Guest Post by John Wilder
“As the 21st century began, human evolution was at a turning point. Natural selection, the process by which the strongest, the smartest, the fastest, reproduced in greater numbers than the rest, a process which had once favored the noblest traits of man, now began to favor different traits. Most science fiction of the day predicted a future that was more civilized and more intelligent. But as time went on, things seemed to be heading in the opposite direction. A dumbing down. How did this happen? Evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence. With no natural predators to thin the herd, it began to simply reward those who reproduced the most, and left the intelligent to become an endangered species.” – Idiocracy
The pictures from this post are mainly from Idiocracy©, which you should watch before it’s an actual documentary.
This is the second part of the review of the book At Our Wits’ End. The first part can be found here at At Our Wits’ End Review Part The First: Increasing Intelligence and Civilization. Again, I recommend the book, and the link is below. As of this writing I don’t get any compensation if you buy it here. Buy it anyway. It’s an important book.
When last we left Western Civilization, we’d reached the smartest point ever in history. Isaac Newton was an example of the genius produced at this time in history. Dutton and Woodley have data to suggest that 1750 was the peak of intelligence for Western Civilization.
Is there any evidence for this?
Life in 1770 was fairly comparable to life in 1470. Given three hundred years, things hadn’t changed much at all. But by 1804, life was dramatically different. The Industrial Revolution® was a product of the accumulated intellectual capital of the preceding five hundred years and it changed everything.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution©, natural selection occurred in society through the culling of the poor via disease and poverty along with the execution/prison death for about 2% of the stupider males. This led to the population getting smarter. But the Industrial Revolution© created an economic abundance in the West like never seen before. Surplus food and goods were now available in society. Medicine improved and kept the weak children of rich people alive.
Ahh, selection in progress.
Medicine also kept more of the children of poor people and poor single mothers alive. As established previously,
- Poor impulse control is correlated with lower I.Q.,
- Single motherhood is correlated with lower I.Q.,
- Less overall wealth is correlated with lower I.Q., and
- Having more children is correlated with lower I.Q.
Again, none of these predict the behavior in individuals. The friend I have with the greatest number of children has a very high I.Q. There are several very smart people I know that don’t have a lot of money. And anyone under the influence of testosterone and being 18 has really crappy impulse control. I will also remind everyone being rich doesn’t mean you’re virtuous. Neither does being smart. But in group behavior, the correlations above are well documented.
Dutton and Woodley note that they’re not the first ones to see the inherent problems with the removal of natural selection in a wealthy society. Benedict Morel, named after a mushroom, observed this problem in 1857 between surrenders in France. Francis Galton wrote in 1865 that “Civilization preserves weakly lives that would have perished in barbarous lands.” Ouch.
But it’s true. As of this week, every member of our family wears glasses as Pugsley was the last to leave the “good eyes” club. And The Mrs. developed type I diabetes when she was 12. Prior to the 1920’s this was a near immediate death sentence. However, since insulin was isolated and entered the market in the 1930’s, she’s alive and had kids, namely Pugsley and The Boy. Her genes would never have reproduced without the Industrial Revolution.
Spoiler alert: they’re never going to be ready.
Charles Darwin wrote an entire book on the problem: The Descent of Man. It really wasn’t a light “summer at the beach” read as it described humanity getting progressively . . . worse. Smarter people use contraception more (remember, the prohibition against birth control went away as religious beliefs changed). And lower I.Q. people not only have more children, they actively desire more children.
Further factors that have developed as society absorbed the wealth of the great capitalist expansion include the development of a welfare state. That’s a problem if you want smart people around. Welfare states support and encourage single mothers (lower I.Q.) to have more children and ensures that those children survive. Dutton and Woodley also note that data suggests that welfare may encourage those who are also low in “personality factors” (agreeableness and conscientiousness) to have more children. What does that lead to? A population that is more impulsive, paranoid, apathetic and aggressive. By coincidence these traits are also associated with lower I.Q.
