My Pulp preview of Richard Prum’s AADL talk about ‘The Evolution of Beauty’

Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 2.17.59 PM.pngYale ornithology professor Richard Prum did his graduate work at U-M in the 1980s, but the two places where he spent much of his leisure time no longer exist.

“The Del Rio was a great place,” Prum said of the beloved bar that stood at Ashley and Washington for more than 30 years. “And I went to Borders, back when it was the only one in the whole world. It was such a great bookstore. I remember going to Borders and deliberately leaving my wallet in my office. Not that I ever had much money in it, anyway, but I didn’t want to be tempted.”

Temptation, as it happens, plays no small role in the former MacArthur “genius” fellow’s new book, The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World — and Us, which he will discuss at the Ann Arbor District Library Downtown Branch on Thursday, May 18, at 7 pm. The book argues that mate choice in the natural world is often driven by a subjective desire for beauty instead of more pragmatic considerations, thereby complicating the long-held notion that natural selection explains every branch on the tree of life.

“Many of my colleagues are resistant to these ideas,” said Prum. “One guy said, ‘But that’s nihilism.’ So here I am, getting goosebumps from thinking about how beauty evolves in the wild, while he sees a theory so bleak that he can barely get up in the morning. … That’s when I decided, ‘Wow, I have to embrace aesthetic Darwinian language and focus on what makes this worldview a productive and interesting mode of expression.’” READ THE REST HERE

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