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David H. Freedman’s “The War on Stupid People” (The Atlantic) provides a compelling argument that we collectively assign great weight to the trappings of intelligence. Academic credentials, standardized test scores, a professed interest in technology, and even the right kind of physical appearance (glasses, not too athletic) all serve as easily recognizable markers of intelligence, which is to say that they indicate that a given person conforms to the stereotypes associated with this trait. And superficially, Mr. Freedman appears correct in that we almost certainly do assign people who conform to the brainy stereotype more status than we would have years prior.

To argue that this indicates that the less intellectually gifted among us are doing worse than they did in the past–that they suffer more than they would have before the most recent iteration of the technological era–or even that we genuinely value intelligence itself (rather than just the indicators of it), requires a leap in logic over a canyon of evidence that we would do well not to ignore. The issue here (and the source of my disagreement with Mr. Freedman) is that of the difference between the trappings of intellect and its actual presence.

That the visible signifiers of intellect–myopia and a lack of athleticism–indicate very little should surprise none of us. The first may well have once been an authentic badge of studiousness, but it is just as likely to be gained at present from interacting with a computer and engaging in tasks that may not require much in the way of intellectual rigor. As for a lack of athleticism, it too might have indicated a life of the mind decades ago. The underdeveloped body and weak eyes of the scholar–of someone who spent years on end poring over tome after tome of esoterica in long dead tongues–may well have once been legitimate points of feeble-framed pride. Now, such a body is the default in many countries. A life free of brutal exertion (and the poor muscle tone and weak eyes to match this privileged state) indicates nothing more than that one has had a fairly normal first-world existence.

What of education? Although college attendance rates are slightly lower than they were in 2011, the number of Americans enrolled in college as of 2013–the latest year for which I was able to find reliable numbers–remains extraordinarily high, with 40.0% of 18-to-24-year-olds attending college. Certainly, this appears to indicate that intelligence and intellectual rigor are more valued than they were in dark and ignorant industrial and pre-industrial days.

Appearances can be deceiving.

While intellectual capacity does correlate to a certain extent with educational attainment, that relationship varies greatly from one major to the next, and to regard level of higher education as a proxy measure of intelligence (and the growth of higher education as a testament to the increasing importance of intelligence on a societal level) is to hazard making at least one of several errors.

Even if one does take the Flynn effect–the long-term increase in raw (unadjusted) intelligence test scores–as a sign of increasing intelligence of the general population, rather than as a sign of increased testing aptitude, we need not believe that less intelligent people are suffering discrimination, only that their offspring, just as the offspring of essentially everyone else, are becoming more intelligent. This isn’t discrimination. It’s a rise tide raising all ships. Even then, we might do well to not make too much of the Flynn effect, which has only been observed since the 1930s–when IQ tests became commonplace. Extrapolating larger long-term historical trends from observations made from thereabouts of 1930 to 1980 leads to absurd results with which any sane person is likely to take issue, and considered carefully, an examination of the Flynn effect, even within its established timeframe, leads to more questions than answers.

Assuming an average improvement of about three IQ points per decade since the beginning of the industrial revolution leads to the conclusion that an ordinary American living during the Civil War would, if tested on modern instruments, have an IQ of around 55–effectively being incapable of performing even the simplest tasks of soldiering. Too far back, you say? Well, what if we go back a mere 86 years, to around the beginning of the modern dataset? If such is accurate, the average American living in 1930 would have had the intellectual capacity of a modern American with an IQ of slightly more than 74, which would suggest that even moderately difficult intellectual tasks would have beyond the vast majority of the populace. Even if we allow that the Flynn effect stopped in the 1990s (and a limited amount of evidence suggests that it has begun to reverse), the better part of the American population in 1930 would be deemed quite dull by modern standards. Given the politics of 1930s America and the aggressive (and presumably politically progressive) push for eugenics, it is a wonder that any of our forebears (or at least those living in Indiana) were allowed to reproduce.

On the contrary, there is some evidence that intellectual ability has decreased significantly over the last few thousand years. Gerald Crabtree, a professor at Stanford University, suggests that intelligence and emotional stability are the result of the interaction of many genes, rather than a few, and that this makes both traits relatively fragile and subject to decline without ongoing selection pressure to eliminate genetic errors. Additional research by Woodley, Nijenhuis, and Murphy indicates that mean simple reaction time–a relatively straightforward and culturally unbiased measure of intellect–has increased in the developed world, suggesting that we process information more slowly than did our ancestors and are, in effect, somewhat less intelligent than were they. If such is the case, the argument that less intelligent people are penalized more for their dimwittedness than were premodern dullards simply does not hold water. Were such the case and the legions of duh facing greater disadvantages as society develops, one would expect to see selection pressure in favor of increased intellect. Of course, such a mechanism would probably not be perfect, but it would have at least some effect.

These two positions are not entirely contradictory. The Flynn effect was observed over a relatively short period of time, whereas Professor Crabtree’s thesis covers thousands of years. Conceivably, both could be correct. As anyone who has carefully studied economic or marketing data can attest, trend lines are rarely perfectly smooth. Even if a pattern looks reasonably consistent over epochs, small variations will occur in short timespans that seem to be in opposition to the larger direction of movement. With some evidence of the Flynn effect having stopped or reversed, the 1930s to the 1980s may have been nothing more than a flutter in the larger pattern of degeneration. The findings of Woodley, Nijenhuis, and Murphy, based on two datasets–the first gathered before the Flynn effect was identified and the second gathered after it appears to have stopped (and possibly begun to reverse)–may have simply skipped over the time period during which the Flynn effect was, well, in effect. Even this doesn’t entirely explain the discrepancy in results, but such might be attributed to 19th century instrumentation error. Perhaps the older response time recording devices ran a bit slow, causing the researchers of the era to underreport the time required for their subjects to complete a given task, making the data meaningless. One could also argue that the 1930s just happened to be about the time when the intellectual capacity of homo sapiens bottomed out–the point of peak idiocy–and that, at least intellectually, things are looking up. The early 20th century itself might have simply been highly anomalous–a few decades in which childhood nutrition was unusually bad or the presence of industrial neurotoxins (lead, namely) was unusually high–and the Flynn effect indicates nothing more than a return to mean. Which of these hypotheses is correct (or if they are all incorrect) is a question not easily answered, but if nothing else, one can very sensibly argue that evidence of increasing human intelligence is mixed.