So, numbers increase on the lower end of the I.Q. scale. What about on the upper end? Are smart people are having lots of babies? No. Opening high value careers up to intelligent women causes them to have fewer babies. Higher I.Q. people also use birth control more frequently, and actually desire to have smaller families. So not only are lower I.Q. people having more lower I.Q. babies, smarter people are having fewer high I.Q. children.
But at least they have what plants crave!
Having a wealthy society also increases the desire for people from less wealthy countries to immigrate to the rich countries. As we shown in the previous post (I.Q. – uh- What is it good for? Absolutely Everything. Say it again.), less wealth generally correlates to lower societal I.Q. Does this translate to real-world outcomes? Yes. Dutton and Woodley cite Danish studies that show the average Dane I.Q. to be around 100. However, the I.Q. of non-Western immigrants is roughly 86 in Denmark. Immigrants certainly aren’t making Denmark smarter.
To think, you could live in a paradise like this . . . .
Since intelligence is 0.80 correlated with genetics, they and their children actually can’t make Denmark smarter. This result would indicate that wealth, quality of life, and ability to self-govern would decrease in countries facing high immigration, while crime would increase. As a completely unrelated note, the United States has more immigrants than any country on Earth, with 40% of the population (How the Constitution Dies) now being either first generation or born of a foreign mother.
But What About The Flynn Effect?
The Flynn Effect refers to a general rise in IQ scores between 1930 and 1980, noted by a guy named (drum roll) Flynn, James Flynn – he’ll take his data shaken, not stirred. For whatever reason I.Q. scores seemed to be increasing. However, Dutton and Woodley explain that the Flynn effect is most likely environmental in nature (i.e., better nutrition) and not genetic.
Apparently the I.Q. test sub-scores that show improvement tend to favor very specific areas of intelligence, namely those areas that are environmentally influenced. There is a parallel with height, they point out: in 1900, average height in Great Britain was 5’6”. In 1970 it was 5’10”. But growth has been in leg length (which is more correlated with environmental factors) versus torso length (which is more genetic). People are taller due to nutrition.
Additionally, schools train more for abstract thought than they would have in a mostly agrarian society, which would have been the norm throughout the West in 1930. Country schoolhouses didn’t need to teach logic puzzles, since they were focused on traditional subjects. Now children are drilled in the kinds of questions that are used on I.Q. tests – and if you practice, you do get better even if you’re not smarter. On some I.Q. tests administered to youth, they’re not considered to be valid if the child had the test in the past year, so practicing the kinds of questions on the test will likely improve scores.
The bad news is that evidence suggests that the Flynn effect has stopped around somewhere around the year 2000 and is now headed downward. Reaction times (a proxy for intelligence) have dropped. Reaction times aren’t as closely correlated with I.Q. as many of the other things we’ve talked about, but they are directly measurable. It may be a bad ruler, but it’s a ruler that we can use to compare across time.
Also confirming the I.Q. drop is work done by Augustine Kong, a Chinese researcher at the University of Iceland studied genetic components known to increase I.Q. They’re declining. The average Icelander born in 1990 wasn’t as smart as one born in 1910, and the genetics aren’t there to support an increasing I.Q. The opposite appears to be happening.
Dutton and Woodley conclude that based on the metrics they reviewed, the “average” Englishman of 1850 would be in the top 15% of intelligence today in England. Oops. And apparently all tests surveyed indicate declining I.Q. That’s a problem: if average intelligence is declining, and intelligence is a bell curve, there will be fewer geniuses and a smaller “smart fraction” that is able to put run and hold together a technologically advanced society. Or build a SR-71 Blackbird. Or a Saturn V rocket.
Just like a bad horror movie, it keeps getting worse. The very temperament of genius is changing – from stereotypical genius – a very driven, self and work-preoccupied Einstein to Todd from corporate: intelligent, socially skilled, agreeable, and conscientious. Thankfully the genius “Todd” will provide us really detailed policy manuals and snappy PowerPoints® instead of that useless groundbreaking physics.
Creativity is correlated with I.Q. but only up to an I.Q. of 120. As a further confirmation, creativity scores have declined, therefore . . . expect less Monty Python® on TV and more “Ow, My Balls©.”
