Natural Selection No Longer Favors Intelligence, by Andrew Joppa



“A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.”

―Bertrand Russell


As I read a recent essay in America Thinker, I drifted back to some of my prior thoughts on the same subject. In part he wrote (humorously):


“At present, polls show that his approval ratings (Biden’s) are the lowest ever for an incumbent president but the very fact that 30% of those polled still believe he’s doing a good job means that idiocracy is now the normal state in America. All right, perhaps, I’m wrong and the average I.Q. in America hasn’t decreased to -50. Perhaps, the answer is that a significant portion of the population live in a bubble of complete ignorance of current reality.”

Here is the entire voice over at the beginning of the movie, “Idiocracy,” the movie and word cited above, that has now become part of the American lexicon:


“As the 21st century began, human evolution was at a turning point.      Natural selection, the process by which the strongest, the smartest, the fastest, reproduced in greater numbers than the rest, a process which had once favored the noblest traits of man, now began to favor different traits.  Most science fiction of the day predicted a future that was more civilized and more intelligent.  But as time went on, things seemed to be heading in the opposite direction.  A dumbing down.  How did this happen? Evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence.  With no natural predators to thin the herd, it began to simply reward those who reproduced the most and left the intelligent to become an endangered species.”


I would add…even Hollywood occasionally gets it right. I could leave my entire essay at this point and the voice over for “Idiocracy” would explain it all. Whoever wrote those words had a keen, and rare, understanding of the human dilemma pertaining to intelligence. This is a difficult subject to handle in the truncated form that this essay’s context requires. I believe the essential considerations can still be accomplished. I’ve tried to be as sensitive as the subject allows.


From this point forward you should consider that if a trait has merely a 3% greater potential of being inherited, that within twenty generations it will become a dominant characteristic of a species. This means that during this process vast numbers would not be subject to its immediate implications but…it will become that species new reality.  I trust this becomes clearer as I offer what follows.


Prior to the Industrial Revolution, natural selection occurred in society through the “culling” of the poor via disease and poverty along with the execution… prison death occurred for about 2% of the “stupider” males.  This led to the population getting smarter. I’m not saying this was desirable…just that it was. And…it’s certainly not that all poor people are “stupid,” but there is a modestly higher IQ associated with the accumulation of wealth, more importantly the process needed to acquire it…and, historically a higher successful birth rate.


However, the Industrial Revolution created an economic abundance in the West like never seen before.  Surplus food and goods were now available in society.  Medicine improved and kept even the weakest and “defective” of children alive. The term “defective” is used advisedly but can be seen in the higher incidence of diabetes as those that previously perished now survived to pass the markers along to the next generation. Medicine also kept more of the children of poor people and poor single mothers alive. All of this was certainly valuable at the individual level but, as a result, intellectual numbers began to change for the worse as the natural selection process favoring (on average) the more “productive” members of society shifted downward in several significant ways:


·         Poor impulse control is correlated with lower I.Q.

·         Single motherhood is correlated with lower I.Q.

·         Less overall wealth is correlated with lower I.Q.

·         Having more children is now correlated with lower I.Q.


Let me reinforce, none of these define or predict the behavior in individuals.  The friend I have with the greatest number of children has a remarkably high I.Q.  There are several very smart people I know that don’t have a lot of money…I’m probably one of them.  And anyone under the influence of testosterone and being eighteen has had really bad impulse control.  I will also remind everyone being rich doesn’t mean you’re virtuous (As if you need that reminder) …neither does being smart. But in large group analysis, the correlations above are well documented.


Charles Darwin authored an entire book on the problem:  The Descent of Man.  It described humanity getting progressively . . . worse…less intelligent. He described why that was happening in terms of reproductive success. For example…smarter people used contraception.  And lower I.Q. people not only have more children, but they also actively desire more children.


Further factors that have developed as the wealth of the great capitalist expansion included the development of the welfare state.  That’s a problem if you want smarter people around.  Welfare states support and encourage single mothers (statistically lower I.Q.) to have more children and ensure that those children survive.  Data also suggests that welfare may encourage those who are also low in “personality factors” (statistically agreeableness and conscientiousness) to have more children.  What does that lead to?  A population that is more impulsive, paranoid, apathetic and aggressive.  Not by coincidence, these traits are also statistically associated with lower I.Q.


So, numbers increased on the lower end of the I.Q. scale.  What about on the upper end?  Are smart people having lots of babies?  No.  Opening high value careers up to intelligent women (a good thing) caused them to have fewer babies (a bad thing).  Statistically higher I.Q. people also use birth control more often, and desire to have smaller families.  So not only are lower I.Q. people having more lower I.Q. babies, but smarter people are also having fewer high I.Q. children.


The best explanation for all such regressions is extremely simple: we are becoming less intelligent. Since intelligence is the ability to solve problems efficiently it has survival value because it enables organisms to face novel challenges; instincts are reliable only for recurring challenges. Intelligence is about 80% heritable, and during most of the Homo Sapien Sapiens time on earth, intelligence has been favored by natural selection: the very earliest hominids seem not to have been notably more intelligent than today’s great apes. That all changed with the Industrial Revolution and subsequently humanity has become increasingly less intelligent.


This can be documented by IQ tests given worldwide.  The fact that we have remained as efficient tool makers does not alter the fact that we have become increasingly less able to solve problems efficiently…or to think rationally. It is of the same intellectual nature to successfully chip a flint hand axe as compared to writing a line of code. This has given us our current “idiocracy.” Of course, by its very nature, the problem deepens over time. If ignorance was our problem that might be undone by various interventions. However, if we’re talking about genetically derived intelligence, that is a problem that doesn’t lend itself to external forces…at least not in the short run.


The bottom line of this entire essay is: Natural selection, which had previously favored intelligence, no longer has it as a primary reproductive marker.  As a result, characteristics associated with lower intelligence have become far more impactful since the advent of the industrial revolution. That is what we’re experiencing today in our “Idiocracy.”


“Man cannot survive except through his mind. He comes on earth unarmed. His brain is his only weapon. Animals obtain food by force. man had no claws, no fangs, no horns, no great strength of muscle. He must plant his food or hunt it. To plant, he needs a process of thought. To hunt, he needs weapons, and to make weapons – a process of thought. From this simplest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and we have comes from a single attribute of man -the function of his reasoning mind.”

―Ayn Rand


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