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November 19, 2012

Bad News: The Human Race Has Been Getting Stupider For 10,000 Years

Via Instapundit (with obligatory joke), a geneticist believes human brains were more powerful back when we were hunting mastodons than now when we're hunting to find a new episode of Hoarders.

His argument is based on the fact that for more than 99 per cent of human evolutionary history, we have lived as hunter-gatherer communities surviving on our wits, leading to big-brained humans. Since the invention of agriculture and cities, however, natural selection on our intellect has effective stopped and mutations have accumulated in the critical “intelligence” genes.

“I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas and a clear-sighted view of important issues,” Professor Crabtree says in a provocative paper published in the journal Trends in Genetics.

“Furthermore, I would guess that he or she would be among the most emotionally stable of our friends and colleagues. I would also make this wager for the ancient inhabitants of Africa, Asia, India or the Americas, of perhaps 2,000 to 6,000 years ago,” Professor Crabtree says.

Well no duh on that last one. I'm not sure you can even have petty neuroses in dangerous environment filled with genuine sources of stress and hazard. If your brain is predisposed to worry and stress, it's going to have a lot of serious threats to worry and stress about. There's no such thing as a hypochondriac when the plague is in town.

There's a theory -- I don't know if this is a real theory or just the sort of thing that Adam Carolla says -- that as our environment and diet get cleaner, we actually become more sensitive to allergens. Fear and neurosis almost certainly works that way.


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posted by Ace at 01:20 PM

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