Staredit Network > Forums > Lite Discussion > Topic: Are people getting dumber?
Are people getting dumber?
Feb 9 2014, 7:48 pm
By: MetalGear  

Feb 9 2014, 7:48 pm MetalGear Post #1



Every day that goes by, I find myself increasingly astonished and alarmed at the rising level of stupidity and mindlessness in society. My own level of intelligence is only mediocre, which scares the hell out of me because I'm smarter than the vast majority. Stupidity is dangerous, especially when it is followed by warlike attitudes and expressions of hatred and intolerance.

It's very rare that I can find someone to have an open, descriptive, meaningful conversation with nowadays, let alone someone who is able to enunciate a bright vocabulary. People rattle of strings of empty words, in hope that the person they're talking to will get lost in the verbal confusion. The words just float around people's heads, never pointing to anything or representing anything accurately in the real world. It's all illusion. Word sorcery. And the best sorcerers are politicians, advertisers, marketers, selling ideas instead of useful things.

The same propaganda techniques used a hundred years ago are still used today. There's an old saying: "It's easier to fool someone than to convince them they've been fooled." And I believe this is true for the average person. We pride ourselves on all this education, and even our so-called "intellectuals" are at war with each other. God dammit, in ten years, we won't even be able to tie our own shoelaces!

And no wonder. School is just parrot-fashion learning. Critical thinking is hardly a reality for the average person. Just look around. Look at what's going on. When in doubt of a theory, observe the reality.

So, I wonder, are humans destined for constant struggle, due to an innate lack of intellect? Or is the problem simply the way we are taught to use (or not use) our mental equipment?




None.

Feb 9 2014, 8:17 pm lil-Inferno Post #2

Just here for the pie

People aren't getting dumber, but the dumbest people now have more ways to broadcast their dumbness. This is especially true on the Internet. Sort of like how we're living in the least violent era of human history, but it doesn't seem like it because we're more exposed to the news and such.




Feb 9 2014, 8:34 pm Roy Post #3

An artist's depiction of an Extended Unit Death

Moved to LD.

Dumber how? We're the most technologically advanced, understand the most scientifically than ever before, etc. As a society, we've never been smarter, so I assume you're talking about the average person.

Where do you get your measurements on how smart somebody was in the past, and how it has changed in the present? If it's strictly by IQ, then yes, there is evidence that the mean IQ has dropped over time. However, if you're comparing us to say, the 1800's, the Flynn effect is evidence that we have greatly changed for the better over even the last 100 years. The decline of the mean IQ is something of a recent development, so it's hard to say if it's an actual trend or if it's just a bias with the means of studying IQ. In fact, there are explanations for this decline that suggest it's not necessarily that the average person is becoming dumber.

Quote from MetalGear
The same propaganda techniques used a hundred years ago are still used today. There's an old saying: "It's easier to fool someone than to convince them they've been fooled." And I believe this is true for the average person. We pride ourselves on all this education, and even our so-called "intellectuals" are at war with each other. God dammit, in ten years, we won't even be able to tie our own shoelaces!
Propaganda techniques used a thousand years ago work today. The reason propaganda works is because it's a psychological trick that plays on emotion and fear rather than logic and reasoning, and it's the nature of humans to be influenced by these things (unless you're a sociopath).

What's your source that our ability to tie shoes is declining? I don't understand how that last sentence in that paragraph is related to the rest of what you said.

Quote from MetalGear
And no wonder. School is just parrot-fashion learning. Critical thinking is hardly a reality for the average person. Just look around. Look at what's going on. When in doubt of a theory, observe the reality.
Was critical thinking more important or valued in the past? Has schooling changed to something worse than what it was in the past? We could go into learning behaviors (by example, by memorization, by repetition, hands-on, etc.) and argue that a one-size-fits-all approach isn't perfect, but what changes would you make to our educational system to correct this? It's not an easy thing to do, and I think the fact that (at least in the US) we've provided everyone with a means to get an education is a wonderful thing that we take for granted. (Again, we could get into things like the price of college education preventing many people from pursuing education beyond high school, but I think that's off-topic from your original message).

