Did humans evolve to sing and dance, or did we invent our musical pastimes?
Look anywhere and you'll find music. Without a single exception, every culture produces some form of it; like language, it's a universal trait in our species, and over the millennia it has bloomed into a diverse and stunning global symphony. Yet music's origin remains one of the great secrets of human history.
The oldest known instruments are 42,000-year-old bone flutes discovered in caves in Germany. Vocal music surely predates these, but the problem, according to University of Amsterdam musicologist Henkjan Honing, "is that music doesn't fossilize and our brains don't fossilize." With little hard evidence, scientists still debate what evolutionary purpose music serves. And because its purpose is obscure enough to warrant debate, some skeptics question whether it serves any purpose at all.
Music researchers have more or less settled into two camps: those who believe their subject of study is a biological adaptation, and those who believe it's a cultural invention.
What say you?