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Old 04-06-2003, 03:51 PM
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Why aren't Eskimos hairy?

While out this weekend with some friends, evolution came up and one of my religious friends who doesn't believe in evolution came up with, "If evolution worked how come Eskimos aren't hairy?" My first response was a chuckle, but after that I didn't know how to counter this argument. I reminded him that just because I personally don't have all the answers, it doesn't mean there must have been a creator who "poofed" everything into existence. But I do wish I would have had the right comeback to his question. Does anyone know? How come people from colder climates haven't evolved to be more hirsute?
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Old 04-06-2003, 03:56 PM
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Presumably, by the time anyone thought to actually live in such a harsh climate, they already had the technology for making sufficiently warm clothing, and the art of firemaking, so they didn't need to evolve heavier natural insulation. Perhaps one of the earliest cases of technology short-circuiting evolution.

They do tend to be more stocky than similar groups of people in warmer climes, since a more compact body loses heat more slowly. So there is some evolutionary pressure at work.
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Old 04-06-2003, 05:56 PM
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Um, maybe you should ask you friend why an intelligent and benevolent creator didn't think to give the poor eskimos more hair...
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Old 04-06-2003, 06:41 PM
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Originally posted by viking
Um, maybe you should ask you friend why an intelligent and benevolent creator didn't think to give the poor eskimos more hair...
... or even better, fur!
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Old 04-06-2003, 06:58 PM
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The master speaks.
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Old 04-06-2003, 07:01 PM
Hermann Cheruscan Hermann Cheruscan is offline
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This really is a good question, being that more body hair is a natural adaption to a colder climate.

Eskimos are known for their squat bodies, which tend to conserve heat. Therefore, they already have adapted to the cold in some ways.

Could the eskimos lack of body hair(despite the cold weather) be caused by their genetic closeness to Asians? Asians are known for their lack of body hair. Could it be that the Eskimos did not have enough time in the colder clime to overcome their genes which do not have a strong body hair component? Eskimos and other American Indians have only been in this country for around 15,000 years, this may not have been enough time to adapt to the climate.
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Old 04-06-2003, 07:07 PM
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According to the article by Cecil, Eskimos have gone through alot of evolutionary changes to deal with the cold; so why wasn't getting hairier one of them?
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Old 04-06-2003, 07:11 PM
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Human body hair, even on the magnificently hirsute, is far too thin to be an effective method of retaining heat. Thick body hair on us folks thus tends to not get selected for as a survival trait. Now as a fashion statement, that would be a different story.
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Old 04-06-2003, 07:32 PM
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Originally posted by x-ray vision
According to the article by Cecil, Eskimos have gone through alot of evolutionary changes to deal with the cold; so why wasn't getting hairier one of them?
Another thing to consider, is that evolution relies on chance to a great extent.

First you would have to have a person born with an amount of body hair that actually makes a difference to their survival and susceptibility to the cold. This trait would then have to be selected for, and then passed on to future generation. With out that first mutation, things can't go anywhere from that.

Like Q.E.D. , said, with the invention of insulation clothing, pressure to select for natural forms of insulation in the form of hair just wasn't all that important anymore.
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Old 04-06-2003, 08:56 PM
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And further, perhaps contrary to expectation, facial hair (which correlates with general hairiness) is actually counter-productive in extreme cold because it collects ice condensed from your breath and can hide signs of frostbite.
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Old 09-14-2018, 01:46 AM
dredwick dredwick is offline
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wow...

You can cut the BS on this thread like a hot comb on nappy hair. Doesn't matter that its 15 years old.... are the original thread members still alive??

First off, just because a person doesn't believe in evolution and instead believes in a religion doesn't mean that they believe a creator "poofed" everything into existence. That is an exaggerated stereotype that is applied to a broad range of ideologies that sets to undermine any intellectual discussion using ad hominem to belittle anything that goes against the theory of evolution. For example, there are a large number of theologians that actually believe in evolution... they believe that God set the ball in motion for evolution to take place.

