Monday, August 25, 2014

Is we Geting dummer?

"Are We Becoming More STUPID?" asks the DailyMail.com, to which the initial response could conceivably be, "Well, we're reading your Web site, aren't we?" But I actually do give the Daily Mail credit for covering non-PC stories. Its American online edition will go after stories that the American press---too busy giving each other awards for their courage---is too chickenspit to cover.*

The thesis of the stupidity story is that we reached peak smarts a while back but have been dumbing down in the last decade. The "Flynn effect," wherein better nutrition and living standards are linked to higher IQ, did all it could from the 1930s to the 1980s, but now we're settling in for a long winter's duh. Perhaps it is coming attractions for Kornbluth's "The Marching Morons" and Judge's Idiocracy, wherein dumb people keeping having a dozen kids while smart people have few or none, so the human race devolves into universal dumbassery.

But is this study what it purports to be? We are told that IQs have been declining in the UK, Australia, and Denmark. Although I am unable to parse the actual data, which is behind a paywall, I would like to make some observations and thoughts, in order of increasing importance:

1) The UK, Denmark, and Australia have had unprecedented immigration over the last two decades, primarily made up of people from countries that had inferior infrastructure and education, causing an anti-Flynn effect, if you will. Which leads us to...

2) The longstanding battle over how to measure IQ that controls for education. Intelligence quotient is supposed to be able to determine native intelligence, not how much you've learned in school (fluid intelligence vs. crystallized intelligence, to scrape the tip of the iceberg), which, despite the researchers' best efforts at controls, may be telling us nothing more than that the British, Danish, and Australian school systems suck eggs.

3) The most important thing may be that the culture is declining. People who believe in nothing see little reason to get ahead; people who don't value education don't exercise their minds. Hard work is a sucker's game; doing well in school is playing the toady; faithfulness and family are barriers to the expression of delightful me. What happens when these attitudes are widespread? Hordes of drunken yobs hurling on street corners in every town in the UK that isn't overtaken by Muslims, if you read Theodore Dalrymple. When there's no faith in the decency of society, no desire for self-improvement or even willingness to tolerate self-improvement in others, no belief in morals from an unimpeachable source, no value in self-command, no love for anything but the self (however vile), and no shame in the able-bodied living off the government dime, how smart are you going to bother to be?

I mean, XTC's "The Mayor of Simpleton" is considered not a sweet song of irony now, but rather a career option.


Learning is hard and even painful; the smartest kid on the block is going to be a dumbbell by any measure if everyone around him is a dumbbell too. If this report of decline in intelligence is accurate, I am certain that the main reason is a decline in our society. Once again we are surprised that when we saw off the legs, the table does not float.

* Fear of losing access in Washington is one reason; dishonesty for fear of giving their ideological opponents an advantage may be worse. Then there's the PC stuff, the terror of terrorists, and so on. There are obvious and even tragic examples of real press courage, of course, but almost never in domestic news coverage.
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