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This essay offers a novel theoretical perspective on the evolution of music. At present, a number of adaptationist theories posit that the human capacity for music is a product of natural selection, reflecting the survival value of musical behaviors in our species’ past (e.g., Wallin et al., 2000). In sharp contrast, a prominent nonadaptationist theory of music argues that music is a human invention and is biologically useless (Pinker, 1997). I argue that research on music and the brain supports neither of these views. Contrary to adaptationist theories, neuroscientific research suggests that the existence of music can be explained without invoking any evolutionary-based brain specialization for musical abilities. And contrary to Pinker’s claim, neuroscience research suggests that music can be biologically powerful. By biologically powerful, I mean that musical behaviors (e.g., playing, listening) can have lasting effects on nonmusical brain functions, such as language and attention, within individual lifetimes. Music is thus theorized to be a biologically powerful human invention, or “transformative technology of the mind.”

1. introduction

The past decade has witnessed a rapid rise in cognitive and neuroscientific research on music. This has led to renewed interest in evolutionary questions about music, which originate with Darwin’s discussion of the topic in The Descent of Man (1871). There are now several adaptationist theories arguing that musical behaviors originated via biological evolution due to their survival value for human ancestors. In contrast, nonadaptationist theories propose that musical behaviors are a human invention. The most prominent such theory, that of Steven Pinker (1997), regards music as a pleasure technology built from pre-existing brain functions (such as language, emotional vocalization, etc.), and posits, “As far as biological cause and effect are concerned, music is useless” (p. 528).

Pinker’s idea that music is an invention built from existing brain functions provides a useful null hypothesis for evolutionary debates over music. His assertion that music is biologically useless, however, is problematic. While Pinker was likely referring to music’s impact on human biology over evolutionary time, as opposed to within the lifetime of individual humans, his writing does not make this distinction. Furthermore, the metaphors he uses to describe music (e.g., “auditory cheesecake,” or “recreational drugs”) imply a view of music as having little biological significance at either evolutionary or individual timescales. While Pinker’s (1997) characterization of music as auditory cheesecake seemed to trivialize music, in more recent writings he has been more careful about assessing the value of music in human cultural life, noting, “The arts could be evolutionary by-products, and be among the most valuable human activities for all that” (Pinker, 2007, p. 170).

A central point of this essay is that discussions of the biological significance of music should conceptually distinguish music’s effects over evolutionary time from its effects within individual lifetimes. The need for this distinction is driven by evidence from neuroscience. Neuroscientific research suggests that music is an invention that builds on diverse, pre-existing brain functions, rather than a trait that originated via processes of natural selection. This is consistent with Pinker’s thesis. However, growing evidence from neuroscience also suggests that music is biologically powerful, meaning that it can have lasting effects on nonmusical abilities (such as language or attention) during the lifetime of individual humans. Importantly, these effects can be observed not only in trained musicians but also in ordinary individuals who engage regularly with music. Thus, I believe that music should be regarded as a biologically powerful human invention or “transformative technology of the mind.” (For brevity, henceforth I refer to this idea as TTM theory.)

Questions & Answers

Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Emerging disciplines: shaping new fields of scholarly inquiry in and beyond the humanities. OpenStax CNX. May 13, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11201/1.1
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