Quote from MetalGear
It's very rare that I can find someone to have an open, descriptive, meaningful conversation with nowadays, let alone someone who is able to enunciate a bright vocabulary.
What is the importance of vocabulary when you're still able to effectively articulate your ideas to your audience? Knowing fancy (or highfalutin, if you prefer) words doesn't make a person "smarter," unless that's what you're using to define intelligence. An open mind is more of a cultural and environmental trait than an intellectual one.

Quote from MetalGear
My own level of intelligence is only mediocre, which scares the hell out of me because I'm smarter than the vast majority.
Define "vast majority." Are these the people you interact with, or are you going around studying unbiased sample groups and determining you're intellectually superior to them? You may, in fact, be suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect with this thought process.

As for the actual question at hand, certainly some people believe we're getting dumber: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2012-11/are-people-getting-dumber-one-geneticist-thinks-so

But even in those articles you can see cited opposition to the claims.

Let's assert that people are getting physically stupider. Why would this be? The only thing I can think, at least for the United States, is that we can rely on technology to solve problems we used to have to solve manually. Most people cannot do math very quickly in their head, for example, as we can pull out a phone and calculate it with ease. This is both resourceful and lazy, and you could easily measure "people can't do double-digit multiplication in their head" to equate to "people are worse at math."

I think it's more that our knowledge is becoming specialized; we're not all experts of every field, obviously, as nobody has time to learn everything. We have several career paths today that didn't exist decades ago, and several more things we can learn. It's only natural that with more options you get less exposure to everything else. It's like going to a restaurant with dozens of items on the menu: unless you go there very frequently, you're only going to have tasted a small portion of what they serve. This "pigeon-holing" could be an explanation of why we think people are becoming dumber: we learn more specific things and fewer general/broad-spectrum things.

Quote from MetalGear
The words just float around people's heads, never pointing to anything or representing anything accurately in the real world. It's all illusion. Word sorcery. And the best sorcerers are politicians, advertisers, marketers, selling ideas instead of useful things.
This sounds like the heart of your post, though. It's the job of advertisers and marketers to sell their product, and they use psychological/subliminal/propaganda techniques to sell the product to the masses. Is your concern that these techniques work? Because they've always worked, and it's not as a result of us becoming dumber. Politicians are also trying to sell a product: themselves. What do you consider to be a "useful thing" in the context you're describing here?

Quote from MetalGear
So, I wonder, are humans destined for constant struggle, due to an innate lack of intellect? Or is the problem simply the way we are taught to use (or not use) our mental equipment?
People will only inform themselves on their interests. A lack of knowledge is not a lack of intellect.




Feb 9 2014, 8:37 pm BloodyZombie117 Post #4

I have no idea what to put here... So I guess I'll just put this here.

It's also a matter of point of view. As we get smarter, people who learn slower than we do look to be just losing intellect than actually gaining it. But they are still learning (No matter the pace).




Feb 9 2014, 8:57 pm Fire_Kame Post #5

a left leaning coexistence nut

Overall, I agree with lil's sentiment. Not only are the dumb ones louder, but terrible things are being broadcast more often. However, it is important to remember that things like this are broadcast at such frequency because they are still considered abnormal. You will notice that areas that have been torn apart by violence, such as regions of Africa, are under reported because everyone 'knows' that it is a terrible region, so it is no longer newsworthy. In the same fashion, every crackpot, conspiracy theory, or doomsday cult gets the time of day because despite how frequent these things appear they are still considered rare enough to be newsworthy. You also must understand the wealth of information available to us now online. I remember when the information I had on hand was a set of encyclopedias that said Russia was still the USSR; further knowledge would have to be gleamed from books at the public library, and usually with absolutely no learning curve. More obscure subjects were impossible to research in elementary school because no one wrote about these subjects on a level intended for an elementary school student without vast over-generalization. Personally I know that it was this trial by fire that made me exceptional at vocabulary at a young age. Now I suspect students of pretty much any age can drift through wikipedia, or JSTOR, or any number of sources available and will be able to find something that will cater their capabilities and needs.

