December 13, 2001

Why do Caucasians differ so much in hair color?

Why do Caucasians differ so much amongst themselves in hair color, while everybody else (with the exception of some blonde Australian Aborigines) has dark brown hair? Here's my theory, which has been getting some favorable responses.

Blonde and red hair are favorable mutations for women because they make men notice them more. Fair hair reflects more light than dark hair, so it catches the eye more. Women like shiny jewelry for the same reason.

But, why then doesn't blonde or red hair become universal? Well, it would lose scarcity value if all women had it. But, also, while it's good for your daughters, under pre-modern conditions it was bad for your sons. It tended to hurt males at hunting and war. I recall attending a golf tournament on a sunny day and standing behind the green when a friend asked, "Which players are coming next?" I glanced at the tee 500 yards away, and said, "I can't tell who all is in the next group, but you can definitely see the sunlight glinting off Greg Norman's hair." The Australian pro Norman, who is no doubt of partial Nordic descent judging by his name and appearance, has extremely blonde hair. Fortunately, by now Northwestern Europeans have largely beaten their swords into golf clubs, but in days of yore, Norman's hair would have served disastrously as a beacon calling attention to his presence. Of course, in the Nordic homelands there aren't many terribly sunny days.

Thus, blonde hair becomes more common the farther in Europe you go north, where the sun is low in the sky and the land heavily forested and therefore shady. Within Northern Europe, red hair becomes more prevalent the farther west you go, where, due to the Gulf Stream, the weather is extremely misty. (I'd guess that the Western Irish are around 1/3 red-haired.) So, in Northwest Europe, you can have lots of blondes and redheads because lack of direct sunlight meant that highly visible hair worked well for women, without much penalizing their men folk when hunting or raiding.

In line with this theory, in movie love scenes, the actress almost always has lighter hair and skin color than the actor. This suggests that we still associate fairness with the fair sex. 12/13/01

December 9, 2001

Why do conservative intellectuals attack Darwin?

Why do conservative intellectual magazines
keep shooting themselves in the foot by attacking Darwin? The magazine with the least to be embarrassed about is National Review. Although it has printed some dopey Creationist stuff, under both former editor John O'Sullivan and current editor Rich Lowry, it has also printed my neo-Darwinian analyses, Still, National Review Online editor Jonah Goldberg offers an important clue into why normally sophisticated conservative editors give the anti-Darwin crowd a platform, in his response to Michael Lind's NYT attack on the Religious Right's influence over the conservative press:

"Let us not forget that Marx and Freud were once established scientific fact as well. And, moreover, let’s see Lind’s friends at Dissent run a negative article about Marx, Freud, or Darwin."

In other words, Jonah thinks that Darwin is sacrosanct on the Left. I suspect this view is common among Right editors. In reality, the Left absolutely hates what Darwin said about human nature. See my NR essay on Edward O. Wilson's Sociobiology for the details. 12/9/01

Christopher Jencks on Immigration

The left wing New York Review of Books just ran a terrific two part series on immigration by distinguished Harvard sociologist Christopher Jencks called "Who Should Get In." It's striking, although it really shouldn't be surprising, that starting from nominally opposite ends of the political spectrum, he and I reach almost identical conclusions about what's in the best interests of American citizens. Jencks' last sentence is, "Fifty years from now our children could find that admitting millions of poor Latinos had not only created a sizable Latino underclass but—far worse— that it had made rich Americans more like rich Latin Americans." In May, I wrote in, "The unexplored problem with massive mestizo immigration is that by creating a beige servant caste, it slowly turns the wealthier native-born Americans into a white master caste. Maybe we'll be able to withstand the temptations inherent in this kind of society better than the whites of Latin America, who were thoroughly corrupted by them. The history of the American South, though, suggests that rich white Americans aren't immune to the sinister blandishments of luxurious living based on a surplus of cheap laborers of dusky hue."