Oh, I'll avow we may not be getting better fast enough to save ourselves or the planet. That tense race is central to my novels Earth and Existence. I'm no complacent polyanna. Rather, the fact that we've improved a bit demands we redouble our efforts! It is cynics who are at best lazy and unhelpful.
Putting ethics aside, what other areas of improvement might do the most good? How about making everybody smarter? Better able to grasp complex situations and knowledge. Better equipped to understand diverse views and negotiate pragmatic solutions. Yes, there are forces in today's society, especially America, that seem bent on pushing in the opposite direction - lobotomizing large swathes of the public The worst of these at present is run by Roger Ailes on behalf of foreign trillionaires, but there are noxious forces pushing moronic oversimplification on the far-left, as well. So it has always been.
Decades ago, science fiction author Poul Anderson wrote a terrific novel -- Brain Wave -- that asked: what if every creature on Earth started getting smarter at a steady pace, beginning the same day? In that story, it happens because our solar system moves out a galactic zone that repressed electrical activity slightly. A magical story device but one that may have some relevance after all, as I'll assert below.
Today, much talk revolves around expanding human intelligence the way that it has increased for thousands of years -- through prosthetics. By using external devices to expand what we can know and see and pay attention to. This revolution began with cave paintings and then writing, but really took off with the invention of printing presses and glass lenses... then newspapers and steamships, radio, television, libraries, the Internet. Each generation, grouches greeted these advances with: "normal people cannot cope!" Countered by transcendentalists proclaiming "this will make us all as wise and mighty as gods!"
The irony, of course, is that both the cynics and fervid technophiles always turned out each to be about half right. (For more on this, see Third Millennium Problem Solving. A 90 minute Google Tech Talk spanning the entire range of human "discourse" and how it is evolving.)
But today let's veer away from obsessing on our toys and prostheses and external cyborg enhancements and instead focus on the central, "meatiest" aspect of all this. Are we - on average - getting smarter within our squishy human brains? To explore this briefly for us, I invited fellow member of the Lifeboat Foundation Francis Heylighen, of the Free University of Brussels, who will offer some background about the "Flynn Effect."
== Guest post: "Why it appears that we are getting smarter" ==
... by Francis Heylighen
James Flynn, a political scientist working in New Zealand, observed in the 1980's that the score-results of different groups of people on standard intelligence tests had consistently increased over the past decades. Earlier researchers had failed to pay attention to that trend, because IQ scores are always calculated with respect to the average score for the present group. By definition, the average is set to 100, and the standard deviation to 15. Someone who scores one standard deviation better than the average would therefore get an IQ of 115. But if that person's score would be compared with the average for the corresponding group, but tested one generation earlier, then the final score would be about 125! Flynn was the first to systematically make such cross-generational comparisons.
Since then, the so-called "Flynn effect" has been confirmed by numerous studies. The same pattern, an average increase of some three IQ points per decade, was found for virtually every type of intelligence test, delivered to virtually every type of group. This means that people nowadays are on average some 20 IQ points smarter than people in 1940. People with a perfectly normal IQ of 90 then would according to present norms merely score 70, i.e. as having a mild form of mental retardation. For one type of test, Raven's Progressive Matrices, Flynn found data that spanned a whole century. He concluded that someone who scored among the best 10% a hundred years ago, would nowadays be categorized among the 5% weakest.
One might expect that the Flynn effect would be most pronounced for tests that measure the results of education. The opposite is true, however: the increase is most striking for tests measuring the ability to recognize abstract, non-verbal patterns. Tests emphasizing traditional school knowledge show much less progress. This means that something more profound than mere accumulation of data is happening inside people's heads.
Flynn himself admitted being baffled by his initial results, and finding it hard to believe that his generation was significantly more intelligent than the one of his parents. Indeed, compared to the previous generation, the number of people who score high enough to be classified as "genius" has increased more than 20 times. This means that we should now be witnessing, in Flynn's own words, "a cultural renaissance too great to be overlooked". Because he found this conclusion implausible, he suggested that what has risen is not intelligence itself, but some kind of "abstract problem solving ability" that may have more to do with skill at test-taking than with creative intelligence.
But if we look at the ever-accelerating production of scientific discoveries, technological innovations and cultural developments in general, the "cultural renaissance" does not seem such an absurd idea anymore. Perhaps we cannot pinpoint a dozen contemporary Einsteins simply because there are so many of them that their contributions have not had the time yet to diffuse to the level that everybody would know them. If there would be hundreds or thousands of Einstein-level geniuses in the scientific community nowadays, then it seems likely that none of them would stand out enough to get the kind of worldwide recognition we associate with exceptional figures like Darwin, da Vinci, or Newton. Moreover, our society and the problems it investigates have become much more complex than in the days of these historical geniuses. (We have already picked the "low-hanging fruit" -db) It should not surprise us that present-day geniuses may be working on subjects too complex or abstract to be appreciated outside a relatively small circle of specialists. But that does not diminish the superior intellectual level of their contributions.
Nowadays, most authors tend to consider the Flynn effect as a real cognitive improvement, not a mere artefact of testing methods (although the fact that people are more used to taking tests may have helped somewhat in getting better scores). There is less agreement about the origin of the effect, though. Most likely, it is due to the interaction between a variety of factors that tend to accompany the tremendous economic and social advances of the past century:
o better health care (less serious illnesses that can delay or damage brain development, less exposure to toxins such as lead, smog, food poisoning, etc.)
o better nutrition (better availability of fresh foods, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals such as iron and iodine, etc. that are necessary to build and support the brain)
o higher levels of education (although this is not the whole story -- as Flynn found that the IQs of children have been rising even during periods when the time spent in school remained the same).
o higher cognitive stimulation by an increasingly complex environment
This last factor may be particularly important. Indeed, our everyday world offers ever more abstract information to be processed ever more quickly-in the form of computer games, books, high-tech gadgets, television, advertisements, news items, magazine articles, blog entries, movies, etc. This requires ever more activity from the brain, thus "training" it to become more intelligent.
