Form Equals Function
Every species has its own set of characteristics which make it beautiful to other members of that species. When those traits are altered, the creature loses its allure. There’s a really great reason for this – reproduction. We are programmed to want good strong mates so that we can produce good strong offspring.
Humans are no exception. Our bodies – our skeletal structure, our hair and skin, etc. – all serve a purpose and that purpose is displayed in its form. Our noses may vary in size and shape slightly, but our nostrils should be sufficient in size to receive ample air with each life-giving breath; the brow and cheek bones should be set high and our jaws broad. Our hair may vary in length, thickness, and color, but it should be strong and full. Our skeletons may be short or tall depending on nationality, but our backs and legs should be straight, not bowed, which is a result of mineral deficiencies and bone growth abnormalities during youth. Our skin may vary in color and thickness, but it should be clear and taut. The hips of a woman should be large enough to comfortably accommodate the passage of a baby, while breasts should be somewhat generous, indicating a healthy surge of sex hormones at puberty.
Each person should differ from one another to some degree, but there are certain variations which imply imbalance and malnutrition. By the nature of self-preservation, we will not find these differences attractive. Now, humans do have a unique ability to overlook physical imperfections, focusing instead on values and actions. While this is a desirable skill since slight imperfections are normal and mostly harmless, we are doing ourselves and our offspring a disservice by ignoring the telltale signs of degeneration and by believing that beauty is nothing more than a superficial preoccupation.
Beauty is Nature’s Design
What makes a face and body beautiful is that it fits the function it is intended to serve. Faces and bodies aren’t built just to be pretty. We perceive faces as beautiful when they are functional and imply robust health. In other words, they suggest that mating with their owner will produce strong, healthy offspring. We are hardwired to recognize beauty for the sake of the survival of the species.
Faces and bodies which exhibit exceptional form can be found in every culture, in all of the most desirable people. The only differences will be in size, color, and texture. But the basics of what makes people beautiful are apparent all over the world.
Our Desire For Beauty
The Pleasure of Perceiving Beautiful Faces
While it is difficult to define beauty exactly, we all have a sense of it. We know a pretty face when we see one and when we see one; we generally enjoy staring at it. The same is true for babies. Researchers have shown that babies will gaze much longer at a highly symmetrical face than they will at a face with average symmetry. Rats, too, have been shown to fix their gaze on pictures with patterns but they lose interest when more chaotic pictures are presented. The reason for this may be that since our brains are themselves highly organized systems they can more easily do the job of perceiving, remembering, and thinking in a highly organized environment (staring endlessly into a mother’s face provides that environment). In this sense not only is it relaxing and comforting to see beautiful faces but it also might facilitate higher cognition.
Not only do we enjoy beautiful faces and bodies, but we also love to accentuate them. The use of ornaments and natural tints to emphasize physical beauty has been practiced in all societies around the world since before recorded history. Ancient sculptures which are debatably symbols of beauty have been recovered dating back as far as the Ice Age. Archaeological evidence from the Murcia province of south-east Spain (Cueva de los Aviones and Cueva Antón) dates the use of pigmented seashells used for jewelry, and lumps of red and yellow pigments used for makeup, as far back as 50,000 years ago.
The Absence of Beauty in Modern Society
The desire for beauty is part of the human condition. We enjoy perceiving it. We go to great lengths to achieve it in ourselves and we seek it out in our mates. Many of the traits that we consider beautiful are themselves outward signs of good health (excluding some strange and rare perceptions of beauty experienced by a mind as unhealthy as its desires). While we may not all understand the specifics intellectually, we still have a sense for what is most functional.
The problem with our interest in and our quest to accentuate beauty arises when health has deteriorated so considerably that such beauty is largely absent. If we lived in a culture where good looks were the norm and not the anomaly, we wouldn’t be so preoccupied with our looks. But here we are, trying to cover up our outward signs of internal degeneration. It is for this reason that our attention hovers so much on makeup, fancy clothes, hair extensions, fake nails, braces, and cosmetic procedures.
It’s Not Just a Matter of Genes
Many believe that our genes are responsible for our looks and that beauty is beyond our control. But I argue that genes not the cause of many traits we consider less attractive. Cellulite, for example, runs in the genes just about as much as eating cereal for breakfast every day runs in the genes. Being overweight is just as “genetic” as drinking low fat milk. That’s not to say that genes don’t play a role but there are controllable causes at play. Just because your mother had it (stretch marks, depression, diabetes), doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed to have it too. It just means that if you make the same poor lifestyle choices, you will probably experience a similar fate.
Why Beauty Matters
Looks are a reflection of our health in the womb, during childhood, and at the present moment. Our looks can be clear indicators (sometimes embarrassingly so!) of what is wrong or was once wrong with our health. Some people, of course, do get lucky and their good genes and good childhood nutrition carry them through to a beautiful adulthood, but without some care, even they probably won’t hang onto it forever. With bad nutrition comes degeneration, whether it starts in the womb or later in life.
The following are traits we generally consider “ugly” because they are indicators of a deeper health issue, disadvantage, or weakness.
- Crooked teeth are indicative of skeletal malformations. While the predisposition can reside in the genes, it is indicative of nutritional deficiency. The mineral deficiencies during the formative years don’t usually stop with the teeth. The same insufficiency can cause a narrow pelvis, which is bad for childbearing women (and hence bad for the survival of our species in general).
- Pimply skin can be a result of zinc deficiencies, digestive problems, or high insulin.
- Male pattern baldness indicates hormonal imbalances, in particular high estrogen and low testosterone – two imbalances in men which are responsible for less masculinity, less virility, less fertility, mood disturbances, and testicular cancer.
- Eyebrows which are thin or absent at the ends indicate low thyroid. Hypothyroidism causes low energy, bad moods, and cognitive problems.
- Female hair loss, fat around the waist, dark hair growth in places where females don’t grow hair, all signal hormonal imbalances. These women usually have trouble conceiving and are depressed.
Sub-par nutrition has turned what may have once been rare defects in human form to common everyday nuisances. The ubiquity of “ugliness” hasn’t changed our opinion of it, however. On the contrary, it has simply inspired a huge aesthetics industry that is designed to hide the signs of physical degeneration.
While us adults are stuck with a lot of our deformities and abnormalities (although many of them are reversible), we have the power to save our children from the same. We have the power to produce strong offspring which are beautiful, intelligent, competent, and strong.