Let's Get Dumb

by Steve Mason

We make some of our greatest gains
when we see old things in new ways

The other day I received the following email from a reader:

"Since human intelligence levels have come so far since the Stone Age, can we say that simply because of evolution alone, we will all become geniuses in the next hundred years or so?"

The short answer is - No. Evolution favors only those mutations that are somehow more favorable to procreation. It doesn't make decisions based on Man's assumptions of what's right or what's wrong or on any sense of moral progress or the greater good. Indeed, in terms of evolution, the dinosaurs were far more successful as a species than Homo Sapiens. Those scary critters we all consider losers in the game of life existed for hundreds of millions of years while our kind is still barely into the tens of thousands stage.

And besides, is higher intelligence truly an asset when it comes to success in the 21st Century? Surprisingly, many high I.Q. individuals don't do as well in this "Land of the free and home of the brave" as their less well endowed fellows. There are several reasons for this being the case. One is that employers don't especially like employees smarter than themselves. The result here is that many of my friends who belong to high IQ societies wind up under employed; working at jobs far below their potential. The same is true of schoolmates and marriage mates.

Kids hate those geeks who go around screwing up the grading curve and men are typically off-put by women smarter than themselves. In fact, it's been demonstrated (though not publicized in this PC culture we currently inhabit) that complete and effective communication between those separated by more than fifteen I.Q. points is unlikely. Just think about that. It means there is no way, repeat NO WAY, that people with IQ's of 115 are ever going to explain to people with IQ's of 85 why it's important to graduate high school. Whatever approach you devise - smaller classes/better teachers/higher budgets - forget it! It ain't going to work!

On the national scene, it means that the President of the United States must either appear to be a dummy or, as is more often the case, be a dummy. Compare Woodrow Wilson with Ronald Reagan for example. The first was a university president while the latter, sometimes called the "Great Communicator", was someone even his staunchest supporters could hardly call brilliant. Yet which of the two is thought to have been more successful in office? Or compare the current president, Mr. Bush, to former president and Rhodes scholar Mr. Clinton. Those who hate the one and love the other, at this moment a remarkably fervent dichotomy, rarely refer to their selected hero's SAT scores. Intelligence is a definite non-starter as far as political races go. And why would it be otherwise with roughly half the voters having IQ's below average? (I know I'm going to get letters from the mathematically challenged on that one.)

Another way to look at just who gets elected to the position that is arguably the most powerful in the world is to figure out just who votes for whom. In a recent TIME/CNN poll, the following question was asked: "If George W. Bush runs for re-election, how likely are you to vote for him?" Of those with a high school or less education, 49% would while 45% wouldn't. Of those with some college, 47% would while 48% wouldn't and of those with college degrees, 44% would while 53% wouldn't. This is what statisticians call a straight-line function; a direct correlation between a voter's education and his Presidential preference. Does it matter? Not very much when you stop to consider that only a relatively small percent of the voting population is educated beyond the required minimum.

So am I saying that generating greater numbers of college graduates would lead to greater numbers of brighter people in positions of power; people who could then set a faster pace for the Human race? In a word, No. This is because, regardless of any feel-good initiatives such as affirmative action and community colleges, those with lower IQ's can no more wrap their brains around the quantum dualism of the wave versus particle nature of light than I can play for the NBA.

But the bottom line on humans getting smarter over time is first and foremost a question of whether or not evolution selects for higher intelligence and reflects that preference in birthrates? Sadly, the answer is No. In fact, the brighter the couple, the fewer the offspring they are likely to produce. Just look at birth rates in Third World countries and you'll see quite clearly that only the time-old Malthusian checks and balances of famine, disease and a predilection for slaughtering one's neighbors have significantly slowed the planet's population explosion.

And have we truly progressed that far ahead in any case? Have we left our ancestors in the intellectual dust? Many would be surprised to learn that a caveman of 25,000 years ago (if properly barbered and tailored) would have no difficulty blending in with a Times Square crowd. But a far greater number would be surprised to learn that that same individual would likely have a higher than average IQ. The reason, quite simply, is that science and technology have allowed the masses to slip and slide. When was the last time you had to duke it out with a saber tooth tiger while surviving an Ice Age? Indeed, with all the nonsense thrown in the path of progressive thought it's become necessary to significantly lower educational standards over the past half century.

Look At It This Way

We have become so physically comfortable and intellectually lazy that the common man's role has gone from "Lead or get out of the way" to "Lead or get in the way " Solving problems today is easier than ever. Implementing those same solutions, however, is next to impossible. When taken in combination, the fact that high IQ humans are born less frequently and then selected as world leaders less often, points toward a Space Age marked by a decrease in those very same little gray cells that got us out of the Stone Age.

Readers with IQ's of at least 130 may contact the author directly at DrSBMason@aol.com. Those with IQ's below 130 will find their time better spent talking to the cat.

Return to Port Of Call Home Page
Return to February/March 2004 Table of Contents