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Darwinist Jerry Coyne doesn’t like Darwinized pop music


For good reasons.

Evolutionary biologist Jerry “Why Evolution Is True” Coyne reacts to a recent claim here that Darwinian natural selection can be used to produce pop tunes. Asking, “Can natural selection create the “perfect pop song?”: he points out,

While the process is analogous to natural selection, with “mutation,” “recombination” among different clips, and a criterion of “fitness” (listener appeal), it’s also different, in that each person has a different criterion for “quality.” In contrast, there’s only one criterion for success in a real evolutionary process: how well a gene makes copies of itself. This amalgamation/mutation/public vetting process produces, in the end, a gemisch dictated by the average taste. It’s “perfect” in the sense that big-box-office Hollywood movies are perfect: they appeal to the most people. (It’s no surprise that people liked the later clips better than the earlier ones.) But to my ear the result, at least as heard on the Telegraph site, is bland and uninteresting. Perhaps the best music arises not through a “natural selection” process, but by musical “macromutations”: huge advances on what has gone before (rather than gradual improvements) created by those musicians who hear the world in a different way.

I’m not even sure what the point of this exercise is, for you could do it with anything: art, automobiles, and so on. What you’ll get is something that many people find appealing, but some people dislike. Give me the visionary rather than the compiler.

Good point. What they seem to have done is created a mass consensus machine.

This was done before, with similar results, in the production of elevator music – pleasant background noise.

Which is all you will ever get if your only criterion is how many people like it (or can ignore it in the background).

Thought: Could they apply this process to writing romance novels? Well, they could, but who would know the difference?

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