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Stanford U Prof: Humanity is getting dumber


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While I don't disagree with his premise, I find it highly unlikely that there would be a noticeable difference in intellect between modern man and someone in ancient Greece. We as a species have really only had a few hundred short years where life has been so easy that it has begun to negate the effects of natural selection. Not long enough to really dilute the gene pool IMO.

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Snopes.com won't let you copy text from the page either, but if you view the page source it's all right there for the copying.

Gerald Crabtree, a professor at Stanford University's medical school, has published a couple of articles saying that modern humanity is getting dumber and dumber due to the lack of Darwinian competition in our safe, sanitized, civilized world.

"I would be willing to wager that if an average citizen of Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions," writes Crabtree (whose knowledge of Athenian history may not be quite as good as his obvious expertise in genetics -- he's chosen a date from the Dark Age in Greece, when writing was forgotten and "citizen" was a bit of a stretch, centuries before democracy, Pericles and his ilk -- ah, but I digress; read on, perhaps that's his point after all).

"We would be surprised by our time-visitor's memory, broad range of ideas and clear-sighted view of important issues. I would also guess that he or she would be among the most emotionally stable of our friends and colleagues," he goes on.

Crabtree's argument is a more complex version of what science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein said in 1959 in Starship Troopers, one of his most popular and controversial books. "It’s amazing what you can do with a flake of rock if you have to -- I guess our cave-man ancestors weren’t such dummies as we usually think."

Let me explain it to you, since your civilization-coddled IQ may not be up to the task.

Back in the times when life was nasty, brutish and short, if you made a mistake -- there's no way that saber tooth can jump this far-- you were pretty likely to die as a result and your substandard genes wouldn't be passed on to flourish in subsequent generations.

The problem, in genetics speak, is that, although we still have selection today -- did you visit Red Bull's Flugtag over the weekend, perchance, to see it in operation -- our environmental selection is not "extreme" enough.

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I think the claim is a cliche and really just a commonly-held perception simply because of the exposure that technology, instant communication, and 24/7 news cycles have brought into the world. Now every idiot can have a voice, and the outrageous is what draws in views. We as a people are smarter, and in the past, even in ancient Greece, there were a lot of dumb/uneducated people. Nowadays our dumb are not as dumb as the uneducated of the past. The author seems to think every Greek was from a school of philosophy and a clear thinker. That is bull. Grab a random ancient Greek and you're likely getting a farmer or some other plebe who was relatively uneducated, even in Athens where they tried to focus on educating more citizens.

Also, the premise that people had tougher lives so they had to be smart to survive, and people today are coddled and dumb, is bogus as well IMO. There is more to intelligence than just basic survival skills, and there is more to today's world and living in it than the author credits. Basically seemed like a poor premise based on misguided nostalgia and lament for the "Jersey Shore" folk who get too much exposure today. Our advances in health, science, technology, and other arenas and our understanding of the world is better than it was in Ancient Greece, obviously, and the average person is able to grasp more because the available knowledge base is so much greater than in the past.

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I think the claim is a cliche and really just a commonly-held perception simply because of the exposure that technology, instant communication, and 24/7 news cycles have brought into the world. Now every idiot can have a voice, and the outrageous is what draws in views. We as a people are smarter, and in the past, even in ancient Greece, there were a lot of dumb/uneducated people. Nowadays our dumb are not as dumb as the uneducated of the past. The author seems to think every Greek was from a school of philosophy and a clear thinker. That is bull. Grab a random ancient Greek and you're likely getting a farmer or some other plebe who was relatively uneducated, even in Athens where they tried to focus on educating more citizens.

I think most people would distinguish between education and intelligence.

On a genetic level, the question is pretty simple.

Did more intelligence used to result in you leaving behind more off spring that would reach sexual maturity themselves and have their own off spring (2 people all other things being equal including random chance, but one is smarter than the other, who would more likely have more kids and get them through their own lives to having so that they have kidsm (i.e. the original person ends up w/ more grandchildren))?

Does it today?

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Yeah, can’t believe almost half the country voted for that Romney guy. :doh:

Seriously though, get out of here with that crap. Enough of the bitterness, it’s over, move on. Don’t troll threads that have nothing to do with politics.

Sheesh - cant take a joke or what?

Lighten up, junior.

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A husband and wife who both have Harvard degrees may have a kid or two, or may even decide not to have kids. Bubba and his wife who life in a trailer park might have 5 to 10 kids. Not sure how that allows us to genetically evolve.

because smart kids only come from smart backgrounds and never from low income families

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Sheesh - cant take a joke or what?

Lighten up, junior.

First, 1215 is more right than not.

Second, personally, I don't think you were joking. ;)

And third, know that you actually could be nailed for the gratuitously derisive "junior" remark, in this context. :)

Something I think 1215 probably recognizes for a couple he's had laid on him over the years. :ols:

To the topic, I don't think "humanity is getting dumber." We do have much more coverage of much more of humanity, so we get to notice a lot more dumb a lot more often. And the ranks of the extreme seem to have been swelling in many matters. With the internet, the seriously crazy, the abysmally stupid, and the developmentally pathetic, all have a much bigger platform and highly magnified opportunity to find the like-minded, than when they were limited to 3D land. :)

Such folk are much more ostracized (or even likely to be pummeled) in 3D land.

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  • 2 months later...

a Harvard man has a solution

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2265402/Adventurous-human-woman-wanted-birth-Neanderthal-man-Harvard-professor.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

Wanted: 'Adventurous woman' to give birth to Neanderthal man - Harvard professor seeks mother for cloned cave baby

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2265402/Adventurous-human-woman-wanted-birth-Neanderthal-man-Harvard-professor.html#ixzz2IccFL158

Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

He says Neanderthals were not the lumbering brutes of the stereotype, but highly intelligent. Their brains were roughly the same size as man’s, and they made primitive tools.

Cloning the caveman: Geneticist Professor George Church

He believes his project could benefit mankind.

He told German magazine Der Spiegel: ‘Neanderthals might think differently than we do. They could even be more intelligent than us.

‘When the time comes to deal with an epidemic or getting off the planet, it’s conceivable that their way of thinking could be beneficial.’

Scientists say that his plan is theoretically possible, although in Britain, like most countries, human reproductive cloning is a criminal offence.

But Professor Church’s proposal is so cutting-edge that it may not be covered by existing laws

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When I hear people say we're smarter and point to our scientific/technological achievements I find myself asking if we're really smarter of if we're just standing on the shoulders of giants which allows us to see farther.

That said, what would the recommendations be for improving the wisdom of society?

FWIW you can tell he's got a real affinity for the ancient Greeks which may or not be clouding his judgment.

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I wouldn't say we are getting dumber, I think people are smarter than ever. I think emotionally we are regressing and many cannot handle the stress of life. I think we have removed many of the factors that have removed bad genes from the gene pool, in fact we have encouraged these bad genes to flourish. Perhaps if life was more harsh we would be better equipped to handle many of the problems. I am just speculating though. I still think natural selection is working. Yes we allow more of the "bad" genes to hand around, however, our basic instincts are still at work. I still think our choice of mates is influenced subconsciously to what we believe is a good match genetically. SO essentially we are still progressing, we just have more of the chaff hanging around.

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I don't know if we're getting dumber or just lazy and less educated. Try taking the 8th grade exit exam from the 1940's or so. My dad didn't finish high school and is more educated than a lot of college educated kids I know. The math he knows amazes me still.

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