Regardless, there are three main scientific explanations as to why humans lost their body hair (it used to be much thicker), and one of them is in regards to temperature (the other two are sexual attraction and anti-aquatic reasons). So the opposite can be said - body hair would become thicker as an adaptation to cold temperature. So it would actually be selected as a survival trait if needed.

Siberians are ancestors of Asians and they live in extremely cold environments yet they aren't covered in body hair or facial hair (just like North American Innuits). Body hair and facial hair is not counter-productive to extreme cold environments because hair offers insulation. Polar bears are hairy and even if they get wet the hair provides insulation. They are also large because a larger body-mass-to-surface ratio provides more insulation than the opposite. Innuits are not short and stocky... the children are very short and thin. Tribal elders are short and thin. It is only in the 20th century that Innuits have become "chubby" (for lack of a better word) due to their diets containing mostly processed foods... it has nothing to do with the cold weather, clothing, or natural selection. Being able to make a fire and wear clothing would not stop a person from growing facial hair. Something like that would take THOUSANDS of years to change. Adaptations to the environment do not occur overnight. And Eskimos not growing facial hair is not evolution. Smh was it not possible to do research on the internet in 2003 when this conversation was started???

Hirsute is an adjective!
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Old 09-14-2018, 09:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan View Post
Human body hair, even on the magnificently hirsute, is far too thin to be an effective method of retaining heat. Thick body hair on us folks thus tends to not get selected for as a survival trait. Now as a fashion statement, that would be a different story.
That's not true. I'm an ice fisherman, so I am used to spending 12 hours out in sub-zero Fahrenheit weather. I have had a beard at various lengths and styles. I can assure you with 100 per cent certainty, that a thick beard is incredibly good at retaining heat. I don't even have to bother with a scarf or face mask when I grow it to winter length of 3-4 inches. The corollary to this is that during a storm you want to keep it dry or it cakes up with ice and then it becomes impossible to warm your face.
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Old 09-14-2018, 10:13 AM
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I reminded him that just because I personally don't have all the answers, it doesn't mean there must have been a creator who "poofed" everything into existence.
Why this dichotomy? Isn't it possible that all matter was brought into existence out of nothing by the ultimate source (the one we call "God"), and that after matter was brought into existence, life and diversity evolved from there? Evolution does not disprove God, anymore than God's existence disproves evolution.
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Old 09-14-2018, 10:20 AM
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Was there ever a time when every organism on earth was prefectly suited to its environment? The theory of evolution would say no - it is a process.

Also, if you can survive well enough to reproduce, science doesn't care how comfortable you are.

Last edited by Isamu; 09-14-2018 at 10:21 AM.
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Old 09-14-2018, 10:23 AM
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You can cut the BS on this thread like a hot comb on nappy hair. Doesn't matter that its 15 years old.... are the original thread members still alive??

First off, just because a person doesn't believe in evolution and instead believes in a religion doesn't mean that they believe a creator "poofed" everything into existence.
Wow, talk about BS. If a person doesn't believe in evolution, what is their explanation for how life forms got to where they are today? The only alternative I've heard is "intelligent design" which is a dressed-up way of saying "poof".
Quote:
they believe that God set the ball in motion for evolution to take place.
But that is not the same thing as saying "a person doesn't believe in evolution."

The GD aspect of this is that evolution does not require God. It doesn't mean there can't be a God, but many religious people seem to be threatened by the concept of evolution.
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Old 09-14-2018, 10:31 AM
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Wow, talk about BS. If a person doesn't believe in evolution, what is their explanation for how life forms got to where they are today? The only alternative I've heard is "intelligent design" which is a dressed-up way of saying "poof".
But that is not the same thing as saying "a person doesn't believe in evolution."

