October 20, 2011
Over at GNXP Discover, Razib Khan asks about selection for height genes.
I’m a little over 6’4″, and I find being tall pretty useless other than for seeing over other spectators at golf tournaments. Personally, I think genes for height exist in part to fool other people into thinking you are from a wealthy family. We’re used to people using nurture to try to fool other people about their nature, but I think this is the mirror image: this is genes trying to fool others into assuming you have rich relations. The main advantage to being tall was that other people figured you must come from a well-to-do family, which has many Darwinian benefits.
Height used to be a good clue to how well fed you were as a child. For example, the Tory cabinet that Prime Minister Salisbury formed in 1895 averaged six feet in height, maybe five inches higher than the British national male average at the time. This difference of a couple of standard deviations reflected in part how much better fed and how much healthier aristocrats were than the masses, but fortunately that indicator is becoming less meaningful.