by Chauncey Tinker – 14 Jun 2018
It has been reported this week that a study has shown that IQ test results in European countries have been falling steadily for children born from 1975 onward. The study stated that IQ results fell by approximately 7 points per generation, a very significant drop (there were some smaller variations between countries apparently). Before this point, IQ test results had been steadily rising since the Second World War, a trend that has been called “the Flynn effect”. The study included a very large sample in Norway and it also seems to correlate with what is happening in other Western countries including the UK, according to the researchers.
I get a sense that a lot of people today are uncomfortable talking about intelligence, it is still a very taboo subject. However, if average intelligence really is falling at such a rate then this will obviously have all kinds of bad effects on society (e.g. competitiveness in the world economy will be diminished, the viability of democracy may even decrease), and so we need to study what is happening and figure out why it is happening. In short, we need to talk about intelligence.
The nature vs nurture (or environment) debate has been rumbling on for many decades of course. The politically correct view is that intelligence varies according to mainly environmental factors, but as I mentioned in a recent post, most of the data points towards mainly genetic differences (nature). The researchers who produced the recent study may have been succumbing a little bit to the pressure to adhere to the politically correct dogma when they apparently suggested that technology may be a factor behind the trend. I suppose there might be something in this as one factor – if you use a calculator for all calculations your mental arithmetic ability may wane for example.
However I believe that there is a huge largely unmentioned problem with the middle or perhaps we should now call them the working classes having fewer children than what we should probably call the non-working classes. The more intelligent women tend to pursue careers first and have children later (or not at all). I just cannot see how if the more able members of society have less children (than the less able) there will not be an inevitable reduction in average genetic intelligence, and I strongly suspect that this disparity in fertility is the main factor behind the trend shown in the study.
Unfortunately thanks to political correctness there is very little research available on this so it is hard to prove the matter absolutely, but I was at least able to find this one study from New Zealand (2007):
Brainier mums needed to maintain future generations’ intelligence, says professor
“Everyone knows if we only allowed short people to reproduce there would be a tendency in terms of genes for height to diminish. Intelligence is no different from other human traits,”
The study showed that women who went into higher education were having drastically fewer children – only 1.85 children compared to 2.57 for those who did not go into higher education. Of course many intelligent women may choose not to go into higher education (especially considering how much nonsense is taught there nowadays), but I think over the whole population these figures are probably strongly indicative of a tendency for more intelligent women to have fewer children. We really do need more research on this subject.
I do not believe that IQ tests are a perfect measure of intelligence by any means. Although I understand that a lot of research has gone in to ironing out cultural factors, I think it’s possible that an even larger factor has been overlooked, namely concentration. Here is an article from Science Mag that suggests I may have a point:
What Does IQ Really Measure?
The article cites a study where children were offered financial rewards for higher marks in the test. The higher the rewards the better the children performed in the study, by a significant margin. If such a factor as incentives can have so much effect, then I think this suggests that other longer term factors such as self-esteem and family problems will probably have significant effects as well.
All this said, IQ tests are still the only measure of intelligence that we have. I think IQ test results are also likely to be a lot more useful when collected for whole populations, as factors affecting single individuals become less significant.
I believe that average intelligence is falling in all Western countries, and I believe that this is happening because more genetically intelligent women are having fewer children on average, i.e. I believe the trend is a genetic rather than environmental one. I say that I believe these things, but they are only really beliefs because not enough data is available. We urgently need more research on all the above questions. It is time to throw political correctness out of the window and start not only doing more research on these trends but also openly and frankly discussing the results of such research.
From The Week:
Why IQ levels are falling
Flynn effect and its reversal are both environmentally caused
A related article from the New Scientist in 2014:
Brain drain: Are we evolving stupidity?
A Mind Is Changing – Part 1
What do you think? Are we getting dumber and dumber? Please leave a comment below.