This is good and bad - it makes knowledge accessible to all people of all ages. However, it also shuts off the filters for knowledge, and people are incredibly naive. The reason why those books were so difficult to understand at younger ages is because the authors would get doctorates in the subject - and if not them, then the editors. It would take several years after initial research to actually get it put in print due to fact checking. Now, I do feel that people are bombarded with information, and people who don't know how to critically analyze it - or even properly skim it - are left in the dark. They lack proper research and critical thinking to be properly skeptical or to build a knowledge base. I think most people will agree that wikipedia is a great starting point - but it is not the end all solution to researching a topic. I sincerely believe many people rely on it as an end all, or rely on other websites like it, without going any further into a subject.

The other side effect, interestingly enough, is how high the standards of knowledge are. LMGTFY is a thing for a reason; when people go looking for simple information, and they don't think to google it first, it is really annoying to the people who seek out information before bothering others. But despite these high standards people don't absorb the information they find, because the internet will always be there. I think this is why repeatedly we see "new discoveries" that have been found before. A good example of this would be "coffee prevents alzheimers" studies. It has a nice, pop science feel to it, doesn't it, even though caffeine and it's relation to dementia, AD, have been studied for years upon years. And yet every so many months you will find a lab somewhere that did a study that supports this, and then presents it as new information. Since people didn't absorb the information the first time, is it unreasonable to think they wouldn't remember it the second time?

In America, the education system is SEVERALLY broken; school is more a measure of how well you can play the game over how smart you are. I must say though, learning to play the game, analyzing your professors to understand their teaching style, their inflections to suggest what will be on the test, and then to quantify how much time and energy is necessary to pass the class (and to what level "passing" is necessary, as their are several classes I did the bare minimum so that i could excel at others), is an incredibly important skill to have later in life.




Feb 10 2014, 1:16 am UnholyUrine Post #6



Let me instill some fear in you...



Awesome, hilarious movie, btw. :)
But it's heavy-handed approach to corporate thinking and complacency does parallel a lot of things stupid people do today.... It may make you a bit sad when you think about how we really could become like that :(

I sorta agree with the notion that stupid people are just more vocal nowadays... but i'm sure statistics will tell you that the average IQ is rising..
too lazy to research, sowi.



None.

Feb 10 2014, 1:36 am Fire_Kame Post #7

a left leaning coexistence nut

Quote from UnholyUrine
too lazy to research, sowi.
I think you just proved my point :P




Feb 10 2014, 3:57 am Sacrieur Post #8

Still Napping

Back in the olden days Roy, you were considered learned if you could even do algebra.

I've personally noticed that people are quite intelligent. We just have difficulty seeing it because we have an outside perspective.

Post has been edited 1 time(s), last time on Feb 10 2014, 4:10 am by Sacrieur.



None.

Feb 10 2014, 12:47 pm Mini Moose 2707 Post #9



@MetalGear: I'm going to agree with what Inferno said. People were already pretty silly, are pretty silly now, and probably will continue to be silly in the future. You can trace back through the writings of philosophers or authors or other intelligent folks to see some of their comments on people around them.

I'll admit that the education system is pretty terrible, but not all schools and teachers are bad. The state of high level acadmic research is a whole other issue, which would probably make for a standalone topic. A few thousand years ago, however, most people did not have formal education. If you think humanity was doomed to constant struggle now (it is, but for more reasons than its own stupidity), then imagine how doomed the average human before the dawn of civilization. We're not all geniuses, but for all our technology and developments, we're not doing terribly, either.

As for your prospects of meeting intelligent people, your odds will likely better as you get older. Beyond that, the personal responsibility advocate in me wants to question if there is something about you or something you're doing that causes stupid people to be more likely to interact with you. Or even if there some psychological payoff (conscious or unconscious) to you choosing to interact with such people. IE, the common thread in all of your interactions with idiots is you. You can find smarter people if you desire, but you may have to do a lot of work for that.


