Evolution: Sophisticated Magic


An old article appeared in a newsfeed sidebar last week that caught my attention. It was about human hair, a topic that is addressed on nearly every news website. Usually in kitschy, tabloid articles that pad out the political news.

This article responded to a question: “From an evolutionary standpoint, why is it beneficial for men to have facial and chest hair?”

The question, of course, presupposes 1.) that evolution is true, and 2.) that evolutionary theory tells us something meaningful about male hair. I would dispute the first premise. There is abundant testimony in the natural world that it has been carefully formed by our Creator.

Yet even if a person accepts evolutionary theory, exactly how are scientists to derive objective, useful, provable information about why men have chest and facial hair? Where might scientists go and what evidence might they look at to derive insight into a abstract process that allegedly took millions of years, and was unfocused, undirected, and completely mindless? Evolution is not, after all, a person. It does not have the properties of personality. It does not set out with a specific purpose in its “mind” to shape organisms in a general direction until they reach a targeted end-point.

Yet whenever evolution is spoken of – even in this case by a professor of zoology – it is nearly always in terms that attribute personhood to the process. It is nearly impossible for evolutionists to speak of evolution without implying it had a mind and purpose of its own. A creative force can never be a mindless force. And since evolution is regarded as a creative force, usurping the place of God, it cannot be spoken of for long without giving it a mind. Take the following example:

But evolution is usually pretty prompt at getting rid of features we don’t need, says Gibbins, so the reason men still have facial and chest hair is more likely due to sexual selection.

The article goes on to give the professors answer to the question. Note that the professor appeals to no objective, concrete evidence at all. The answer is a story. The professor uses the ubiquitous evolutionary narrative-technique which draws everything back to sexuality and natural selection. It is a technique that is easy to master with a bit of effort. All that is required is a little imagination.

First, the professor sets the stage by pointing back to a mythical ancient time – a time long, long ago, too far removed for anyone to prove anything one way or another with any certainty. There is no data about this time, but that is irrelevant because there are all kinds of hidden clues in the human body. The human body is regarded as the equivalent of archaeological source material:

In fact, Gibbins suspects it wasn’t that long ago that we sported a pretty impressive fur coat of our own. The evidence for this comes from goosebumps.

The professor explains that these ancient humans needed to make an impressive show to “get ahead of the pack”. The article then interjects: “Basically if you’re a very hairy man and hairy men are in, you get the girls“, which is so basic that its fundamental irrationality could evade the casual reader.

It is irrational because the inverse is manifestly untrue: “Basically if you’re not a very hairy man, and not very hairy men are in, you get the girls“. We should anticipate then that all relatively hairless men will have no difficulty whatever in finding partners in the modern world, since women are simple creatures and look at nothing else but the hirsuteness of their match. But we know that is not true. Entire populations of people are not motivated, even in their sexuality, by one, simple common feature. Even animals do not select their mates because of eye size alone or the length of their hair, or whatever.

The professor explains that our piloerection system (e.g. goosebumps) would fluff up a more hairy person so that they would look bigger and more impressive. But alas, our thick hair has gone and now all we get is the gooseflesh.

Yet earlier in the article, the professor explained that evolution is prompt at getting rid of features we do not need. Despite evolution’s famous home economy, our goosebumps reflex has survived despite all the hair they once operated going missing from the human body. The professor explains this away by suggesting that our hair has only “recently” been lost in our evolutionary history, and the goosebumps reflex still has not caught up.

It does not take a great deal of scepticism to see how bereft this explanation is. It is a fallacious begging of the question coupled with circular reasoning. The professor assumes from the outset that goosebumps are evolutionary leftovers that “originally” moved hair around. He assumes that human beings were once exceptionally hairy beings. Having made these assumptions, he strings together all the “evidence” and poof, bingle, bangle! An evolutionary answer is born.

The closest the professor gets to actually addressing the question in evolutionary terms, is to tell us that an assumed process was already underway. Why this should be so, we are never told:

At some stage while we were losing our excess body hair either women found hairy men more attractive, or men preferred non-hairy women.

So, there you go. It just is. And as all this “excess” hair (note again, the presumption is always that evolution is moving toward a targeted endpoint) was flying off the human body generation after generation, somehow ideas of attractiveness shifted as well. We are not told how. We are not told why. It just is. Somehow, amidst  a population of humans with a gorilla-like appearance, men started to find less hairy women attractive, or women found hairy men attractive. Why? How? It just is.

Hair growth and size is modulated by hormones, in particular androgens like testosterone, which kick in during puberty. As men generally have higher levels of testosterone than women they tend to have more terminal hair. Testosterone also increases the size of hair follicles on men’s faces at puberty so that they begin to grow visible beards.

Then we are then told that there are complex biochemical processes that govern the differences in human hair between men and women. Hormonal differences at puberty lead to differences in hair thickness and prevalence. So, which came first? Ultimately all evolutionary narratives devolve into chicken-and-egg scenarios, or hopeless circularity.

Did men start to find less-hairy women attractive first, and then the biochemical complexes of their bodies followed suit? Or did the biochemical complexes begin to change first, leading to women with less-hair and thus allowing for men to find them more attractive? Where did the variation come from to start this process? How do you tell the difference between a hairy and less-hairy gorilla? After all, women at some point must have been walking rug carpets too. Maybe there was intense competitive squabbling between males over the occasional near-bald specimen.

The fact that such complex processes govern hair formation suggest quite the inverse of the professor’s claims. It suggests that the differences between the genders are ancient, not recent. Indeed, our bodies would function very poorly with a heavy coat of fur or hair. The scenario works only if a person re-imagines human beings as apes, and then applies simian biological logic to the imaginary construction.

In the end, the professor’s answer is simplistic – despite its pretences to be more, with its clever erudition – and does not answer the question because it cannot. The professor’s answer is merely a sophisticated magic spell, an eminent foolishness. It denies the Creator of all life, and is an assault on His wisdom.

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