Archive for March, 2008

People who specialize in digging up human fossils tell us that until about 15-20 thousand years ago, we all looked very much alike. Back then, everyone on the planet apparently resembled present-day Australian aborigines, with broad faces and strongly pronounced features.

But after that, we started changing rapidly — at least on the surface. So-called racial distinctions appeared, distinctions that are usually regarded negatively because they make us look different from one another and now present barriers to global harmony. What is far less often noted is that those changes also made us prettier. All of us. Though each group adapted according to its own unique standards of beauty, in every region our facial contours became smoother and more delicate, our hair more appealing in form or color, our bodies sleeker and sexier.

There’s an easy explanation for that — the old Darwinian standby of sexual selection. In a simple tribal society, success at producing and raising offspring is largely determined by basic physical and mental fitness. But once society becomes just a bit more complex and distinctions of wealth and power appear, the game changes radically. The most dynamic and charismatic men take on leadership roles, which typically gives them the opportunity to father children by multiple women. The most attractive and charming women appeal to the top-ranked men, and that offers their own children a better chance to survive, become leaders in turn, and have first choice of mates.

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