Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The Evolutionary Secrets of Beards Disclosed – Or Perhaps Not

Genghis Khan. Image source: Dschingis Khan und seine Erben (exhibition catalogue), München 2005, p. 304, public domain.

Joel Kontinen

A recent article in The Conversation attempts to disclose the evolutionary secrets of beards. Why do some men sport them? And why do some women find them attractive?

The quest for finding a Darwinian answer for a variety of phenomena is not new. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) famously put it, “Evolution is the light that illuminates all facts, a curve that all lines must follow” and Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote an essay in 1973 entitled Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution.

So does this also include beards?

The Conversation article obviously starts with the basic assumption that it does:

“What is the point of a beard, evolutionarily speaking? Children, women, and a whole bunch of men manage just fine without one. But take a walk down some streets these days and you’ll be confronted with all sizes and shapes of groomed (and less groomed) facial hair – from designer stubble to waxed moustaches and hipster beards.

When we see men paying attention to their appearance, it’s easy to assume that they’re just angling for partners. But our research on beards and voices shows that beards probably evolved at least partly to help men boost their standing among other me

Author Tamsin Saxton throws in some Darwinese, such as “evolution through sexual selection,” for good measure.

Evolutionists need this concept, as natural selection cannot explain the beauty we see in the animal kingdom and elsewhere.

However, sexual selection has become a controversial concept.

In 1870 Charles Darwin tried to show in his book The Descent of Man that peahens were enthralled by the peacock’s long tail. However, research shows that this isn’t true.

But a lack of facts has never kept evolutionists from speculating. In 2012, for instance, New Scientist had an article entitled: Why Haven’t Bald Men Gone Extinct?

Given the absence of evidence, evolutionists tend to use just so stories.


Saxton, Tamsin. 2016. Hirsutes you sir: but that beard might mean more to men than women. The Conversation (14 April).