Thursday, March 31, 2011

Global Intelligence

Is the intelligence of the average citizen of the world decreasing? With all of our great scientific and technological advancements made in the most recent century, I suspect that most would reply "no, we're definitily getting smarter." Maybe...

The idea is one of relative birth rates. In the past half-century (give or take...probably give) the most intelligent people have been having fewer children, in some cases no children at all, while the least intelligent people have been having more children. Thus, the number of 'less intelligent' people increases, while the number of more intelligent people decreases.

Obviously there are some problems with this, such as:
How do we define, or even measure intelligence? For estimates like this, level of education and relative income are used to generate a psuedo-chaste system to rank people.

To assess the relevance of level of education (ie/ high school, Bachelor's degree, etc), we turn to the infamous biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamark and his theory that the offspring of an organism can inherit traits derived from the environment of the parent. For example, if a parent loses an arm in an enviornmental accident (non-genetic), the offspring will be born without an arm. To make a long story short- thank God for Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin. Obviously, one's level of education throughout life does not make one's children genetically more intelligent- it would be quite Lemarckian to say so.  To be fair...the idea relies on the observation that more educated people will be more likely to educate their offspring and they will become more educated throughout life.

BUT- who is to say that education makes anyone more intelligent?

The idea also has it that more intelligent people generally make more money. Although this might have some merit, it certainly doesn't hold up against the millions of intelligent people who don't make millions at all. I understand that more income may allows parents to purchase more opportunities for their children...but does this make them more intelligent? I for one know too many young people who have not worked a day in their life...and I find them to be quite un-intelligent when speaking with them.

In sum... this idea is not that it's based on genetics, it's based on environmental factors that seem to predict one's relative level of education. I think what this idea is trying to get at is intelligence, but all it really gets as is level of education.

The point:

Education does not equal intelligence. Yes, educate yourself and your children, but remember that most things learned in life are not learned in a classroom. The classroom may be efficient, but its not necessarily effective.

What are your thoughts on global intelligence?

1 comment:

  1. I agree with the fact that more income has the potential to be translated into more intelligent children. But this is simplistic - a potential at best. I don't think that money itself is the main factor, but rather the "enriching environments" that wealthier children are raised in. An important note, though: These opportunities do not need to take place in a classroom and they certainly don't need to cost money.

    The assumption that the two correlate (money and enriching opportunities) exists because in many cases, it may be true. If you think of the single parent who works full time and spends his/her time "off" creating a home for the children, you can imagine he/she may not have time to sit and read with the kids before bed.

    I also agree with you about academic intelligence and "life" intelligence. My parents would refer to this as street sense - the things you just can't be taught in school.