The GD aspect of this is that evolution does not require God. It doesn't mean there can't be a God, but many religious people seem to be threatened by the concept of evolution.
Only 15% of mainline Protestants don't believe in evolution. Just sayin'.
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Old 09-14-2018, 10:52 AM
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Only 15% of mainline Protestants don't believe in evolution. Just sayin'.
But every one of those 15% seem to come here to say "poof."
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Old 09-14-2018, 11:06 AM
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But every one of those 15% seem to come here to say "poof."
I'm not sure how many mainlines we have here. I'm the only one that I know for sure. There seem to be some Evanglicals and a few Catholics floating about. I would assume that we have to have a few mainlines, but the problem with mainlines is that you never know who they are. They don't usually spend a lot of time talking about religion. To be honest, I'm not sure why I do. I don't typically in real life, but I guess message boards provide fun places to write down your thoughts.

Last edited by senoy; 09-14-2018 at 11:08 AM.
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Old 09-14-2018, 12:11 PM
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That's not true. I'm an ice fisherman, so I am used to spending 12 hours out in sub-zero Fahrenheit weather. I have had a beard at various lengths and styles. I can assure you with 100 per cent certainty, that a thick beard is incredibly good at retaining heat. I don't even have to bother with a scarf or face mask when I grow it to winter length of 3-4 inches. The corollary to this is that during a storm you want to keep it dry or it cakes up with ice and then it becomes impossible to warm your face.
That's facial hair. If you read what you quoted me saying, you should note that I spoke about body hair, not facial hair. Facial hair is far thicker than body hair (at least on some individuals).

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Old 09-14-2018, 12:50 PM
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You can cut the BS on this thread like a hot comb on nappy hair.

....

Smh was it not possible to do research on the internet in 2003 when this conversation was started???
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dredwick, you are new here. Let's keep the snark out of General Questions. No warning issued, but let's keep it civil.

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Old 09-14-2018, 12:59 PM
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The answer is rather simple. By the time that Eskimos (and even ancestral Siberian populations) arrived in the far North, humans were relying on clothing rather than on body hair for insulation. No one would have frozen to death because their body hair was thinner than others, so there was no selection on that basis. For tens of thousands of years humans have been adapting to the environment through cultural changes, not via selection. (This is not to say that human populations don't show any adaptations to different environments, just that these are less prevalent than cultural adaptations.)

Eskimos, like most other populations of Asian origin, have relatively little facial hair. But whatever benefit a thick beard might provide to males for facial insulation might be offset by the nuisance of moisture freezing on the hair around the mouth.

Last edited by Colibri; 09-14-2018 at 12:59 PM.
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Old 09-14-2018, 02:05 PM
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An old friend of mine - Korean War veteran, that old - told me about an exercise he took part in, an army expedition across northern Canada before he went to Korea. They wore sealskin boots and coats like the Inuit; he said the boots were so hot and waterproof that the callouses peeled of his feet even walking around in serious sub-zero weather. So I'm going to go with one of the original answers - the advantage of body hair was not sufficient to result in it becoming a positive survival trait, since they could make more than adequate clothing.

Remember, evolution works on differential reproduction - those with better traits are more likely to survive long enough to breed and raise offspring. Obviously a incrementally greater amount of body hair was not a significant advantage vs. very adequate clothing in the short time (what, 10,000 years or so?) that the Inuit have been in an arctic environment...

Consider this versus beards - humans moved into Europe about 50,000 years ago. Perhaps in those ice-age days clothing was less adequate and the risk of men hunting getting frostbite and infection of their chin was greater than Inuit who wear much more complete hoods and face covering.
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Old 09-14-2018, 03:20 PM
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Remember, evolution works on differential reproduction - those with better traits are more likely to survive long enough to breed and raise offspring. Obviously a incrementally greater amount of body hair was not a significant advantage vs. very adequate clothing in the short time (what, 10,000 years or so?) that the Inuit have been in an arctic environment...
The Eskimos (which include several groups in addition to the Inuit) seem to have split from the Aleuts only about 4,000 years ago, but their ancestors were in Siberia long before that. However, northeast Asians, including those from very cold areas, tend to be relatively hairless (except for the Ainu).

Quote:
Consider this versus beards - humans moved into Europe about 50,000 years ago. Perhaps in those ice-age days clothing was less adequate and the risk of men hunting getting frostbite and infection of their chin was greater than Inuit who wear much more complete hoods and face covering.
However, groups that seem to have been in tropical areas for even longer like Papuans are just as heavily bearded as Europeans.

