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Are the smartest getting smarter?

  1. May 24, 2003 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    I remember being awed when first exposed to the intellectual power of Plato, Socrates, Descartes and others. Even though we may view them as naive, to me, when considering the times and level of knowledge that prevailed, their thoughts were amazing. Aside from mathematics, I had never encountered such discipline. I remember expecting that considering how long ago this was, they should seem primitive and backwards; I was so completely surprised.

    If we can ignore the effects of mass education, the media, and the sophistication that we enjoy today, are the most intelligent people today more or less intelligent than those of 1000 B.C.?

    I don't know how I define intelligence so you make the call :smile:

    Edit: Do the standards of living benefits such as diet, in addition to music, art, philosophy, education, etc etc actually make us smarter or just more informed...or possibly even less intelligent but more informed? Also, I left out no effect.
    Last edited: May 24, 2003
  2. jcsd
  3. May 24, 2003 #2
    Genetic intelligence (cortex design) does not change in few millenia. It takes 105-6 years to essentially change it.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 24, 2003
  4. May 24, 2003 #3
    Intelligence won't make a measurable change over such a short period of time.

    The earliest homosapiens were just as intelligent as we are. And that claim as support by many fields.
  5. May 24, 2003 #4

    Ivan Seeking

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    Whoops. Late edit. You guys are fast! Please see the edit for a little clarification.
  6. May 24, 2003 #5
    Ivan - I bothered to read your post, even though you're on block as you know.

    You three around the words intelligent and smart as if they were synonyms. You made a big mistake, they are as different as possible.

    Next time stay consistent with terms so others can understand.

    Smart is a measurement of knowledge, of how much one "knows".

    Intelligence is a measurement of how well one performs on an IQ test. At least, since most people here are uneducated in the current understanding of intelligence, this is how I define it for layman's.
  7. May 24, 2003 #6
    In one sense this is true, in another it is false. Ninty five percent of all the scientists that have ever lived are alive today. Half the people that have ever lived in civilization are alive today and at least five percent of all the people that have ever lived. Sometime in the last ten thousand years humanity has spread to every corner of the earth and mingled gene pools. Beyond these simple facts lies the land of speculation about evolutionary theory.

    In addition, the land of physiological theory impacts the equations as well. People eat better today and receive better health care. Exactly how such things impact intelligence has yet to be fully explored, but it does have an impact. For example, I read in News of the Weird the other day that one parkenson's disease patient was seen to hit another. Unfortunately, neither could remember the event so no charges were pressed. Clearly, the increasing ability to successfully treat parkenson's disease increases the average intelligence of humanity today.

    Reducing the problem further brings us into the realm of physical and cognitive sciences themselves. Since these two have only recently been substantially linked, it must be assumed we cannot yet accurately measure intelligence. Unless measurements of intelligence can be directly correlated with all the physical evidence, they will persist in being suspecious. For example, native peoples have proven to be better at certain tasks than their more modern cousins.

    As has occured with so many other sciences, premature estimates about intelligence abound. I call them premature simply because the science of measuring such things is not to be confused with a mature science. Estimates by 100,000 of the greatest scientists in the world today are that sometime within the next four to six hundred years the dramatic growth of science will slow down. Maybe sometime within that period measurements of intelligence will gain a certain degree of confidence. I wouldn't hold my breath though.:frown:
  8. May 25, 2003 #7
    wuliheron - Suprisingly good points. Two questions:

    Where is evidence that "Half the people that have ever lived in civilization are alive today and at least five percent of all the people that have ever lived. "

    Who are the "people". homo sapeins?

    I don't understand that statement. half of all people are alive today, and what about 5%?

    Also, where is evidence I can see of this claim:

    "Estimates by 100,000 of the greatest scientists in the world today are that sometime within the next four to six hundred years the dramatic growth of science will slow down."

    And not only evidence, but perhaps text on why scientists hypothesize this?

    Good stuff, well said!

    Even with your additions to possible assistance in intelligence, I still agree with alexander that intelligence would take a very long time to make measureable changes.

