All he had to do was read this blog’s comments to find his answer.

Is the human species doomed to intellectual decline? Will our intelligence ebb away in centuries to come leaving our descendants incapable of using the technology their ancestors invented? In short: will Homo be left without his sapiens?

This is the controversial hypothesis of a leading geneticist who believes that the immense capacity of the human brain to learn new tricks is under attack from an array of genetic mutations that have accumulated since people started living in cities a few thousand years ago.

Professor Gerald Crabtree, who heads a genetics laboratory at Stanford University in California, has put forward the iconoclastic idea that rather than getting cleverer, human intelligence peaked several thousand years ago and from then on there has been a slow decline in our intellectual and emotional abilities.

Although we are now surrounded by the technological and medical benefits of a scientific revolution, these have masked an underlying decline in brain power which is set to continue into the future leading to the ultimate dumbing-down of the human species, Professor Crabtree said.

  1. US says:

    We elected Obama, isn’t that enough proof?

  2. Kahless says:

    Nice of Uncle Dave to finally clearly voice what he thinks of the readers of this blog.

  3. spsffan says:

    Please see Idiocracy. Or simply see if anyone under 25 can use a dial telephone.

  4. dusanmal says:

    In lesser part due to his hypothesis. Much more because since the farming revolution, just the last 0.4% of human evolutionary branch, we have given up the main positive feedback loop that have grown our brains: catch more meat->eat more meat->develop larger brain->catch even more meat… Generally accepted theory of how our brain grew larger (with other evolutionary factors allowing it to do so). Eat grains -> get brains suitable for dumb grazers.

  5. Sea Lawyer says:

    I don’t know about the direct effect on aggregate intelligence; but I will certainly speculate that our use of modern medical technology to never let anybody die, no matter how deformed or diseased, will have adverse effects on the gene pool as mutations that would otherwise be eliminated from lack of fitness are allowed to persist and be passed down to future generations.

    • deegee says:

      That has been my take on it also.
      The gene pool is getting filled with bad swimmers.

      • Publius says:

        Is it just me, or do the jails seem to be getting larger as fast as the number of bad swimmers increase?

        It’s a problem, yes, but it doesn’t mean everyone is getting dumber. As for the dumber, we do have a place for those types, it seems. Jails are big business now.

    • ± says:

      Exactly. It used to be that it took a certain amount of natural brain power to survive and successfully reproduce.

      Now anyone can do it.

      Only liberals who can’t stand to face the reality of eugenics would deny that this is going to be bad for humanity. The first thing that will happen is that there will be a larger gradation between the smartest and (kindly) least smartest of us. The increased stratification of humanity is not going to be a good thing. It only takes a few generations to make large differences. 300 to 400 species of dogs were created in only hundreds of years (on average). And all from one basic form.

    • Tiberius says:


  6. nevermetamanididntlike says:

    Stop using the word homo. You hateful straights.

  7. Al Speer says:

    If you think we’re not getting dumber, turn on a television.

    • deegee says:

      Did someone say honey-boo-boo?

      And Americans wonder why the rest of the world looks down on them so much.

  8. sargasso_c says:

    I heard a lot of this tripe from mensans. They are eugenicists masquerading as an intellectual friendly society.

    • deegee says:

      I resemble that remark… er… I fit into that club also.
      Although you may be right about “us” since I feel anyone with an IQ less than mine (140+) should be sterilized. :p

  9. MR says:

    Wait, that’s not how you spell dumbening.

  10. MikeN says:

    Charles Murray said as much 20 years ago and was called a racist for it.

  11. Phydeau says:

    Y’all should watch the movie “Idiocracy”. Scary but looking more plausible every day!

  12. Max says:

    Thanks to the medial and tech advances natural selection no longer weeds out those who could not survive in a much more hostel environment.

  13. Captain Obvious says:

    The effects of Jersey Shore have skewed the results.

