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Cathedral Forum: Ladies' Choice? Did alluring male displays lead to transformative works of art?

What history and features link Darwin’s sexual selection, bowerbirds, human mate choice, performance art and the Anglican Eucharist?

Peter Brooks, parishioner and lecturer in neurobiology, will discuss ornithologist Richard Prum’s The Evolution of Beauty. A “Beauty Happens” hypothesis traces an evolutionary path from male bird displays to human mating desires and strategies and, in time, to our appreciation of art and ritual. Many female birds downplay good genes and choose the prettiest males. Some traits we desire in mates may provide little value toward future fitness. Such a primitive response to “beauty” may have led to artistry and to our appreciation of diverse forms of art.

In this Forum, Peter will map the twelve universal features outlined in Dennis Dutton’s The Art Instinct onto examples such as Marcel Duchamp’s “Fontaine”, the Superbowl, the 2016 presidential election, and the Eucharistic rite. Participation in art that provides meaning and personal transformation might be enriched by appreciation of its origins in creation’s procreation.

Sunday, March 17, 2019 at 9:45am in the Fleetwood Room.


The Cathedral Forum is a weekly lecture series with topics that range from theology, politics and spirituality to economics and literature. The forum regularly features prominent speakers from academia, the media, and journalism.

Later Event: March 17
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