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Accordingly, one might read Evidence as a compendium of testimonials. Oliver draws on a number of genres and traditions to craft a varied collection of poems that function as prayers, psalms, paeans and parables. The third piece in this trilogy addresses the mystery that lies at the center of her quest for evidence—the presence of God. Indeed, Evidence is full of such acts and affirmations of faith, some of them explicitly Christian. More often than not, however, Oliver looks beyond the language and traditions of any particular institutional religion for evidence of God, including these as part of a broader, more universal search.

Evidence is as much about the play of language as it is about the work of seeking truth. Keenly aware of the voices from the past that have shaped her own, Oliver frequently nods to her predecessors most often Wordsworth and Frost, as well as Whitman. This is the poem spoken, paradoxically, by the speechless wolf, the River Clarion, the shining moon. Well into her sixth decade of writing, Oliver is still stretching the boundaries of the art she has dedicated a lifetime to learning and of the craft she strives to master.

Evidence attests to an artist operating at the height of her powers. Like the green earth she has praised for most of her 74 years, Mary Oliver continues to break into blossom. This article also appeared in print, under the headline "Loves Proof," in the May 4, issue. Your source for jobs, books, retreats, and much more.

Books May 4, issue. Angela ODonnell May 04, Loves Proof. Evidence by By Mary Oliver Beacon. Show Comments. Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. Romance may have existed in some form long before the origin of humanity, and some believe it was born out of death and violence.

Your heart beats a little faster, glands open to secret tiny dribbles of sweat, and your body starts producing hormones, which make you feel a bit giddy and warm inside.

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These are some of the biological processes that occur as you are thrust into the early throes of love — or infatuation, it can be hard to tell which it is. Love is such a pervasive part of our humanity that art and culture is filled with references to love won and love lost. Libraries have shelves of books filled with romantic prose. It seems Shakespeare was more correct than he could have known. Peer into the evolution of love in the animal kingdom and it becomes apparent that love had its beginnings long before the advent of humanity.

What's more, it could have been born out of something quite sinister. The journey to love as we know it today began with sex, which was one of the first things life on Earth figured out how to do. Sex began as a way to pass on an organism's genes to the next generation. To love, life first needed a brain that could deal with emotions. It was not until a few billion years after life began that the brain began its journey to existence.

At first it was only a small clump of cells. Fast forward to around 60 million years ago, when the first members of our family, the primates, appeared. Over millions more years of evolution, some primates would evolve ever bigger brains, eventually producing modern humans. But there was a problem. As our brains grew, our babies had to be born earlier in development. Otherwise their heads would be too big to pass through the birth canal.

As a result, baby gorillas, chimps and humans are almost entirely helpless. Their parents therefore had to spend ever more time caring for them.

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View image of This baby gibbon will benefit from parental care from both parents. In many primates today, a mother with a dependent infant is unavailable to mate until her infant is weaned. To get access to her, a male would first have to kill her child. This sort of targeted infanticide goes on in many species, including gorillas, monkeys and dolphins. Almost a third of primates form monogamous male-female relationships, and in Opie suggested that this behaviour had evolved to prevent infanticide.

His team peered back into the family tree of primates to reconstruct how behaviours like mating and parenting changed over the course of evolution. Their analysis suggested that infanticide has been the driving force for monogamy for 20 million years, because it consistently preceded monogamy in evolution. Read more: Why pairing up for life is hardly ever a good idea. Other species found different solutions, which is why not all primates are monogamous.

For instance, chimps and bonobos minimise the risk of infanticide by being highly promiscuous.

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The males do not kill babies because they do not know which are theirs. But in those species where males and females started bonding strongly, their offspring's chances of survival improved because the males could help out with parenting. As a result, monogamy was favoured by evolution, says Opie. Love depends on regions of the brain that only appeared quite recently in our evolutionary history. It could have resulted in major changes in the brain, "to keep the pair-bond together for life".

This includes a preference for your partner and antagonism towards potential rivals. This in turn could have been the "kick" that changed human evolution, says Opie. Extra male care helped early human societies grow and thrive, which in turn "allowed our brains to grow larger than our closest relatives".

There is evidence to back this up. As brain size started to expand, so did cooperation and group size. What's more, it seems that aspects of love depend on regions of the brain that only appeared quite recently in our evolutionary history. View image of Homo erectus was bigger brained than its ancestors Credit: John R. Stephanie Cacioppo of the University of Chicago in Illinois, US, scoured the scientific literature to find fMRI brain imaging studies that examined the parts of the brain involved in love. She found that the most intense and "abstract" states of love rely on a part of the brain called the angular gyrus.

This is known to be important for certain aspects of language, like metaphors. This makes some sense, as without complex language we cannot express the more refined and intense aspects of our emotions. Conceivably, Shakespeare's angular gyrus was active when he penned his love sonnets. We do not actually know what role it plays in apes' emotions, says Cacioppo, because "complementary fMRI experiments have not been performed on apes".

So we do not know what chimpanzees feel about their mates. Obviously they do not write sonnets, but neither do most humans.

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Still, Cacioppo's findings offer some support to the idea that our growing brains helped love to flourish. However, Opie's idea that infanticide kick-started this process is controversial. Not everyone agrees it played any role in the development of monogamy.


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