American in Spain

Only the funny shall survive

July 1, 2008

Not even humor is safe from analysis by those pesky evolutionary biologists. Apparently sarcasm is an evolutionary survival skill. Well that explains a lot!

It's easy to imagine how sarcasm might be selected over time as evolutionarily crucial. Imagine two ancient humans running across the savannah with a hungry lion in pursuit. One guy says to the other, "Are we having fun yet?" and the other just looks blank and stops to figure out what in the world his pal meant by that remark. End of friendship, end of one guy's contribution to the future of the human gene pool.

- Meredith F. Small

So let me get this straight. Because getting someone else's sarcastic joke will strengthen the friendship bond between you, even though it will hurt the bond with all others that don't get the joke, we can then conclude that there's an evolutionary advantage to telling and getting jokes? Seems pretty tenuous to me. Maybe that's just dumbed down for the press release. The paragraph I quoted, at least, is pure nonsense.

My understanding of the evolutionary biologists' explanation for humor is that it's a helpful, calming defense mechanism for dealing with tense/dangerous situations. Is there something new here? Or is there something uniquely advantageous to sarcasm, which hurts as well as entertains, as a subset of general humor?

Either way, my parahippocampal gyrus hurts. Can anyone else explain the article's findings better?