No wonder people misunderstand evolution

| 52 Comments

How women evolved blond hair to win cavemen’s hearts

Academic researchers have discovered that women in northern Europe evolved with light hair and blue eyes at the end of the Ice Age to stand out from the crowd and lure men away from the far more common brunette.

First, I’ll note that I’ve not read the paper this article is based on, nor is it my intent to critique it. It may be great, it may be terrible. They may have a point, they may not. [Edited to add: you can find a post here on the actual paper for those interested]. In this case, I’m concerned with the write-up, ‘cause it’s one of my pet peeves.

“…women in N. Europe evolved with light hair…to lure men away from brunettes.” Couple this with the headline, and can’t you just see these primitive Europeans, standing around in their animal skin clothing and discussing the issue?

(Continued at Aetiology)

52 Comments

Sure, but it’s all the same sort of nonsense as the “gay gene”, or even that we “evolved religion” for some purpose or other (religion likely is mostly an organization of impressions we’ve had about the world, including the kind of “spiritual sense” with which we meet the unknown and the wonderful). People read into biology all kinds of prejudices, and by no means is evolution the only aspect of biology to suffer from this (the “gay gene” wasn’t especially tied to evolution).

So I wouldn’t prefer to emphasize the evolutionary nonsense out there, I’d just point out that PR savvy researchers with lame but potentially popular ideas are often known to hype questionable concepts (I’m not saying this particular notion is wholly wrong, but it’s absurd in the form we’ve been given).

Bad ideas often do rise to the top, a lamentable fact of life. We’re still stuck with purposeful evolution in the popular conception of biological evolution, partly because of the anthropomorphic language used even in legitimate media productions, and partly because it feeds off of a rather natural anthropocentric bias in humans.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

The problem seems to be that the anthropomorphic language in which such commentary and analysis is usually made is ingrained in our culture; a holdover from more theological language quite possibly. I don’t know that it’s possible to remove it.

N.B. Red

But I prefer brunettes…

Ah ha! I’m imposing frequency-dependent selection!

How ironic…

In an article attempting to demonstrate science, a journalist manages to demonstrate their ignorance of science. Perhaps the real underlying point is how far we still have to go in educating the vast majority of individuals in what biology is actually saying?

Though I wish evolution worked that way, to be fair. I could think of all sorts of things I’d love to consciously evolve for myself. A new irony meter is at the top of the list, given that mine broke reading the first part of that article.

Paul Gay seems to understand what’s important: Where are the Intelligent Design Science Articles?

Paul is retired from the U.S. military. He is also an experienced wilderness survival instructor, salesman, and small business owner.

By Paul Gay March 1, 2006 … Each day I receive about five links to news stories about ID. These articles typically consist of the following:

1. Opinions on whether ID should be taught in public high school science classes.

2. Debates over the validity of ID via the over-use of philosophical arguments and analogies.

3. Reports on school districts and their intentions to include or exclude ID in school.

4. The formulation of state and local laws regarding ID.

5. And of course frequent reports on court rulings.

Unfortunately the key ingredient missing from these daily articles is the science behind Intelligent Design. Why is it so difficult to find factual scientific articles about ID? …

That guy gets it. His understanding isn’t perfect, but for a layman, he pretty much gets the gist of it.

I liked the part about a bar code in our DNA. The fact is, there are conceivable ways you could have evidence for ID. You could zoom in on a ribosome with an electron microscope and see the label “© 4004 B.C. GodCo LLC”. You could find a species of Bunny Rabbit which performed like all the others, but had 75% different genes–a code re-write animal, so to speak. Maybe find a velociraptor with a fossilized tracking collar around his neck. Those would all be pretty awesome evidence for ID.

But of course ID is none of those things.

Except for this section:

People of science, the challenge is simple; explain in plain language why ID is unlikely or impossible based on the evidence in your field.

He doesn’t quite understand how science works. It is apparent that he doesn’t understand that since ID, as currently “forumlated,” offers no mechanisms, it is impossible to falsify. Therefore, it is not possible to apply his test. No mechanism = no predictions = not science.

As an aside, it must be seriously not fun to have the last name “Gay” in the military.

Paul Gay also wrote in his article.

People of science, the challenge is simple; explain in plain language why ID is unlikely or impossible based on the evidence in your field. Obviously the burden of proof is with the proponents of ID, however any points that science can add will certainly help the rest of us in our quest for the truth.