Some people like to complain that our society is "dumbing down", noting that very few read Shakespeare or listen to Bach nowadays. However, these people typically fail to notice that hardly anybody read Shakespeare a century ago (if they could read at all), and that probably more are reading him now than ever before. Moreover, an objective observer cannot fail to notice that a typical TV series or even an ad nowadays is much more complex and fast-paced than it used to be half a century ago. Thus, even the "non-intellectual" stimuli we are bombarded with demand ever more intense cognitive processing. In the workplace too, we see that what used to be repetitive industrial and agricultural jobs tend to be replaced by knowledge work, caring for people, or controlling complex machinery. As a result, people with a low intellectual level find it increasingly difficult to find a decently paying job, thus being stimulated to develop themselves.
A final plausible factor contributing to intelligence increases is that families have become smaller: with fewer children, parents have simply much more attention and resources to invest in each child. The effect on intelligence is confirmed by the observation that first-born or single-born children are on average some 2 to 3 IQ points smarter than second or third-born children, who had to compete with their siblings for parental attention.
In sum, while there are of course always methodological and other question marks about something as difficult to measure as intelligence, it seems well established now that we are indeed getting smarter. While the causes are not fully clear yet, those we do understand leave plenty of room for further improvement: we can definitely eat and live more healthily than we do now, while there does not seem to be a limit to the quantity and quality of education and cognitive stimulation achievable via the Internet. There is certainly cause for optimism in these observations. However, we should note that our rise in intelligence might simply be paralleling the rise in complexity of the problems we have to deal with, so that subjectively we may not really feel more competent to do what we need to do.
More to read
--Bernheim, J. (1999). The Cognitive Revolution and 21st Century Enlightenment: towards a progressive world view. Science, Technology and Social Change, Einstein meets Magritte (p. 63). Kluwer.
--Flynn, J. R. (1987). Massive IQ gains in 14 nations: What IQ tests really measure. Psychological bulletin, 101(2), 171.
--Flynn, J. R. (1987). Massive IQ gains in 14 nations: What IQ tests really measure. Psychological bulletin, 101(2), 171.
--Flynn, J. R. (2012). Are We Getting Smarter? Rising IQ in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge University Press.
--Heylighen, F., & Bernheim, J. (2000). Global Progress I: Empirical Evidence for ongoing Increase in Quality-of-life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 1(3), 323-349.
--Neisser U. (1997). Rising Scores on Intelligence Tests, American Scientist, September - October 1997
--Neisser, U. (Ed.). (1998). The rising curve: Long-term gains in IQ and related measures (Vol. xv). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.
--Francis Heylighen; Evolution, Complexity and Cognition group, Free University of Brussels.
== Afterword by Brin ==
Thank you, Francis, for that excellent summary of a fascinating phenomenon. Which makes us wonder -- is humanity "uplifting itself?"
There are so many aspects to this that we have no time to explore thoroughly here.
1. Can this phenomenon be partly genetic? It is a truism, widely held, that civilization must have slowed human evolution because it gave the weak opportunities to survive and to breed. But in fact there is every reason to believe that human evolution sped up with the arrival of civilization, and especially after we discovered beer! See Christopher Wills's book CHILDREN OF PROMETHEUS. For example, clothing and shelter technologies empowered some groups to settle the Tibetan Plateau, an environment so harsh that selective pressures have turned Tibetans into almost a sub-species of their own. This may really take off if segments of humanity start adapting to space and other worlds.
2. I would add a few recent factors, such as changes in the toxic loads supported by most human populations. Francis mentioned the gradual elimination of toxins like lead from paint and gasoline - (though resisted strenuously by the same dopes who claimed Tobacco was harmless and cars don't cause smog and that human industry cannot change a planet's climate). Removal of lead has now been shown to have dramatically reduced levels of violence in the U.S. and other populations since 1970. (See my own role in getting the lead out of gas, as a 19 year old Caltech student in 1970!)
The same can also be said regarding our burdens of living parasites. In Korea after 1960, a vast de-worming effort eliminated endemic intestinal parasites which helped improved diets to increase the height of children by many centimeters and no doubt affected brains. Likewise, the parasitic paramecium Toxoplasma gondii is endemic in much of the human population and now is known to dramatically alter personality and behavior.
I am hoping we'll find dozens of such things that have long nibbled away at humanity's potential! Why? Because no simpler way can be imagined to boost human mental and moral performance than just by eradicating factors holding it down. It would mean that we can improve in the easiest and best way... by eliminating that which had been crippling us.
3) Then there is selection. Elsewhere I discuss the question of whether humanity performed its spectacular mental "overshoot" beyond what was necessary to become the top predator, for the same reason that many other species acquire exaggerated traits -- sexual selection. Only in my theory, it was two-way with both males and females choosing each other based in part on savvy and smarts. In which case, might that sort of thing resume? It could do so... if tastes changed just a little.
Alas, none of these things can possibly act fast enough to turn the tide and help us in time. The real solution will be harder. It will involve looking in the mirror - each of us, one at a time - overcoming the allure of self-righteous dogmatism and rage, pondering little steps of self-improvement, adding grace to our thought processes, calm consideration, subtlety, curiosity and contingent wisdom... plus finding subtle ways to convince our neighbors to do the same. Learning to accomplish the latter, without getting killed... that's a sure intelligence test, if there ever was one!
Oh, even if we optimists are right, and a road to gradual and eclectic, free, voluntary, individualistic and diverse improvements in human nature and intelligence can be found, rest assured there will be many ructions and difficulties before we finally adapt at last to a mature and relaxedly sane state. To a world without brutish evil, rage, violence, illogic, dogmatism or Fox News.
Hope you weren't counting on continuing Flynn effects in the First World.
I saw an article on PopSci that dared to suggest that the average ancient Athenian (as opposed to the exceptional ones like Plato, who I think is seriously overrated) was much more intelligent than most modern people. His reasoning seemed dangerously close to eugenics and its whole pseudo-scientific idea of "dysgenics".
ZarPaulus: I assume you're referring to Crabtree's article? It's pretty bogus, and you can hear that from arch-eugenicist Cochran himself: http://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/the-golden-age/
My own comments (https://plus.google.com/106808239073321070854/posts/jUGVSEg5RUt) went something like "Eh. Not convinced; he handwaves away any selection pressure towards intelligence and the Flynn effect, ignores the environment (how much iodine and iron and protein those ancients getting?), and focuses largely on genetic arguments of drift which seem simplified while ignoring any kind of objective measures of intelligence or accomplishment."
http://www.cell.com/trends/genetics/fulltext/S0168-9525%2812%2900194-1 is also relevant.