  14. Wrigsted the Dane says:

    It’s only us old farts who are get dumber and dumber. Youngsters are getting wiser for every generations.

    • The Monster's Lawyer says:

      True, I knew everything at around 16-17 and ever since have forgotten most of it.

  15. Deep Blue says:

    How do YOU define an intelligence?

    Think you could pass a Turing Test?


  16. noname says:

    Ok, first get the background out of the way; genetic random drift or mutations on occasion give conditions the produce organisms with traits that give them an advantage over their competitors! This is call natural selection, where the fittest lives to endow the next generation. This is a random process in nature the favors one gene (fittest) over another (slouch).

    Computers & couch potato entertainment are doing to our brains what steam engines did for the common peoples muscle mass! One of nature’s axioms is “Use it or lose it”.

    However, in the modern human genetic race, who is refereeing, who selects the next generation? As one poster noted, we humans have out smarted nature and all 6 billion of us are likely able to endow the next generation with our good and bad genes!

    There is no natural selection. Without natural selection, all genetic mutations survive, dumb and smart!

    However, I did read somewhere that; we humans are getting more “beautiful” because that’s what our mates look for!

    So, if your children are dumber than average, yet smarter then you, blame it on your mate for selecting you!

  17. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

    “At first sight this is a classic case of Arts Faculty science. Never mind the hypothesis, give me the data, and there aren’t any,”

  18. Admfubar says:

    it wont matter after the 21 of december,

    so long and thanks for all the fish!

  19. Hyph3n says:

    Total bunk! The average IQ has actually been increasing at the rate of about 3 points every 10 years. It’s called the Flynn Effect. No one is exactly sure why, but one theory is the faster pace of life and technology integrating into our lifestyle is driving it.

    • koz says:

      Well – IQ does not equal intelligence. You can have an IQ of 180 and be too “dumb” to build an Ikea shelve. And you can have an IQ of <100 and still be an unbeatable Scrabble-Genius.
      An increase of the "average" is also very problematic – since a small number of very high scoring individuals in a relatively big group of idiots can still result in an increased average score.

      From my personal expirience with my fellow human beings however – I think Mr.Crabtree is on to something here.

    • Say Kai Lee says:

      Did you ever hear about Hanley’s constant?

      “The sum of the intelligence on the planet is a constant.”

      So, as more and more people dip into the pool, yes, we are all getting dumber, and, um, dumberer.


  20. Claddius H Hududdle says:

    I read somewhere in the past that increases in intelligence are driven primarily by the complexity of social interactions (very simplified explanation). Larger and denser social groups benefit survival, but require increased sophistication to maintain. Since our population isn’t getting any smaller, that would suggest that we’ll continue to see increases in intelligence.

  21. B. Dog says:

    So, did anyone notice how Texas, which sets the textbook standard for the U.S. has outlawed textbooks that teach critical thinking?

    Think of the children — No Child Left Behind is the order of the day. The kids all seem like Noodles Boys to me. The adults are strangely hypnotized to consume things and let the designated TSA thugs/thinkers tell them what to do. I’ve got a feeling historians a hundred years from now will not not do kind reviews of our totalitarian culture with its missed opportunities to do what is right.

    • orchidcup says:

      So, did anyone notice how Texas, which sets the textbook standard for the U.S. has outlawed textbooks that teach critical thinking?

      Since I was born and raised in Texas, I have an opinion on this subject:

      First of all, thinking is not allowed in the state of Texas as a general rule. This is an age-old tradition that defines the culture of the state. I point to the election of George W. Bush and Rick Perry as governors as lucid examples of this cultural trait.

      Critical thinking is not defined in this culture. Such a thing does not exist. I have no explanation for the phenomena. It is very odd but pervasive throughout the culture.

