Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Conspicuous display ...

... The Peacock Problem. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Members of the same sex compete with one another for the best (or the most) mates, and competition favors those who can signal their superiority over their opponents. The most famous example of such a signal is the peacock’s tail, whose extravagance distinguishes its owner from less showy birds and functions as a fitness indicator, proclaiming his health and strength to potential female partners.
How do we know that that is what the peahen sees in the peacock's tail? Aren't all peacocks' tails much the same? Or is the peahen able to differentiate subtleties not readily observable by us. If so, how do we know that? Is it not possible that the peacock's splendor is meant to the draw attention of a predator away from the peahen and her nest?

Artistic ability, Dutton concludes, signals exceptional intelligence, wit, wisdom, dexterity, imaginativeness, and the rest of the qualities that (health and attractiveness aside) proclaim their owners’ superiority ...
There are plenty of artists who, apart from their specialized talent and skill, are not especially bright or witty or wise or exceptional in any other way.

1 comment:

  1. Well, this may be off-subject a bit, but since you bring up peacocks, I am being bold enough to mention my own (and Flannery O'Connor's) perspective on peacocks at Novels, Stories, and More (and I hope the link works): Flannery O'Connor - The Subject Was Peacocks