The University of Melbourne
Sexual Selection or Natural Selection?
New Look on the Evolution of Human Morphology,
Behavior and Art
The author of the article argues that, contrary to Charles Darwin’s assertion, sexual selection played only a marginal role in the early evolution of the Homo sapiens. Natural selection through the mechanisms of predator control is suggested to be the central reason behind the crucial evolutionary changes of human morphology (appearance of longer legs, head hair, eyebrows, low male voice, reduction of canines) and behavior (bipedalism, singing, dancing, painting).
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In his classic book “The Descent of Man” Charles Darwin argued that sexual selection was no less of an important driving force behind the evolution of living organisms than natural selection. Despite the unique position of Charles Darwin in a scholarly world, this view was not shared by a number of scholars including Alfred Wallace, the co-discoverer of the principles of evolution, as well as scholars of the following generations (see, for example, the introduction by Moore & Desmond for the 2004 edition of “The Descent of Man”). At least several important evolutionary changes in humans and animal species, that were considered by Darwin to be as a result of sexual selection (like human skin color, the stripes of a tiger or the sounds of a rattlesnake), are today believed to have been formed under the pressure of natural selection.
On the other hand, when it comes to the origins of energetically costly and ostensibly non-adaptive human activities such as singing and dancing, the idea of sexual selection is still very popular (see for example, Miller, 2000). Miller, arguably the most ardent and influential contemporary proponent of sexual selection in human evolution, argues that not only the arts, but even the development of the human languages and the evolution of higher intelligence are the result of the...