    That's going by the neurological definition of intelligence, not my layman one seen earlier. And strictly assuming the most absolutely objective tests (which aren't possible).
  9. May 25, 2003 #8
    Civilization is widely considered to have rapidly emerged from the agracultural revolution around ten thousand years ago, if you do not know this simple fact I suggest you research the history of early humanity. Sometime around a hundred thousand years ago homosapiens is currently thought to have emerged from the last ice age with a brain fully two thirds again larger than his predicessor, homo erectus.

    At the same time, virtually all of homo erectus's potential competition disappeared with the notable exception of Neanderthal, who survived possibly right up till the invention of civilization. By all measurements known, Neanderthal was more intelligent and capable, but may have lacked the critical capacity for speach. If you consider Neanderthals to have been human then, we are possibly getting dumber. :0)
  10. May 25, 2003 #9

    Ivan Seeking

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    Sorry about the definitions conflict. I really meant to leave that aspect of the question a bit undefined so as not to limit the variety of interpretations that could result.
  11. May 25, 2003 #10

    Ivan Seeking

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    One note about this question: I have heard it said that the ultimate vindication for teaching mathematics is in the evidence that learning new mathematics actually increases our intelligence in many areas. Similar claims are made about listening to Mozart and other intellectually stimulating activities. Also many kinds of intelligence exist that are not a part of any IQ test. Many types of intelligence, I think five or six at last check, were only recently identified as unique forms of intelligence. No agreement exists about how to measure the entire intelligence of a person.
  12. May 25, 2003 #11
    A lot of those kinds of things all share one thing in common, symmetry. All the great works of art including Mozart's works are based on fractal dragons which have complex embedded symetries. Exactly what other kinds of factors might be involved are difficult to assertain. This is along the same lines of what I've recently written elsewhere about current sciences focusing on Pantheistic approaches and natural language sematics.

    What both have in common is the ability to accomodate a broad range of descriptions. Mathematics, of course, can also describe a broad range that includes things that do not exist outside of mathematics. Likewise, physics has come to describe things that once were thought to be purely imaginary. When the physical and mathematical descriptions become indistinguishable, they may also become indistinguishable from the cognitive and other sciences. That is what they all have in common.
  13. May 25, 2003 #12
    Learning things and having an education enhances reasoning ability. thus, if you define reasoning ability as intelligence, then we are more intelligent.

    Other definitions of intelligence such as knowledge are more clearly better today than before.
  14. May 25, 2003 #13
    I'm with plus, same brains new toys, concept transmission from generation to generation, the concept of a curved line force such as Newton's gravity was probably considered crazy at first, leads to calculus and that's not at all crazy today.
  15. May 25, 2003 #14
    Paleontologists and neuroscientists alike all agree that the homo sapiens intellect has barely changed since it's evolution to current state - which is when homo sapeins first existed.

    Remember that brain ability is generally marked by amount of nerve connections, thus amount of nerves, and also somewhat by parts of the brain.

    As a species brain gets larger, new parts form. Remember this isn't physically new parts, as the brain is not compartmentalized. Rather when you study the brain of an animal we see parts acting on their own.

    Since the density of neurons in brains of all creatures is very similiar we could insue that brain size would determin amount of connections. So we could further insue that brain cavity size helps to understand intelligence.

    Homo sapiens have always had the same brain size, at least within a small range.
  16. May 25, 2003 #15
    One Yale honors student was discovered in the seventies to possess less than 13 percent of the average human brain. He had contracted encephalitus as a baby. Numbers are only half the equation in measuring intelligence. The human brain may be the same size today as 100,000 years ago, but its arrangement seems likely to have changed significantly along with civilization. As the forces that shape the development of the brain change, so does intelligence.

    Essentially at the heart of this argument is that the quantitative and qualitative go together and cannot be seperated. To speak of one is to infer the existence of the other. Thus "intelligence" has little or no real meaning totally divorced from emotional context and vice versa. In the case of us discussing the subject here, the emotional context of the present since we cannot know that of our ancestors with any clarity.
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