
Richard Prum is an ornithologist who draws from a wide spectrum of disciplines, including developmental biology, optical physics, molecular genetics, phylogenetics, paleontology, and behavior ecology, to address central questions about bird development, evolution, and behavior. He is the William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology, Ecology, and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University, where he also serves as curator of ornithology and head curator of vertebrate zoology at the Peabody Museum of Natural History.
Video produced by The VideoWorks of Roeland Park, Kansas.