Getting smarter:
Apparently we are.  (Tim Folger Can we Keep Getting Smarter SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN vol. 307 no. 3 September 2012 page 44)  There is something called the “Flynn effect.”  Measures of intelligence are rising at about .3 IQ points a year, and this has been going on steadily for over a hundred years.  In other words the average ten year old today will score on an IQ test about 30 points higher than the average child of that age in the early twentieth century.  The rise is relentless, visible in any single year if you look closely enough.  And it affects everybody, the swiftest and the slowest.  The shape of the distribution curve of scores on IQ tests never varies.  Everybody is going up together.  There is also evidence that people are thinking faster; reaction times are decreasing.  And this phenomenon is confined to abstract reasoning and reaction time.  People are no better at knowledge skills or arithmetic. 

The opinion of the article is: “Yet the Flynn effect clearly shows that something in the environment is having a marked influence on the supposedly culture-free components of intelligence in populations the world over.”  Sure.  Just go on believing that.  This opinion is held in spite of the fact that there has been no link found between any single environmental factor and the Flynn effect.  So somebody has proposed that there are multiple causes and if one is deficient, the others stand in.

Nope.  Won’t work.  Consider the gas laws.  Take a hunk of air of some given weight and subject it to different conditions of pressure, volume and temperature.  Unless you really go to extremes, the relationship is very simple.  Double the pressure at a fixed temperature and the volume goes down by half.  It is all wonderfully predictable.  But take those same laws, toss in a few more like land relief, water temperature, albedo, evaporation, precipitation, insolation and contamination – all quite easily measured and routinely measured – and you get the unpredictable weather.  What predictions that are done are not made by resorting to first principles but simply asking, “What happened last time things looked like this.”  Adding multiple environmental variables will increase variation, not decrease it. 

The Flynn effect marches steadily on despite wars that people talk about for generations. 

Reasoning backwards they recon that at the beginning of the 20th century our IQ’s were thirty points lower.  Then they dismiss it.  Go back to the time of Columbus and the average human would have an IQ in negative numbers.  An asparagus would at least score zero.

So it can’t be environmental.  It can’t go back forever.  And it has the steady march of a law of nature.


It can only be one thing.  I think it is established that the relationship between fertility and relatedness is a law of nature, and it is playing out all around us.  Could there really be two ironclad hitherto unknown laws of nature manifesting at the same time and both commencing their change within the past few centuries?  I just can’t buy it, much as I would like to.  The Flynn effect has to be epigenetic.  

Had it been genetic, they would have nailed it.  But it is changing too fast to be genetic and, I dare say, too slow simply to be environmental.  So that means epigenetic.

The formidable blog “hbd chic” discusses IQ a lot.  As I have followed it, I seem to notice that the weight of the evidence suggests that people living on farms tend to score lower on IQ tests than do people living in towns.  The general opinion on the blog is that the bright kids move to town.  Sad if true, since fertility in towns is lower than that in the country, whatever you might believe about the effect of kinship. 

I, of course, am always pulling for the tight gene pool.  I am kind of sentimentally attached to it.  Without it we are all dead.  Don’t worry, I promise you that the human species will not go extinct during your lifetime.  (by definition)  But I don’t much like seeing us doomed.  So I’m always squawking, “Country children are smart.  I saw my great grandmother’s high school copy book.  She lived on a farm.  It was college level work.”  But they keep piling on the numbers.

So sadly I am obliged to accept the possibility that the Flynn effect is not only epigenetic but is also caused by the same kind of mechanism that causes lower fertility.  And I suspect it produces bigger, healthier, better looking, stronger people.  (Although with an increase in their level of schizophrenia.)  And when it goes too far it gives us diabetic, hypertense lazy fatties. 
I have often said, “Just understand this and you can have anything you want.  You can have your cultural diversity, your interesting entertainment, you high yield technology.  Any you can marry whom you please.  If you know the implications of your choice, you can make the choice that seems prudent to you.”

Well maybe we can’t have everything.  Maybe maximal speed, abstract reasoning and athletic ability are not consistent with viable fertility. 

But who cares?  I mean none of these things presents an absolute impediment.  Given time and patience you can work around them.  And patience is something the country boys do have.

There have been 65,569 visitors so far. 

Home page