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Some would say so, because we are subject to natural selection to a lesser degree than previous generations.
stewartd9 stewartd9 26-30, M 6 Answers Jan 7 in Community

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"We" aren't..but it seems like many people are..and it's being encouraged too.

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Intriguing question and interesting discussion but I have to disagree that 100 years ago children had less knowledge because they left school at 14. My Dad was born in1905 and left school at 14 and adjusting for the different type of knowledge between then and now it seems to me that those who left school at 14 were better educated in comparison with young people today leaving school at 18 often unable to read and write properly and innumerate. But on a different tack this morning it crossed my mind what the effect on society would be if duelling was legalised. As women can learn to shoot as good as men I imagine the treatment of women would improve considerably. It would also be a strong inducement for better manners. Might iron out a few class inequalities too. Increase the death rate which we need and being despatched by a clean shot is a lot better than being mashed in a car crash or dying slowly of cancer. Would also get rid of a few useless hotheads and reinforce the virtue of maturity. And no. I am not a fascist.

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We're definitely devolving when it comes to communication.

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What's with touch screens and heated extremities? We are still evolving I think usually.

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Natural selection is kind of not well understood, and not least that it's an historical term, not current. We're all evolving, inevitably.

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Well, I'd say that we are certainly continuing to change, as there will always be certain environmental factors that force adaptation. And, of course, certain traits will be favored through the process of mate selection. My question was not so much whether we are continuing to be shaped gradually as a species, but whether this process is working in our favor or against it. I feel that, in many ways, we are likely getting worse. Think about it: at this point, weak traits, which would be weeded out of the population naturally for most species, are allowed to survive in humans. We simply provide medical care to those who need it, and traits that might be a serious disadvantage for a tiger mean essentially nothing to us but a few more trips to the doctor every year.
Another thing to consider is that, on average, those with lower IQs have more children. Although we know that IQ is not entirely heritable, it has been shown to be at least 60% genetic. I don't think it takes much of a leap to conclude that the general population is going to remain less intelligent.
In a sense, we've probably devolved a lot in certain ways already. Compare us to our closest relatives - chimps and bonobos. They are significantly stronger than us, and have even been shown to have better short term memory.

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Compare now with 100 years ago. As said before, there are no good old days. These are it. IQ and levels of intelligence and education are far higher. IQ is more shaped too by environmental factors. There's no"natural selection" for human beings - it's an out-moded term from the 19th/early 20th century

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It's true that average IQs have steadily risen every year by about 2 points. If I remember correctly, this is referred to as the 'flynn effect'. I can't account for this. On the one hand, the average educational level has risen a lot since the early 1900s, but I feel that the quality of many educational institutions has decreased. I work with a few people who have only been out of high school a few years, and a surprising number of them - even those who supposedly earned decent grades - don't know anything about history, politics, economics, philosophy, or literature. I've learned from some of them that they didn't have to write essays until they were almost done with school! Where I grew up, we were writing essays in elementary school.
I suppose I went off on a bit of a tangent there, but basically what I'm getting at is that, perhaps, some of the Flynn Effect can be explained by increases in the average level of education, which will probably level off before too long. Couple that with the decreasing quality of education in America, and I see an environment that does not favor increasing IQs. If we consider another aspect of modern life - the increasing reliance of technology - I can imagine certain changes in the intelligence traits that are favored. It doesn't seem like a long shot to say that multi-tasking skills might increase, while overall attention span for individual tasks would decrease. These days, anyone can find an answer within seconds. Anyone can find pre-written essays, etc. All of this encourages the use of short-cuts and probably decreases the odds that people will spend time studying.

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If you look back, you'll see what was known was less than now, and many didn't even go to school or left aged 12-14. Perhaps now ignorance is more noticeable than before, but I doubt ignorance levels are higher than 100 years ago. Short-cuts, having access to knowledge and knowing how to access it aren't bad things. And, use of technology increases thinking. The abacus was technology, and now it's the computer. Maybe take a look at Mind in Society, by Vygotsky.

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I'm not disagreeing with you about general knowledge and average IQ being higher today than 100 years ago. I think that's obviously true. What I'm saying is that I feel there's a good chance that we've kind of reached a peak, and that innate intelligence will decrease. I can't be sure about this - it's just a prediction that seems fairly logical to me. What I feel more certain about is that we are devolving physically. Some may argue that we don't need to be physically well-suited for our environment so long as our technology continues to adapt. I'd say that's true in a sense, but that we are likely to continue experiencing more and more health problems due to the reproduction of genes associated with them. Maybe we'll develop enough technologically that we can fix all of these problems. Let's hope for that.

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Also, I will take a look at Mind and Society. I've actually never read that one.

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Sure, OK. However. we're also stronger and bigger too. Genes always interact with an environment, and it's the environment that will determine those genes the come into play and be created. So behaviour, diet and medicine are mediating factors. You are perhaps unnecessarily pessimistic? If I had a genetic disorder, I know when I'd want to be alive - and it would be now, not 100 years ago :)

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All good points. Perhaps I am overly pessimistic, but I simply can't help but notice certain trends that seem negative to me. It's not as if I am kept up at night by the thought that humanity might keep getting worse and worse. Ultimately, it makes no difference to us, as we have inherited certain genes already and will be dead long before any major changes could possibly be noticed. It's interesting to think about these things, though, and to consider if there's anything that could be done to prevent such decline.

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True enough there are negative trends (obesity, heart disease, deforestation to name a few), but many opposing positive trends too (advances in medicine, health education, protests).

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