All of this discussion of genetics and simple reaction times is a bit dry, so a hypothetical may be in order to clarify which larger pattern seems more plausible across the generations.

As an intellectual exercise, let’s consider the wages of stupidity in modern and pre-modern (pre- 20th century) times and try to answer a highly pertinent question: does the world suffer fools more or less gladly than she did in days of yore?

To keep things simple, we’ll only create two characters. Please keep in mind this is an intellectual exercise, not a proper experiment, so an n of 2 is fine. Both of our characters are from the same family and live in the same place–let’s say the long-settled American Southeast, although it could just as easily be in any number of regions. These people are only separated by time. The first, I.M. Dunce Sr., was born in 1850, supposedly of good Scottish stock, although rumor has it the name was originally (horror of horrors) Duncé. The second, I.M. Dunce IV, was born in 1985.

I.M. Dunce Sr. was a subsistence farmer who raised root vegetables, greens, apples, cotton, and hogs. He also grew tobacco as a cash crop. His wife, Jane Dunce (née Stump), worked on the farm as well, and in addition to fulfilling her agricultural and childrearing duties, she made most of the family’s clothes, largely from cloth woven by Mr. Dunce on a loom of his own construction. Now, before one attacks any of this as being even slightly over the top, I would point out that I am essentially describing the life of my maternal great-grandparents as reported to me by grandmother, who was from the Kentucky side of Appalachia–pretty close to the Dunce family farm. Such handed-down lore isn’t infallible, but what is?

Both Mr. and Mrs. Dunce were literate, as was the majority of the white population of America in the 19th century (non-white literacy rates were somewhat lower–an unfortunate fact that does not undermine the larger argument). Although they rarely had the time to read, the Dunces had a small library that consisted of the Bible, a farmer’s almanac, a few volumes of poetry, and a copy of Common Sense that had been in the Dunce family collection since colonial days.

In a typical year, the Dunces needed to gauge the appropriate time to plant their crops, plow their fields, plant aforementioned crops, tend to them, harvest them, raise and slaughter animals (as well as preserve the meat from these animals), and store food for the winter. They also needed to produce their own garments, avoid major infection, avoid snakebites, and maintain their property (including their house and barn).

Here are the natural penalties for failing to do any of these tasks properly:

* miscalculating when to plant crops: death by starvation

* improperly planting crops: death by starvation

* improperly harvesting or storing crops: death by starvation (a popular outcome it seems)

* receiving an injury and not tending to it in a timely manner: death by infection

* getting bitten by a poisonous snake: death by venom/infection

* failing to maintain their property: death by freezing, death by fire, or death by disease

* stepping on a nail while maintaining said property: death by tetanus (a decidedly less-than-wonderful way to expire, smiling or not)

Did I mention that the Dunces’ lives were hard, often terribly so?

Nature–at least that of the senior Dunce’s time–ran a trophy shop, and passed out Darwin Awards without about as much hesitancy as modern primary schools do participation medals and martial arts academies do Best Kicker awards and yellow belts.

Now, let’s consider the life of a descendant of the elder Dunce–I. M. Dunce IV. The younger Dunce earned a bachelor’s degree from a department in a university that would rather not claim him (although it had no problem taking his student loan dollars). Young Dunce works in an office. He buys his food at a store–the same one where he buys his clothes and medicine. Although he is incapable of making anything of material worth, the younger Dunce occasionally posts videos of product reviews and political ramblings, of some of which he is quite proud. He nearly led a Twitter mob once, but regarding what he can no longer recall. He started college reading at the 7th grade level–somewhat below the level required to read the elder Dunce’s King James Bible (although the younger Dunce could probably make sense of the almanac, assuming he was familiar with the concept of lunar phases)–and like many of his college-educated peers, left college with the same (academically) virginal mind with which he entered, despite 13 hours a week of study–a truly heroic effort.

In a typical year, Mr. Dunce needs to drive to and from work, enter data and take phone calls at the office, pay bills and taxes, buy food, and periodically take his car in for maintenance. In the event his home suffers from an electrical or plumbing problem, he can call an electrician or a plumber. He does not need to sow, reap, slaughter, or preserve anything; have any knowledge of the seasons the basics of animal husbandry; or make any of the goods he consumes.

Here are the penalties for failing to do any of these tasks properly:

* entering data and taking phone calls: losing his job, having to get on unemployment

* paying bills and taxes: disconnection of services, fines, fees, and (worst case scenario, for taxes) prison

* buying food: having to make a late night run to Dominoes

* taking his car in for maintenance: having to walk to a service station

I’ve saved driving for last, as the consequence for doing it improperly can be severe, although advances in safety technology have made this task easier and safer than it was in years past. (Mr. Dunce III did, after all, need to learn how to operate a manual transmission–something that even a great many of the car thieves of the young Dunce’s generation cannot manage, much to the amusement of elder purloiners everywhere.)

That the use of modern technology requires considerable intellectual effort and ability–that we must be smarter to survive in a technological world–is one of the most commonly made arguments in support of the idea that civilization now demands more of our intellects (and those of the Dunces and their mouth-breathing brethren) than it did in the good old days. Allow me to counter this in no uncertain terms.

The design of modern systems does, of course, require considerable intellect, but the usage thereof is another matter. The elder Dunce would almost certainly be confounded by his descendant’s smartphone, but would the younger Dunce be any less confounded by his forebear’s collection of farm implements or plants, each with their own requirements for care and cultivation? Complex machines do not necessarily make for complex operation, and a great many highly sophisticated machines may actually demand less of their users than did their comparatively primitive antecedents.Modern (2016) computers are several million times more powerful than the mainframes of the 1960s and 1970s, yet they are far easier to use than were their predecessors, and certain modern planes and automobiles are at least moderately automated.Such isn’t always a positive development, however, as it may well lead to dangerous overreliance on automation, and they may not be as capable as we think.


