Gordon Orians, Snakes, Sunrises, and Shakespeare
May 15, 2014
"No scholar better understands the intimate linkage between evolutionary biology and the human condition, and none has expressed it in a more interesting and well illustrated manner than Orians." -- E.O. Wilson
In this ambitious and unusual work, evolutionary biologist Gordon H. Orians explores the role of evolution in human responses to the environment, beginning with why we have emotions and ending with evolutionary approaches to aesthetics. Orians reveals how our emotional lives today are shaped by decisions our ancestors made centuries ago on African savannas as they selected places to live, sought food and safety, and socialized in small hunter-gatherer groups. During this time our likes and dislikes became wired in our brains, as the appropriate responses to the environment meant the difference between survival or death. His rich analysis explains why we mimic the tropical savannas of our ancestors in our parks and gardens, why we are simultaneously attracted to danger and approach it cautiously, and how paying close attention to nature’s sounds has resulted in us being an unusually musical species. We also learn why we have developed discriminating palates for wine, why we have strong reactions to some odors, and why we enjoy classifying almost everything.
Gordon Orians is a professor emeritus at the University of Washington, Seattle.