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Are women getting more beautiful?
The Times Online reports on a recent study by University of Helsinki researcher Markus Jokela, who found that women are getting more beautiful:

Scientists have found that evolution is driving women to become ever more beautiful, while men remain as aesthetically unappealing as their caveman ancestors.

The article doesn't mention where Jokela published his study, so I'll have to go by the article's description of his work. But on the basis of that, his claim is absurd. Beauty isn't something like height that can be objectively tracked and measured over time. Standards of beauty change over time and across cultures. Which makes it meaningless to say that women are getting more beautiful.

The Gene Expression blog also criticizes Jokela's claim, pointing out that "males and females inherit half their genes from an opposite sex parent." Which means that if gorgeous women are mating with ugly cavemen, their children will be half ugly caveman, which contradicts Jokela's thesis.
FashionScience
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jul 28, 2009


LOL What time did the good doctor do his study? Would it happen to have been around 2:00 a.m.?
Posted by KDP  in  Madill, OK  on  Tue Jul 28, 2009  at  10:42 AM
Yes, women are getting more beautiful. And quicker. They run much faster from me than ever. And they punch harder, too. ow
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Tue Jul 28, 2009  at  12:46 PM
The good doctor Joke-la must have family photo albums that go WAY back.
Posted by Donna F.  in  Midwest U.S.  on  Tue Jul 28, 2009  at  02:19 PM
Does this professor even really exist? I mean, JOKEla? Could this maybe be a deliberate joke on everyone?
Posted by Valkerie  in  IA  on  Tue Jul 28, 2009  at  02:24 PM
Actually, this is a really good example of anachronistic thinking. Beauty changes over time so while we might rate the average beauty of 100 21st century women over 100 19th century women, 19th century people would rate the 19th C women more beautiful than the 21st C women (were they able to).
Posted by floormaster squeeze  on  Tue Jul 28, 2009  at  02:34 PM
There really is a Markus Jokela, professor at the U of Helsinki:

List of staff:
http://www.helsinki.fi/psykologia/english/introduction/personnel.htm

Markus' frame:
http://elias.it.helsinki.fi/PSYKO/Psykolog.nsf/6002abba1de8a08bc225733e004973a5/0d73ac84d83edde4c225702f001fb5ed?OpenDocument

And he is in the psychology department. But that doesn't prove anything, since some hoaxster could easily have snagged a real name.

Alex is dead on in his comments.
Posted by Frosted Donut  in  Mercer Island  on  Tue Jul 28, 2009  at  04:32 PM
Well, on average, women are heavier than in previous centuries, and I like fat girls, so yes.
Posted by Eric  in  Chicago  on  Tue Jul 28, 2009  at  10:48 PM
I'd say that rather than women "getting more beautiful", instead natural selection may be constantly redirecting the female population towards whatever form is the most attractive in that place and time.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Wed Jul 29, 2009  at  01:10 AM
The study is here:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6T6H-4W80GJ1-4&_user=1026342&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=968782178&_rerunOrigin=scholar.google&_acct=C000050565&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=1026342&md5=026f241d25bcf5180b3fa332b88674b9

The Times report is (as so often) a misleading one, more concerned with a catchy headline than an accurate report.
Posted by Finn  on  Wed Jul 29, 2009  at  08:14 AM
Nice find, Finn!

Key phrase:
"These findings indicate that physical attractiveness may be associated with reproductive success in humans living in industrialized settings."

In other words: attractive women tend to have more children than unattractive women. (For men: if you're really ugly, you'll have fewer kids, otherwise, it doesn't much matter.)

But it's a relatively weak effect and is based on people born in the late 1930's (before effective birth control).

How The Times got from there to evolutionary pressure making women more beautiful is something to marvel at. But I'll bet lots of beer was involved....
Posted by Frosted Donut  in  Mercer Island  on  Wed Jul 29, 2009  at  10:53 AM
It's not evolution that's making women more attractive it's the "Hottie and Nottie Effect"

(see that "movie" was good for something!!)

Essentially, with advances in dental, skincare etc women are better looking than they've ever been, regardless of how you like 'em. cheese
Posted by Joel B1  in  Hobart, Tasmania  on  Wed Jul 29, 2009  at  06:14 PM
Jokela has responded to the media frenzy - and (unsurprisingly) he is unimpressed at the inaccuracy of the reporting of his findings on many levels.

His full response can be found here. Before dissing, read either the original paper (linked by Finn above) or the commentary. Most of the press reports have got it Not Even Wrong - as usual for science journalism.
Posted by outeast  on  Tue Aug 04, 2009  at  04:01 AM
Yes, even Alex got it wrong. Beauty *can* be objectively tracked and measured over time. Point 4 of the rebuttal is devoted to showing that standards of beauty stay relatively constant over time and across cultures.
Posted by Eivind  in  Bergen  on  Wed Aug 26, 2009  at  12:08 AM
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