Considering all of the safety measures built into the machines we use today and the subsequent warnings and cautions attached, we must all but go out of our way to hurt ourselves (which we sometimes do). One wonders how well the modern consumer would fare on the savannah, or even in a factory built with the limited safety equipment of 50 years ago. The modern lawnmower’s blades are better than a tiger’s maw, for at least the lawnmower has a sticker adjacent reading “Do not insert hands here!” I doubt that most tigers would provide such a helpful hint.

Credentials and the intellectual aesthetic–both of these markers of intellectual development are more readily available than they were in years past. Educational credentials are expensive financially, but as for the cost in terms of intellectual effort, one may argue that they have become quite cheap. Even more advanced degrees, such as the JD, generally have lower admissions standards than they did years prior. One may argue that this system is superior to the one that came before it–one in which a great many lawyers were self-taught–yet self-study produced Abraham Lincoln, whereas a great many of our weaker law schools produce students oftentimes unable to pass the bar. This isn’t an entirely fair comparison, of course, as many of those who studied for the bar independently probably failed as well; however, the investment of community resources in such self-starters was comparatively little, and reading the law does not require the accumulation of significant debt.

All of this is to say that while signifiers of intelligence may be more socially relevant than they were in the past, the importance of intelligence itself, as enforced by social and natural selection pressures, is probably less than it was in any previous time in the existence of the species. In fact, the massive increase of credentials’ in our society may be due to our increasing hesitancy to evaluate people based upon their intelligence.

Furthermore, educational achievement is affected by factors unrelated to intellectual capacity, and often enough to undermine claims of credentials being reliable systems for sorting people by cognitive ability. Certainly, family socioeconomic status (SES) has some bearing on academic achievement, but even if one subscribes to the (somewhat controversial) theory of Charles Murray that family SES is a meaningful indicator of family intelligence and one believes that intelligence is highly heritable, as was argued by Benyamin et al., good evidence for the relevance of non-intellectual personal differences in determining academic achievement cannot be readily dismissed. For instance, Duckworth and Seligman found that women do not have higher IQs than men, yet they are more likely to achieve high grades in secondary school and are more likely to earn college degrees. These researchers attribute this to differences in self-discipline, which although a useful trait, is distinct from intelligence. This would suggest that employers may be, unintentionally or not, using academic credentials to select employees at least partially on their demonstrated self-discipline, rather than their sheer intellectual capacity. If one chooses to view academic credentials with a somewhat more jaundiced eye, they may be seen as proof of willingness to comply with complex bureaucratic procedures without complaint–certificates of conformity, in effect.

The growth of credentialism may have less to do with even needing the appearance of intellectual capacity and more to do with our aforementioned growing hesitancy to rely on genuine intelligence-based assessments. In a wonderfully detailed history of the case, David Garrow notes that prior to Griggs v. Duke Power Company, general measures of intelligence were given as part of employment-screenings with little legal restriction, and although such tests are still used from time to time (largely by government agencies), their application is severely limited. From a purely rational and economic standpoint, this necessitates a different sort of screening measure for employers, particularly when hiring for jobs that require little in the way of objectively measureable technical skills, and academic credentials seem to fill the bill. It should be noted, however, that Chief Justice Burger, writing for the majority, criticized “the inadequacy of broad and general testing devices as well as the infirmity of using diplomas or degrees [emphasis mine] as fixed measures of capability.” This suggests that using academic credentials as an arbitrary sorting tool–which appears commonplace–may be of questionable legality as well, although it seems to have tolerated the test of time far better than has testing itself.

As for common college entrance tests, namely the ACT and the SAT, acting as intelligence screening tools (and thus keeping or discouraging the weak-minded members of society from attending college) there is some compelling evidence that they once may have been just that, but much (although not all) of the research suggesting this was conducted either during the late 1970s or early 1980s or used datasets gathered during that time. It is important to note that both the SAT and the ACT were changed several times over the last few years, with certain components strongly correlated with intelligence, such as analogies, being dropped. Given these restructurings, both of these assessments are probably less IQ-test like than they were even a generation ago, and certain high-IQ societies will not accept scores from either of these tests if administered within the last twenty years.

To a certain extent, information from ACT, Inc. (the developer of the ACT) agrees with the college readiness information Mr. Freedman cites regarding its competitor–the SAT. Somewhat less than 30% of those who took the ACT were found to be ready for college in all tested domains (mathematics, English, reading, and reasoning). This may be less of an obstacle than it appears on the face. Even if one does believe that SAT (or ACT) scores are good measures of IQ and that one does need a certain IQ to attend college as an ordinary student, the matter of remedial classes and their rapid growth need be taken into account. With 60% of community college students and 20% of four-year students enrolling in what amount to (very expensive) high school classes, it is difficult to argue that only the reasonably qualified are gaining admission to college.

Although Mr. Freedman may not have necessarily intended to make economic inequality the centerpiece of his work, it does appear to be relevant to his argument, and inequality has grown very substantially in the United States, now approaching a level last seen in the Roaring Twenties. To take this as a sign of a developing meritocracy, regardless of how desirable or undesirable one considers such a society to be, is to demonstrate a profoundly naive understanding of the roles of credentials and credentialing institutions in our nation–both of which serve at least as much as parts of an elaborate status signaling system as they do anything else.

Social connections, wealth, birthplace (urban, suburban, or rural), discrimination (be it officially condoned or condemned), and a willingness to unquestioningly toe the party line may well give some people advantages over others in both the labor and educational marketplaces, and our higher educational system does at least as much to formally recognize and crystalize these status differences as it does to counteract them. There is much to be said for addressing this matter by providing all Americans with educational opportunities and resources commensurate with their abilities, interests, and level of dedication, which would be distinct from the current practice of trying to convince all and sundry that they should aspire to become members of the academic, managerial, or professional class–a practice founded upon a surprisingly old-fashioned (and not particularly wise) disdain for more practically minded pursuits.

