A question for the Darwinians

How do the Darwinians explain the prevalence of male baldness in much of the white race (the Irish being the big exception)? That a man 50,000 years ago had an accidental genetic mutation which caused him to lose his hair, and the women in his tribe were more attracted to him with his bald head than to all the other hairy men, and so he had more offspring than the hairy ones, and so the genetic mutation for baldness spread through the population?

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Paul K. writes:

I’m not a Darwinian, but I guess their answer would be that most men have already fathered their children by the time they begin to go bald. That was certainly true in my case. I frequently tell my children that it’s thanks to them that my hair fell out.

LA replies:

Right. But if baldness mostly occurs after the man has fathered his offspring, then how can there be any causal connection between the theoretical supposed advantage of baldness, and the natural—or, rather, sexual—selection of baldness which maintains the mutation and makes it prevalent in the population?

My point is that we don’t have the slightest idea why male baldness exists and why it is so common, and there is no remotely plausible Darwinian “scenario” by which it came into existence via an accidental mutation that was then selected.

Leonard D. writes:

There is no generally agreed-on explanation among evolutionists for baldness. We don’t know enough. However, if you care to peruse the wiki page on it, you’ll discover several theories.

Also, you’ll discover that male pattern baldness occurs in closely related ape species. So it probably predates humanity. Male pattern baldness is not limited to Europeans. I might guess that its incidence in Africans is lower than in whites, because no hair to shade your head in a hot climate is a significant disadvantage where it is not in colder climates.

LA replies:

I wasn’t suggesting that baldness only exists among Europeans or Caucasians; but because it seems more prevalent among them, I wanted to limit my question to that group.

I’ll check out the Wikipedia article later.

Ron Littlewood writes:

Leonard D. wrote:

“There is no generally agreed-on explanation among evolutionists for baldness.”

There is no generally agreed-on explanation among evolutionists for ANY specific thing. The only thing they agree upon between themselves is evolution itself.

LA replies:

Let’s be more precise. The only thing they agree on is that God or any non-material intelligence CANNOT exist and therefore that there MUST be a naturalistic explanation for all the phenomena of life and therefore the Darwinian (or whatever adjective they prefer) theory that life evolved via accidental genetic mutations that were naturally selected MUST be true.

Of course, even if Darwinism were proven, the evolutionary scientists don’t even pretend to have a naturalistic explanation for how life got started in the first place.

Paul K. writes:

I have a niece who is a fervent Darwinian. What she would say is that if a trait isn’t actively harmful to survival, there is no reason that it must be selected out. Thus, while there is no purpose for baldness, there is no pressing need for the trait to disappear either. Similarly, while the appendix serves no particularly useful function, it remains vestigially because it does not cause a great deal of harm.

The logic of this makes no great sense to me but I’m trying to present it from the evolutionists’ perspective. Personally, I don’t understand why man didn’t evolve night vision, such as cats have, as it surely would have been a tremendous asset. Perhaps we had an ancient ancestor who evolved night vision, but a tree fell on him before he could procreate, tragically nipping in the bud a hundred generations of steadily progressing random mutations.

Karl D. writes:

What I would like to know is why most rock stars seem impervious to male pattern baldness? After years of abusing their bodies they still manage to hold on to a full head of hair! Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey, Iggy Pop, Eric Clapton. The list goes on and on. It is quite infuriating! ; )

LA replies:

The great ones always have full heads of hair. It’s a basic unfairness built into life.

James M. writes:

I think a Darwinist would say that there needn’t be any advantage associated with baldness to explain its presence in a population. Baldness, because it manifests itself after the prime reproductive years, sticks around regardless of its lack of benefit to us, because it is infrequently selected against. Same deal with things like glaucoma or heart disease. Certainly there is no advantage to being predisposed to develop these conditions, but people typically reproduce before those things come about, so those predispositions are infrequently selected against.

LA replies:

So in other words, baldness just appeared (by a random genetic mutation), but didn’t have to be selected to survive, it just wasn’t selected against? Hmm.

Jim C. writes:

It would be interesting to research when the concept “baldness” came into effect, and why modern man views it as a defect.

Ron L. writes:

There are many types of hair loss. The evolutionary answer for the prevalence of androgenic alopecia / androgenetic alopecia amongst Europeans is rather simple. This condition is not limited to humans, occurring in a number of Great Apes, including our closest relatives, chimps and bonobos. Hair loss occurs later in life, so its negative effects on sexual selection are limited. This condition is caused by a change in the way the body responds to the hormone DHT, as well as a reduction in the conversion of epithelial stem cells into the “daughter cells,” which form the matrix of the hair follicle. Sensitivity to DHT is beneficial to young men, i.e. those most likely to attract mates, as it increases muscle mass, aggression, and sex drive. It is only in the long run, that the negative effects of balding and enlarged prostates become a problem. The reduced ability of stem cells to repair hair follicles in between growth cycles is caused by a number of factors. The first is aging, which is universal. However, epigenetics (gene expression) is a major factor here. High-fat diets as well as decreased insulin-sensitivity both negatively affect Insulin Growth Factor 1, which affects hair growth. The increase in hair loss in Japanese and Chinese has coincided with their change in diet. Another factor is the sun. Europeans are white in order to get necessary vitamin D2 from the sun. Vitamin D2 is a hormone necessary for many functions and promotes hair growth, as hair on the head exists to protect us from the sun. However, in the long run, UV radiation damages the scalp, leading to aging of the skin, eventually causing hair loss. There may well be other factors. Still, to answer your question, hair loss in Europeans is a relationship of genetics, and gene expression. I am unaware of any reduced rate of hair loss among Irish as opposed to other Europeans. Irish and Scotch-Irish in American certainly go bald.

LA replies:

You are explaining some of the possible biological factors in male hair loss. You are not explaining why these factors should have come into existence in the first place, affecting some members of the population to the point of total male pattern baldness, affecting others less, affecting others not at all.

I travelled through Ireland for three weeks some years ago. All or virtually all the Irishmen I saw had a full head of hair. Another striking feature is that their hair commonly starts to go grey or white when they are in their forties. So there’s a sort of trade-off. They have the advantage of a full head of hair, and the disadvantage of early greying.

OneSTDV writes:

I know nothing about baldness, but I find it plausible that it derives from the modern agricultural diet. Prior to the 20th century which saw the advent of processed foods, the false stigmatization of the high meat, high saturated fat, paleolithic diet, and the championing of vegetarianism and veganism as the ultimate healthy diet, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity were largely unheard of. These diseases, especially obesity and diabetes, have seen dramatic rises since the ’60s.

So perhaps baldness is only a recent occurrence, much like acne which does not exist amongst any indigenous groups until they adopt the neolithic/Western diet, and primarily a result of our nutritional choices.

Related: I’m surprised you don’t cover nutrition as it seems to be increasingly popular amongst the reactionary sect. Here’s a few posts where I elucidate on the connection between liberalism and diet (sorry for the spam but I don’t want to rehash all the content in an e-mail): this, this, this, and this.

LA replies:

You are saying that baldness dates from the beginning of agriculture, 12,000 years ago, and that baldness dates from the twentieth century, 100 years ago.

Meanwhile, other commenters have informed us that baldness dates from the Great Apes, ten million years ago.

Such is the edifice of evolutionary science—a heap of speculative “stories,” each contradicting all the others.

Reader Daniel forwards this e-mail:
Dear Mr. Auster,

I eagerly await the outcome of your investigations into the Darwinian cause of baldness.


Charles Darwin


Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 14, 2011 01:44 PM | Send

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