Blonde joke

by John Quiggin on March 5, 2006

The latest evolutionary psychology[1] theory to do the rounds is that blondeness evolved as a selection strategem for women trying to attract scarce mates in the harsh and male-scarce conditions of Ice Age Europe. According to this report in the Times, the theory has been formulated by an anthropologist, Peter Frost. His supporting argument is that blondeness is a signal of high levels of oestrogen. I suppose I should wait for the article which is supposed to come out in Evolution and Human Behaviour, but I can’t resist pointing to an obvious hole and an alternative explanation.

The obvious hole is that blond(e)ness is not a sex-linked characteristic. If light hair colour signals high oestrogen, blond men should have a lot of trouble attracting mates. Tempted as I am by this hypothesis (see photo here), I can’t say I’ve seen any evidence to back it up.

The alternative explanation (not at all novel) is that fair hair arose in conjunction with pale skin, as a straightforward physical adaption to the move away from the tropics – less need for pigment, or maybe more need to absorb vitamin D.

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Via “3 Quarks Daily”:http://3quarksdaily.blogs.com/3quarksdaily/ this very enjoyable “interview”:http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/politics/faculty/przeworski/przeworski_munck.pdf with Adam Przeworski on his life, his research and his intellectual development. And on the causal explanations for dictators’ economic strategies …

bq. Then, for the particular question I addressed in Democracy and Development I thought I needed statistics. But in the work I’m currently doing on development, I am back to reading biographies of dictators and novels about dictators, which are very informative. I would like to get into Park’s shoes and Mobutu’s shoes and see why one of them was a developmental leader and the other was a thief. My current hunch is that developmentalist dictators are those who loved their mothers: obviously this is not something you will learn or be able to test with statistics, but when you read novels and biographies, the pattern becomes uncanny.