That much said, those who would have us believe that higher educational institutions are the only (or even the primary) educational resource in our society and that credentials from such institutions are the only meaningful way to demonstrate intellectual competence are either woefully rigid and uncreative in their thinking or are, worse yet, shills for an ever-growing educational bureaucracy, the existence of which is largely predicated on the argument that you don’t know it unless we say you do!

To address the issues of inequality and the undermining of the wellbeing of America’s hardest working citizens is both noble and necessary. With this many will agree; however, such would constitute efforts toward a meritocracy, not away from one. As it stands, Mr. Freedman’s argument gives our educational institutions and our nation both more and less credit than they deserve. The ways in which this argument over-credits us are relatively obvious, as is the potential harm: the myth of the efficiently recognized (and entitled) meritocracy allows the more credentialed members of our society to grow smug, even more than they already are. They win because they are better! (Cue Teutonic song of your choice, although preferably not “99 Luftballoons.”) But it affords us too little credit as well. As a society, we’ve spent tremendous resources trying to idiot-proof almost every interaction and task, from birth to retirement and everything in between (sometimes with counterintuitive results). This is no mean feat: Idiots can be surprisingly clever. Your lawnmower’s dead man’s switch almost certainly cost an engineer a weekend and an idiot a foot, and your car’s backup proximity alarm may well have cost idiot and engineer alike a great deal more than that. And thanks to advances in the fortification of food, one would almost need to try to become malnourished, whereas in the past, one needed take substantial and frequent steps to avoid the many horrible ailments of the vitamin and mineral deprived.

The point of all of this is not to argue that being an idiot is not a disadvantage–it is. Rather, being an idiot is now less harmful to one’s chances of survival or the survival of one’s offspring than it would have been in any previous time in human history, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that we will not continue to further soften nature’s brutal pummelings of the cognitively challenged. Nature will remain merciless, and woe unto the fool who steps outside his (or her) foolproof environs without adequate preparation, but we’ll keep adding ever more padding until the furious beatdowns of a vicious universe feel as though they are little more than love taps.

As for the credentialing of the nation and tying that to economic success, what is to be done? If the history of secondary school is any guide, I fear that we’ll almost certainly keep lowering our already modest standards until anyone and everyone willing to agree with the ideology of the month gets a feel-good certificate–er, degree–with an ever-larger number of graduates only achieving the most basic levels of literacy (as is sometimes already the case). Until then, remind all those you hold near and dear, particularly the young, that credentials are not always tickets to the upper class.

• Category: Science • Tags: Education, IQ 
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  1. Joe Mack says:

    The black box of technology slides into more and more of our lives so we cannot repair anything electronic. Coding? Way above 7th grade English.
    But, there is always “drawing.”
    What you gonna do when you grow up? “Draw.” From 4th graders I know of in SW VA, WVA, East TN and KY. Do not doubt it is the plan for many across these United States, probably spoken in Spanish now as well. White, Black, Brown, happy to be sponges in a society where they will never add a penny of value.
    God, America is screwed.

  2. Just how strongly correlated with IQ are reaction times? Common sense would suggest reaction times are more strongly related with temperament. For example, impulsive extroverts tend to be more quick-witted than non-impulsive introverts, but their is no evidence that they are more intelligent. Indeed, one of the negative stereotypes of high IQ nerds is that they are book smart but lack situational awareness, a trait that is, in part, dependent on quick reactions.

    • Replies: @another fred
  3. Realist says:

    “While intellectual capacity does correlate to a certain extent with educational attainment, that relationship varies greatly from one major to the next, and to regard level of higher education as a proxy measure of intelligence (and the growth of higher education as a testament to the increasing importance of intelligence on a societal level) is to hazard making at least one of several errors.”

    Universities have lowered their standards considerable and increased their offering of low value/low intelligence classes and courses of study.

  4. Jason Liu says:

    Nothing a few wars and famines wouldn’t fix, hm?

    You could have a society that cares for the weak, while practicing more honest forms of meritocracy. Such is China, at least for now. The west’s coddling of the inferior is purely an ideological phenomenon. That deep-seated desire to portray everyone as equals will eventually have dysgenic consequences.

    • Replies: @another fred
    , @rod1963
  5. Jason Liu says:

    This quote from the article.

    But a sentence from his new book is nagging away at me. American blacks, it says, “come from a cognitively restricted subculture”. This is hugely sensitive territory because, while it may be good to say genes don’t make people stupid, it isn’t so good to tell anyone their way of life does. Flynn, however, makes no apologies. “It’s whites, not blacks, who complain,” he says. “Blacks know the score. Facts are facts.”

    Whiny white liberals holding back serious conversation about intelligence because inequality hurts their feels. And Flynn is himself an admitted socialist, saying this.

  6. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    failing to maintain their property: death by freezing, death by fire, or death by disease

    By fire?

    • Replies: @Alfred1860
    , @bomag
  7. @Anonymous

    Why do you think Dubya spent all that time clearing brush on his Texas ranch?

  8. @Joe Mack

    God, America is screwed.

    We are witnessing how Rome became Italy.

    • Replies: @Olorin
    , @Rich
  9. @unpc downunder

    I’m no expert on this, but I think they are talking about different reaction times than the introvert/extrovert kind which are more related to MAO-A and suppression of action.

    Slow reaction times are indicative of attention deficit (adult type, not hyperactivity). In general reaction correlates well with IQ until you get to the high IQ attention deficit types.

  10. @Jason Liu

    That deep-seated desire to portray everyone as equals will eventually have dysgenic consequences.


  11. bomag says:

    By fire?

    A not insignificant number of people die in house fires.

    Gotta keep things clean around the fireplace.

  12. bomag says:
    @Joe Mack

    …a society where they will never add a penny of value.

