Ugly Genes

Published: 2017-10-25 10:02:26
1251 words
5 pages
11 min to read
George Washington University
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Why doesn’t evolution get rid of ugly people?

 Based on the precepts of natural selection, species with inferior traits are bound to be wiped out with time, leaving only the fit species to survive and propagate future offspring of the same species. It is paradoxical, however, that some undesirable traits in some species keep on persisting, being passed on from one generation to another, defying the premises upon which natural selection stands. Why is it that the ugly, the unhealthy and the not so smart keep persisting in the world, yet based on the natural selection they are naturally supposed to fade away? The author posits that the not so attractive will logically not pass down their traits as no one would be interested to have them as their mates, the unhealthy will not live long to pass down their inferior traits and the dumb will be at a disadvantage in the acquisition of wealth and financial prosperity necessary to survive and raise a family (Begley, 2007). Looking around, abundant evidence still persists that seem to contradict with the predictions of this theory of natural selection: ugly people still exist, there are dumb people around and the unhealthy as well. Why is this the case?

What makes someone ugly

According to the explanation offered by evolutionary genetics, this paradox is as a result of constant mutation of these undesirable traits keep persisting no matter how hard the process of natural selection kicks in to cleanse them. Scientists, however, do admit that the notion of constant mutation is farfetched and that there is a real reason to explain the paradox. Studies conducted at Edinburgh University, Scotland, have attempted to offer an explanation for this paradox; that the genes that are good for males are not desirable for females, and the reverse is also true. The scientists conducted the research on a population of 3,559 red deer’s inhabiting a Scottish island spanning eighteen generations (Earp, Sandberg, & Savulescu, 2012). They documented every detail about the animals, from their fitness levels to their mating cycles to the off springs that managed to survive. The result of the research was contradictory; on average, male red deers with high fitness levels sired off springs with relatively low fitness levels. The reverse also held true; that male deer that had low reproductive success and fitness sired daughters that were relatively successful.

This state of affairs could be explained by the fact that traits that are based on genes could have very different effects on males than on females. This analogy could be used to explain features in humans as well: a father might be having a shapely nose that would be expected to be described as hunky on males but not so good on females. As such a father would attract females who desire the desirable trait in the father, the result of their copulation might produce a daughter whose nose is far from shapely. Traits which evolutionary scientists describe as not good for mating in females persist because they are inherited by their sons in their DNA and are propagated when the sons sire their own daughters (Pennisi, 2012).

Further studies try to explain the phenomenon of the persistence of undesirable genes despite natural selection. The most prominent one, perhaps, is the existence of the gene for sickle cell disease, which is more rampant in the Mediterranean regions as well as in Africa. Logically, it is expected that the process of natural selection would kick in and eliminate it, but it has not. It emerged that carrying a copy of such a gene would make one more resistant to malaria attacks, which are prevalent in these same regions (Pennisi, 2012).

Natural selection essay

The author poignantly cautions those who are obsessed with physical traits in the choice of their mates. He points to them that have the tendencies of rejecting their potential mates because they possess less than desirable traits and features, thinking that they would be doing a service for themselves and their future generations through the propagation of superior genes only. Natural selection, as demonstrated by the author, does not really work as people would expect.

Although the author uses strong points to paint a picture that natural selection at times fails to eliminate the less desirable traits and that people should think twice before rejecting their potential spouse because they possess somewhat inferior traits, much is left to be desired of this proposition. For one, people have different preferences in selecting their mates and such evidence presented might not be useful in deterring people from overlooking the “misfits” and opting for the superior in the society. This is perhaps clearly demonstrated in cases where relatively successful individuals, in terms of wealth, success and fame flock together and establish their own families, oblivious of what natural selection might mean to their union. For some, the concept of natural selection does not even strike their radar, as they have already been swept by the love bug, choosing whomever they desire regardless of their genetic composition, whether desirable or not. Furthermore, the concept of natural selection stirs controversy as some closely associate it with evolution which goes against their beliefs. The author uses emotive terms that touch on the core of human characteristics-ugliness, dumbness, and health- to prove a point about natural selection. This, however, might not be well received by all members of the audience as it contravenes to their values and beliefs. Some, for instance, believe that we ate all beautiful and inferior or superior traits are subjective and should therefore not be used as a universal basis for drumming for the process of natural selection. Natural selection and evolutionary theories are refuted by others as they believe in a supreme being whose creations should not be measured, believing that the creator is infinitely wise, and thus no human scale should be used to determine what is desirable or not; only the creator knows (Begley, 2007).

There are some cases where natural selection is at work. Research shows that the process is still at work as recent as the 19th century. The study conducted in Finland sought to explore the key signposts of natural selection: those who married and those who did not, those who lived beyond the age of 15, the number of marriages the population under study had, and the number of children sired in each marriage. Half of the study population died before reaching the age of 15, indicating that they possessed traits that did not favor natural selection. As such, none of their genes could not be passed to the next generation. 20 percent of the population did not marry and did not have children, implying that they possessed some undesirable traits that prevented them from obtaining spouses and transmitting their genes to the next generation.

The author uses strong pathos, logos, and ethos in driving his point home with regards to the fallacy of natural selection, though evidence still exists that support that the process is still ongoing, despite the argument put forward by the author.


Begley, S. (2007). Why Doesn't Evolution Get Rid of Ugly People?. Newsweek. Retrieved 27 September 2016, from

Earp, B., Sandberg, A., & Savulescu, J. (2012). Natural Selection, Childrearing, and the Ethics of Marriage (and Divorce): Building a Case for the Neuroenhancement of Human Relationships. Philosophy & Technology, 25(4), 561-587.

Pennisi, E. (2012). Natural Selection Is Still With Us. Science | AAAS. Retrieved 27 September 2016, from


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