Don't much cotton to Plato. Hate him, in fact. Now PLUTO....
Enemy of an 'open society' type of reasons?
This concentration of intelligence was unavailable to me without much legwork not so long ago.
There's one factor you've left off the list David: a reduction in the number of people with severe intellectual disabilities due to selective abortion and, more recently, genetic screening.
I seriously doubt that genetic evolution is behind the rapid increase in scores on IQ tests, especially since the IQ test is only about 100 years old. That we are doing a better job of making the most of our potential seems likely. Besides, modern culture rewards salesmanship far more than the kind of intelligence that leads to all the technical and scientific advances we have been seeing.
I wonder who has been taking these tests that all the studies are based on. One of my professors once pointed out that psychology is mostly the study of the college freshman because this is the biggest group psychologist get to take their tests.
Salesmanship IS a big part of the technical and scientific advancement of late. Money only occassionally changes hands, but there is a gift economy at work and a need to draw enough attention from potential collaborators to succeed.
It's because we're getting plenty of electrolytes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Vw2CrY9Igs
"To a world without brutish evil, rage, violence, illogic"
A world without black people? Absolutely! Sign me up!
Have you ever, or will you ever, examine the biological and statistical evidence for persistent differences in violent behavior and measurable intelligence between whites and blacks?
You scored 3 of 4, Rollory.
I do believe we have a hater visiting us. THAT is the mentally deficient type that worries me and that is doing vastly more harm to the chances of our kids.
What that hater said about black people could just as easily be said of Southern whites (a.k.a. "rednecks"), i.e. allegedly genetic violent nature. The real reason behind their higher tendency to violence is of course cultural, a matter of mindset. (It was Bram Dijkstra who inoculated me against the particular mindset evidenced in that comment.)
I'm convinced it's not just the media environment that's getting more complex, but the urban one as well: in the US in particular, the migration from farms and small towns to suburbs and then to dense central cities with their complex urban ecologies. The trend since 2008 has been ever more strongly from the suburbs to the cities, so I expect the Flynn effect to remain very much in effect for some time to come, at least in the US.
The move to cities is going on world wide. Last I checked it is about one million people per week.
I'm not sure if it is a hater or a troll. Either way, they get only enough of my attention to skip over them.
Perhaps most dramatically in China, the rate at which they are building cities is quite astounding.
But I'd agree that we are likely just making the most of our gifts through early nutrition, cognitive training, and other environmental factors. It's interesting to note that that is a trend which could be reversed during a global collapse, or even with a drastic change in environments such as moving into space.
You seem to have typo in your “low-hanging fruit” comment (pickjed instead of picked).
I tend to summarize the four bullet points as health/nutrition improvements and vastly more intellectual stimulation. When I relate this story I prefer to go with the short list as a way to focus the listener. 8)
I'm fairly sure, though, that there is no difference between 'just using our gifts' and an actual change occurring within us. We can certainly make a philosophical distinction between the two, but in the empirical sense they look the same to me. Brains are plastic things both physically and in terms of content, so it is easy to argue that our minds are improving at quite a clip because we are healthier and more stimulated. Whether we choose to see this as fulfilled potential or as new function probably doesn't matter much right now. I prefer the latter as it leaves open the possibility that we can keep going. No limits.
There is another part of this story that I like to move to after I get someone to realize that they are healthier and smarter than their ancestors. Not only are we individually better off, we are FAR more interconnected and becoming more so at a ferocious pace. That improvement trend is truly ancient starting with our willingness to trade with strangers instead of stealing their stuff. This improvement DOES lead to new function because we are evolving our social institutions. THEY are getting healthier and smarter too. David bangs on this when he gets passionate about the Enlightenment and his Holocene work, but I think it is worth explicitely extending Flynn's observation to our social institutions. Individual improvement of IQ coupled with improvements in our interconnectedness lead to us being smarter on two levels.
Mr. Brin, I note you did not actually answer my question. Permit me to be specific as to what I am getting at.
Each year, the US Census Bureau's National Crime Victimization Survey gathers data regarding offenders and victims. In 2008 - a reasonably representative year - for single-offender crimes, blacks committed assault, rape and robbery at 1.9, 3.4, and 6.5 times (respectively) the rates at which whites did. For multiple-offender crimes, they did so at 3.1, 6.2, and 30 times (respectively) the rates at which whites did.
Black criminals victimizing whites made up 83% of all crimes involving different races. Black criminals chose white victims 52% of the time; white criminals chose blacks 4.3% of the time. There were approximately 19000 rapes of white women by black men; the number of rapes of black women by white men was reported as "less than 10".
Before you ascribe it to poverty, only 21% of all black-on-white crimes were robberies. Without robbery, there is no economic motive.
Similarly, according to the FBI's arrest records, blacks are 2.9, 2.8, and 7.7 times more likely than whites to commit assault, rape, and robbery (respectively).
Mr. Brin, you talk a lot about science. What scientific conclusions can be drawn from these numbers (and the multitude of others like them, which I am not including here because I would bore you to tears, because you already KNOW this to be true, you just don't want to admit it)?
When I ascribe "brutish evil, rage, violence" to blacks, I have concrete evidence to support this position, and the conclusion that a society without black people would be the most direct step toward accomplishing the goal of a peaceful and civilized society.
Am I saying black people can not be civilized? Absolutely not! I encourage them to prove me wrong! However, I am under no obligation to live in the same city or country as them while they try to figure out how to do it.
I repeat my earlier question: have you ever, with all your talk of pragmatic, science-based examination of reality, considered the differences between the races, and their implications?
And how many black women were raped but never reported it because they felt they would be put on trial? How many black people have had their reported crimes ignored by cops who discriminate against them? For that matter, attribution of data, please. I want journal names, dates, page numbers. And I want hard print journals (peer-reviewed ones), not just some website throwing out statistics which may very well be lies and propaganda.