I was able to find 479 articles when I put “intelligent design” as the keyword at pub med. Granted some of these articles have nothing to do with the ID movement but many of them did and seemed to address Paul Gay’s request. The most recent article found was released this month. I think the title says it all.

Intelligent design: fallacy recapitulates ontogeny. FASEB J. 2006 Mar;20(3):410-1. No abstract available. PMID: 16507757 [PubMed - in process]

Unfortunately most of the general public is not using scientific journals to make informed decisions on ID. Many are simply choosing a side without really having an thorough understanding of what they are defending. I ,of course, know that the majority of PT posters know this.

Although a hoax, I think there may be a possible panda coat color hypothesis, but it will require more beer.

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Steve S. wrote.

That guy gets it. His understanding isn’t perfect, but for a layman, he pretty much gets the gist of it.

I liked the part about a bar code in our DNA. The fact is, there are conceivable ways you could have evidence for ID. You could zoom in on a ribosome with an electron microscope and see the label “© 4004 B.C. GodCo LLC”. You could find a species of Bunny Rabbit which performed like all the others, but had 75% different genes—a code re-write animal, so to speak. Maybe find a velociraptor with a fossilized tracking collar around his neck. Those would all be pretty awesome evidence for ID.

But of course ID is none of those things.

I liked that part of the article as well. However, the way you put it is hilarious. I guess that Dembski and Behe will have to get to work now that they know what they are looking for. I’m sure with all the money DI has they can get some SE Ms and get to work on their groundbreaking article. “Bar-codes on Ribosomes, Undeniable Evidence of Intelligent Design.” It makes me wonder if the “scientists” at DI could get a refund on their own DNA?

What??? No blond jokes??

Okay then, what about research into blond genes, and correlation in belief in ID and other pseudo- science BS?

Posit: Blonds are dumb, therefore, more blondes than non-blonds will believe in ID.

Well according to this piece of ‘Bad Science’ (or as likely ‘Bad Jounalism’) all Blondes will be extinct by the year 2202 (because blondness is the expression of a of recessive gene!) - Well according to the World Health Organisation at least!:

“A study by the World Health Organisation found that natural blonds are likely to be extinct within 200 years because there are too few people carrying the blond gene. According to the WHO study, the last natural blond is likely to be born in Finland during 2202.”

Bad Science and Blondeness

Dean, that’s why you should have read my piece first - it contradicts that report.

Well, unless all the hydrogen peroxide manufacturers go out of business, anyone who wants to be blonde can still manage it regardless of genotype. Our species is nothing if not resourceful.

– Julie (Not blonde – just auburn-brown with a little help.)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 5, column 475, byte 645 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.12.3/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187

They make you pay for the ‘Independant article now - so here is a link to the Sunday Times one they ripped it off from.

smells like an excuse to get a picture of an attractive blonde into the paper to me!!!

.. sorry Rilke’s Grandaughter! in too much of a rush to get to the pub!!!

- let’s wait to hear the corrections and apologies being shouted out as loudly!

(sounds of crickets chirping)

J-dog wrote:

Posit: Blonds are dumb, therefore, more blondes than non-blonds will believe in ID.

I am blond and I think ID is a crock. My hypothesis is that if you take the percentages of blonds, brunettes and red heads in the United states and compared them to a cross-section of the blonds, brunettes and red heads in the US that believe ID to be true, that the percentages would correlate with a high statistical significance. If true this would predict that ignorance level and hair color have no positive correlation. However, I could be wrong.

J. Biggs - Please write up the Grant Request! I will help with the research as best I can!

This thread is worthless without pics

Yellow Fatty Bean:

This thread is worthless without pics [Emphasis added.]

Did you mean Picts?

I thought they were a darker-haired celtic group–but maybe I’m wrong on that.

Which leads me to wonder if “yellow” fatty bean is a blonde?

There might be something to be said for self-fulfilling prophesies. If I grow up with a cultural expectation, if it is just a joke, that blonds are slower, dimmer, than I may act that roll, thus fulfilling the what people already knew to be true.

Academic researchers have discovered that women in northern Europe evolved with light hair and blue eyes at the end of the Ice Age to stand out from the crowd and lure men away from the far more common brunette.

