Re: BOOKS: Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty

Daniel J. Boone (
Fri, 10 Sep 1999 15:03:56 -0800

>Let me rephrase: I'd be surprised to find non-cultural innate
>preferences for homosexual beauty, unless it was a spandrel (= side
>effect of something that evolved for a different purpose) - probably the
>result of retargeting the heterosexual preferences. I'd be *very*
>surprised to find innate preferences that had evolved directly. What's
>the selection pressure? To the extent same-sex preferences would evolve
>at all, you'd expect them to evolve out of existence.

It is a fallacy, I think, (though I am no expert on evolution) to conclude that there can be no evolutionary selection for traits associated with individuals (such as the elderly or the exclusive homosexual) who do not breed. In animals (such as humans) where social grouping is common, evolution can select for characteristics that impede or detract from individual procreation, if the characteristics are also somehow associated with increased group survival.

If, for example, longevity past the age of fertility makes it easier for the group to survive (because grandma can watch or teach the kids) then there will be selection pressure in favor of longevity even if it results in genetic tradeoffs that are less than optimal for reproduction during the fertile years.

Similarly, if a non-innate preference for homosexual beauty facilitates in some fashion the sucessful integration of homosexual individuals into a social grouping, and if those individuals play a role in group survival, such selection pressure might take place, might it not? As anecdotal evidence, I note that it is said that homosexual men played an important role in some Native American cultures, including medical, teaching, and shamanistic roles that may have promoted group survival.

Wild theorizing, here, from a position of inadequate knowledge. Like you, I would be surprised. But it may be possible.