Without that, all you are is a racist throwing out random data and seeking attention.
Any person with a high-school education today is better informed about the world than Julius Caesar. Other commenters demonstrate this point very well. We simply know more and have more available information. The forum is wide-open.
I'm actually surprised that the Flynn effect doesn't suggest a higher increase in "intelligence" that it does.
Clearly the single greatest component in the apparent increase in intelligence are the conveniences of the modern world that allow people free time and ability to pursue education instead of just trying to survive day to day. I would guess the second greatest contribution is the continuing trend of pushing more "education" to lower grade levels, which obvious increases the performance on intelligence tests that are clearly geared toward educational settings (versus say, hunting instincts or athletic abilities).
For example, I'm sure the person talking on the cell phone while driving in front of me is much smarter about both using cell phones and driving cars than anyone 100 years ago. However, in observing their reaction time and decision-making, I would estimate their IQ at an almost cognitively-impaired level. The ability to process information does not necessarily translate to greater wisdom. I see little to suggest this really has improved in the last 1000 years.
The other overlooked question, I think, is why is this important? If technology and access to education was really so significant, then why do we continue to have global problems that already have solutions?
There is an answer (a solution), btw.
Has anyone suggested that more use of abstract reasoning skills during childhood actually encourages those regions ot grow larger?
I put it up to a vote. I am inclined to let this fellow spew here for a few reasons. (1) comments sections are loose and informal and none of us need fear being affiliated with his stuff. (2) I'd like to continue the incredible string we've had of high discourse without the slightest gateways or moderation policy. (3)sometime from noisy or noisome or loathsome sources there can be pearls of content rising amid swill.
I admit to scanning and found numerous howlers. For example, nearly all violence BY African Americans is committed AGAINST African Americans - in other words he is not even offering true circumstantial evidence behind his disgusting racist rants. I'm not sure that a part of me isn't disappointed, the part of me that likes cognitive dissonance and is contrary-attracted to see what pearls are dug up by rooting swine.
Speak up guys I'll go with the consensus. Personally, I have to control my gorge..
To follow on from what Robert said;
1. The overwhelmingly majority of African-Americans like the the overwhelming majority of other mericans will never commit a serious violent crime. But I guess it doesn't have the same rhetorical effect to declare "0.2% of blacks are violent, savage and brutish compared to only 0.15% of whites nd only 0.1% of Asian-Americans." (figures are illustrative only.)
2. Given that the American population is roughly 70% white and 10% black then if American criminals selected their victims at random without any regard to race., 70% of the victims of black criminals would be white and only 10% of the victims of white criminals would be black. That's actually pretty close ot what we see except that "only" 5% of the victims of white criminals are black and "only" 50% of the victims of black criminals are black.
That discrepancy is pretty easy to explain given that most criminals are lazy and opportunistic and tend to target people in their immediate neighborhood.
3. Claims that "blacks commit X times more crimes than whites" are misleading since they're based on the numbers of people convicted of those offenses.
We know, for example, that African-Americans in New York City are several more times as likely to stopped for "random" searches as whites. Even if the underlying offending rates are identical, if you stop and frisk 5 times as many African-Americans you're going to have five times as more African-American criminals detected.
Secondly, if you're poor and come from a troubled family you're more likely to be convicted of a crime than if you're rich and come from a stable family.
Apart from anything else, poor people are less likely to be able to afford competent legal counsel and are less likely to be able to make bail - meaning they're more likely to cop a plea to get out of jail.
(There's a lot more to it than just that though - for example, if you're homeless police are much less likely to release you on your own recognizance because you can't give an address and people who've spent a week in a prison cell without a change of clothing are likely to get a less sympathetic hearing from a judge or a jury than someone in a suit with a shave and a new haircut.
African-Americans, of course, are much more likely to be poor that white Americans.
Anyone think "Rollory" is going to actually respond to these facts?
Throw in the huge proportion of blacks who are convicted of victimless drug crimes. in the obscene drug war and discrepancies where crack is punished 4x as severely as powder cocaine.
But the real crux is - is this guy trying to be helpful and improve the world? Or trying to spew venom without any other objective than to display what we all can clearly see his character to be?
And let's not forget that with 90%+ of Arican-americans voting Democrat Republican politicians in states with laws barring ex-felons from voting have an incentive to ensure as many Afcrican-Americans as possible end up with felony convictions.
The Intelligent Quotient (IQ) and Intelligence are non-equivalent concepts.
Correlating most closely with social class, the Intelligent Quotient (IQ) measures a specific type of social intelligence or acculturation, as evidenced by IQ test-specific questions like "What does the phrase 'a single sparrow doesn't make a summer' mean to you?"
(This is why many minorities & social outliers tend to have lower IQ scores than WASPS)
Yet, when we use the term "intelligence", we refer only to the innate sort of intelligence which we define as "the (inherent) capacity to acquire, understand and apply knowledge" along the lines of problem-solving potential.
The problem is that 'social intelligence' (which is inducible) does not necessarily correspond with 'innate intelligence' (which is not inducible).
Most likely, the Flynn Effect reflects a general increase in IQ due to an increase in mass-media induced cultural homogenity which does not correlate with innate intelligence.
The assumed increase in human 'innate intelligence' is a completely different issue:
There are many more smart AND many more stupid people in the world today than a few generations ago -- but then again -- there are many many more people in the world in an absolute sense.
What if innate human intelligence follows a Bell Curve distribution?
Stupid People could shift this curve toward the left by having more children (Marching Morons); and Smart People could shift this curve to the right by out-competing the stupids (The Inheritors).
But, most likely, the innate intelligence of the 'average' human being hasn't changed a lick in thousands of years. Humans are still a bunch of ignorant, arrogant & racially insensitive hicks, by and large.
Samuel Clemens once quipped that "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.
Rollory's comments qualify in all three categories
locumranch, what you refer to as "innate intelligence", psychologists refer to as "G" (for "general intelligence".
It's been recognized for decades that IQ tests don't directly measure G for the reasons you list. But there are several different types of intelligence test, some of which are entirely nonverbal and the results from different tests tend to correlate pretty well, implying that they do measure G fairly well.
