Hairy Science: Do Beards Evolve?
Noting shifting fashions in men’s facial hair, some evolutionists are trying to link them to Darwinism.
It’s not controversial that beards go in and out of style; they’re hip now, but may be on the way out. What should make men twirl their mustaches is the notion that their morning soliloquy, “To shave or not to shave,” is an evolutionary force acting on them, making them pawns of unguided natural processes.
No less than Science Magazine bought into this idea, along with the BBC News (“Beard Trend Is Guided by Evolution“) and Medical Xpress. According to some evolutionary biologists who did some attractiveness surveys with a limited number of participants in Australia, beards are seen as more sexy and attractive when they are the exception, not the rule, and vice versa for the clean-shaven. To put this in Darwinspeak, Science Magazine said,
This mechanism, called negative frequency-dependent selection, is one explanation for how diversity is maintained in populations despite natural selection constantly filtering for the fittest set of traits.
Facial hair is a trickier trait to explain than wings or fins, because rather than being determined early in life by genes, it is determined by behavior. In the case of beards, it is the decision to shave or not to shave. But the same logic can apply if the behavior has an influence on the choice of potential mates.
In other words, the behavior is not an intelligent choice by men, but a mindless matter of selection and population genetics. Apparently, Zinnia Janif, an evolutionary biologist at the University of New South Wales who led the survey, did not check to see if the attractive ones actually had more offspring.
If “the same logic can apply” to beard-choice behavior, the same Darwinian logic (pardon the oxymoron) can apply to evolutionary storytelling. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Let’s ask Zinnia if she wrote her paper to try to get a guy and pass on her genes.
This is a classic example of the shallow logic of evolutionary biologists who try to legitimize their existence by inserting their insipid notions into everything in life. For one thing, there are beards, and there are beards. Some look awesome (movie stars, ball players) and some broadcast negligence (street bums). The diversity of beardliness (stubble to knee-length, mustache, ham chops, sideburns, love patch) can have vastly different influences on viewer preferences, depending on who is being surveyed. There are also ethnic differences and cultural traditions. You can’t take 37 men from Australia and generalize reactions of a limited number of survey participants to the world. Besides, doesn’t every trend work this way? Something becomes popular till it is commonplace, then trendsetters branch out for something new. This happens by design when mindful people exercise choice. It is not evolution.
Ms Zinnia forgets that many men grow facial hair for their own satisfaction, not to attract mates. Not a few start them well after marriage, so it often has nothing to do with courting women. Even if it does in some cases, that has no necessary relationship to number of viable offspring; families of all sizes will continue to pass on beard genes to their sons long after beards cycle in and out of fashion several times. Darwinism explains nothing about this. And why stop at beards? Fingernails grow on men and women; some women grow them long (and some men, like in India). Eyelashes, toenails, women’s head hair, body fat, musculature, body hair, breasts, ear lobes, you name it – any human trait can be subjected to the Darwinist storytelling game.
Darwinism is like communism. Communists interpreted every observation, including opposite outcomes, in terms of class struggle and economic determinism. Scientifically, such paradigm-driven opinions are worthless because they are self-refuting; why not accuse Marx of writing his theory not because he thought it was true, but because class struggle and economic determinism forced him to? Like communism, Darwinism pretends to explain opposite outcomes with the same forces. Evolutionary biologists explain, with equal ease, why beards are popular and unpopular. Have they explained anything? Not only is their sample size pitifully small, their conclusions are mindless and illogical. Darwinists pretend to offer insight that is as insubstantial as shaving cream.
Adult males (including Charlie D who grew his Moses-like beard long after writing The Origin and fathering his children) choose to do with their natural endowments what they wish, by intelligent design. They should turn on the storytellers, and proclaim, “If you think my facial hair choice is a result of mindless unguided processes, then I assert that your Darwinian storytelling is no less.”
If you are a religious man, you can be sure that God put those genes in you for a reason. He must have designed them to give the mature man a distinctive look. AIG’s Creation Museum rightly portrays the first man, Adam, as bearded. Why scrape that manly attribute off? It not only distinguishes men from women, but separates the men from the boys. Save five minutes a day and sleep in; let those little hairs out; they need air! Of course, factors like what is permitted at work, and your spouse’s preference, must be taken into account before you go for the Duck Dynasty look. Whatever your choice, we need to unclutter our minds of Darwinian notions, whether man or woman, or young or old, and strive to “glorify God in your body” (I Corinthians 6:19-20). (Item: Jesus wore a beard.)