    As we head into a more complicated machine world, that will more and more be a common fate.

    Will we trend dystopia or utopia? Thieving urchins scrabbling on the edges of machine land, or a well kept leisure class?

    • Replies: @Jus' Sayin'...
  13. in the developed world, suggesting that we process information more slowly than did our ancestors and are, in effect, somewhat less intelligent than were they

    Or also because developed world increased the charge of things we need process in the brain than in the past when people were more practical than theoretical, reducing the ”mental agility”, or not.

    piece and love for all!!!1

  14. nsa says:

    Hominid brain size increased about 8 cc per year from 800,000 years ago to about 10,000 years ago….the peak of cranial capacity. In the last 10,000 years, cranial capacity has decreased about 150 cc i.e. about 200,000 years worth of evolutionary increase has been lost. What happened? It’s called the agrarian revolution…. the transition from the very dangerous and demanding world of the hunter-gatherer to the less demanding world of farming. It is an established scientific fact that intelligence is directly related to brain size in all hominids…..sorry, negroids and chicks. Think about it….10,000 years of shrinking brain size has resulted in serious DEVOLUTION. If you do not believe it, spend some time wandering around your local walmart…….

    • Replies: @Jus' Sayin'...
  15. Reaction times seems measured PART of genotypical/instinctive intelligence…



  16. With some evidence of the Flynn effect having stopped or reversed, the 1930s to the 1980s may have been nothing more than a flutter in the larger pattern of degeneration.

    Flynn Effect has been measured via generations of the same families**

    If avg iq of americans in the 30’s was, ”by today standards” (i never understand it), ~70, so

    iq is even less relevant to ”measure” intelligence(s) than i had thought

    the grandparents of americans are ”retarded”

    but not…

    post modernity idiocy is just a direct degenerative cult than a ”sustainable” old-world idiocy (christianism, conservorism, etc)

  17. The higher the efficiency of technology to do things for us the higher will be the dependence of humans to the machines and the lower will be the imperative necessity to be smart[er]. At priori.

    Seems drive a old car seems more complex/more manual (or Trabant, 😉 ) than drive a new model, more automatic/a lot of automatic dispositive. Old cars require more directly intelligence than new cars. (or not).

    Based on this [d]evolution in the future a ”avg joey” (myself for example) will be completely apt to drive a boeing, he only will need learn what the bottom he need to press.

    And the easy to use ”our” technological inventions, we won’t need learn, read the manual, and this may have a impact. (or not)

    Just compare people with 40 year old or more trying to use new technological inventions and compare with facility that children today, many to most of them, have to learn and use it.

    And compare how lazy children today, on avg, are to learn ”old things”.

  18. utu says:

    What does the IQ test measure? The results of the IQ test is the IQ score with the emphasis on the score. The IQ score is all what we get from empirical stand point. But in the text above the IQ score was reified and referred to as just IQ and no longer the score. So what is IQ? What is its ontic existence? What kind of animal is it? To which cage in the Zoo does it belong?

    Can one take a poor IQ test performer and train them to make the IQ test savvy to improve their score? How much their test can be improved. Suppose that Robert Baxter’s IQ test score was 107 this year. Can we train him to pass the test at 121 level? Would his writing quality improve? No. If he wants to improve his writing skills he must train writing. His IQ score will not change but perhaps his texts will be more readable.

    • Replies: @Jus' Sayin'...
  19. @bomag

    Intelligence is not always a good thing and society actually needs a distribution of intelligence from pretty damn dumb to Einsteinian in order to function well. I wouldn’t want a highly intelligent person checking boxes on the same list of critical checks of airplane safety, plane after plane, day after day, until retirement. The brain of a highly intelligent person is likely to wander if compelled into performing such an almost literally mind-numbingly “mindless” task. Disaster may ensue. OTOH, back in the 1970s, the US Navy learned at a cost of $2 million, that assigning a person who scored exceptionally low on the AFQT to turbo engine maintenance is another recipe for disaster. I’m sure readers can come up with scores of examples from either end of the intelligence spectrum. The bottom line is that complex societies require a very large spectrum of talents distributed in a wide variety of ways across individuals.

    • Replies: @bomag
  20. @nsa

    Hominid brain size increased about 8 cc per year from 800,000 years ago to about 10,000 years ago….the peak of cranial capacity.

    Wow!!! We’ve really devolved from our ancestors’ peak cranial capacity of 60+ liters!

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
    , @nsa
  21. @utu

    What does the IQ test measure?

    Wrong question! A better one might be with what do IQ tests correlate? Some answers: (1) academic capability [the reason Binet originally developed the concept]; (2) academic success; (3) career and financial success; (4) likelihood of marrying; (5) likelihood of having a successful marriage; (6) likelihood of avoiding criminal activity and legal entanglements; (6) life expectancy at any age; (7) general health; (8) likelihood of avoiding death by accidental means; (9) most cultures have words similar to “smart” and “stupid” cross-cultural studies show that IQ scores correlate well with how people are characterized using these terms.

    IQ is also strongly correlated with biological factors that what we might intuitively expect to be related to efficient mental functioning: (1) cranial capacity and brain size; (2) galvanic skin response, i.e. speed at which neurons pass signals; (3) density of neurons and neuron connections in the forebrain; (4) alleles associated with differential production of fatty acids involved in neuron functioning.

    That’s off the top of my head but still a pretty strong argument that IQ is a useful and important measure of something even if we do not know and/or cannot precisely define what that something is.

    • Replies: @Santoculto
  22. Good article.

    The Chinese have undertaken a massive study of the genetic origins of intelligence. BGI Cognitive Genomics is currently conducting research into the genetic basis of human intelligence through the study of approximately 4,000 world-class geniuses, those of Asian and White European ancestry. The participants are screened by their scores on IQ tests, SAT’s, mathematics aptitude, and, of course, their genetic profile. Some of these people have IQ’s so high that they can only be estimated…I read a magazine article some years ago about a Chinese girl who had an estimated IQ of approximately 300!