And what … women in Asia, Africa, the Americas and Australia didn’t want to stand out from the crowd and lure men?

What twaddle.

As an aside, it must be seriously not fun to have the last name “Gay” in the military.

Of course, if no one asks, he won’t have to tell.

Posit: Blonds are dumb, therefore, more blondes than non-blonds will believe in ID.

Hmmm …

The problem with this hypothesis is that it ignores the fact that IDers are overwhelmingly male. I can only think of one prominent female IDer offhand (Nancy whatshername). Like YEC before it, ID is almost exclusively the domain of males.

WHITE males.

I guess the rest of the IDers must be barefoot in the kitchen with swollen bellies, breeding babies for the Reich.

Or, out in the fields keeping their divinely-designed place in the natural order of things.

Maybe the blonds all looked like Raquel Welsh did in One million years BC! I seem to remember that the brunettes weren’t just as pretty but maybe that’s just me being prejudiced !

To an eight year old (me at the time) watching this film the dinos were the best bit !

I got caught with this one, Tara. It’s a hoax. See the comments at my blog.

Oops. My bad. The 2202 thing is a hoax… not the paper.

Posted by Peter Henderson on March 2, 2006 07:09 PM (e)

Maybe the blonds all looked like Raquel Welsh did in One million years BC! I seem to remember that the brunettes weren’t just as pretty but maybe that’s just me being prejudiced !

To an eight year old (me at the time) watching this film the dinos were the best bit !

Agreed, the first time I saw it I thought the Dino’s where the best bit.

Watching as an adolescent, I thought Raquel had the best bits.

Okay, I don’t even have to apologize for this one, as I am one of those dumb blondes:

Two blondes on a park bench in a city in Texas one clear night. One says, looking up to the sky, “Like, what’s further away? Florida or the moon?” the other answers, “Like, duh, can you SEE Florida from here?”

Sorry, it’s been a long week. Couldn’t resist.

if blondes evolved from brunettes why are there still brunettes? Anyway if God didn’ty want us to have blondes he’d never have invented silicone.

Looks to me like just another example of microevolution.

The good Rev Dr notes: The problem with this hypothesis is that it ignores the fact that IDers are overwhelmingly male. I can only think of one prominent female IDer offhand (Nancy whatshername).

It’s Nancy Bryson PhD

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Comment #83413

Posted by Andy H. on March 2, 2006 09:20 PM (e)

Looks to me like just another example of microevolution.

Boy, that’s a real José Luis Jair Soria.

I see no reason to doubt that blondes (or blonds) cd be the result of sexual selection - if I remember right, there are blondes in the South Sea Islands too. But I have read (a) that light-haired and -skinned people in northern Europe are a result of the need for manufacturing vitamin D and (b) that light-haired and -skinned people in northern Europe are not a result of the need for manufacturing vitamin D. Which is right?

Of course there probably is a story about the evolution of blondes ( and redheads like myself) - however the only possible way it could unfold is through this narrative: evolution: - otherwise it’s all just ‘godiditt’!

This rehashed hoax just shows how gullible the media is - (or what a willing participant it is).

What fundmentally is the difference between this hoax and the ID one?

How would the media know the difference?

How could we explain to them?

Who else thinks we have a science/media problem?

OMG! Larry attempts another joke!!

[Re: “sexual selection” for blondes in prehistoric Europe]

Looks to me like just another example of microevolution.

I’m sure your as breathless at Larry’s audacity as am I.

At any rate, you’ll have to admit this is a considerable step up from the “bug” pun in the Entomologists thread…

The Resocialization Of Larry continues apace, it seems. A snail’s pace, admittedly, but still a pace.

So the last blonde will be born in Finland in 2202… Could they *be* any more specific? Like, in which Finnish town (or preferably, what adress in that town) and what day of the year (and at what time of the day). Btw, Dinosaurs became extinct 65.257.826 years ago, on a sunday afternoon in march,just around tea-time.

John Wilkins posted; Oops. My bad. The 2202 thing is a hoax… not the paper.

Actually, the paper is such a crap pot that is difficult just to start enumerating the assumptions made in order to accommodate whatever data they have to preconceived hypothesis. Do the authors imply that the lack-of-food-hunting-men-high-death-rate-high-density-of-females scenario is unique to only that part of the world? There were no shortages of food anywhere else? Even assuming strong selection for blondness, what about availability? And that is only two simple objections to the hypothesis that have to be addressed before we seriously consider it let alone published it. Which makes you wonder, where are the editors? (in peer reviewed scientific publications that is).

