Is pampered humanity getting steadily less intelligent?

Published on February 5, 2013   ·   No Comments

Humans reached a peak of intelligence more than 2,000 years ago and it’s been downhill ever since, a scientist speculates

Our intellectual powers may have been on the wane since the invention of agriculture, according to a Stanford geneticist. Photograph: PA

Since modern humans emerged from the evolutionary brambles of our ancient ancestry, our bodies and minds have been transforming under the pressures of natural and sexual selection. But what of human intelligence? Has our cognitive ability risen steadily since our forebears knapped the first stone tools? Or are our smartest days behind us?

Gerald Crabtree, a geneticist at Stanford University in California, bets on the latter. He believes that if an average Greek from 1,000 BC were transported to modern times, he or she would be one of the brightest among us. Our intellectual prowess has probably been sliding south since the invention of farming and the rise of high-density living that it allowed, he claims.

In two articles published in the journal Trends in Genetics, the scientist lays out what might be called a speculative theory of human intelligence. It is, he admits, an idea that needs testing, and one that he would happily see proved wrong.

At the heart of Crabtree’s thinking is a simple idea. In the past, when our ancestors (and those who failed to become our ancestors) faced the harsh realities of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, the punishment for stupidity was more often than not death. And so, Crabtree argues, enormous evolutionary pressure bore down on early humans, selecting out the dimwits, and raising the intellect of the survivors’ descendants. But not so today.

Read More: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2012/nov/12/pampered-humanity-less-intelligent?intcmp=239

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