What if the Flynn Effect is simply evolution?
Two factors to consider:
1)Are we, as a species, selecting specifically for intelligence in our choice of mates? I'd argue, yes, that intelligence is probably the number one criteria for mate selection. And before you howl about physical beauty, remember all those studies that show that beautiful people are more likely to be intelligent.
2)Does multi-ethnic pairing specifically increase intelligence in offspring? Perhaps increased intelligence is a result of the rest of the world adopting the Californian vibe about mixing racial groups (to use a thought offered by our host in the past).
It seems to me that if I put these two factors together, I can explain a lot of gradual rise in intelligence.
And check out the very relevant article in Salon:
A very nice read about neoteny, this article put a few concepts together for me that I hadn't quite managed to link together before. For instance, I didn't know about the difference in brain development between a human newborn and a chimp newborn.
But what if the span of neoteny is still growing in humans. Right now the age of "maximum learning" according to the article is ages 1-7 years old. What if evolutionary forces and social forces both are increasing the span of neoteny in our lifetimes? That also could be pushing the Flynn Effect.
Dammit, article is in Slate, not Salon. Link is correct.
Neoteny may be reversing due to hormone-mimicking compounds. Not good. Social neoteny makes me squirm: the idea that 20-somethings are still children is annoying...
One of the main impediments to intelligence, I think nowadays, is know-it-all-ism.
Also I note in U.S. culture at least, bilingualism is not considered part of intelligence. But I think it is, without doubt. Cultural blindness on the part of test designers?
Oh, I thought Dr. Brin might get a kick out of this considering the two historical characters depicted as playing the Wii include one of his favorites. ;)
> The Intelligent Quotient (IQ) and Intelligence are non-equivalent concepts. Correlating most closely with social class, the Intelligent Quotient (IQ) measures a specific type of social intelligence or acculturation, as evidenced by IQ test-specific questions like "What does the phrase 'a single sparrow doesn't make a summer' mean to you?" (This is why many minorities & social outliers tend to have lower IQ scores than WASPS)
This old canard. The 'lower IQ scores than WASPS' doesn't go away when you use non-verbal IQ tests. Turns out IQ is a fine correlate of your "Intelligence".
Depends on the intelligence testing used. Also, think on this: South Koreans are taller on average than their North Korean brethren despite sharing a genetic commonality. The reason? Diet. Thus if Africans were provided a healthy diet and a safe environment then their young will in all likelihood prove as intelligent in testing as WASP children.
If you wanted to find proof of "reduced intelligence" then you want to find a group of humans who have a better digestive system that can handle multiple forms of food. Research has found that if you boost the intelligence of an animal, its digestive system suffers as a result. (So shown by breeding a goldfish with a more developed brain.)
As Ian says, it's been recognized for decades that IQ tests don't directly measure G (innate intelligence).
In a manner akin to 'intelligent design', IQ tests are 'designed' to correlate quite well with each other, but that does not negate the fact that the connection between IQ score & innate intelligence is merely assumed and/or implied.
Not only is the concept of 'intelligence' poorly defined, but there are too many variables which impact its potential development and/or assessment in a direct manner, including but not limited to maternal folate ingestion, parental bonding, childhood health & nutrition, physical activity, environmental stimuli, education, socialization, etc, leaving a giant gap between measurable realized intelligence and innate biological potential.
The suggestion that the Flynn Effect is "simply evolution" betrays a poor understanding of evolutionary concepts. Evolution and/or Natural Selection (by definition) require the occurrence of both speciation & extinction, occurrences which have not affected humans (Homo Sapiens) for an estimated 100,000 years.
Most likely, the Flynn Effect represents a statistical anomaly caused increased (human) species homogenization. By striving toward a biological Golden Mean, we've narrowed our intelligence Bell Curve so we only APPEAR smarter, imbuing statistically insignificant changes with self-serving statistical significance.
Numbers that we arbitrarily assign to each other are in no way scientific:
They are merely lies, damn lies & statistics.
> Thus if Africans were provided a healthy diet and a safe environment then their young will in all likelihood prove as intelligent in testing as WASP children.
You *really* think no one has tried that? All the projects like Headstart or the ABCdarian project show IQ fade-out, and adjusting for income does not make the IQ differences go away.
> If you wanted to find proof of "reduced intelligence" then you want to find a group of humans who have a better digestive system that can handle multiple forms of food. Research has found that if you boost the intelligence of an animal, its digestive system suffers as a result.
Yes, that's an old theory in the evolution of human intelligence, but your claim is incorrect: just because intelligence implies reduction in gut capacity between primate species does not imply that reduction in gut capacity within a species increases intelligence. This is both a dubious generalization across species and affirming the consequent.
> In a manner akin to 'intelligent design', IQ tests are 'designed' to correlate quite well with each other, but that does not negate the fact that the connection between IQ score & innate intelligence is merely assumed and/or implied....Numbers that we arbitrarily assign to each other are in no way scientific
And then validated against countless real-world outcomes... Not so arbitrary after all.
> Not only is the concept of 'intelligence' poorly defined, but there are too many variables which impact its potential development and/or assessment in a direct manner, including but not limited to maternal folate ingestion, parental bonding, childhood health & nutrition, physical activity, environmental stimuli, education, socialization, etc, leaving a giant gap between measurable realized intelligence and innate biological potential.
"I'm going to say it's all terribly complex in order to dismiss the many concrete real results and any attempt to use them."
> The suggestion that the Flynn Effect is "simply evolution" betrays a poor understanding of evolutionary concepts. Evolution and/or Natural Selection (by definition) require the occurrence of both speciation & extinction, occurrences which have not affected humans (Homo Sapiens) for an estimated 100,000 years.
Wow. Are you serious? You seriously think that evolution can only operate on speciation and extinction? Even the rankest group selectionist like Wilson doesn't hold a claim like that. Evolution is simply changes in allele frequencies of a gene pool due to associated fitness of allele bearers; no need for a species to go extinct or speciate. Poor understanding indeed.
And yeah, you can observe evolution in action over the past thousands of years. High-altitude adaptations come to mind, as does the spread of lactose-tolerance in adults (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactase_persistence#Evolutionary_advantages).
