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Memories of the 28th Century

Growth of Stupidity

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I don't meet everyone, but the people that I do run into seem to be less intelligent than people used to be, and they seem to be less willing to accept correction. I fear that Donald Trump is responsible for part of that. When people who have IQ's in the 80's and low 90's saw one of their own as president of the U.S.A., they seem to have gotten the idea that if he can do that, then I should do whatever I want to do, and no one can condemn me. Part of this thinking is that I have been among the lowest levels of the socioeconomic spectrum, and many of those people are there, because of intellectual limits, but there are many people in that band of the spectrum who got there through physical problems, accidents, or similar problems. And limited intellectual capacity is a characteristic shared by people in all levels of the socioeconomic spectrum.

Recently, I noticed again, that intellectual limitation is a problem among many university students. It appears that they have a very limited knowledge of basic math, and their literacy is questionable. I have been appalled for decades about the slippage in entry requirements for colleges and universities, and it isn't just a problem in the U.S.A. Students from Japan and China and other places also lack basic academic skills and knowledge. This problem isn't new; Greek was a required subject for college entry until the late 19th century, The requirement for Greek was dropped when Civil War veterans were admitted to colleges without it, but Latin was retained. And a good knowledge of mathematics, English, history, and some sciences were required until recently. The recent simplification of college entry has made it so that my father, with his eighth grade education, would be more than adequately prepared for college entry, and my high school education was more than most students get in a four year degree program.

I think that specialization is part of the problem. To illustrate: a few years ago, I read a letter in the local university newspaper complaining about requirements for courses that were not necessary for the writer's area of concentration. I felt compelled to write a reply that pointed out that a university is a community of scholars, not a job training program, and that if he didn't want to become conversant in a wide variety of subjects, then he should have gone to a technical school that would have trained him for a specific job.

A couple of decades ago, I returned to university to complete a degree, and it was discovered that my math and science courses no longer covered the requirements, so I had to take a competency test in math. It was simple seventh arithmetic, and I got all but one right (I misunderstood the problem), but people only needed to get fifty percent right to pass and get a university degree, but my laboratory science were still valid, and the rules were changed for the math requirement a few months later, so that my calculus course was regarded as proof on math competence.

These days, I am faced with student employees, posing as cashiers in food service places, who don't know how to make change. And one of them claimed that everyone else there used plastic to buy a coffee or lunch. That is more evidence of limited intellectual capacity, since using plastic is slower and less secure than use cash, but they think isn't easier. I wonder where they got that idea. The processing cost is significant, so I wonder why merchants don't charge more for using plastic. And they probably don't think about the paper trail they leave, or maybe they don't care.

A few days ago, I saw an article about the drop in IQ's in the U.S.A., and the change appeared to have been dramatic, but that means that 100 is no longer average, so the tests will have to be renormed. I wonder if that means that Mensa ill lower the required IQ for entry. I will have to look into the matter further.

I suspect that the lowered standards are a large part of the reason why the cardiologist I have seen hasn't read the recent scientific papers in his field. He has professed to believe that theories that were demonstrated as false thirty years ago are correct.

This is not a new problem. As some of you remember, in the early 1950's, C. M. Kornbluth wrote Marching Morons about this same problem. And in the early 1500's Niccolo Machiavelli wrote it also, and he pointed out that there were references to the deterioration of the younger generation in Ancient Greek sources. The evidence wasn't as good then, but now we do have statistical evidence that there has been lowering of intelligence in the last few decades, and that makes me wonder whether that is a recent phenomenon, or has intellectual capacity been slipping for thousands of years. We know that the typical Neanderthal was more intelligent than modern humans, but has it been all downhill since then, or is the recent decrease a blip? Another question is whether modern medicine, by keeping alive people who would have died as infants of young children has lowered the general health of the species. It is my opinion that modern medicine has lowered the average intelligence and the average health of humans, but the evidence is blurred by the limits of what evidence is available.

IQ article and graph:

Marching Morons by C. M. Kornbluth

Discourses by Nicclol Machiavelli
Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius, by Niccolo Machiavelli: