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Did human faces really evolve to look unique due to natural selection?

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Human faces/UC Berkeley

From ScienceDaily:

The amazing variety of human faces — far greater than that of most other animals — is the result of evolutionary pressure to make each of us unique and easily recognizable, according to a new study by University of California, Berkeley, scientists.

Okay, so no other life form needs to recognize others of its kind? See also: Dogs recognize familiar faces from images and Dogs pick out faces of other dogs, irrespective of breeds. Clearly, there is more to this:

Our highly visual social interactions are almost certainly the driver of this evolutionary trend, said behavioral ecologist Michael J. Sheehan, a postdoctoral fellow in UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. Many animals use smell or vocalization to identify individuals, making distinctive facial features unimportant, especially for animals that roam after dark, he said. But humans are different.

Yes. In addition to our deficiencies in everything except sight, we walk upright. Here is what I said in some recent notes on bipedalism:

Ah yes, walking. There is a “uniquely human” way of walking upright and there’s no shortage of theses as to why: carrying infants or scarce resources, and saving energy strut the stage. Or it is due to climate change or rough terrain? Don’t assume a “chimpanzee starting point,” counsels one expert. Talk about advice that peers would be reluctant to heed…

These explanations tell us that bipedalism offers considerable advantages. Yet humans were the only creatures to adopt it with no backward glance. If we ask why that is, we will be rewarded only with announcements of the discovery of further ancient advantages. And on that point, we are already convinced. More.

Bipedalism and heavy reliance on sight make facial recognition an easy and obvious form of recognition. Now more from ScienceDaily:

“Humans are phenomenally good at recognizing faces; there is a part of the brain specialized for that,” Sheehan said. “Our study now shows that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognizable. It is clearly beneficial for me to recognize others, but also beneficial for me to be recognizable. Otherwise, we would all look more similar.”

Maybe we’d all look more alike, but a question nags. Is it true that, say, a cat would not recognize another cat by its face, deprived of data from smell or hearing? That is, is it true that other mammals do not have unique faces? Or is it more that most members of other species would use a different recognition system, given a choice?

Just for example, it has always been assumed that cats are colourblind. Actually, they do see some colours. But in any event, the cat prefers other methods for getting information, and must be patiently prompted to use colours it can in fact recognize. ScienceDaily again:

As predicted, the researchers found that facial traits are much more variable than other bodily traits, such as the length of the hand, and that facial traits are independent of other facial traits, unlike most body measures. People with longer arms, for example, typically have longer legs, while people with wider noses or widely spaced eyes don’t have longer noses. Both findings suggest that facial variation has been enhanced through evolution.

But do we know that the variation is selected for, as opposed to just not being selected against ? A person with long arms but short legs might have problems working, just to survive. By contrast, a person with a wide but not long nose may not have any problem passing on their genes if the trait is not culturally forbidden.  ScienceDaily:

“All three predictions were met: facial traits are more variable and less correlated than other traits, and the genes that underlie them show higher levels of variation,” Nachman said. “Lots of regions of the genome contribute to facial features, so you would expect the genetic variation to be subtle, and it is. But it is consistent and statistically significant.”

Right. But that is consistent with the hypothesis that facial variation does not matter very much to reproductive success, as opposed to it being selected in some way. We read:

“Genetic variation tends to be weeded out by natural selection in the case of traits that are essential to survival,” Nachman said. “Here it is the opposite; selection is maintaining variation. All of this is consistent with the idea that there has been selection for variation to facilitate recognition of individuals.”

No. The finding is more consistent with no selection. People just learn to recognize whatever facial features turn up in the genetic lottery, and accept them if they are not obviously abnormal.

Note: Of course people considered beautiful in a given culture are more sought after as mates. But beauty is no guarantee that they will produce more or more fruitful offspring. And in any event, all others who marry and have children must settle for the runners up. Hence variation is maintained.

So is this UC Berkeley study what claims for natural selection have come to?

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10 Replies to “Did human faces really evolve to look unique due to natural selection?

  1. 1
    tjguy says:

    The life of an evolutionist is so easy. They never have to test their hypotheses. They can just throw the out and get great press coverage because they support the currently in vogue paradigm. It gets you more grant money too when you do that.

    “Humans are phenomenally good at recognizing faces; there is a part of the brain specialized for that,” Sheehan said.

    “Our study now shows that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognizable. It is clearly beneficial for me to recognize others, but also beneficial for me to be recognizable. Otherwise, we would all look more similar.”

    Or they could have been created or designed with that same purpose in mind.