In The Mismeasure of Man (1996), Stephen Gould criticized IQ tests as scientific racism.
As evidenced by the likes of Rollory, these types of pseudo-scientific numbers are invariably used to prove that certain oppressed and disadvantaged groups are innately inferior and deserve our disdain.
We practice prejudice when we dismiss people & races with low IQ as "unintelligent", but some of us just can't help themselves.
Some of us even confuse sexual reproduction -- changes in allele frequencies within a predetermined gene pool -- with evolution.
Evolution requires the genetic diffusion of new, reassorted or recombinant alleles that convey survival advantage to the host organism, followed either by (host) speciation or the extinction of the source allele.
Is it evolution if an adapted organism can change back? Of course not.
Within certain tolerances, many organisms can adapt to extreme environments without evolving in a genetic sense.
You may believe that the modern industrial man is more 'evolved' (and/or 'intelligent') than our hunting & gathering ancestors, but other hunters & gatherers would most certainly disagree.
There are countless ways that human populations did genetic shift in the last 10,000 years. Starting I believe with beer, which made men who could not control themselves prime candidates for "kill that drunk and bring me his women."
I mentioned Tibetan lungs and hemoglobin. Also Polynesian size may have been propelled by the fact that EVERY generation on most islands lost half its male population to violence.
Here's the deal though. It is not the gentleness of modern civilization (low death rates) that may have slowed down this rush. It is monogamy. Take the Chinese 1 child policy. Extreme case. Almost ALL people get one kid. Except the excess males due to selective abortion, esp in India. That produces an evol selection pressure despite all women getting one husband alone.
Heh. Low nutritional value wheat and a strange desire to live around the Baltic Sea put a lot of pressure on our formerly dark skinned/haired ancestors. I read something recent where they figured out just how much of an advantage (child survival) it was to be 'white' that far north. Elsewhere, of course, it was a liability.
I find it strange that anyone who knows a bit of biology would EVER argue that we aren't evolving anymore or even that the rate has slowed when formerly (mostly) isolated populations can now intermarry. I live in California and I'm surrounded by genetic and cultural hybrids. At some level, I'm one of them too.
I find it even stranger that anyone would tie their sense of superiority to a genetic feature that is so obviously a recessive trait that works well in a niche and is a pain (literally) elsewhere.
Judging from the lack of vitriolic response by the regulars to Rollory, I doubt there is a need to do anything harsh yet. If a feedback loop starts, then it might be justified. 8)
> In The Mismeasure of Man (1996), Stephen Gould criticized IQ tests as scientific racism.
Gould spent most of the book attacking straw men, ignored most/all research performed within living memory, and could not come up with a reply to Jensen's many criticisms of the book. And Gould was recently unmasked as having committed fraud himself on the topic of skull volumes. That you dare to cite him as an authority says a lot.
> Some of us even confuse sexual reproduction -- changes in allele frequencies within a predetermined gene pool -- with evolution.
It is trivial to see how asexual creatures could evolve: every asexual creature of species A with allele B dies, and allele B's frequency goes to zero. Evolution.
> Evolution requires the genetic diffusion of new, reassorted or recombinant alleles that convey survival advantage to the host organism, followed either by (host) speciation or the extinction of the source allele.
New genes are important to introduce variation and something selection can work on, but are not 'evolution'.
> Is it evolution if an adapted organism can change back? Of course not.
That makes no sense. Consider the case of cave organisms letting things like eyes atrophy - at some point in their lineage, there were creatures without eyes.
> You may believe that the modern industrial man is more 'evolved' (and/or 'intelligent') than our hunting & gathering ancestors, but other hunters & gatherers would most certainly disagree.
I don't, any more than I think IQ tests have anything to do with 'intelligent design' as you previously insinuated.
Calcium intake always helps. Not to mention high protein.
Who was it said Britain ruled because of roast beef and boys' schools?
Gould, of course, was a specialist in mollusks, one of the forms of life which exhibit "devolution" quite obviously, happily evolving from adults into newer strains which never leave larval stages. Yes, complexity sometimes is not required for evolution. He cleverly hid this argument in Full House, couched in baseball. I recommend it highly. (Also his difficult but rewarding tome Ontogeny and Phylogeny on the effect of environment on development of adult organisms.)
Actually, I never got started answering that... person. For example, Africans vary more genetically vs each other than most of them do from whites. If you wanted to be INTELLIGENTLY (if malignantly) racist an out that I have never seen might be hypothetically to rage that American blacks are mostly descended from the losers in inter-tribal warfare in a small part of West Africa in the 18th century. (Note that Obama is not; none of his ancestors were ever slaves.) How much more clever and judo-like for a racist to go after excuses like that, feigning respect for SOME African types but not his hated neighbors...
...but we won't see it. Because - as we all know -- the personality that irrationally hates is... well... irrational! And stupid.
In The Mismeasure of Man (1996), Stephen Gould criticized IQ tests as scientific racism
That is NOT how I read it,
Gould criticized IQ testing primarily on the grounds that any measure that I can practice and increase my score is NOT a measure of an "innate" ability
IQ tests measure your ability to do IQ tests
Gould suggested a multiple testing idea which ties in well with my own experience that some people excel in some areas and struggle in others
There IS a general relationship in society between IQ scores and success BUT it is in no way a perfect relationship and individuals with high and low scores are present in the successful and the unsuccessful
I suspect that the Flynn effect can be explained by the reduction in individuals damaged by:
lead and other environmental
and poor nutrition
Certainly it is happening far too fast to be an evolutionary effect
On that subject - I would like to have a look at some of the raw data
In my experience (statistical analysis in manufacturing engineering)in the real world a "normal distribution" is actually quite rare,
What you normally get is a skew distribution,
This is because most random changes are detrimental
The random changes that "make things better" tend to be less frequent
As you optimize something you move it to the position where any changes reduce its performance
From this I would expect "intelligence" to be highly skewed with a "normal" and some rare high individuals and a large tail of damaged/sub optimum measures
I would also not expect to see as great a range at the top end
When we eliminate common problems such as lead and nutrition we should end up with:
A "normal" population with a small upper tail and a larger lower tail
A "distressed" population where something has gone wrong
Finally seem to be getting somewhere. Also very close in terms of evolution
Both Intelligent Design & IQ testing are forms of informal fallacy, specifically Petitio Principii (aka 'begging the question') in which an implicit premise leads to a specific conclusion. Intelligent Design presupposes that divine intelligence must precede biological life and then concludes that biological life must necessarily follow a precedent divine intelligence. Similarly, the IQ test was retrospectively designed to identify the same kind of intelligence exhibited and valued by its designers.