    No one knows how long this study will take as there are thousands of genes involved in human-level intelligence, but, BGI has more state-of-the-art sequencing equipment in their labs than all the research labs, both academic and commercial, in all of Europe combined. Yeah, the Chinese are hot for genetic knowledge…their long range plan is to sequence every living thing on earth! I would imagine that the Chinese scientists will also be conducting parallel studies into the epigenome of these super-genius phenotypes, as well, since the CRISPR/Cas 9 system can now be modified to enable the study/editing of the epigenome directly.

    Once the Chinese researchers identify the genes responsible for human intelligence they will, at a minimum, be able to do Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis of embryos and screen for high intelligence. A couple would then be able to select the very best, out of hundreds of potential embryos to be implanted. This alone will give the Chinese a huge advantage over those nations that may prohibit such testing based on the Cultural Marxist psychobabble that Western nations can’t seem to resist.

    At any rate, it won’t be long before we will be able to genetically modify our offspring to be super healthy, super smart, and super good looking…the question is, will the powers-that-be ALLOW us to do it? I hope so. What about those of us who are already grown with our physical architecture now locked in place? We won’t be able genetically modify ourselves to be super geniuses, but, we will be able to extensively modify our epigenomes to boost our intelligence by at least a standard deviation. Eventually we’ll be able to customize our personal phenotypes to include all kinds of beneficial improvements…even in areas of our spirituality, like, for example, raising the Kundalini (a psycho-spiritual energy that, in most people, lies dormant at the base of the spine). Ordinarily, it takes many years of spiritual/physical practice in Kundalini Yoga (or the like) to trigger and raise the Kundalini energy from the base of the spine, up the spine, and into the brain. In some cases the Kundalini is triggered spontaneously through activities like child birth, deep prolonged meditation, or accidents that affect the tailbone. In my case, the Kundalini was triggered through deep, prolonged meditation in the isolation tank. Spontaneous Kundalini awakenings can have profound and devastating impacts on the individual in whom it has been triggered…it can lead to temporary blindness, severe migraine headaches, personality disorders, and even long-term insanity.

    As I mentioned before, the real question is: will we Westerners be able to study and develop the non-medical technology of human genetic modification for enhancement purposes, or will TPTB prevent us from doing so through legislation and a relentless anti-modification propaganda campaign? I see that this propaganda effort has already begun in the US…and I believe it will continue, and intensify, over the coming years. Why would the Jews allow us to have ready access to a powerful technology that would enable us to increase our mental abilities when they’ve spent so much time, effort, and money to basically turn us into stupefied beasts-of-burden? Meanwhile, the wealthy will have easy access to the full range of genetic-enhancement services available in countries like Russia, China, et al.; whether, or not, they take advantage of this technology remains to be seen (the minds of wealthy people are just as susceptible to brainwashing propaganda as anyone else).

    We’re living in an age of technological wonders, and we will all benefit from it IF we’re able to rise up in opposition to Hostile Jewish Elite and seize control of our individual, and societal evolution. The stakes are far higher than most of you realize. If we fail in our efforts to resist the NWO we will find ourselves hopelessly trapped under a totalitarian system of technically imposed oppression that will be unbreakable for thousands of years…if ever.

    • Replies: @bomag
  23. rod1963 says:
    @Jason Liu

    Given how delicate our system is, all it would take now is for EBT cards to stop working for about two weeks for a brutal cull to take place.

  24. @Jus' Sayin'...

    Wow! But also Oops! A good idea to be accurate when picking nits. .

    790,000 x 8 ÷ 1000 = 6320 which is indeed 60+ …. as you said…

  25. bomag says:
    @Anonymous Smith

    In my case, the Kundalini was triggered through deep, prolonged meditation in the isolation tank.

    That was you?

    • Replies: @Anonymous Smith
  26. bomag says:
    @Jus' Sayin'...

    The bottom line is that complex societies require a very large spectrum of talents distributed in a wide variety of ways across individuals.

    Talent all along the spectrum is being displaced by machines. The repetitive “easy” work is the first to go, but every level is pressured. Will we always need people in economic activity? Maybe. But we might all become rent seekers and hobbyists, just divvying up who owns what machines that do all the work.

    • Replies: @Jus' Sayin'...
  27. @bomag

    I suspect that even in the intermediate term – say a century or so – you will be right. Unless our advanced Western society self-destructs in some fashion or another.

    Ultimately the only human demand for human labor may be among the elites who are unlikely to give up, without a massive struggle, the unique joys that come from pushing around other higher-order primates. And as the coming tv series, West World, seems to be suggesting, robots well-designed to function as sex toys, masseuses, etc. may be capable of developing self-awareness and their own proletarian consciousness. Here as in so many areas Marx will likely prove wrong and the post-capitalist future will not be a rosy workers’ paradise.

  28. @Jus' Sayin'...

    That’s off the top of my head but still a pretty strong argument that IQ is a useful and important measure of something even if we do not know and/or cannot precisely define what that something is.

    Intelligence in its primordial concept is

    ”capacity to judge [minimally] correctly” and ALL correct judgments tends to be ”logical” par excellence and at priori.

    This is the core, is the trunk of the tree/umbrella ”intelligence” idea.

    verbal (vocabulary), mathematics and spatial

    the roots of this three extremely important components of human intelligence are


    capacity to give semantic understanding/value/order to the reality (what words tends to do associating symbol with real thing) — organize the world

    capacity to measure the proportionalities or quantitative value of the reality (what numbers tends to do, again, associating numeric symbol with real things) — measure the world

    and similar value to the spatial skills

    Capacity to judge correctly is omniscient in every vaguely smart attitude.

    In the same way creativity is

    – capacity to produce novel judgments via correct/useful/logical–coherent way.

