Worldly Talk

Civil discussion and debate on real world events and issues.


Mutations in the human brain are making us stupider, new research theorizes

   
Almost everything I've seen where they talk about intelligence, they are actually talking about education, and they also do it from a culturally-specific viewpoint to some degree or another. Actual intelligence is extremely hard to measure, and so it tends to be measured in terms of secondary characteristics - such as education. Because obviously if you are intelligent, you will have learned as much as you can, and that can be measured through education. But what of those who do poorly academically but are very clever in other ways? What of those who have reduced access to education, or poor quality education, or whose cultures do not value education as highly as those who make the tests?

Some people can't deal with the fact that people are not stupid but only have been stigmatized by hierarchical society as a way to prove their insecurities and hold down people who are less then.

There is another explanation- I had a friend who was seven foot two and am, myself more educated than the average person. At one point a third friend asked me if I realized how intelligent I am. I explained that I knew from an informative standpoint that I was well above average (having once been measured as having a 174 IQ- and yes I know all about the inadequacies of the test...) but that at another level well... then i turned to my 7'2" friends and said let's put it this way, do you feel tall?" and he answered that he knew he was tall, but really it felt like everyone else was just short.

Where am I going with this? We all judge the world around us with ourselves as the norm. But by that same issue, our standard of measurement changes over our lives. Snow drifts get shorter every year because they don't come up to our thighs like they did when we were children, and the world gets less intelligent the more we learn.

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Originally Posted by Michael View Post
I need to be at work to access the basic article before I could comment, but my first question would be how he defined "intelligence"
That was my initial question as well, and unfortunately I have zero access to the original article, so I can't even look at methodology.

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Originally Posted by MonkWren View Post
That was my initial question as well, and unfortunately I have zero access to the original article, so I can't even look at methodology.
From what I can gather neither paper has much of a methodology. Part I is mostly an extrapolation into the future, based on observed mutation rates in genes that regulate brain development, as well as a tiny lit. review on the processes that cause intellectual disabilities. One key thing to note is that these mutations involve actual intellectual and emotional disabilities, such as autism and down syndrome, not drops in IQ points. That people with these disabilities have a higher chance of survival in the modern age is kinda a no-brainer.

Part II is the controvertial one, where he claims that our ancestors must have had much more intellectual capacity. Most of his arguments there are entirely speculative and based on thought-excersises or "what-ifs". Not really a research article by any measure. I'd be surprised if it gets published as anything but an opinion piece. One of his key points here is that post-agriculture, selective pressures must have favored populations with high resistance to diseases rather than intellectual abilities, compared to hunter-gatherer societies where the later must have provided an advantage in fitness.

How true that is and how much impact it has is probably questionable. It's certainly a convenient oversimplification, and he doesn't provide any actual data to back up his point. Crabtree actually admits he is neither an anthropologist nor a population geneticist, so his claims should be taken with a heavy grain of salt.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bandersnatch View Post
From what I can gather neither paper has much of a methodology. Part I is mostly an extrapolation into the future, based on observed mutation rates in genes that regulate brain development, as well as a tiny lit. review on the processes that cause intellectual disabilities. One key thing to note is that these mutations involve actual intellectual and emotional disabilities, such as autism and down syndrome, not drops in IQ points. That people with these disabilities have a higher chance of survival in the modern age is kinda a no-brainer.

Part II is the controvertial one, where he claims that our ancestors must have had much more intellectual capacity. Most of his arguments there are entirely speculative and based on thought-excersises or "what-ifs". Not really a research article by any measure. I'd be surprised if it gets published as anything but an opinion piece. One of his key points here is that post-agriculture, selective pressures must have favored populations with high resistance to diseases rather than intellectual abilities, compared to hunter-gatherer societies where the later must have provided an advantage in fitness.

How true that is and how much impact it has is probably questionable. It's certainly a convenient oversimplification, and he doesn't provide any actual data to back up his point. Crabtree actually admits he is neither an anthropologist nor a population geneticist, so his claims should be taken with a heavy grain of salt.
Awesome, thanks for the summary! It pretty much matches my gut reaction, which is that we have little to no genetic information from 40.000 years ago, and making any attempt to compare humans then and now based on genetics involves a lot of assumptions and pulling objects out of rears.

Consider also that AFAIK we cannot yet tell how smart a person is by studying their genes, even if we had a perfect genetic sequence from 40,000 years ago we STILL wouldn't be able to prove whether general intelligence had increased or decreased. The more we learn about genetics, the more likely it is that some basis of comparison could be made, but even then, environmental factors are at least as important as genetic ones.

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Originally Posted by Powderhorn View Post
Really? Nobody has referenced Idiocracy yet?
Would have if I weren't temp banned; first thing that came to my mind.

EDIT: No, that isn't to say I necessarily agree with the premise that humanity is in fact getting dumber.

I can't believe an article so vapid and toothless has generated this much comment.

The fact that you even brought this here is sad.

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Originally Posted by UmbreonMessiah View Post
I can't believe an article so vapid and toothless has generated this much comment.

The fact that you even brought this here is sad.
Nice to see you had something to say. Perhaps next time you can add to the discussion, instead of flaming everyone. If you'll note, the OP (myself) was about asking a question as to whether the article seemed reasonable or instead overly far-fetched. If you disagree with the article, simply state why you disagree, rather than insulting everyone here.





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