Is human intelligence declining? According to a leading geneticist, unfortunately yes.
Look, there’s no easy way to put it. Simply said, it is a great time to be dumb. Everything from pop music to popular films arguably cater to an increasingly unintelligent populous that has lost 14 IQ points on average since the Victorian Era. (1)
Practically speaking, that is the difference between someone with average intelligence and one who is cognitively impaired.
Shifting Human Intelligence
It turns out that in addition to our increasing ditsy-ness, we are becoming an emotionally unstable bunch, too. At least, that is what Stanford University researcher Dr. Gerald Crabtree believes. (2)
“I would be willing to wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions,” Dr. Crabtree concludes. (3)
Is this just evolution?
Don’t feel too bad. We are not entirely to blame for the decline in human intelligence – at least not individually. Dr. Crabtree believes, as stated in his report, it is quite likely that a mutation has occurred in our genes that negatively affects the intelligence and emotional stability of our species.
The increasing ease with which we approach life is to blame, too. The theory of “survival of the fittest” (often credited to Charles Darwin) mandates that only the most genetically sound members of a species will survive long enough to mate and pass on their genes.
But in much of our modern society, the playing field has been levelled by human rights. Statistically speaking, you will live no matter how smart you might be. That’s primarily thanks to the advancements in technology and society that make life a lot easier in much of the world.
However, while this theory and Dr. Crabtree’s hypothesis of genetic mutation do hold merit, are they the only things contributing to the statistically proven fact that we are getting dumber?
Modern Chemicals and Human Intelligence
Enter another study, done by Harvard researchers that appeared in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. As will be unsurprising to many readers of this site, researchers found the amount of fluoride in our water supply to be negatively impacting the neurodevelopment of children. (4)
The report reads, verbatim: (5)
“Children in high-fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those who lived in low-fluoride areas.”
The document also states that this is the 24th study to arrive at this conclusion.
However, fluoride is not the only thing making us dumber – not by a long shot.
Pesticides are also to blame, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (6)
The amount of pesticides found in our foods is quite alarming. Here are a few numbers for reference that were found in a study of various food items by the Pesticide Action Network:
- 54 different pesticides found on spinach, including five cancer-causing ones
- 22 pesticides found on peaches fed to babies
- 26 pesticides found on pears, also fed to babies
Even at low levels of exposure (which obviously isn’t the case in our food system riddled with pesticide use), these chemicals have detrimental effects on the brain development and behavior of individuals.
So you like processed foods?
Well, if they stick around much longer, and things keep going the way they have been in the world, soon the only form of vegetation around will be brain-dead us.
British researchers have found that processed foods also are linked to reduced IQ. Their findings were reported in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, which linked an unhealthy diet to a decrease in the IQ points of young children. (7)
This directly contrasts with “health-conscious” children, who faced an IQ increase.
So from gene mutations to our hacking of natural selection right through to fluoride and our diets, we are essentially as a society making ourselves dumber and dumber with time.
Are there solutions?
Yes, there are things you can do to combat this loss of human intelligence. We can all advocate for a cleaner environment. But until our produce is grown without chemical pesticides, be sure to thoroughly wash them off.
Avoid genetically modified foods (GMOs) and Go Organic! Industrial chemicals may cause more harm than good.
Get outside into the sun and onto the earth. Stress impacts our minds, too, so destressing is a brain-boosting strategy.