Rev Dr. Lenny - Blonds CAN be males too!

I picture Casey Lufkin as a bleached blond male, looking like one of the bad Greeks in Animal House - Greg Marmalade, the dumb one. The suck-up to Dean Wormer that gets righteously punched by Otter at the end.

Can we have another example of art imitating life?

Re “Dinosaurs became extinct 65.257.826 years ago, on a sunday afternoon in march,just around tea-time.”

In what time zone? ;)

Even people who understand evolution usually use that semantic construct. I doubt this has a lot to do with why much of the general public is so ignorant of (and even hostile to) the theory.

Those wacky Kansans strike again!

Even people who understand evolution usually use that semantic construct. I doubt this has a lot to do with why much of the general public is so ignorant of (and even hostile to) the theory.

Indeed, and its use can be explained by reference to Daniel Dennett’s “intentional stance” theory – viewing something as a rational goal-seeking agent provides an effective predictive framework – effective as long as the behavior of that thing really does fit the model of a rational goal-seeking agent. Evolution can be accurately modeled as seeking local maximization of fitness, but the word “local” is key. When rational agents seek to satisfy a goal, they act toward that goal in a global sense; they don’t just climb up a nearby rise, and then another nearby rise, and so on. A goal-seeker will map out those rises that get it to the goal, and if it goes up a series of rises that dead end or appear to be moving away from the goal, it will backtrack until it does reach the goal. Evolution, lacking global goals, doesn’t act that way. So using teleological language in regard to evolution is a mistake, a misapplication of a predictive framework. (OTOH, programs employing genetic algorithms do have global goals and can be properly described teleologically.)

Maybe the blonds all looked like Raquel Welsh did in One million years BC!

You mean like this?

Re “Maybe the blonds all looked like Raquel Welsh did in One million years BC!”

In that case, the hair color wouldn’t have had anything to do with it. ;)

Henry

“It’s Nancy Bryson PhD”

YIKES! put a warning on that link next time!

and somebody said pics and that’s what we get.……ewwweee.

Thanks to Popper, that is the exact image that popped into my head when I first heard the “pre -historic beaver” story out of China!

That’s exactly what I had in mind Popper ! After a little research I found that the film was released in 1966 so I must have been 10 (and not 8 as I originally thought) at the time but I still couldn’t understand why all the other kids (who seemed a lot older that me) cheered when Raquel Welsh came on camera !

I also remember a few years later having a discussion in school about the film, and why dinosaurs and humans couldn’t coexist. Another reason I think why I am so resistant to accepting the nonsense of dinosaurs being on Noah’s ark and living along side Adam in the garden of Eden !

The movie was filmed on location on Tenerife, and every time I see it now I am reminded of the holidays my wife and I had there before the kids came along. There are some very nice shots in the film of Mount Tide national park by the way, which you can visit if you ever holiday there.

To get around to the claim about blond women attracting mates once more, shouldn’t we note that hair color typically darkens with age? Among the norse, etc., it is the children who are often blond. So what are we to get from this, that children are blond in order to be attractive (sexually, maybe?)?

You get a few light blondes among sexually mature females in some populations, but even their hair tends to darken quite a lot during their reproductive years. Why would that be? To become less attractive? Is there any point in becoming less attractive by, say, 35?

If we went solely by the proportions of blondes in various age groups one might actually suppose that children have been selected to be blonde, while women (and men) have been selected for their hair to darken. Which itself seems unlikely, considering how much is spent on lightening hair today.

The fact is that sexual selection has almost certainly occurred in human populations, and that this selection is subject to pre-existing developmental programs (which could leave blonds having been selected–yet not especially strongly). But the fact of the matter is that the “blonde hypothesis” is all so low in resolution, with conflicting data, and with the most blondes appearing in ages in which sexual selection would not be occurring. This, then, is one of those “just so” stories, perhaps by some guy who is attracted to blondes.

It’s lamentable tripe, of the sort that we see in pop science too often, and not just in pop evolutionary science.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

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This page contains a single entry by Tara Smith published on March 2, 2006 11:22 AM.

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