Genetic variants like Tibetan Lung volumes, the Polynesian somatype, Nordic alcohol & lactose tolerance & the Sickle Cell Hgb variant (including 'hybrid vigor') are examples of evolutionary potential rather than de facto evolution.
To represent evolution in fact, these relatively minor genetic variants must be activated by specific stressors & reinforced by reproductive isolation until they become the rule rather than the exception. This is also known as speciation.
Also, evolution is only one way. Mammals that return to the ocean are not merely warm-blooded fish; and cave-dwelling fish that lose their vision are still fish that are often capable of interbreeding with other fish.
> Both Intelligent Design & IQ testing are forms of informal fallacy, specifically Petitio Principii (aka 'begging the question') in which an implicit premise leads to a specific conclusion. Intelligent Design presupposes that divine intelligence must precede biological life and then concludes that biological life must necessarily follow a precedent divine intelligence. Similarly, the IQ test was retrospectively designed to identify the same kind of intelligence exhibited and valued by its designers.
I don't think you understand ID either, but more importantly, there's a good quote from a philosopher: "All logic texts are divided into two parts. In the first part, on deductive logic, the fallacies are explained; in the second part, on inductive logic, they are committed." The point being that discussion of petitio principiis are irrelevant outside a logical proof. Do you see why, in this case?
It is no more wrong to gauge potential IQ tests against real-world outcomes than it would be to test a scale against a known weight and improve the scale's design based on that. The circularity is the point.
In fact, if this were not done, it would be a powerful argument *against* IQ tests (or scales), which makes your argument all the more ironic: so if we do not modify IQ tests to improve their loadings on intellectual performance in all sorts of domains, we get prima facie wrong results, while if we do improve our IQ tests, we're now accused of 'begging the question'!
> Genetic variants like Tibetan Lung volumes, the Polynesian somatype, Nordic alcohol & lactose tolerance & the Sickle Cell Hgb variant (including 'hybrid vigor') are examples of evolutionary potential rather than de facto evolution.
So you've made up your own definition of evolution and are dismissing real examples in humans. I see.
One major source of this effect, I suspect, is the variety of new methods of information presentation that are available. For example, how many people 200 years ago could visualize a scene, zoom in on it, rotate around it, etc., as we see (and hence pick up the capacity to emulate) every day in movies and on tv?
Evolution, noun, the biological definition of
1. Change in the genetic composition of a population during successive generations, as a result of natural selection acting on the genetic variation among individuals, and resulting in the development of new species.
2. The historical development of a related group of organisms; phylogeny.
We can argue about the formal definition of the above term ad infinitum. Suffice it to say that a number of authoritative texts agree with me on this matter.
There is a nice positive review of Flynn's book by Andreas Schleicher in the Jan 25th issue of Science.
"Making Sense of Rising IQ Scores", Science v339 p394, Jan 25, 2013
Minor point: Isn't the Flynn Effect rate higher for African Americans? Which would strongly suggest that previous intelligence-harming factors are responsible for any lag in current IQ, not any innate genetic difference.
Re: Slavery-devolution as a racist's sneaky backdoor argument.
Still wouldn't work. Even if slavery had a down-lifting effect, there's no reason a slave-owner would select for the most violent slaves. He'd select smart-but-obedient, the classic inmate-trustee, which would probably be an advantageous trait in modern culture.
Evolution requires neither speciation nor extinction. And the definition you quote does not say that it does.
I use the concepts of evolution in my work (genetic programming/machine learning), and you clearly are not as informed as you believe yourself to be. Please desist from misinforming people.
Words don't mean what you think they mean.
While the genetic shift of evolution does not require the extinction of any particular organism, it does require speciation.
Defined as "The evolutionary formation of new biological species", the term 'speciation' also refers to the creation of intermediary 'subspecies' (wherein the term 'subspecies' is defined as "A taxonomic subdivision of a species consisting of an interbreeding").
Of course, the genetic changes necessary for evolution (mutations, reassortments, recombinations, etc) can occur without and/or before speciation.
However, in the absence of speciation, the above-mentioned genetic changes won't breed true, and you are left with a collection of genetically defective individuals who cannot pass on their genetic legacy to their offspring.
You can natter on about genetic diversity, allelic differentiation, phenotypic penetration & racial separation as much as you like, but that won't change the fact that the concept of evolution does not apply to single individuals. It only applies to groups of individuals with a shared genetic heritage.
Groups evolve; individuals mutate.
I'm afraid that it is you that is misinformed, not locumranch. Evolution is occurring when allele distributions in populations change. No speciation is required. nor is extinction, just a shift in the genetic composition of the population.
> Minor point: Isn't the Flynn Effect rate higher for African Americans? Which would strongly suggest that previous intelligence-harming factors are responsible for any lag in current IQ, not any innate genetic difference.
I don't believe it is. If the Flynn effect were higher, then it should long ago have erased most or all of the black-white gap, which is, after all, 'just' 10 points or so.
The best I think we can say is that there was a small reduction of the gap, in some time periods, for some subgroups. Further reading on this topic: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_intelligence#US_test_scores http://reason.com/archives/2006/12/01/closing-the-black-white-iq-gap/print https://menghusblog.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/the-black-white-iq-gap-is-narrowing-no-black-gains-gss/ http://www.vdare.com/articles/debating-the-unmentionable-the-black-white-iq-gap
The historical graph of the gap in http://humanvarieties.org/2013/01/15/secular-changes-in-the-black-white-cognitive-ability-gap/ is particularly relevant: you can see that there is a wide spread of datapoints, with most of the recent datapoints around the historical mean and only a few outliers. This suggests to me, anyway, that the Flynn paper claiming convergence may just be using an outlier.
