Know what the one thing is that separates us from every other animal? Yep, clothes. Man is the only animal that wears clothes. But if we go back far enough we all started out naked. Actually, if we go back a little farther we were hairy, probably thick skinned, and didn’t need clothes.
If you want a real good example of what an insulating factor hair is, just shave your head and take a walk outside. I tried it, and believe me, the differrence was incredible. Much colder in the winter and painfully hot in the summer.
So if hair and thick skin is so useful, why did we evolve into thin skinned, virtually hairless people? What was the evolutionary driving force for this drastic change? There was obviously no environmental advantage to loosing body hair and thicker skin.
I have a theory. It has three parts, neoteny, sex and intelligence. I believe that if it wasn’t for these three things, today we would look entirely different.
The first thing had to be neoteny. Neoteny is a situation where an adult looks young but can still reproduce. It was neoteny that drove the evolution of wolves to dogs. (See previous blog) Because we are hard wired to think of our young as attractive, it is reasonable to assume that neotenized, less hairy offspring (even though environmentally challenged) would be valued.
In other words, less hairy cave girls were prettier, even though higher maintenance. It took a stronger, more robust caveman to afford one.
Know what the largest organ in the human body is? Skin is our largest organ and among it’s many functions one is tactile stimulation. So, not only were these somewhat hairless cave girls cute, they felt good. Obviously, we have moved to the next category in our theory, sex.
Stronger cavemen being able to afford beautiful hairless cave girls eventually led to a population of less hairy people. This could have spelled doom for the species if it weren’t for intelligence. Fortunately, before they all froze to death the smarter, sexier, less hairy cavemen invented clothes.
We always think of cavemen as dressed in animal skins and furs. The truth is, they hung whatever was available on there bodies. For example,the Timucua, a now extinct group of Florida cavemen, dressed themselves in Spanish moss (See above pic).
As an interesting side note, the Timucua of Florida used to boil meat over an open fire. They called this process “barbacoa” which evolved into today’s word “barbecue”.
So there you have it. The rich, strong, smart, wealthy cavemen got all of the beautiful hairless cave girls. The dumb hairy ones died out. I think it’s still pretty much the same way today.