Could there be a Darwinian Account of Human Creativity?

Weaver birds create intricate nests; sculptors and other artists and artisans also create intricate, ingenious constructions out of similar materials. The products may look similar, and outwardly the creative processes that create those processes may look similar, but there are surely large and important differences between them. What are they, and how important are they? The weaverbird nestmaking is ‘instinctual,’ and ‘controlled by the genes’ some would say, but we know that this is a crude approximation of a more interesting truth, involving an intricate interplay between genetic variation, long-term developmental and environmental interaction and short-term environmental variation–in opportunities and materials accessible at the time of nest building. And on the side of the human creator, a similarly complex story must be told. Genes play some role surely (think of the likelihood of heritable differences in musical aptitude, for instance), but so do both long-term and short-term environmental interactions. The myth of the artist “blessed†by a spark of ‘divine genius’ is even cruder and more distorted than the myth of the birdnest as a simple product of a gene–as if it were a protein.                Our thinking about human creativity is pulled out of shape somewhat by a famous contrast introduced to the world by Darwin. One of his earliest–and most outraged–critics summed it up vividly:   In the theory with which we have to deal, Absolute Ignorance is the artificer; so that we may enunciate as the fundamental principle of the whole system, that, IN ORDER TO MAKE A PERFECT AND BEAUTIFUL MACHINE, IT IS NOT REQUISITE TO KNOW HOW TO MAKE IT. This proposition will be found, on careful examination, to express, in condensed form, the essential purport of the Theory, and to express in a few words all Mr. Darwin's meaning; who, by a strange inversion of reasoning, seems to think Absolute Ignorance fully qualified to take the place of Absolute Wisdom in all the achievements of creative skill..
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