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Can evolution explain aesthetics?

A new book argues that our appreciation of art is innate and universal. It's clever, controversial stuff, but it may also be a dangerous development for the humanities

By Nigel Warburton   April 2009

The Art Instinct By Denis Dutton (OUP, £16.99)

Contrary to what you might have heard from creationists or advocates of so-called intelligent design, evolution isn’t just a theory. It’s something special—something that explains and is corroborated by the world’s fossil evidence, by zoological and botanical research, and by our ever more detailed understanding of natural selection and genetics. Like any scientific account, the theory of evolution could in principle be overturned. But there is no serious competition in the field—no plausible alternative explanation that fits the facts to a fraction of this degree.

So it’s true, too, that art must…

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