The original question was: Please can you tell me why the human body is covered in hair? I’ve heard evolutionists say it’s a throwback to the time our bodies were covered in fur.
Answer by Diane Eager
Human hair is sometimes written off as a useless leftover from evolution, a relic of when we were hairy apes. However, it is fairly easy to establish that human hair is not useless, but very useful.
Some of our hair does have an obvious protective function, e.g. the hair on our heads protects our skin from the sun. Any human who goes bald notices this very quickly as sunburned scalps are very painful. Eyebrows and eyelashes are a great help in protecting our eyes from sweat, rain and dust. Hair in the armpits and pubic regions protects the skin from friction during body movement.
The sparse hair on the rest of our bodies is also functional because there is more to hair than just the hair shaft, i.e. the fibre that projects from the skin surface. You have to look at the whole hair follicle. Hair follicles are indentations in the skin. At the base of the indentation are cells that make the hair shaft and melanocytes that add pigment to the hair. You may have noticed that the hairs on your eyelids do act as an early warning system when something is about to hit your eye. When the eyelash first senses an incoming object such as a blowing leaf or twig it reacts very quickly and your eye lid shuts thus protecting the very soft tissue of your eyeball. All hair acts in this way as a sense organ for our sense of touch. Wrapped around the base of the follicle is a sensory nerve. When the hair shaft is moved the nerve attached to it is stimulated. Test this yourself by moving the hairs on your forearm without touching the skin surface.
Hair follicles also have an oil gland associated with them. The gland’s secretions flow into the follicle and up onto the skin surface. These secretion help keep the skin waterproof and prevent the skin surface (and the hair) from cracking.
Finally, hair follicles also have a small band of smooth muscle associated with them, named the erector pili muscle. When this contracts strongly it causes “goosebumps” and makes the hair to stand on end. The erector pili muscle is also considered to be a vestigial organ, left over from evolution. However, it has a function. We have written about this, along with a number of other structures considered to be vestigial leftovers in the Creation Research article Vestigial Organs, available as a PDF here.
There are some problems with the evolutionary story of ape-men losing their hair by a process of natural selection as they evolved into people. Why should apes lose an overall protective covering of dense hair in favour of dense hair only in a few places, leaving skin exposed to the sun and the environment? Why should they lose short hair on their heads in favour of long hair that would be nuisance for a hunter-gatherer lifestyle? If humans evolved from African apes, why are black Africans the least hairy of the human races?
Overall, hair shows all the features of good design, but sometimes the original good design is damaged, and that can cause excessive hairiness as well a loss of hair. Excessive hairiness on part or all of the body can occur due to hormonal imbalances caused by a wide variety of diseases. There are some anomalies of hair growth where people are born with dense hair over their whole body or over parts of the body that are not normally covered with dense hair. Esau, one of Abraham’s grandchildren is described as being born with his body covered with hair, like a hairy cloak (Genesis 25:24). After thousands of years it is impossible to know the cause of this in Esau’s case, but we now know there are some rare genetic and chromosomal defects that cause such a pattern of excessive hairiness. These anomalies in hair growth are nothing to do with evolution. They are simply the result mutations damaging some of the genetic switches that control hair growth. That is devolution, not evolution.
Photos: Copyright Bill Boehm, used with permission
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