> the reason? Diet. Thus if Africans were provided a healthy diet and a safe environment then their young will in all likelihood prove as intelligent in testing as WASP children.
By the way Robert, you might benefit from reading http://humanvarieties.org/2013/01/18/what-if-the-black-white-iq-difference-is-entirely-due-to-environment/ and the citations in it, showing that the IQ gap does not go away even if you look at wealthy blacks who can presumably buy a decent breakfast for their kids.
Alex, you seem to be confused about who said what. Read again.
Locum, according to your definition, bacteria (and any other asexual species) cannot evolve, because they do not form interbreeding groups.
The point stands. Neither speciation nor extinction is required for evolution. You do not know as much as you think you do. Please desist from misinforming people.
I stand corrected.
As human beings go, I must be less evolved than my critics:
What gave me away?
Was it my textbook definition of evolution which I confirmed, cross-referenced & posted? My bioscience background? My reliance on Darwin's 'On the Origin of the Species' ? Or, maybe it was my IQ score, eye colour, personal hygiene, race, height or disagreeable attitude?
How does one go about recognising evolved humanity from the less evolved in the absence of some sort of speciation?
But enough chit-chat.
Try googling 'evolution definition' for giggles. Realise that saying that evolution is "just a shift in the genetic composition of the population" is just another way of saying that "Groups evolve; individuals mutate". And educate yourself about the plasmid-based sexual proclivities of one-celled bacterial organisms that allow for interbreeding.
Locum, I am going to try one more time.
Speciation is not required for evolution. You're closing on it, but you're too caught on wanting to be right.
Hence, the requirements of evolution, from Darwin:
-There is a finite population of individuals.
-The individuals can reproduce and pass on their traits to their offspring.
-There should be variety of traits within the population of individuals.
-The traits of the individuals should be related to their ability to survive
That's the lot. Speciation *helps*, which is why it has evolved. But it is not a requirement.
> As human beings go, I must be less evolved than my critics:
Feel free to insult yourself; no one else has called you less evolved, because they've gotten beyond naive notions of 'more' or 'less' evolved.
> Was it my textbook definition of evolution which I confirmed, cross-referenced & posted?
What textbook? I see no cross-references. I see something in messed up quotes which might be a dictionary definition of speciation, and little else.
> My bioscience background?
Let me guess, you have a PhD and everything.
> My reliance on Darwin's 'On the Origin of the Species' ?
I see no quotes from Darwin, and in any case, it's *possible* that Darwin has been improved upon over the last 3 centuries.
> Try googling 'evolution definition' for giggles. Realise that saying that evolution is "just a shift in the genetic composition of the population" is just another way of saying that "Groups evolve; individuals mutate".
I googled and I got Wikipedia: "Evolution is the change in the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations."
Nothing about extinction, nothing about speciation, just a reference to inherited characteristics (alleles) in a population. Does that sound familiar?
> How does one go about recognising evolved humanity from the less evolved in the absence of some sort of speciation?
You don't because it's meaningless. 'evolved' vs 'less evolved'? *Everything* has been under selection for the last 2 billion years.
> And educate yourself about the plasmid-based sexual proclivities of one-celled bacterial organisms that allow for interbreeding.
The same one-celled asexual organisms which are a counter-example to your claims that speciation is fundamental to the very definition of evolution?
I have given you the original definition of evolution wherein evolution is defined in terms genetic change in relation to natural selection & speciation because the modern popular definition is inadequate.
Does an inheritable genetic change incompatible with life but correctable by major postnatal surgery count as 'evolution"?
Of course not.
The "occurrence of change in the genetic endowment of populations" does not qualify as evolution until it produces both a viable & biologically distinct form under the influence of natural and/or environmental selection.
And, for the record, Wikipedia is not a reputable reference because any bozo can edit it, as evidenced by Stephen Colbert & his elephant population explosion.
> I have given you the original definition of evolution wherein evolution is defined in terms genetic change in relation to natural selection & speciation because the modern popular definition is inadequate.
Because clearly the original definition (from where? still no source...) was handed down by God and could not be improved by any biologists since.
> Does an inheritable genetic change incompatible with life but correctable by major postnatal surgery count as 'evolution"?
Why not? Suppose heads started getting bigger because thanks to c-sections babies with big heads don't die so much but go on to use their extra brains to score with the chicks; seems like evolution to me. The availability of major postnatal surgery is part of the environment. As well say that our teeth have not changed since our last common ancestor with the chimps because we need this major post-natal technology called 'fire' to help us prepare our food!
> And, for the record, Wikipedia is not a reputable reference because any bozo can edit it, as evidenced by Stephen Colbert & his elephant population explosion.
Which were fixed within minutes, incidentally. Unless Colbert directed his minions to edit the Wikipedia article on evolution to help his good pal locumranch, this is just so much more whining about how no one will agree with you.
Are you truly telling me that you do not understand the difference between "requirements for evolution to occur" and "requirements for evolution to have been perceived to occur"?
Because you seem to be very, very confused about the two.
Socializing effectively and persuasively does indeed require intelligence. Intelligence can be seen as a factor of many different things put together, but in general those that are more capable will be more rounded in terms of general mental ability regardless. They may just display their intelligence in more social forms, as can be expected. This however can translate to logical and technical thinking in the realm of technology.
The sentiments Rollery expressed it was reasonable to associate with the things in the world that are not good. But Brin you made yourself just as bad or worse by trying to shame him into silence or discredit him with smears, so to get him ignored and ridiculed, when he was mentioning legitimate statistics. You didn't answer his questions and that's proof enough that you understood he wasn't lying. Which means you were lying and others here too. How does this square with the world you want to create? Are you suggesting that white people cannot be victims? How do you kjwo what has happened to this man that he's so angry? He may not be superior for being white, but is inferior that you and a Jewish man can love your people, and black can love his, but Rollery cannot love his? Because lying and shaming that way about what you did is the same as if he expresse positives about his people. You're not good if you do this. You can say goodbye to your dreams because they are lies or rationalizing, when the moment you have personal dislike or bias, the lies and shaming all come out. It's harder to do it another way. But that's true for everyone and everyone's biases and personal dislies. Rollery's and yours.
Post a Comment