@Sacrieur:
Quote
We just have difficulty seeing it because we have an outside perspective.
I'm glad someone said it. Do we really know someone well enough to know that they're stupid? Sure, sometimes my mind is made up in five minutes, but even I troll around the internet acting stupid or I'll play dumb around people for other reasons. Beyond that, almost all people (particularily younger people) are much, much better at noticing flaws in others rather than their own.

Post has been edited 1 time(s), last time on Feb 10 2014, 11:45 pm by Mini Moose 2707. Reason: Misread Roy's post.



None.

Feb 10 2014, 1:19 pm Oh_Man Post #10

Find Me On Discord (Brood War UMS Community & Staredit Network)

There has to be some sort of evolutionary pressure that gives people with lower intelligence a higher chance at survival/reproduction in order for a society as a whole to become progressively dumber.

This is basically the premise of Idiocracy, all the intelligent people had very few children/no children, while the fools just mass reproduced.




Feb 10 2014, 11:52 pm Azrael Post #11



There's an inherent logical flaw with the original argument, which has been hit upon a few times. The question of "are people getting dumber" is, by definition, a comparison between at least two points in time. However, the subsequent explanation does not actually address this comparison at all, and doesn't even suggest that there is any kind of decline taking place.

In fact, the few times that a comparison is made, it actually seems to be trying to undermine its own argument:

Quote from MetalGear
The same propaganda techniques used a hundred years ago are still used today.
Quote from MetalGear
There's an old saying: "It's easier to fool someone than to convince them they've been fooled."

These statements only possibly serve to demonstrate that people as a society have always been similarly unintelligent, and thus they would not be getting dumber.

However, these quotes were instead used in an attempt to support the following contradictory statement, which came immediately after them:

Quote from MetalGear
God dammit, in ten years, we won't even be able to tie our own shoelaces!

I guess we could add to the list of examples that "People still commit the same logical fallacies as they did a century ago". This is nothing more than an emotional appeal, trying to persuade the reader into agreeing with the writer's position through dishonest presentation and exaggerated wording. It pretends to be conveying some kind of substantiated argument, when in reality it doesn't actually have any substance or even mean anything.

Which is funny when considering the topic, perhaps best exemplified with this excerpt:

Quote from MetalGear
People rattle of [sic] strings of empty words, in hope that the person they're talking to will get lost in the verbal confusion. The words just float around people's heads, never pointing to anything or representing anything accurately in the real world. It's all illusion. Word sorcery. And the best sorcerers are politicians, advertisers, marketers, selling ideas instead of useful things.

I can't be sure whether this is really a serious topic, or if it's supposed to be some kind of intentionally ironic meta-argument. I somehow doubt it's the latter, but here's hoping.

Quote from Mini Moose 2707
@Roy: The IQ stuff is well and good, but it all presupposes that IQ is actually an accurate measure of intelligence.

Which I'd say it is, since the general concept of "intelligence" is defined by the traits which are measured in an IQ test. There's no other test with a higher statistical accuracy for predicting a person's objective academic or workplace capabilities, because whether or not IQ tests are accurate isn't debatable, every kind of evidence shows that they are. The only question that there's ever been is whether or not the trait which IQ tests are accurately measuring can be labelled as "intelligence", which is only an argument in pedantry. Does it fit the most widely acknowledged definitions of intelligence? Yes, of course.

I'd suggest that it shouldn't be a surprise to find out there are people who argue against the statistical validity of IQ tests. After all, more than 82% of people fall below an IQ of 115, and obviously there's at least half the population at or below 100. This is a two-fold issue, since these people are less capable of sound analytical reasoning and simultaneously have a motivation to resent the testing method itself.

I'm certain many people who score an 88 on an IQ test are going to, for both of the previously mentioned reasons, put all the blame on the "inaccuracy" or "bias" or "simplicity" of standardized testing to keep their inflated self-perception intact, even though any such inaccuracy has been shown to be statistically insignificant.

