Certain items seem to have just the right combination of shapes and colors to have universal aesthetic appeal. For example, few fail to appreciate the glory of a sunset on the beach, and many varieties of flowers have captivated people since time immemorial. Although the world is filled with a multitude of such wonders, only mankind seems to possess the ability to appreciate beauty.
Now, a team of Chinese and Australian scientists have looked into another example of humanity's aesthetic sense by examining the relative attractiveness of different women.
They first made 3-D scans of the bodies of 96 Chinese women. The resulting silhouette-like short videos omitted ethnic features such as skin tone and eye shape, and were shown to men and women of various heritages ranging from East to West. Each participant was asked to quickly rank the attractiveness of what they viewed. Then the scientists tabulated those features that received high ratings.
The results demonstrated that almost all the participants considered the same attributes attractive. For example, narrow waists and thin arms were among those characteristics thought to be appealing. Lead author Robert Brooks said in a press release that "when models are stripped of their most obvious racial and cultural features, the features that make bodies attractive tend to be shared by men and women across cultural divides."1
But where did this universal sense of "what looks good" come from? Assuming Darwinian natural selection, what survival advantage would an innate knowledge of human-form aesthetics confer to men and women who have lived for generations in separate environments (presumably with different "selective pressures") around the world? Were natural selection truly responsible for the phenomenon, shouldn't at least some people have evolved a tendency to think that thick, strong-bodied individuals are the most "attractive," since they would most likely produce offspring that would survive?
These results make sense if Scripture is true. Genesis 1:27 states, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." Adam, Eve, and their descendants were given, as part of the "image of God," a unique ability to praise Him by recognizing the beauty that He wove into His creation.
- Unlocking the Secret of Beauty: Scientists Discover the Complexities of Attractive Female Bodies. Wiley press release, September 28, 2010, reporting on research in Brooks, R. et al. 2010. Much more than a ratio: multivariate selection on female bodies. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 23 (10): 2238-2248.
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on October 11, 2010.