Becoming dumb? Have you SEEN all the things I have to figure out today?

Is pampered humanity getting steadily less intelligent? |
Humans reached a peak of intelligence more than 2,000 years ago and it’s been downhill ever since, a scientist speculates

Since modern humans emerged from the evolutionary brambles of our ancient ancestry, our bodies and minds have been transforming under the pressures of natural and sexual selection. But what of human intelligence? Has our cognitive ability risen steadily since our forebears knapped the first stone tools? Or are our smartest days behind us?

Gerald Crabtree, a geneticist at Stanford University in California, bets on the latter. He believes that if an average Greek from 1,000 BC were transported to modern times, he or she would be one of the brightest among us. Our intellectual prowess has probably been sliding south since the invention of farming and the rise of high-density living that it allowed, he claims.

In two articles published in the journal Trends in Genetics, the scientist lays out what might be called a speculative theory of human intelligence. It is, he admits, an idea that needs testing, and one that he would happily see proved wrong.

LOADS of questions pop up with this one. But it’s getting widespread exposure even on comedy outlets. It sounds so humorous – we’re getting soft and dumb. I’m not buying it for a minute.

What IS intelligence and cognitive ability? Making tools? Finding food? Solving problems? In a way, we are faced with huge choices today and manage to navigate an extremely complex world of language, information and relationships. We solve complex problems in life and on the job, even in recreation on our gaming consoles. We manage communication with hundreds of contacts, keep track of intricate scheudules and future plans. I’m just not seeing how this could be considered getting dumber or losing our intellectual edge. It’s all in how you view it.

  3 comments for “Becoming dumb? Have you SEEN all the things I have to figure out today?

  1. PessimismistheFuture
    November 13, 2012 at 7:42 AM

    I believe Crabtree has a point on a general, theoretical level, but not necessarily in practice. Degeneracy touches the brain as much as it does the body. Nevertheless I think he underestimates the positive influence our sexual selection can have on intelligence. Women still prefer to mate with succesfull, balanced men (generally with above average intelligence). On the other hand, Mr. Stupid also procreates more or less unhindered (and sees less of his dumb offspring die out). This phenomenon broadens the gap between an intelligent elite and a mass of semi-cultured primates. Sadly, it is very unlikely that the terrible bottleneck events which face us in the 21st century will mend this, as selection will not be based on intrinsic intelligence but on socio-economic background and exposure to environmental threats. The empoverished masses shall die out and those which have preserved their stone age wits will be the first to go.

  2. Eisbein
    November 13, 2012 at 9:43 AM

    I wonder, what the Greek from 1000BC would say about this future. He would probably say, he could imagine some sort of flying machine, cars, TV and the likes, but he will be shocked that there are so many fat people?

  3. November 14, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    Another response to this piece from the genetic standpoint. It’s wrong there too.

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