    To survive in the forest, to give the correct answers in tests, to flirt with a person, to build something, to understand politics, to develop a good vocabulary…

    but, seems, most of all this skills already have a genotypical/instinctive roots….

    intelligence, without taking into account the rational/morally correct thinking/approach, is the ”best use you can do about what you already have”

    for example,

    if you have a psychopathic brain, the smarter psychopath will use it based on ”correct judgments”, based on this specific context

    ”born that way” … and ”use this ‘way’ by the ‘best’ ways”

    verbal, spatial and mathematic skills are recent cognitive evolutions via cultural accumulation and sophistication and of course they are pretty useful, but the core of intelligence is in the thinking skills, the capacity to judge correctly… it’s hierarchically primordial.

    intelligence can be easily reduced to just one popular sentence:

    ”if you have lemons make a lemonade”

    But one of the most important aspect of stupidity is

    be stubborn when you are not factually correct.


    commit an mistake one time is normal,

    persist in this error is the true, long-term stupidity… and in ”stable” societies like the modern and developed first world, stubborness is the most popular type of stupidity that people (most of us) tend to commit, what generally in natural world it very likely would mean the death of the stupidly stubborn individual.

  29. Jason Bayz says: • Website

    About the supposedly high intelligence that was necessary to be an Appalachian farmer, I don’t buy it. We look at the things they do, not knowing how to do it, and end up thinking it much harder than the things we habitually do. A group of modern Americans looking on a group of hunter gatherers in Africa might think they are very clever in their hunting techniques. But what would the African hunter-gatherers think of our writing system or our cars? They would judge them almost magic, believing the use of them requires great skill, when we know that any idiot can learn them. Once you learn it, it becomes second nature, and you then believe it requires no intelligence.

    The very stupid, the sub-70 IQ, are more likely to survive and reproduce today then they were in the past. But those who are “dumb” but who can still be functioning members of society, those with IQs of 85, dumber 85% of American of American Whites, they would not have faced much difficulty as an Appalachian farmer. Had they starved to death at significantly higher rates than their smarter cousins, the selection effect would have pushed average IQs up over the centuries. The 85 IQ Appalachian smallholder would have lived little differently from his 100 IQ cousin. But today, the same 85 IQ man would struggle in school, he would be constantly reminded of his intellectual inferiority by his poor man’s job at Wal-Mart. Thus, I believe it is correct to say that intelligence matters much more now than it did in the past.

  30. And cultures are usually produced and populated by greater fraction of the stupid stubborness, in all spheres, moral, scientific, social, political, etc

  31. nsa says:
    @Jus' Sayin'...

    Typo, mate. Average Cranial capacity was 1500 cc 10k years ago…..1350 cc now.

    • Replies: @Jus' Sayin'...
  32. Olorin says:
    @another fred

    Of course, this had nothing to do with it:

    The seeds of that were in Rome’s DNA.

  33. Simple solution: The Boy Scouts/Girl Guides. At least you’ll learn to tie a knot. And socialize.

  34. I used to share a house with an elementary school teacher. She had an undergraduate degree in math, and a MA in “education” – but she was as thick as a brick.
    Observing her, I came to understand credentialism as nothing more than a barrier to entry.
    Q: Why must teachers be certified?
    A: To maintain compensation levels, because practically everyone is qualified.

  35. @bomag

    Yes, it happened to me.

    Do you know about the Kundalini?

    • Replies: @bomag
  36. @nsa

    Fair enough. But a group of British researchers found that contemporary British skulls are on average about 15% larger than skulls from Black Death burials and remains from the Tudor ship Mary Rose. The skulls were also differently shaped. This suggests ceteris paribus that contemporary British descendants of Tudor and Medieval Britons are considerably smarter than their ancestors. (W.P. Rock et al. “A Cephalometric Comparison of Skulls from the Fourteenth, Sixteenth and Twentieth Centuries,” British Dental Journal 200(2006) 33-37 cited in G. Cochran and Henry Harpending, The 10,000 Year Explosion, 2009, Basic Books, New York, page 95 f)

    In their book Cochran and Harpending suggest that a diffused, genetically enhanced ability to innovate (I’m deliberately avoiding use of the word intelligence!) increased cultural innovation starting in the late paleolithic and early neolithic among modern human populations outside sub-Saharan Africa. They further argue that such innovation created strong cultural pressures further selecting for the ability to innovate in these populations. They also seem to argue that this type of selective pressure is continuing to fuel human evolution in groups experiencing this type of evolutionary process.

  37. @Joe Mack

    Reminds me of a scene from a Cormac McCarthy book, I think it was Suttree but memory may not serve, where a dead welfare recipient’s survivors refuse to report the death so that he can keep on drawing on for them.

  38. Bill says:

    the importance of intelligence itself, as enforced by social and natural selection pressures, is probably less than it was in any previous time in the existence of the species.

    The post seems quite wrong-headed to me, and I think this sentence captures the problem. The OP seems to be saying, in the post, that fitness (like number of grandchildren fitness) is less positively affected by intelligence now than it was. I buy this.

    The Atlantic article is saying something pretty different. It is saying that income, social status, and general quality of life are more positively affected by intelligence now than they were. This seems obviously true to me. First, for the reasons the Atlantic author lays out: the social stigma associated with being a geek is much smaller now than it used to be (and perhaps it has even become beneficial rather than stigmatizing). It isn’t just glasses and spindliness, either. Quoting from Monty Python is a lot less likely to get you punched or ostracized today than when I was in high school.

    But it is much broader than that. Freedom, in conjunction with lax regulation, puts a premium on intelligence. It isn’t actually a good idea, life-course-wise, to have sex with lots of people when you are young. Ozzie and Harriet is the best choice for pretty much everyone. It isn’t actually a good idea to lease a car, take out a payday loan, run up a lot of credit card debt, move to a vibrant neighborhood, expose your children to people “different from them,” move away from your kin, find yourself, “take care of me,” &c. But the culture created by Madison Ave and Hollywood constantly tells us the opposite.