As for whether any singular test can gauge something as complex as intelligence, of course not. If you ever hear someone suggest that something like this is relevant, they've probably only ever seen IQ tests in internet pop-up ads. A real IQ test is actually a series of many self-contained tests which each gauges a different factor of intelligence. The current version tests for verbal reasoning, verbal comprehension, crystallized intelligence, spatial perception, visual abstract processing, problem solving, nonverbal abstract problem solving, perceptual reasoning, inductive reasoning, spatial reasoning, working memory, mental control, computation, mental speed, processing speed, scanning speed, visual analysis, and visual working memory.

After all the tests are completed and all this information is combined, the final result is very indicative of your mental faculties.

People can certainly be high-functioning and successful and impressively capable in many other ways, but being skilled and being intelligent are not the same thing.

Post has been edited 1 time(s), last time on Feb 10 2014, 11:59 pm by Azrael.




Feb 11 2014, 7:31 am MetalGear Post #12



Wow. Everyone's taken this post so seriously. These are just my recent observations, not well thought out extrapolations. You either see it or you don't. Simple. Have fun debating.



None.

Feb 11 2014, 10:55 am Oh_Man Post #13

Find Me On Discord (Brood War UMS Community & Staredit Network)

In your defence MetalGear you didn't originally post this in Light Discussion.

But yeh, people love debating stuff. It's fun.




Feb 11 2014, 3:09 pm Azrael Post #14



Quote from Oh_Man
In your defence MetalGear you didn't originally post this in Light Discussion.

...because the fact he originally posted it in Serious Discussion makes it better?

Quote from MetalGear
You either see it or you don't. Simple.

Hmm, that's an extremely odd response. Your entire opening post is completely founded on the idea that you're of superior intelligence to the average person, and that you're incapable of finding anyone who you can hold an "open, descriptive, meaningful conversation with". You go on to say you cannot find anyone "who is able to enunciate a bright vocabulary". And later on, you state "critical thinking is hardly a reality for the average person," again reinforcing the statement that you have a superior mental ability compared to everyone around you.

However, your arguments completely fall apart under the slightest scrutiny, as demonstrated in the dozen replies which followed your post. There was no logic present anywhere in your argument, only glaring logical fallacies and an emotional attempt to persuade other people based on these fallacies.

You said that you're using your own personal observations as the sole source of your "evidence". You then used that "evidence" to reach your stated conclusion using a post-test only design, which is one of the most obviously flawed, incorrect, and nonsensical ways of coming to any kind of conclusion about anything. Furthermore, you presented this as though it were factually meaningful, despite how easy it was to prove that it's factually wrong.

Your critical thinking ability, which you used as your primary evidence that the average person is beneath you, was shown to be below the average demonstrated in this thread. Surely, those who've replied to this thread are not an accurate sampling of the general population, but it certainly doesn't help support the argument that "people must be getting dumber because everyone around me is dumber than I am". The original argument was very poorly made, as has been shown several times by now, and what little "evidence" you did try to conjure up didn't support your argument at all, and was actually directly undermining your own position.

This is where your response becomes incredibly self-contradicting. It needs to be taken into account that you claimed, as part of your on-going effort to augment the notion of your superior intellect, that no one but you has your supposed ability to hold an "open, descriptive, meaningful conversation", and that no one else can "enunciate a bright vocabulary".

Here in this thread, there are many examples of posters with especially open, descriptive, and meaningful replies; certainly replies much more qualified for those labels than the original post ever was. However, instead of being able to engage in this discussion (which you're supposedly capable of and have been seeking out) with your bright vocabulary, you reply with one line that has no openness, no descriptiveness, no meaning, and no brightness. Suggesting that your "observations" are objectively true reflections of reality, followed by "You either see it or you don't. Simple", is certainly very simple indeed.

