Charles Darwin & The Evolutionary Root of Beards

Charles Darwin is best known for his contribution to the science of evolution. He figured out that all species of life have descended from common ancestors over time. His scientific theory laid out the foundations for natural selection and artificial selection. During this time he also began to grow out his most defining feature, the Darwin Beard.

Darwin’s beard wasn’t just a beard for him, is it ever? He supposedly started growing it when he was sick in 1862 with the hope that it would help disguise himself in the public. At a Royal Society meeting it had done the trick, before people started recognizing him and it then became his signature attribute. Looks like that backfired. 

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution & Beards

Darwin first published his famous book On the Origin of Species in 1859. In the following decades, human evolution and other concepts of evolution spread through the general populace as accepted fact before being solidified in the mid 20th century.

For anyone scientifically literate, it wouldn’t be wrong to think that our beards descended from our more hairy ape ancestors. Though in certain species of ape, our cousins do not share this hairy feature. Also you’d have to wonder why women do not grow facial hair as well.

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It seems to point towards somewhere along our Homo Sapiens development, we continued to grow beards for evolutionary reasons. The human male is a unique species to have the beard and developed it during our evolutionary run.

Charles Darwin first pondered the origins of a beard. In his equally famous book, The Descent of Man, he described how sexual selection of a mate coincided with natural selection to change human development. That is to say, natural selection will favor individuals with traits that increase their chance to pass on their genes and procreate. This is all common knowledge to us now, but was a huge breakthrough in the 19th century.

When it comes down to sexual selection there are primary and secondary sexual characteristics. Darwin figured that animals evolved these secondary features to defeat their rivals for getting a mate. Individuals that had something like horns or colored features used these as adornments to attract the opposite sex. Darwin then thought about the beard and put it into that category as a secondary sexual characteristic.

Those individual species that had better weapons of secondary sexual characteristics would destroy their rivals and then pass on their genes, sending their prevalent traits forward.

Theory of the Dominate Beard

Let’s call this the Theory of the Dominate Beard, more of a hypothesis for now until Dollar Beard Club gets their scientific credentials in place. Over thousands of years it seems that during our evolution of man and civilization, beards have evolved to their current form because we beat out our competitors. Our ancient females took a liking to them.

Our one problem with this hypothesis, is that some groups of humans vary in terms of fullness of a beard. Some populations were supposedly unable to even grow a proper beard. Darwin figured that women in certain areas who favored it would see it flourish and in others it would simply dissipate. Darwin still faced a problem shifting this to personal taste over more evolutionary survival guided features.

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Darwinian evolution in motion.

There have been a number of solutions to why the dominate beard theory may be true and have major evolutionary roots. For one it could be because a gene has made male’s faces more resilient to the elements and then by accident served an additional purpose. This could be part of the reason, but isn’t entirely the case for why beards are so successful on the human male.

Back to Darwin’s reason, our beards serving as an adornment for attracting mates holds the best weight. Instead of individual taste as Darwin suggested, it is instead rooted in psychological and biological reasoning. For example our beards extend the jawline making the male look more menacing and threatening. We are the winners in respect, dominance and being seen as older.

Women don’t want a pushover insignificant male. We may not be spearing our rivals from the next door tribe over for the right for a woman, but beards offer something else in terms of social dominance.

Exploring the Evidence

Over the years more scientific evidence has pointed towards women favoring beards. A lot of this is settled science that has been peer reviewed and posted in major journals. Scientists, biologists, sociologist, and others of the sort still have their work cut out for them.

There is strong evidence and proven theories pointing towards the many benefits and attraction of beards. We’re leading the way everyday just by letting nature take its course. Evidence aside, we’ll let our beards do the talking.

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