    As predicted, the researchers found that facial traits are much more variable than other bodily traits, such as the length of the hand, and that facial traits are independent of other facial traits, unlike most body measures. People with longer arms, for example, typically have longer legs, while people with wider noses or widely spaced eyes don’t have longer noses. Both findings suggest that facial variation has been enhanced through evolution.

    Great, but why does that mean that they were not designed for relationships. Humans, more than any other organism, are relationship oriented. Our capability for relationships far surpasses all other organisms!

    And we are told that we were created in God’s image – meaning that, as God is a personal Being, so are we. We were created to know and love God and to know and love others as the two greatest commandments say.

    So while all this research is interesting, it has nothing to do with evolution unless you assume evolution to be true to start with. It supports the creation paradigm just as well, if not better.

  2. 2
    Silver Asiatic says:

    tjguy

    The life of an evolutionist is so easy. They never have to test their hypotheses. They can just throw the out and get great press coverage because they support the currently in vogue paradigm.

    True. Being an evolutionist is always a lot of fun. A great outlet for would-be storytellers. You get get your imaginary concepts published merely because you are an evolutionist.

    I like to give it a try myself.

    Prayer Plant Time Lapse
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRToxjXhbso

    This particular movement of leaves is the result of evolutionary pressure to avoid having the surface of the leaves facing outward at night, according to a new study by Prominent and Important scientists.
    The plant’s reaction to the absence of light is almost certainly the driver of this evolutionary process, said and evolutionist, a postdoctoral fellow in a Very Important Institution somewhere. “Many plants don’t move at all, but this one does and the response was clearly selected for reproductive success” stated the researchers.

  3. 3
    humbled says:

    These imbeciles have regressed to the point where all we can really do is laugh at them. I mean seriously, this codswallop is beyond dumb. It is just plain ridiculous.

  4. 4
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Humbled

    So true. They can’t be taken seriously. If another evolutionist stated tomorrow that this study was completely false it would change nothing. Just more useless drivel.

  5. 5
    Robert Byers says:

    The bible would imply people all looked very alike at first. indeed people look the same in races etc. its only after endless intermarriage that people look different..
    further there must innate triggers to give different looks originally.
    Its just guessing to say selection brought about different looks.
    in fact i say the original looks were a beautiful look and very alike. its only drift from a original beauty that really changes looks within races/kinds.
    They are forgetting the option of a original accurate symmetry.
    Adam/eve were both perfect lookers.
    beauty is about common accuracy.

  6. 6
    Bob O'H says:

    But do we know that the variation is selected for, as opposed to just not being selected against ?

    Yes we do. From the article:

    As predicted, the researchers found that facial traits are much more variable than other bodily traits, such as the length of the hand, and that facial traits are independent of other facial traits, unlike most body measures. …

    Finally, they compared the genomes of people from around the world and found more genetic variation in the genomic regions that control facial characteristics than in other areas of the genome, a sign that variation is evolutionarily advantageous.

  7. 7
    Silver Asiatic says:

    “Here it is the opposite; selection is maintaining variation. All of this is consistent with the idea that there has been selection for variation to facilitate recognition of individuals.”

    Ok, variation and uniqueness are within the population.
    So, if you look similar to someone else, supposedly, you have less survival advantage.

    So, of course, evolution made sure we all look different from each other. The trait for “uniqueness” is passed along so everyone will be different.

    Thanks evolultion! That was very nice of you!

  8. 8
    Robert Byers says:

    bob o’h
    Its just guessing about unwitnessed and untestable ideas.
    The face is unlike the arm. its about great symmetry.
    thats why faces are beautiful/not so and arms are all the same.
    so beauty demands that there was a original right answer and then lots of failure from it.
    The variation is just from failure due to the fall and losing our original perfect looks.
    In fact selection for beauty should be the evolutionists drumbeat. this would better explain diversity in faces.
    darwin would say that as he talked about selection and beauty.

  9. 9
    Silver Asiatic says:

    You can’t pass along a trait that determines you will look different than everyone else.

    I mean, I know evolution is all-powerful and all-knowing, but it can’t create uniqueness.

  10. 10
    Zachriel says:

    Silver Asiatic: I mean, I know evolution is all-powerful and all-knowing, but it can’t create uniqueness.

    Natural selection normally narrows the variation in a population through a process called stabilizing selection. When selection is relaxed, the variation increases randomly according to laws of population genetics. In this case, diversifying selection pushes traits apart, so that facial features vary more than would be expected from random chance alone.

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