Are humans today dumber than those in the past?

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Are humans today dumber than those in the past?

Postby Sherlock » Sat Nov 24, 2012 4:11 pm

Huseng has mentioned one of the signs of Kaliyuga in traditional texts being diminished intelligence. You might find the following paper interesting.

Recently, news of this paper has been making popular science news. Basically, Crabtree is arguing that the selective pressures that led humans to develop language, agriculture, animal husbandry etc were ironically no longer present after those developments led to more complex societies which allowed greater lee-way for mistakes which would have led to death directly or indirectly in HG cultures hence allowing genes which have a deletrious effect on intelligence to propagate through the population. Present day HG peoples are not a good counter-example as the very fact of their isolation lead to reduction of heterozygous mutations to homozygousity. He hypothesizes that this reduction in intelligence began between 2000-5000 years ago, which coincidentally corresponds with the beginning of Kaliyuga.
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Re: Are humans today dumber than those in the past?

Postby Indrajala » Sat Nov 24, 2012 4:36 pm

Interesting.

This is problematic though:
The sciences have come so far in the past hundred years that we can safely predict that the accelerating rate of knowledge accumulation within our intellectually
robust society will lead to the solution of this potentially very difficult problem by socially and morally acceptable means.


Accumulation is not permanent and loss of knowledge is possible (progress is never permanent and inevitable). If industrial civilization dies (and it will), then a lot of knowledge (especially complex knowledge that is energy intensive to initially produce and maintain such as say nuclear reactor technology) will be lost. Science is supported by state, military and business interests, so without them it collapses. Religious knowledge escapes this fate because it is ordinary people that generally maintain the knowledge traditions through thick and thin.

Anyway, I believe our mental faculties are diminishing. Not too long ago people would memorize vast amounts of literature (and this was not considered unusual or remarkable). Now it seems almost nobody can do this.

The other thing to take into account is that we live in a toxic environment. All the pollutants in our food, air and water no doubt have a detrimental effect on our body and minds.
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Re: Are humans today dumber than those in the past?

Postby SittingSilent » Sat Nov 24, 2012 9:10 pm

Actually, from the standpoint of psychology, yes, humans get more "intelligent" on a consistent basis as evidenced by the fact that the norms for intelligence tests such as the Weschler Adult Intelligence Scale has to be renormed so that the average IQ remains 100 repeatedly. If they don't do this, testing IQs would gradually creep upward because humans get smarter (this is known as the Flynn effect), not individually, but collectively. Not being able to memorize texts is irrelevant to the matter.

http://www.indiana.edu/~intell/flynneffect.shtml
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Re: Are humans today dumber than those in the past?

Postby Sherlock » Sun Nov 25, 2012 8:05 am

Flynn effect is largely due to better nutrition.

As far as I have read, it is likely that hunter-gatherers generally had a better and more varied diet than agriculturalists -- the situation only changed recently over the last 100 years.
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Re: Are humans today dumber than those in the past?

Postby greentara » Sun Nov 25, 2012 8:37 am

Sittingsilent, I'm very sceptical. 'If you take Jung, Freud, Binet (developed the first IQ test), Myers and Briggs, and so many other people who enjoy sorting the diversity of human experience into slots of their own devising, those who conduct these tests and believe in their efficacy, fall headlong into the Pragmatic Fallacy.

Despite this a plethora of clinical psychologists, therapists, and councillors who really should know better but apparently do not, pay a large amount of money for training in test “interpretation”. There are various certifications and levels involved. All of them with a price tag. As with any certification process, the students involved soon develop an ontological outlook in support of both the process and the system. Otherwise they would be caught in a cognitive dissonance knowing the system to be invalid, yet profiting form it.

And there is a lot of profiting going on:

Remember those 2,000,000 people tested every year? Myers-Briggs testing alone is a $100 million a year industry. Add in all the (many) other personality tests, and we have a handy and profitable business based upon subjective rather than objective methodologies. Lots of people have a considerable stake in keeping this subjective testing industry going. The test is used by many fringe businesses too, from “life coaches” through to chiropractors.'
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Re: Are humans today dumber than those in the past?

Postby PorkChop » Sun Nov 25, 2012 12:17 pm

Huseng wrote:Anyway, I believe our mental faculties are diminishing. Not too long ago people would memorize vast amounts of literature (and this was not considered unusual or remarkable). Now it seems almost nobody can do this.


