Unexamined Life Isn't Worth Living

But Not By IQ Tests

By: - Sep 09, 2014



It seems that we are getting stupider since the reign of Queen Victoria. This according to Flynn. And indeed, according to Lynn, we humans have gotten stupider since we settled down to agriculture, a few millennia earlier. Agriculture required different skills than those we practiced outwitting boars. The latter made us sharper.

Flynn, Lynn, and Crabtree claim that, for various reasons, our IQs, or Intelligence Quotients, have declined over human history. IQ, or Intelligent Quotient, is a number assigned to us after we take a standardized IQ test. The test tests for aptitude, or ability to learn, about which more later. The resultant number, the higher the better for you, is an indicator of your ability to learn, or how quickly you learn. Speed here is a good thing. Schools used to assign children to classes based on their IQ test scores. Then schools decided it was better for children to be in heterogeneous, or mixed IQ, classes. They would get a better feel for life because many people are not so fast. Now experts may be reconsidering. It is one of the truisms of fashion, and there are intellectual fashions, too, that they change. Of course, private schools do largely as they like. One even admitted George Bush to study among its ranks. That was Yale. But who knows, he may have had a requisite IQ. The experiment, if it was one, showed that you can become stupid after not buckling down, or that a diet of heavy drinking lowers somewhat your intelligence quotient, and watching westerns can deform judgement. There may have been also, as seems likely, some unresolved issues at home-- say, with dad. These can affect your ability to learn geography.

When the printing press was invented, the die was cast. Human stupidity was blamed on reading, which weakened the brain, unlike memorizing Latin poems, which strengthened it. This assumption was widely shared by elites. As for the universal church, then, its vote went to pictures.

IQs can go up, it seems, too. They did, according to Flynn, from the 1930s to the 1980s. Something to do with improved diets. Then we elected Ronald Reagan. Was that a smart move? But politics and elections are about something else, not intelligence. They are about imagery, money, spleen, we think. And to see through those, we may need more than a high IQ.

Where does judgment come from, then? Or knowledge-- say, of the human heart? Judgment and knowledge come from experience, a major part of which is exposure to the humanities, and the liberal arts, I would think. And yet, to be fair, Germans were culture hounds, many Nazis read Shakespeare, or listened to Schubert. I wonder what you think?

The future looks bleak where we humans are concerned, but then, if we marry carefully the brighter among us, have a bit more children than the poor, it looks good, according to Crabtree, and I think, Flynn and Lynn. Much data and the conclusions for these observations come from Denmark, and some from the UK. We are talking a few points here and there, but who knows?. A columnist friend thinks points are important. He goes by the numbers. They show something. But they may show little.

Personally, I think you learn more from a novel by Joseph Conrad-- say, “Lord Jim,” or “Nostromo”-- than by leading a tragic life all by yourself.

A shout out to Socrates, from whom we acquired our title, and a great deal!