Are Humans Getting Stupider


| 3 Comments

I was reading Popular Science tonight and I came across an article stating that a geneticist thinks that we are getting stupider. This geneticist is Dr. Gerald Crabtree who is a professor of Developmental Biology and Pathology at Stanford University School of Medicine. According to the article called "Are People Getting Dumber? One Geneticist Thinks So" by Rebecca Boyle, Dr. Crabtree, "Human intelligence may have actually peaked before our ancient predecessors ever left Africa"(Boyle). Dr. Crabtree then goes on to state "Genetic mutations during the past several millennia are causing a decline in overall human intellectual and emotional fitness" (Boyle). This essentially sounds like the mutations are causing us to essentially become stupider.

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      This all sounds kind of weird so I decided to look deeper and try to figure our why we are actually supposedly becoming more stupid. According to the article our bodies choose what genes we decide to keep and pass on that will most likely benefit our offspring (since a key point of animals is to try to reproduce). The article talks about how our body decides to keep those traits that make it most healthy and most immune not the ones that make us most intelligent. So since we need to be healthy but possibly not as smart we start to loose the genes that make us smart.

However I decided to see if other people agree with Dr. Crabtree's theory that people are getting more stupid. I decided to look at more sources to see if they researched on the topic at all. According to the article "Are Americans getting Dumber" by writer Ray Williams points out some statistics that seems to support the idea. According to the article the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs commissioned a poll of public school students and found that "77% (of students) didn't know that George Washington was the first president" (Williams). The article then says that according to the Gallup Poll, "18% of Americans still believe that the sun revolves around the earth" (Williams). So Dr. Crabtree's idea that people could be getting stupider could be factual. 

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    Not everyone though believes that people are getting stupider. According to the article "Are We Really Getting Smarter?" by author James Flynn, we are getting smarter and are thinking in different ways then we thought before. Mr. Flynn states that "Our mental abilities have grown, simply enough, through a wider acquaintance with the world's possibilities". This states that we are getting smarter because we are learning what possibilities are open to us. He goes on to state, "In 1910, scored against today's norms, our ancestors would have had an average IQ of 70...By comparison, our mean IQ today is 130 to 150" (Flynn). So it looks like we are measuring in different ways.

It seems like for right now there is not enough solid evidence to conclude either way about humans becoming stupider or not. Incase we are getting stupider here are a couple of things according to the Online Education Database that will help your brain stay active so it does not have the ability to get stupider.

                            1)    Get plenty of mental exercise like doing tasks such as think through problems, don't just use a calculator

2)    Do physical exercise like yard work, walking the dog, and swimming

                            3)    Challenge the brain, like if you hear an unfamiliar word look it up, see a flower you 

don't recognize look it up

For a complete list of ways to keep your brain healthy go to http://oedb.org/library/features/100-ways-to-keep-your-mind-healthy.

3 Comments

I'd rather to believe James Flynn's theory that we are getting smarter. However, in nowadays's society we use machine to do almost everything for us, so it is not that much striking to say that we are getting stupid. Or at least we are getting lazy. According to your data, that in 1910, scored against today's norms, our ancestors would have had an average IQ of 70...By comparison, our mean IQ today is 130 to 150" (Flynn). However, I have to wonder that how could we claim that the tests were valid when they implied such nonsense? Our ancestors lived in a much simpler world, and most had no formal schooling beyond the sixth grade. Modern people as we are, do so well on these tests patialy because we are new and peculiar. We are the first of our species to live in a world dominated by categories, hypotheticals, nonverbal symbols and visual images that paint alternative realities. We have evolved to deal with a world that would have been alien to previous generations.
So, I think to find our a better way to test our IQ may be another important issue.
Here is an article about the same topic if u'd like to see:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-we-know-humans-getting-smarter-flynn-excerpt

I think there a a variety of reasons why society may seem 'stupider' now a days. I want to point out one reason why i believe this might be true. In todays time we do not need to do as much in order to get the everyday information that we need. Instead of a kid picking up a newspaper or conversing with their parents, they can pick up their phone and do the same. Kids do not have to go out of their way to get the information that they need and i think that is a factor for maybe why we do not seem as engaged. In addition in my opinion I always think that older people are biased towards the youth. Your grandparents have no clue why we do half of the things we do and at time parents can be just as clueless. You are always going to have people in society who are great minds, or people that are not the smartest, however i think that it is very hard to scientifically prove that as a whole we are not as smart. In addition this is even harder to prove when technology and medicine are developing more and more everyday to a point that was so much better than years in the past . For that reason i would have to agree with Shuqi in the comment above and say society is actually smarter as a whole. There are a variety of other reasons for this too. Not only do we have all of the advances in technology but in addition a large majority of the youth and upcoming members in society know how to work it, as compared to old fold who may not.

Having the technology we have today makes it easier to do almost everything. We literally have information right at our finger tips. Writing one of these blogs or comments is a prime example of that. I think the fact that we learn how to operate these different types of technology is a testament of our intelligence.
However, I've heard that the smarter you are the less common sense you have.According to science20.com s high IQ usually results in over-analyzing a situation, which can lead to an unwanted outcome.
http://www.science20.com/rogue_neuron/does_superhigh_iq_superlow_common_sense

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