  22. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

    koz showing just how powerful the art of rhetoric can be says:
    12/21/2012 at 9:07 am

    Well – IQ does not equal intelligence. /// Yes, it does–with only a “slight” quibble on the concept of “equal.” There is a very high positive correlation between IQ and whatever people think of a generally applied intelligence. Goes to an error thats made below.

    You can have an IQ of 180 and be too “dumb” to build an Ikea shelve. /// Not often if thats not entirely apocryphal -or- if true that indicates that building an Ikea shelf requires something other than or in addition to intelligence/high IQ or however you want to frame the subject.

    And you can have an IQ of <100 and still be an unbeatable Scrabble-Genius. /// Yes thats true. Its why there is only a very high correlation between IQ, intelligence, and IQ playing. My wife has an IQ well above mine AND a vocabulary that can't be beat. When we first played scrabble, I beat her all the time because she didn't incorporate "strategy." I told her a few techniques before she could figure it out for herself, and now I rarely win. I like playing against her. It ups my game.

    An increase of the "average" is also very problematic – since a small number of very high scoring individuals in a relatively big group of idiots can still result in an increased average score. /// Yes, but the increase becomes lesser the greater size of the group. Most group comparison studies will lop off the ends of the scores on either end to minimize this "outlier" effect. This is a danger of any small sample size.

    From my personal expirience with my fellow human beings however – I think Mr.Crabtree is on to something here. /// Since he has no data to support his pure conjecture and there is a strong hypothesis that makes sense to the opposite, my experience with my fellow human beings is that you are simply projecting yourself onto an issue you "like" for whatever self loathing jollies you get from it.

    IQ–not what most people think it is.

    • The Monster's Lawyer says:

      not to mention she makes a mean sammich.

    • bobbo,

      I think IQ is not what you think it is. Though, there is some strong argument for defining intelligence as MAMBIT (mental abilities measured by intelligence tests). This takes the ambiguity out of the word intelligence.

      That said, IQ may be a prerequisite for what I’ll call general smarts since intelligence itself may mean only MAMBIT. Even so, IQ/MAMBIT misses a lot of what we really think of when we speak of “intelligence” or smarts.

      IQ misses both critical and veridical thinking. Both are key to real smarts. Without critical and veridical thinking, people can believe all sorts of things. For example, George W. Bush believed a host of things despite all evidence to the contrary, and thus started our insane Iraq War (a.k.a. Gulf War II: The Vengeance).

      And, W’s IQ has been estimated at about 125, if you can believe it.

      This lack of testing for more important and higher thinking capabilities on the part of our intelligence tests might also help to explain how IQ genuinely is increasing over time, a shift in the entire bell curve, if you ever bother to read about this not merely an error in the type of averaging used, while at the same Americans see an increase in the belief in ghosts and other irrational and obviously false things.

      So, no, bobbo. IQ is not enough. It’s a start. It can indicate some basic capabilities that are required for real smarts. However, it is far from an end in itself. If anyone is really interested in the subject, I highly recommend a book called ‘What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought’ by Keith E. Stanovich.

  23. Uncle Patso says:

    Please, please, please tell me the state of broadcast TV does NOT indicate the state of our collective intellect!!!

    * Ancient Aliens all over the “History” channel

    * “Say yes to the dress” on the “Learning” (?) channel

    * I’m ashamed to admit I’ve even heard of Honey Boo Boo

    Etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum.

    As to the story, evolution is much more complicated than that. Although it appears there is no (or at least much less) evolutionary pressure, there are more than 7,000,000,000 of us alive on the planet right now. It’s hard to argue against that being a “successful” (in evolutionary terms — reproducing ourselves) species.

    • spsffan says:

      Uh, the “History Channel” and the “Leanring Channel” are not broadcast television. They are cable/pay television channels.

      Not that broadcast television is much better or even different. Just fewer curse words and a bit less skin.

  24. 2man says:

    Well, an old Murphy’s law says “the amount of intelligence on Earth is constant; the population is growing”. Retards everywhere


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