I don't know about that.
My grandfather helped write a book on improving one's memory back in the 60s.
When my buddy was going through law school about a decade ago, I found he was using a lot of the same techniques described in that book.
People remember what they want to remember, song is a helpful technique - many believe that it's what helped Homer memorize such long stories.
There are still memory competitions where people memorize vast amounts of information in a very short time.
I think the capability is still there, it's just these days we tend to remember a vast amount of "junk".
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Re: Are humans today dumber than those in the past?

Postby SittingSilent » Sun Nov 25, 2012 5:37 pm

greentara wrote:Sittingsilent, I'm very sceptical. 'If you take Jung, Freud, Binet (developed the first IQ test), Myers and Briggs, and so many other people who enjoy sorting the diversity of human experience into slots of their own devising, those who conduct these tests and believe in their efficacy, fall headlong into the Pragmatic Fallacy.

Despite this a plethora of clinical psychologists, therapists, and councillors who really should know better but apparently do not, pay a large amount of money for training in test “interpretation”. There are various certifications and levels involved. All of them with a price tag. As with any certification process, the students involved soon develop an ontological outlook in support of both the process and the system. Otherwise they would be caught in a cognitive dissonance knowing the system to be invalid, yet profiting form it.

And there is a lot of profiting going on:

Remember those 2,000,000 people tested every year? Myers-Briggs testing alone is a $100 million a year industry. Add in all the (many) other personality tests, and we have a handy and profitable business based upon subjective rather than objective methodologies. Lots of people have a considerable stake in keeping this subjective testing industry going. The test is used by many fringe businesses too, from “life coaches” through to chiropractors.'



At least in the United States, the administration of IQ tests isn't really a for-profit phenomenon to the best of my knowledge. In fact, this test is often used to establish eligibility for services such as special education and developmental disability programs, etc. People who wish to administer this test must be highly qualified, i.e. not just anyone can pay to learn how. Most states require testers to obtain a PhD in psychology or education, which ironically, is often fully or partially funded by graduate assistantships when students study at graduate schools. Personality testing is something completely different.
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Re: Are humans today dumber than those in the past?

Postby KeithBC » Sun Nov 25, 2012 7:11 pm

I think stupidity is more prevalent than it was in the past. Just one example: conspiracy theories on the Internet. Consider that, for most of human prehistory, the penalty for stupidity waas death. Now we have numerous systems in place to protect people from their own stupidity.

However, stupidity is not the same thing as lack on intelligence. Stupidity is the unwillingness to use the intelligence one has. You can have an increase in intelligence and still have an increase in stupidity.

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Re: Are humans today dumber than those in the past?

Postby SittingSilent » Mon Nov 26, 2012 2:20 am

I think the problem here is all of us posters have varying operational definitions of intelligence. If we could at least agree on what we're talking about by :quoteunquote: intelligence, that would be a good place to start!
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Re: Are humans today dumber than those in the past?

Postby greentara » Mon Nov 26, 2012 4:10 am

To repeat what I said earlier: 'Science is the only proper means of understanding the world. It is not. But understanding of the world must be mediated by truth rather than fabrication.'
Furthermore getting a degree in psychology (a most inexact science) doesn't make anyone an expert on the human mind and what really propels people to act and do.
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Re: Are humans today dumber than those in the past?

Postby Jesse » Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:31 pm

I don't think intelligence increases or decreases, the information we have does, and that information shapes where we focus our intelligences, good or bad. Who needs to memorize anything when you can open google at command on your cell phone computer? Who needs to memorize directions when your GPS can fit in your pocket.

I imagine things will only continue in this direction and one day, our computers will be chip implants integrated in our brains. Which is both scary and cool at the same time, your brain will have intuited access to the internet, and applications like calculators etc.

Robo-Sapiens, hurrah.
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Re: Are humans today dumber than those in the past?

Postby Pax » Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:33 pm

It seems like what constitutes intelligence changes over time. In the past memorizing large amounts of information equated to intelligence, now having the skills to access information has become a form of intelligence.
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Re: Are humans today dumber than those in the past?

Postby zenkarma » Mon Nov 26, 2012 7:36 pm

Huseng wrote:Anyway, I believe our mental faculties are diminishing. Not too long ago people would memorize vast amounts of literature (and this was not considered unusual or remarkable). Now it seems almost nobody can do this.



I don't think im alone in this, google is my long term memory.
The substance of the Absolute is inwardly like wood or stone, in that it is motionless, and outwardly like the void, in that it is without bounds or obstructions. It is neither subjective nor objective, has no specific location, is formless, and cannot vanish. ~Huang Po
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Re: Are humans today dumber than those in the past?

Postby viniketa » Tue Nov 27, 2012 1:42 am

If the general tone of recent posts on this forum is any indication, the answer is yes.

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