Are we getting stupider?
This is hard to know as we don’t have IQ exams from further back than last century. We have some ways to approximate IQ going back into the mists of time, but those will always get bogged down by debates over methods.Then you have the flat earth types who argue that IQ is not a real thing or that there are multiple forms of intelligence. Just sticking with the good data we have for the last 100 years or so, it does appear that the West is getting dumber. By how much and and how fast is the debate.
Why this could be happening is not much of a debate. There are three reasons related to biology. One is the Idiocracy example. The stupid are breeding like bunnies while the smart are reproducing at less than replacement levels. The high achieving man marries late and marries a high achieving women with a head full of feminist nonsense. They put off childbearing until she can only produce one child. Meanwhile, the guys that cut their grass are knocking up their girlfriends in high school and producing five kids.
Another reason is that stupid people are migrating into Western countries. This is an easy one as we just have to look at the news. The migrants flowing in from south of the equator into Western countries are bringing a mean IQ in the 80’s and sometimes, in the case of Somalis, the 70’s. They also breed like rabbits. A country full of 95-IQ white people that becomes 90% white and 10% Somali will lose almost ten IQ points. This is just an accelerated version of the above answer. It turns out that Magic Dirt is not real.
Finally, the hardest one to grasp is that something has happened to change the evolutionary pressure on the population that is now changing the rewards and punishments. Traits that in the past were punished, thus resulting in fewer children by those with those traits, are now neutral or maybe even slightly favored. We know smart people tend to live longer, so reducing the risk of death by misadventure or even death from common maladies could be lowering the over all IQ of Western populations.
That’s not to say free will is a real thing. Humans are not free to rewrite their personalities anymore than they can make themselves taller. We are the result of our wiring, plus some environmental factors like the community in which we were born, climate and serendipity. Someone born to the Amish will be raised to develop pro-Amish traits and ignore traits that are no useful to the Amish way. Environmental factors may play a small role over all, but they do play some role in what we are as people.
In specific cases, it could have an enormous role. Greg Cochran’s Gay Germ idea is a great example. Homosexuality is most certainly not genetic. Nature works against low-fitness. Males with a trait that sharply reduces their ability (or willingness) to mate will have far fewer offspring and therefore pass on this trait in low numbers. In just a few generations, the trait would die out. In the case of homosexuality, we know there were gay Roman emperors and Elton John is still with us, so this trait cannot be genetic.
Alternatively, homosexuality is either taught or the result of psychological damage done at a young by something like molestation. This is a popular idea on the Right, but it does not explain most cases. Lots of homosexuals grew up fairly normal lives and were simply attracted to the same sex once they hit sexual maturity. That’s where Cochran’s gay germ comes in. Instead of a trauma, it is a virus or parasite that triggers changes in brain chemistry, resulting homosexual behavior. That would provide an answer that fits the data.
Bringing this back to IQ, what if something like this is at work with Western IQ? Maybe not a germ, but environmental factors that are having a cascading effect on mean IQ. For example, such an idea has been posited to explain the spike in black crime. Many on the Left think the Tragic Dirt is contaminated with lead, leading to low-IQ and increased violence for the people living on the Tragic Dirt. It’s not a crazy idea, but like the Gay Germ, it is not proven idea. It’s more of a thought experiment at this stage.
Here’s soemthing else. Smoking rates began to decline in the middle of the last century, with the Baby Boomer interest in health. Nicotine is known to increase focus and increase your cognitive abilities. It’s why writers and computer programmers were all smokers. In fact, STEM fields in the 20th century were dominated by men who chain smoked at their desks. Anyone who has had to sit for hours working a math problem knows how exhausting it can be. Even a small boost in focus has enormous results.
What if the apparent uptick in Western IQ was accelerated by smoking? Tobacco was introduced to the West in the 16th century and its use increased steadily. By the 18th century, the use of tobacco was common. By the 19th century, smoking cigarettes was ubiquitous. Everyone smoked. It also corresponds with the Industrial Revolution. Once tobacco use became universal, Western technological progress took off like a rocket, culminating in a rocket literally taking off and putting men on the moon.
Once the anti-smoking crusades got a purchase in the 60’s and smoking rates declined, it does appear that the West began to decline. Perhaps that small boost to our cognitive ability had a huge impact on our intellectual achievements. Now that the crutch is gone, we’re doing idiotic things like putting minorities in charge and inviting in low-IQ barbarians from the fringes of civilization. Perhaps the lunacy that has gripped the West is simply the withdraw symptoms of kicking the habit.
Maybe we need to start smoking again.