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Why are flowers "beautiful"?

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Why are flowers "beautiful"?

Postby Arham » Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:40 am

Hello

I'm not an expert at biology, but I'm very interested in it, especially in the theory of evolution. As a materialist, sometimes I try to explain to myself things like "beauty" using this great theory. Yesterday I was wondering why flowers are beautiful. This is my guess:

Flowers are "beautiful" and "aromatic" to attract some animals such as bees in order to be pollinated. Bees exploit their nectar in return. But the question is: Why do flowers seem beautiful to us (humans)? Presumably, we humans don't pollinate the plants! I guess flowers are interesting to us because we have inherited some of the genes of bees or another animal which pollinate plants.

I want to know the opinion of experts.
Sorry for bad English and Thanks.
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Postby BDDVM » Mon Nov 29, 2010 3:50 pm

Bees and humans both have brains that are based on the same basic building blocks, nuerons or nerve cells. These cells are linked together in networks that have predictable behaviors. First and foremost is threshold behavior. Stimuli must overcome a given amount of intensity before evoking a response. Plants have evolved flowers that evoke a response from neural networks.
An interesting behavior in neural networks is their lack of sensitivity to the idea of too much stimulus. You can't have too much beauty.
You are wrong when you say we humans don't pollinate flowers. For the last 10000 years or so we have been selecting plants, some for nothing more than their beautiful flowers.
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Re:

Postby Arham » Mon Nov 29, 2010 4:29 pm

BDDVM wrote:You are wrong when you say we humans don't pollinate flowers. For the last 10000 years or so we have been selecting plants, some for nothing more than their beautiful flowers.


Thanks. What about our near ancestors like Homo heidelbergensis, or monkeys?
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Postby Julie5 » Mon Nov 29, 2010 5:56 pm

I've always assumed that there's a Freudian-style/covert reason why men give women flowers as a romantic gesture - because flowers are reproductive organs...

Sounds somewhat gross when you put it like that (!), but it's really the otehr way round - human reproductive organs are pretty damn ugly (there was no evolutionary drive to make them beautiful, unlike naked human bodies, because, I would argue, by the time you get around to the reproductive bits you are pretty damn committed!!!!)....so we use flowers' reproductive organs instead, as a far more aesthetic subsitute.

However, as to what constitutes beautiful - ie, why we say some things are or are not beautiful, there is a whole cognitive displine of aesthetics, and a lot of it appears to be culturally dependent (eg, fat naked women were considered beautiful in olden days - see Rubens etc! - because most women were thin from malnutriion, whereas slim women are considered beautiful now because most women in the western world suffer from obesity-related diseases).

However, there are some mathematical underpinnings, such as the golden mean etc, that do seem to unify a lot of culturally dependent things, such as the space between eyes, proportions of nose to mouth, etc etc etc.

Whatever it is, it's not a simple or simplistic answer to the question of what makes somethign beautiful, as humans are not simple little souls!
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Postby JackBean » Tue Nov 30, 2010 9:16 am

Julie: :lol: quite funny :-D

you really think that human reproductive organs are ugly? I mean by nature, not due to social rules... Just look to apes, who got big red ass when ready to mate (sorry for my English, if the words used are not correct ones). Just the society made it ugly, just remember to Adam and Eve, who hided their reproductive organs after being "enligthed" by the truth...

(and look to some aboriginals, who are basically naked, because their ancestors were not enligthed)
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Postby Julie5 » Wed Dec 01, 2010 5:45 pm

Hmm, I think my feminine modesty should kick in at this point!

Suffice it to say that whereas artists are more than happy to depict beautiful women and handsome men, they don't tend to focus in on the 'bits'.... :)

(Right, definitely time for me to bow out of this one!)
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Postby JackBean » Wed Jan 05, 2011 9:31 am

sorry, I don't get it :(
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Re: Why are flowers "beautiful"?

