Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Spot the Benefits!

"Acne's a trial, but is it a disease? One scientist argues that, in evolutionary terms, it's good for us." (Daniel Williams, Time Magazine)
It is a theory that has rapidly gained increasing support. It is scientist Dale Bloom's belief that acne is 'misdiagnosed' and 'misunderstood'. That acne is not a disease but that it began as an evolutionary adaptation that discourages sex among still-developing youths who were not yet fit to be parents. In other words, acne serves to scare away potential sexual partners until both mates are equipped mentally, physically and emotionally to raise children.
Evidence to support her theory are summarised in the following points: that acne is universal in adolescents and triggered by the hormones released in puberty; that it is generally unattractive and tends to repulse potential 'mates' (for lack of a better word); and typically only sticks around until one is mature enough to cope with all that 'reproducing' involves.
So why didn't natural selection just delay the capacity to reproduce rather than create acne?Bloome argues that it is because "pubescent hormones are needed for brain development." And, why would evolution select for something that inhibits breeding when reproduction is the fundamental drive of all species? To this Bloome says, "The disadvantage of fewer births is outweighed by higher rates of survival."
It is an interesting theory but even Bloome admits that acne, as an evolutionary adaptation, has probably "largely outlived its usefulness" thanks to the commercial and pharmaceutical powers that be. However, if considered an adaptation of sorts, it can't also be considered a disease - as it is often referred to as, even by medical practitioners themselves - and therefore one might find solace in the idea that spots are part of growing up, not just for individuals but for the human species.

Maggie Eden

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