Academic researchers have discovered that women in northern Europe evolved with light hair and blue eyes at the end of the Ice Age to stand out from the crowd and lure men away from the far more common brunette.
First, I’ll note that I’ve not read the paper this article is based on, nor is it my intent to critique it. It may be great, it may be terrible. They may have a point, they may not. [Edited to add: you can find a post here on the actual paper for those interested]. In this case, I’m concerned with the write-up, ’cause it’s one of my pet peeves.
“…women in N. Europe evolved with light hair…to lure men away from brunettes.” Couple this with the headline, and can’t you just see these primitive Europeans, standing around in their animal skin clothing and discussing the issue? Something like this, I’d imagine:
Ugah: Y’know, I heard the other day that our chances of finding a mate are dropping every day due to all those pesky mammoth hunts.
Bugah: *sigh* I know. Gee, if only there was something we could do to make ourselves more attractive to the menfolk…
Bugah: Nah, they prefer the ripe smell.
Ugah: I’ve got it. Let’s change our hair and eye color!
Bugah: Hey, that might just work. I’ve always liked purple…
Ugah: What about a shade of yellow? Maybe blue for the eyes?
Bugah: Yeah, I could probably go for that. Sure would make us stand out from Mugah and Rugah.
Ugah: Yeah, they think they’re so great. So, what are we waiting for?
To be fair, the author does get it better way down in paragraph 6:
Flaxen-haired women arose out of a rare mutation but increased in numbers because their chances of breeding turned out to be better.
but every journalist knows that you put the catchy stuff at the beginning and then slowly work in the details, since most people won’t make it to the later paragraphs. So while those who are most interested in evolution–and won’t interpret the portion I quoted above as the “poof” scenario I depicted–will continue reading, it’s likely that many of those who don’t care much about the details will stop reading before they get to paragraph 6, perpetuating the idea Chris has also mentioned that organisms just evolve what they need, as if by sheer power of will.
[Edited to add: it's even worse now, since the article is a day old and anyone wishing to read the whole thing has to buy it. So all most people will see ends with paragraph 2--they won't even get to the part where it's explained more scientifically.]