It's also the exact opposite of all the self-complimenting adjectives you were piling on yourself in the original post, and contradicts the entire basis of your argument. It seems more likely that you're memorizing a bunch of fancy words, attempting to sound smart in real life by unnecessarily convoluting your speech with an unnatural vocabulary, and then acting smugly superior when people listening to you can't (or don't want to) understand what you're trying to say.

Here is an xkcd comic which is especially relevant to your situation: http://xkcd.com/1028/

Pay special attention to the mouseover text: "Anyone who says that they're great at communicating but 'people are bad at listening' is confused about how communication works."

Taking all this into account, I'll approach this a different way. Let's assume that "people are getting dumber" would somehow be supported (never mind substantiated) by the statement "no one else can hold a meaningful conversation with me", since that's what you presented as your main argument. I propose that, given the many people in this thread who've made meaningful responses, and your inability to converse meaningfully with any of them, that it isn't other people who are incapable of holding a meaningful conversation with you, but rather, you who are unable to hold a meaningful conversation with others.

That being the case, it effectively dismantles your original post, which was built entirely on the idea that everyone around you is the problem, rather than it just being you.

Well, I doubt it can be explained to you if you somehow still can't understand. You either get it or you don't. Simple.

Post has been edited 2 time(s), last time on Feb 11 2014, 7:59 pm by Azrael.




Feb 11 2014, 6:34 pm Zoan Post #15

Math + Physics + StarCraft = Zoan

Point 1:
Evolution should not enter into the conversation as it takes a very long time for natural selection to actually have a substantial influence on a species.
Additionally, as Oh_Man said, there isn't much of a pressure favoring the "stupid" currently put on humans.

Point 2:
The word "intelligent" should not be used in the general sense. It implies that whoever is being described by it essentially does everything very well. This, however, is never the case. The word "intelligent" should be used relative to what field you have in mind when you use it to describe someone. The best way to explain this is with the saying "If you just a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live the rest of its life believing it is stupid." In other words, some people might be considered geniuses in one subject while also considered average in another and maybe even retarded in some. There is no way of quantifying which area of study is better than another, and thus you cannot say for certain that someone is "smarter" than someone else, or vice-versa.

Point 3:
On the matter of defining intelligence in general:
I suppose some IQ tests might judge an individual's "smartness" based on their performances in different subjects, and then (if you were somehow able to accurately quantify each performance and weight them all according to each subject, which I do not believe is possible) take the average. This definition of IQ (and thus intelligence) would be better than most. However, it is impossible for any test to take into account EVERY subject ever, as I am sure there are MANY subjects that we know nothing about (i.e. are undiscovered/uninvented) or wouldn't think to test. Thus, even this measurement of intelligence is flawed, and thus, there is NO possible way to ACCURATELY define intelligence.



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Feb 11 2014, 8:25 pm O)FaRTy1billion[MM] Post #16

👻 👾 👽 💪

Citing personal observation as the first post seems to have done! Proceed with caution. xD

This has been addressed briefly (outside perspective; the people you tend to encounter) but it seems to me more like the kind of people you will more often meet are of a personality that doesn't greatly value intellectual thinking/discussion, so they won't convey it very much regardless of whether or not any significant intelligence is actually there. There are people who don't seem to be aware of what should be basic knowledge (like, for example, "basic" math skills, knowing some complicated words, etc.), but it isn't they are necessarily "stupid", it's just they haven't had any particular focus or value on such knowledge or skills that you call "intelligent" so they fail to retain or develop them in those specific areas.
I'm certain you can find smart, intellectual people wherever you go .. If you were to go to like a random bar or party as an example, that may not be the best venue for seeking intelligent discussion even if the people there were in fact capable of it. It's just a matter of setting and company, or finding a way to bring it out.



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Feb 12 2014, 5:55 am LoveLess Post #17

Let me show you how to hump without making love.

Easiest way to answer, "Are people getting dumber?"

No, but there is a sort of gap of knowledge between average people that wasn't really there before. With the amount of information that is available now, it is easier to "get smarter" if you seek that information. However many people growing up do not have access to that information, are prevented from getting it, or just don't care. This is what creates that illusion of people becoming more stupid, when that's been about the average intelligence all along.

