Your article about the work of anthropologist Randy Thornhill ("Attracted to That Healthy Glow? Nov. 22) raised interesting questions. I will address two.
Thornhill seems to assert, as an evolutionary biologist, that certain biologically dictated standards of beauty are constant across cultures and throughout human history.
Yet, the evidence he uses to make the case appears limited to current generation "beauties" in Western cultures. History, an evolutionary discipline, generally requires that supporting evidence must be presented from a series of historical periods. Art history seems a likely place for Thornhill to begin demonstrating the universality of human perceptions of beauty.
Thornhill's assertion that beautiful symmetry dictates sexual choice flies in the face of what we know about the history of the family. In recent centuries, marriage choice has been restricted worldwide by social structure and the power of elders. Marriages arranged by parents and matchmakers were restricted by clan, caste, class, and within those structures, often dictated by the size of dowries and bride prices. Reproductive partnership has almost everywhere been governed as a primary cultural institution.
HAROLD S. FORSYTHE
Chairman of Ethnic Studies
Department of History
Rancho Santiago College