The role of the arts has become crucial to understanding the origins of "modern human behavior", but continues to be highly controversial as it is not always clear why the arts evolved and persisted. This issue is often addressed by appealing to adaptive biological explanations. However, we will argue that the arts have evolved culturally rather than biologically, exploiting biological adaptations rather than extending them. In order to support this line of inquiry, evidence from a number of disciplines will be presented showing how the relationship between the arts, evolution, and adaptation can be better understood by regarding cultural transmission as an important second inheritance system. This will allow an alternative proposal
to be formulated as to the proper place of the arts in human
evolution. However, in order for the role of the arts to be
fully addressed, the relationship of culture to genes and
adaptation will be explored. Based on an assessment of the
cognitive, biological, and cultural aspects of the arts, and
their close relationship with ritual and associated activities, we will conclude with the null hypothesis that the arts evolved as a necessary but nonfunctional concomitant of other traits that cannot currently be refuted.