Postby Rap » Wed Jan 19, 2011 8:38 pm

Hmm - thats a good question. Flowers using bees, hummingbirds, bats, etc. for pollination are designed by evolution to attract these pollinators, and these are the flowers we see as beautiful. Plants that pollinate by the wind (e.g. most trees) do not have beautiful flowers. The smell, the nectar, the bulls-eye arrangement are all designed for pollinators. Bees being small tend to have eyes that are more receptive to small wavelengths (ultraviolet) and flowers have even more elaborate ultraviolet designs on them that cannot be seen by humans without special equipment. But why are they attractive to humans? Humans have no need of the nectar, but they find the sight and smell of flowers attractive. Human smell is designed by evolution. Any smell associated with bacterial danger causes a negative reaction in humans (don't eat meat that smells, don't eat poop, etc.). Flowers are designed to give the "opposite" smell to pollinators, and it works on humans too because our sense of smell is designed by similar forces, so I guess I can see why they smell good. Also, carnivores are not interested in smelling good, they don't want their prey to smell them coming. Cats clean themselves, dogs roll in dirt and deer poop to disguise their smell, human hunters generally avoid perfume. Prehistorically, human males were more likely to hunt than females. Is that why women are more attracted to the smell of flowers than men? But why do they look good? Well, they are designed to look much different than their background, to attract pollinators, and its no mystery why they look different to every other animal with eyes too. But why do humans find them attractive to the eye while other animals (except pollinators) do not? Maybe because humans are the only animals that can make the connection between flowers and abundance of food. Flowers mean springtime, the coming of warm weather, fertile soil, lots of seeds and game, etc. and maybe that's a connection that other animals don't have the attention span to make. A similar question is why do two pure sounds with a particular frequency ratio sound pleasing to humans while two sounds with other frequency ratios do not?
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Re: Why are flowers "beautiful"?

Postby skeptic » Sat Jan 22, 2011 11:02 pm

I will pop in an idea here - merely a hypothesis, since I have no good evidence.

Perhaps humans have evolved to perceive bright colours as attractive because these are the colours that signal that a fruit is ripe and ready to eat. We are attracted to bright red apples, or blue coloured grapes, or yellow capsicums as they are good to eat.

Our love of brightly coloured flowers may be just a flow on from this.

My wife and I love fruit and we always have a fruit basket at home, from which we select our snacks. It is decorative as well as delicious. Right now it contains yellow bananas, orange oranges, yellow apricots, purple grapes, and red plums. The bright colours are attractive and beautiful.
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Postby vk4vfx » Tue Feb 01, 2011 12:32 am

"Perhaps humans have evolved to perceive bright colors as attractive because these are the colors that signal that a fruit is ripe and ready to eat"

I think you hit the nail on the head " skeptic" it is the same as why fruit tastes so good to not only animals but to us humans also because if it were not palatable the fruit would then not get eaten and the seeds dispersed thus ensuring the demise of that particular species of tree they would simply die out.

As for beauty in the eye of the human that is really complex as it is not only visual it is pheromone based as well, off the top of my head i think we are the only animal that can pick out and distinguish a single face out of literally billions of faces of its own kind, its based on symmetrics for some reason the distance between the eyes and the grouping of all facial features play an important role and are subconsciously analyzed by humans within a split second.

The comment on the comparison between flowers and human reproductive organs is a good one and i agree, a bit like why a woman wears lipstick as studies have shown it is a "sexual" thing really mimicking the red swollen labia majora at that special time of ovulation bit like the length of a womans skirt relates to what part of the cycle she is in.

"you really think that human reproductive organs are ugly?" they are in a way but we are genetically hardwired to seek it out, the female reproductive system is a brilliant bit of gear i think but being happily Engaged i am no longer allowed to "seek it out" anymore :-)
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Re: Why are flowers "beautiful"?

Postby WinterImp » Thu Aug 11, 2011 12:09 pm

skeptic wrote:Our love of brightly coloured flowers may be just a flow on from this.
[...] The bright colours are attractive and beautiful.


I kind of agree with that! I think there might be something to it. Because if you go or look at any flowershop] and the flowers they sell there you can almost always point a finger at the most colorful one and they will also simultaneously be the best seller. That might just be a coincidence but I do think it stems from the color.
Last edited by canalon on Thu Aug 11, 2011 12:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re:

Postby charles brough » Wed Aug 17, 2011 8:10 pm

BDDVM wrote:Bees and humans both have brains that are based on the same basic building blocks, nuerons or nerve cells. These cells are linked together in networks that have predictable behaviors. First and foremost is threshold behavior. Stimuli must overcome a given amount of intensity before evoking a response. Plants have evolved flowers that evoke a response from neural networks.
An interesting behavior in neural networks is their lack of sensitivity to the idea of too much stimulus. You can't have too much beauty.
You are wrong when you say we humans don't pollinate flowers. For the last 10000 years or so we have been selecting plants, some for nothing more than their beautiful flowers.

All true, but I don't think that answers his question. Like him, I would like to know how a good (melatonin?) feeling or effect in us comes from flowers. What has natural selected that response in us? Certainly, it has not been carried on in us because of some highly remote connection to bees.
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