Science and Creativity: Do Animals Have Culture? Part I | WBEZ
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Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen

Science and Creativity: Do Animals Have Culture? Part I

Laurel Braitman is a historian of science and the author of Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves. She’s particularly interested in animals held in captivity. “If their minds aren’t stimulated and challenged they can end up with all sorts of disturbing behaviors,” she explains. Braitman wondered if music could help counter animal anxiety and depression? This question led Braitman to arrange a series of concerts for all-animal audiences.
Plus, we hear from Richard Prum, an ornithologist at Yale University, who discusses his latest work — the philosophy of aesthetics. It stems from his earliest research studying small South American birds called Manakins. Manakins are known for outlandish mating displays in which males perform an elaborate dance and to Prum’s eye, the diversity and complexity of these dances could only be explained as an appeal to the birds’ aesthetic preferences. In other words, it’s art. “My hypothesis,” he explains to Kurt Andersen, “is that ornament in manakins evolves merely because it’s popular, or merely beautiful.”

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