There are a lot of people that don't understand the concept of meat in it's most basic principle: It's part of a dead animal. The subject is altogether avoided in school and parents avoid it at home. If you ask someone how to build a house, they will have absolutely no idea what materials to buy at the most basic level. Your average person just does not care, if they want something, it's accessible with no questions asked. This leads to a lot of the stupidity that people in this topic are talking about, it's an overall omission of information that they ignore.

School systems are also designed around giving students information and making sure they got at least some of it. The methods of testing for retention are outdated. It's kind of sad that it has come down to where we kind of need to enforce education.

tl;dr People are choosing apathy over knowledge.

Post has been edited 3 time(s), last time on Mar 7 2014, 3:07 pm by LoveLess.



None.

Feb 21 2014, 2:17 pm Sand Wraith Post #18

she*

Quote from LoveLess
tl;dr People are choosing apathy over knowledge.

It is the most convenient way to save energy.

---

Observations are further skewed by those who do not comment. If the recent study on "trolls" had its number for proportion of non-commenters/posters (43%) of total surveyed people is to be extrapolated to the Internet at large, then a large portion of people never even provide sufficient data to make a judgement of the average intelligence of all people.

@Zoan:

With respect to point 2: from a lay-perspective, I suppose it can be said that your position is agreeable. However, I think Azrael's and Roy's interpretation of intelligence in terms of IQ more befits OP's topic given that critical thinking seems to be a major point of the original post.

EDIT:

@OP:

I think it is quite clear by now that no one sees your observation nor agrees with your suggested conclusions. Maybe you should push yourself to find people that can pose as counterexamples of stupidity or to identify and distinguish your own personal biases or to discuss issues that you are interested in.




Mar 16 2014, 12:15 am Jack Post #19

>be faceless void >mfw I have no face

Quote from Sacrieur
Back in the olden days Roy, you were considered learned if you could even do algebra.

I've personally noticed that people are quite intelligent. We just have difficulty seeing it because we have an outside perspective.
Yes, in the past the sciences and mathematics were not as well known, nor as well taught as they are today. However, the level of literacy was far higher (from what I can tell). For example, Charles Spurgeon's sermons are by today's standards somewhat "high level" in the vocabulary used (e.g. http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/1154.htm just look at a few paragraphs and note the word choice), yet at the time he was criticized for using extremely low level, base language (the language of poor, uneducated brutes, in essence) by the Anglican and other ministers of the time.
Our mathematical ability is generally much higher today, yet I would argue that it would be of more usefulness to most if there were a greater focus on literacy and language. Most ordinary people don't tend to use anything on the level of algebra in their day to day lives, let alone calculus, statistics, and other fields of mathematics. Yet we can hardly cease from communication; how much more profitable it would be if we could converse at a higher level!

Certainly I tend to think from my own limited experience in life that people are generally not as educated as those in the recent past, although perhaps more educated than in the far past (500 years+ ago). I am, of course, speaking of those in the Western world, as my knowledge of the education of other countries (particularly historically) is quite limited. I find it entirely possible that the ability to think critically of the past few generations was higher than that of the current generation, which is in some part due to the education systems that most Western countries have in place.

Perhaps this is intentional. Bertrand Russell said this in his book The Impact of Science on Society:
It is to be expected that advances in physiology and psychology will give governments much more control over individual mentality than they now have even in totalitarian countries. Fitche laid it down that education should aim at destroying free will, so that, after pupils have left school, they shall be incapable, throughout the rest of their lives, of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished.

It wouldn't overly surprise me if this is in essence what governments are trying to achieve with state education. Certainly it would be under the guise of making the pupils better citizens, yet what is a better citizen but that which is in perfect obedience to the ruling authorities? Critical thinking is not conducive to improved citizenship, from the perspective of a government. Why then should they promote critical thinking? Better to teach skills which enable citizens to work more productively (mathematics and sciences, as well as trade skills) than to teach critical thinking, strong literacy and comprehension, for fear of what that might engender.


