Stanford Study Says We’re All Getting Dumber

Posted by Kelli McKinney

dumbing downAnyone who’s ever spent any time watching the evening news has probably thought it: The world and everyone in it seems to be growing progressively dumber. And after a hearty Thanksgiving dinner and subsequent TV-watching coma yesterday, you might feel like you’ve lost a few IQ points yourself.

Well, guess what? At least one person agrees with you (about everyone else, of course!). His name is Dr. Gerald Crabtree, and he is a researcher at Stanford University who is studying the effects of mutation on the genes that are thought to determine intelligence.

Dr. Crabtree’s paper was published in Trends in Genetics, and asserts that civilization has weakened natural selection toward intelligence. In other words, as humans became more verbal and less reliant on hunting, they had less need for a genetic trait that predisposed them to avoid being eaten by mountain lions.

In addition, Crabtree posits that the genes involved with brain function and intelligence are, sadly, particularly vulnerable to mutation. His calculations demonstrate that most people have at least two genetic mutations that make them less emotionally stable and less intelligent.

Now, researchers figure that there are somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000 genes that play a role in human brain function, so there’s no cause for huge alarm. But still – it appears that our default state of intelligence will decline over time.

Crabtree concludes that – in spite of the genetic dumbing down of humankind – there’s no reason to resign ourselves to becoming a species full of cavemen. He predicts that emerging and future technology will help us fine-tune our genetic pool. Which would be reassuring if it didn’t sound a tad bit icky. We’ve all seen what happens to cloned sheep and genetically modified chicken.

Plus, it stands to reason that Dr. Crabtree’s own genetic makeup could fall prey to the mutations and stupefication of the human species. So what does that say about the report? All these things remain to be seen.

At any rate, one sure-fire way for mankind to avoid a reversion to single syllables is an education. Service members have an advantage over most other people in that military education benefits can take a lot if not all of the financial pressure off of pursuing higher education. If there’s anyone I’d trust to reverse the dumbing-down trend in the human species, it would be our brothers and sisters in uniform.


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