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David Rothenberg cannot attend the conference but here is his



Darwin had a hard time explaining why life forms are sometimes beautiful when this beauty is not adaptive.  He came up with the theory of sexual selection to explain how females of the species direct the features of males through extreme preferences that were generally considered to be arbitrary.  Why the excessive tail of the peacock?  The 23 hour humpback whale song?  These are seen as runaway examples of female taste, chosen for no real reason whatsoever.
     But what of the specific nature of this beauty?  Is it right to call it random, or arbitrary?  Such a view turns away from the aesthetic questions of nature and form, issues addressed by D'Arcy Thompson, and, most recently, by Philip Ball.  Art was essential for the promotion of Darwin's work by Ernst Haeckel, and I wish to consider how the opening up of aesthetics in the 20th century has made it possible for us to experience wider aspects of nature as being beautiful and of aesthetic interest, so what once appeared as random may today be appreciated as having more specific qualities.  A better understanding of art makes the beauty of nature make ever more sense...