And people say that there’s nothing good on TV.
On the bright side, the murder rate is down. Why would that be so? Murder, violence and impulsive behavior is correlated with lower I.Q. Dutton and Woodley theorize that the environment that creates violence is down – given a robust welfare system it’s less likely that financial pressures or social pressures are as high. You kid won’t be starving to death as they stuff their face full of Cheetos® while they sit on the couch playing X-Box, and since obesity is up, killing people is such hard work, anyway.
Why do Civilizations Rise and Fall?
Like your mother-in-law, early civilizations have a low I.Q. – they’re dangerous places to be. But over time group selection pressures intensify, the people become highly religious and ethnocentric – the hill people want to kill and eat the valley people, and vice-versa, and everybody wants to kill the group whose god makes them wear purple. The nice thing about strong religion and ethnocentric behavior is it allows your group to compete well.
If your religion is good enough, and if you get enough selection for I.Q., you just might end up with a baby civilization on your hands. Once I.Q. increases, conditions get better. An elite is formed, and, since they have nothing better to do, they begin to question all of the social traditions that made civilization smart and wealthy.
The elite begins to compete on who can be more altruistic and ethnocentrism (favoring your own people) becomes badthink. All of the values and norms that created the civilization are despised and thrown out. Society begins to decline. “. . . extreme views . . . eventually become the norm.”
Resources are then taken from those that are more capable and given to those that are less capable, which is called fairness since all people are equal, right? I.Q. drops. Innovation drops.
Then? The elite is purged, and the civilization collapses. The authors anticipate the following response, that: “. . . it doesn’t work precisely with some obscure civilization or other; or demand that we respond to an infinite regress of every unlikely possible alternative explanation . . . .” Yeah, even academics get denial.
Okay, maybe it won’t take that long.
Does This Explain Past History with Other Civilizations?
- Ancient Greece.
- Islamic Civilization. 64% of important Islamic scientists lived before 1250. 100% of them lived before 1750.
- China. It came very close to its own industrial revolution.
- The Roman Empire. Why didn’t Rome (as awesome as it was) have an industrial revolution? Contraception and abortion were approved of. Higher IQ women generally had fewer children, and this collapsed Rome prior to that great leap that would have led to Maximus brand Ocelot Bitez® and Roman tanks. Man, I wish we would have had Roman tanks.
What About Western Civilization?
Western Civilization has followed the same cycle, but with this important difference: Christianity had a taboo against contraception and abortion which kept higher I.Q. women having children. The Spring of Western Civilization was from 1000 to 1500. During this time, it was highly religious and highly ethnocentric, just like the model.
The Summer lasted from 1500 to the Industrial Revolution©. This period was more rational, questioning, and the Renaissance brought culture and art to the forefront.
Autumn – Industrial Revolution to last Tuesday. We find ourselves with the elite questioning society. The ideas and thoughts that the civilization is capable of are reaching their highest level as we harvest the fruit of hundreds of years of human advancement.
We may be in Winter or close to it. The hallmark of winter is a declining I.Q. as the less intelligent spew out children like a society-destroying genetic AR-15. Culturally, Winter is characterized by the reproduction of good ideas from the past rather than coming up with new ones. Multiculturalism and Marxism are “anti-rational” and “their adoption should show how far g (I.Q.) has fallen.” Dutton and Woodley quote Charles Murray with the phrase that describes the era – “The feeling that the story has run out.”
The authors are not certain we are there, but feel that it’s worth noting that things don’t look very good.
Are There Solutions?
I’ll leave you to read the book for those alternatives. I’ll summarize it by noting that the solutions provided are not easy choices, and unlikely to be implemented in any democracy. I.Q. drop is caused by our society and values, and won’t be undone by a society with our values. The authors further suggest that maybe we should spend some time saving our knowledge so it’s easier for the next group through.
I still recommend the book. I also recommend Dr. Dutton’s YouTube® work. I’ve linked to a good one down below. Next week I should have the transcription done of my interview of him, and it’ll shine a bit more light on these conclusions.