Now, in The New Atlantis, Micah Mattix takes a run at “literary Darwinism” in “Portrait of the Artist as a Caveman”:
As others have pointed out, stories about how art might have helped our ancestors to survive and reproduce are most successful when they are merely repeating common sense. Certainly, sexual selection is a reason for many efforts at inventiveness — a fact that we have known since time immemorial. As Shakespeare wrote, “that man that hath a tongue, I say is no man / If with his tongue he cannot win a woman.” But focusing on these apparent evolutionary origins of art may cause us to miss what matters most. Homer, the blind poet, surely had more and other motivation than a simple desire to gain the attention of his audience and teach them the theme of “reciprocal altruism.” The same can be said of his artistic successors. The sense of the sublime in Caspar David Friedrich; the losing of oneself in the ecstasy of Byrd’s Masses; the humanity yet transcendence in Dostoevsky — to attempt to explain such things solely in terms of the bare forces of evolutionary survival risks altogether explaining them away.
Staying in touch with common sense is a really good idea, but it isn’t any kind of science.