I have been semi-following the discussion between Michael Ruse, Jason Rosenhouse & Jerry Coyne on "scientism" and ways of knowing. Don't have much to add but something that Ruse said in one of his posts on the subject stuck with me - he mentioned his students weighing in on who was more beautiful: Grace Kelly, Catherine Deneuve or Marilyn Monroe. Well, that led me to remember something my husband shared with me recently. He and some of his colleagues were having their Friday afternoon wine gathering when the subject of movies and movie stars came up. Most of the people agreed that Grace Kelly was the most beautiful ever but one guy said he thought Diane Lane was more beautiful than Grace Kelly. I remember thinking, really? Diane Lane? Not to take anything away from her, she is lovely, of course, but come on.....Grace Kelly is sublimely beautiful, beyond compare! So, then I am wondering what if science could demonstrate that Diane Lane was, in fact, more beautiful than Grace Kelly? What then are we to make of those who continue to insist, continue to believe that Grace Kelly is the more beautiful??
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, IT'S An Opinion!
So beauty is not something that can be subjected to scientific scrutiny?
Whose definition are you going to use? Do you think a Tuareg's ideal of feminine beauty is the same as an Italian's?
Agree with that point 100% - there is no one ideal of feminine beauty. What is considered beautiful is subjective and contextual - depends as much on the observer as on the observed. But the example I gave compared two women from the same cultural context (white, Western females being evaluated by white, Western males (and females)). And, there are, in fact, lots of studies out there on beauty (but, again, they seem to be in one cultural context) which purport to tell us why Woman A is "more" beautiful than Woman B: the studies looked at things like how the features are spaced on the face or hip to waist ratio, etc. Who knows how valid any of these studies are (I have not delved into the details or vetted the quality of the research)? But what if they are scientifically sound? What are we to make of the person who continues to insist that Woman B is the more beautiful, despite the fact that science has established that Woman A is the more beautiful? Is he not believing something that is not supported by the evidence. Now, yes, I suppose you can go all evo psych or evo bio and say well this guy is not so attractive himself so he know that he'll never get Woman A so he'll settle for Woman B. Is that the answer? Or, is his insistence on the superior beauty of Woman B actually an example of different ways of knowing which although not subject to science are just as valid?
If you haven't noticed, most "Social Science" research is crap. But, to do science you have to have agreed upon definitions, and I don't think you can obtain that with beauty. There was a Twilight Zone episode just about this issue.
Oh yes! One of my favs! Where the beautiful girl is viewed as the monstrous deformed one "in the Twilight Zone". Oldie but a goodie (in black and white).
I know that is sort of my point...
on the other hand, I am not sure that I agree that beauty can't be studied scientifically...and you don't need agreed upon definitions to start with you would just need to construct a study where lots and lots of subjects where exposed to lots and lots of images of faces (assuming you are studying facial beauty), you'd want to control for the impact of culture somehow (a very diverse subject population along with diverse images), random selection of images would, of course, be good rather than images of models or celebrities (yearbooks? although that might undermine the goal of minimizing the effect of culture)...and then you'd want to analyze the responses and come up with I guess a composite face that contained the features, ratios, etc that subjects found most appealing....and then you'd want to go back, I suppose, and present the composite face against other, either real or better, I think, composite faces (again, controlling as best you can for cultural influences).....I think that with the proper, rigorous study you could come up with a definition of what is a beautiful human female face. I really don't see why this is not possible, if it is not possible why not? What makes beauty different?
Beauty like everything else is a learned, reinforced by the herd behavior. Life is so much better when you can escape that. I liked the alien looking girl better on The Twilight Zone. More character.