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Waste is good

Evolutionists used to be puzzled by the wastefulness of the peacock's tail. Now they believe that almost everything in nature that we find beautiful or impressive has been shaped by wasteful sexual display. Sexual display also lies at the root of culture, consciousness and modern consumerism

By Geoffrey Miller   February 1999

At the top of Sennheiser’s range is the “Orpheus Set,” stereo headphones which retail for ?9,652. They are finely crafted headphones, no doubt. But to most ears, they deliver a sound quality not greatly superior to a pair of ?25 Vivanco SR250s, which have received several “best value” awards. As an evolutionary psychologist considering contemporary human culture, I wonder this: why would evolution produce a species of anthropoid ape that feels it simply must have the Sennheisers, when the Vivancos would stimulate its ears just as well?

The standard Darwinian account of consumerism is that natural selection shaped us to…

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