Recently, I saw a study where they showed participants a series of photos of different people and asked them to rate them in order of attractiveness. They did this for both men and women and the results showed that most people were in close agreement with the order they chose. They concluded that people generally agree on what physical traits make a person attractive.
I started to think about this study in relation to the concept of natural selection. In theory, with natural selection, those who are more attractive or more desirable as a partner will have a higher chance of attracting a mate and producing offspring. These offspring would then continue the same kind of traits as their parents.
With this process going on for hundreds of thousands of years, you would think that by now, people would all have model good looks and the best genes available to make for healthy successful individuals, but in reality this is far from the case. There are still millions of people who would be considered unattractive as well as millions with genetic medical conditions. So the question is, why is this the case? Is natural selection not working?
Take the case of attractiveness. If attractive people have higher chance of finding a partner and continuing their genes, why are there still so many people who would be considered unattractive? I think one possibility may be a change in what we consider attractive in modern times.
With visual media becoming such a huge part of our lives over the past couple hundred years, we are more exposed to movie stars and models, not to mention how much more effort is put into trying to make people look good. For example makeup, surgery, photoshopping is all done to try to make people appear more attractive then they actually are. These images are then broadcast to the general public. We see these images and over time start to accept them as a reality of how people are supposed to be.
Then we look at ourselves and the people around us and it does not quite match up with the perfect images we see on tv and in the movies. This may have an effect on our judgment of ourselves and others in terms of attractiveness. So there may be a higher unrealistic standard that has been set for modern times when it comes to this issue.
Other factors continue to come into play that may go against natural selection. For example say two people got drunk at a party and took part in some activities that they would ordinarily not do under a clear mind. These actions might lead to reproduction that probably should not have happened.
Another common situation is two young people who are irresponsible and not thinking about the consequences for their actions. Before they know it, they may end up with a child on their hands who they are unable to care for or provide a good life.
Other factors such as personality, values, money, location can effect the potential of one reproducing which may be why natural selection does not go on physical appearance alone. For example someone may not have the best looks, but they may have a good personality or a good job that allows them to provide a stable life for a family.
Overall, I would conclude that it is a combination of a rapidly changing culture with many other factors other than physical attractiveness that has contributed to the make up of the current population today.