If selected for at all, I think differences in human facial hair and head hair are much more likely to be due to sexual selection than environmental adaptation.

I believe that one anthropologist said that the reason humans have long head hair is to have something to put ribbons in. And I don't think that is entirely false.
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Old 09-14-2018, 04:29 PM
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Note a big difference between the adaptations show by high-altitude peoples in Tibet and Peru vs. polar people.

There's no equivalent of putting on furs or starting a fire to help you survive at higher altitude. So the pressure to adapt is far higher.
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Old 09-14-2018, 04:46 PM
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Note a big difference between the adaptations show by high-altitude peoples in Tibet and Peru vs. polar people.

There's no equivalent of putting on furs or starting a fire to help you survive at higher altitude. So the pressure to adapt is far higher.

Tibetians got some of their adaptation through the luck of the draw of having Denisovian ancestors
. (Scene at ancient watering hole: "Do you have a little Denisovian in you? Would you like to?")
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Old 09-14-2018, 09:15 PM
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Look, we know that Inuit and other far-north-dwelling peoples do have multiple adaptations to their environment: altered average limb proportions, nasal bone and sinus changes, alterations of fat metabolism enzymes, different distributions of brown fat, different basal metabolic rates, etc.

So anyone asking 'hows come they don't got fur' is ignoring all of the genetic differences that they do have in favor of one particular one that they don't. It also presumes that massive amounts of body hair would lend a survival advantage and would not in fact be neutral or even detrimental.

Ultimately, the answer is 'because a trait for hypertrichosis never arose that provided a reproductive advantage'. This captures both the fact that hypertrichosis needed to be present or arise at random in the population in order to be acted on by drift or natural selection (which is not guaranteed) and the fact that such a trait would have to provide a reproductive advantage (not a certainty) and/or go to fixation in the population by pure chance (also not a certainty).

Humans with congenital hypertrichosis often display abnormalities of the gums and teeth. Increased body hair may lead to increased parasite load. Increases in body hair caused by sex hormone alterations may be associated with lowered fertility. Maybe thick fur means that you spend time grooming that would be better spent on finding food. It's tricky to make a big change in hair production that doesn't have knock-on effects on other systems. If it did arise in the population, there is good reason to think that increased body hair could be associated with some other effect that would decrease fitness. That's not to mention the added layers of sexual selection, cultural practices like shaving or wearing clothing, and other factors.
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Old 09-15-2018, 02:59 AM
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Evolution does what works, not what is best. Our windpipe and our esophagus cross, that's a major design flaw, but it doesn't keep us from reproducing, which is the goal of evolution.
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Old 09-15-2018, 11:13 AM
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Evolution does what works, not what is best. Our windpipe and our esophagus cross, that's a major design flaw, but it doesn't keep us from reproducing, which is the goal of evolution.
Speech trumps choking.
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Old 09-17-2018, 02:22 PM
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Evolution does what works, not what is best. Our windpipe and our esophagus cross, that's a major design flaw, but it doesn't keep us from reproducing, which is the goal of evolution.
Perhaps better to say that evolution moves very incrementally toward what is best. Therefore, steps that would have to be very binary as opposed to marginally different, like switching whether windpipe or esophagus was in front from top to bottom, are very difficult for evolution to accomplish. IIRC there are other tube structures in the body that travel ridiculous differences to get past one another because that can happen incrementally whereas switching which one is on which side can only happen in a single step.

By the way, given that northern indigenous people have to be clothed, a better test of the fate of body hair would be whether hair is helpful inside of clothing. Opining from my own experience of having a lot of body hair, I suspect it is unhelpful generally.
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Old 09-17-2018, 02:25 PM
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By the way, given that northern indigenous people have to be clothed, a better test of the fate of body hair would be whether hair is helpful inside of clothing. Opining from my own experience of having a lot of body hair, I suspect it is unhelpful generally.
It would be a problem with respect to body lice and other external parasites, which would have a better place to hold on/hide out. This would especially be a problem where bathing would be impossible for much of the year.
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