Quote from Zoan
Point 1:
Evolution should not enter into the conversation as it takes a very long time for natural selection to actually have a substantial influence on a species.
Additionally, as Oh_Man said, there isn't much of a pressure favoring the "stupid" currently put on humans.
While it's a minor point, punctuated equilibrium requires (relatively) short periods of time for chance to happen.



Red classic.

Mar 28 2014, 2:09 am ImagoDeo Post #20



Quote from Jack
However, the level of literacy was far higher (from what I can tell). For example, Charles Spurgeon's sermons are by today's standards somewhat "high level" in the vocabulary used (e.g. http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/1154.htm just look at a few paragraphs and note the word choice), yet at the time he was criticized for using extremely low level, base language (the language of poor, uneducated brutes, in essence) by the Anglican and other ministers of the time.

The evolution of language could possibly explain that away. English has grown simpler as the rate of communication has increased and the subject matter of written communication has shifted. In the past, those who could and did write most often did so for the purpose of illustrating and discussing important details and patterns and ideas in life; at present, your average writer looks no further than their immediate desire to express necessary details of life and short-term emotions. The reasons for this are complex and numerous. Chief among them is the prevalence of easily accessible methods of immediate communication to a larger audience than was previously possible. Additionally, basic literacy rates have increased and therefore more people have a voice in written language than before.

That last point speaks to a specific idea which I'll discuss at the end of this post.

Quote from Jack
Perhaps this is intentional. Bertrand Russell said this in his book The Impact of Science on Society:
It is to be expected that advances in physiology and psychology will give governments much more control over individual mentality than they now have even in totalitarian countries. Fitche laid it down that education should aim at destroying free will, so that, after pupils have left school, they shall be incapable, throughout the rest of their lives, of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished.

It wouldn't overly surprise me if this is in essence what governments are trying to achieve with state education. Certainly it would be under the guise of making the pupils better citizens, yet what is a better citizen but that which is in perfect obedience to the ruling authorities? Critical thinking is not conducive to improved citizenship, from the perspective of a government. Why then should they promote critical thinking? Better to teach skills which enable citizens to work more productively (mathematics and sciences, as well as trade skills) than to teach critical thinking, strong literacy and comprehension, for fear of what that might engender.

This viewpoint assumes that government is a body which has become self-necessary and is willing to sacrifice its citizens' intelligence and free thought for its own perpetuation. That doesn't invalidate the view, but the assumption deserves some attention if you want to justify your ideas.




My main point, which I briefly referenced earlier, is the following observation about the OP:

The comparison between the present and the past is incomplete. (Or even illogical.)

In the present, we experience interaction with large numbers of people and diverse groups. We can therefore form a relatively complete picture of our present world, even though it may be skewed somewhat based on our circumstances. With regard to the past, we cannot form such a complete view. We cannot interact with all classes of people and all types of minds. We interact with the past on an impersonal level governed by the mediation of history as recorded in texts and literature. We get a skewed idea of the average intelligence because intelligent minds of the present pick out relevant details of the past and paint a picture based on those singular points.

Let me illustrate. If you stand in front of me, I can see all of you. By speaking with you, I can understand who you are and what you think and how you act. But if I ask you how your day has been, you will probably give me a few details which defined its general path: "Got up, had breakfast, went to work, ate lunch, did some work, sat through a boring meeting, and wound up here talking to this guy." That picture, however, is necessarily incomplete. I can follow its basic idea but I completely miss the flowers you smelled in the morning on your way out the door; I don't see the sunrise you saw as you drove to work; I don't feel the hot shower you had. Some of the things which give life to a normal working day are missing and therefore my estimation of that day is skewed.

The same thing happens to our view of history. If you say that people were smarter in the past than they are today, you say that based on your impression of people in the past, which may very well be skewed. Stupid people - I think - have been prevalent all through history. You simply can't interact with stupid people in the past. You can only interact with the smart or relevant people in the past, and that only through the lens the historian provides.



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