    Every bureaucratic organization has two different sets of rules: the ones written down for purposes of defending lawsuites and the ones the organization actually runs by. You are useless as a manager if you follow the wrong ones. And, not only will nobody tell you the right ones (except in whispers over drinks), you will be told explicitly and in writing the wrong ones. Dummies have trouble with this.

    When you are living in an Empire of Lies, being smart enough to detect the lies is really important.

    • Agree: Triumph104
  39. We need to start a dialogue on overturning griggs vs duke power. The doctrine of disparate impact has to be thrown out. Here is a link to a forum held by Jason Richwine along with Amy Wax and Charles Murray. The social costs of that ruling just prove that the equalist fantasy is just that a fantasy.

    • Replies: @Alden
  40. bomag says:
    @Anonymous Smith

    Do you know about the Kundalini?

    Just from casual reading.

    Elements of Eastern mysticism should have some introduction and context in discussions here; otherwise it is kind of jarring.

    • Replies: @Anonymous Smith
  41. Anonymous [AKA "Camillus O\'Byrne"] says:

    Another factor in any real Flynn effect over the period from the 30s to the 90s could be that it correlates with the maximum degree of “skill” required to operate what had become common machines like a lathe, sewing machine or grader. My mother was of average intelligence but could make a professional quality garment by machine and hand. An even just competent fitter and turner is a very capable individual by a number of intellectual yardsticks.
    Since then automation has increased as well as complexity.

    In regard to the lowering of academic standards there is another operative factor than the ability to conform to bureaucratic and institutional/social norms to get ahead. My own experience is that higher than average ethical standards are a barrier to advancement or success in both academia and business. I have failed to complete three different bachelor’s degrees largely because of the energy lost in seeking redress in regard to abysmal staff competency (and in technical subjects like materials science!) which tuition I resented paying for. In business a low tolerance of corruption among colleagues and regulators is also a career /success killer.

    It’s better to be lucky than smart any day 🙂

  42. utu says:

    “I have failed to complete three different bachelor’s degrees largely because of the energy lost in seeking redress in regard to abysmal staff competency ” – Still in denial, right?

  43. I have failed to become an astronaut and land on Mars largely because of the failure of my government to allot the necessary budget, to select me, and to train me for the mission.

    I got my bachelor’s degree though.

  44. Kidding aside, I think the dismal state of our current presidential debates is another indication of the decline addressed here by Baxter.

    All you have to do to grasp this is go back and read the Lincoln-Douglas debates. They were lengthy, deep, well-worded arguments made in front of large, attentive crowds. The modern television wrestling match we call a debate is downright dumb in comparison.

    See for yourself if you haven’t lately:

  45. @bomag

    Elements of Eastern mysticism should have some introduction and context in discussions here; otherwise it is kind of jarring.

    Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to trigger you bro. I don’t have much free time to post stuff on blogs and such. So, I like to get in and out as fast as I can. Aside from the Kundalini, what’d you think of the rest of my post? Pretty fuckin’ spot-on, eh?

    • Replies: @bomag
  46. all measures of intelligence are subjective.
    all iq tests are writing exercises, are they not? no practical testing is done, correct?
    how do you give a written test to a masai tribesman?
    how much of a part does culture play in test designs?
    a computer can beat the best chess player.
    is a computer smarter than a human?

  47. Max Payne says:

    “We all know that light travels faster than sound. That’s why certain people appear bright until you hear them speak.”
    -Albert Einstein

  48. bomag says:
    @Anonymous Smith

    Good post, but calling out the Jews near the end was a trigger too far.

    • Replies: @Anonymous Smith
  49. @bomag

    Most of my posts call out the Jews for one reason or another…that will never change, unless the Jews change, which ain’t gonna happen. Did you know that in the past 2,000 years the Jews have been forcibly expelled a total of 119 times, from 109 different countries? Bet ya didn’t, didja? You gotta be doing some pretty heinous shit, nation-wide, to be booted out that many times…and that’s not counting the thousands of villages, towns, and cities they’ve been marched out of. Hell, even the Romani Gypsies have only been expelled from one or two countries in their entire existence, and they’re pure organized crime!

    Anyhoo…Jews are bad and I call attention to their wickedness, which makes me a galldern Hero! You should be thanking me! 😉

  50. Rich says:
    @another fred

    If only. Looks more like we’re going to become Botswana to me.

    • Replies: @Philip Owen
  51. Alden says:

    I can’t wait until the entire USA rots away due to Grigss vs Duke Power. it’s not just Griggs, its also Kaiser vs Weber but most of all the 1968 affirmative action civil rights law that is ferociously enforced everywhere.

    In perfect tandem with government discrimination against Whites there are the minions of cannibal capitalism determined to replace every American from Doctors to dishwashers with non White immigrants.

    Anyone remember prop 209 1996 in California? We voted to overturn affirmative action in state, county and local government employment and in state of California university and college admissions. The law was upheld by the federal courts in August 1998.

    But the law has been completely and totally ignored because there was no enforcement built into the law. But mostly state, county and local governments and colleges and universities have been able to ignore the law because federal law mandates discrimination against Whites and federal law supersedes state laws.

    And even if we returned to a merit system, the STEM employers would just continue importing Chinese and Indian STEM workers claiming they were more qualified than American Whites. The Food, restaurant, hotel, retail and other industries would just keep using their 800 numbers in Central America and Mexico and bringing their employees in illegally as they do today.

    I have been fighting affirmative action since before the Griggs decision and it is hopeless to fight it legally or with legal means.

    But as I see the black affirmative action morons pouring out of the big federal building a few blocks from my home, I know that with such a federal workforce, it won’t be long before another country, probably China conquers this degenerate country.

    What a system, hire the most unqualified applicant and then when they can’t do the job, harass the other employees and disrupt the workplace as they disrupted the schools they attended, they cant be fired without enormous fines and sanctions by the justice department.

  52. Why shouldn’t people who disagree with this ruling organize themselves for the purpose of overturning it though if you have been waiting that long?

  53. @Rich

    Botswana is not that bad compared to most of Africa. They have made something of their good luck. Now Nigeria …

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