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According to a new study published in Trends in Genetics Journal, humans are progressively becoming less intelligent. Despite modern technology and the innovative breakthroughs in science, Stanford geneticist Gerald Crabtree suggests that through evolution, humans are actually becoming dumber.
Crabtree proposes humans might have reached their intelligence peak — the level of intellect required for survival — around the Paleolithic Era or the Stone Age, about 750,000 years ago.
“I think we are getting dumber, and I think technology is a big factor in that we don’t have to remember a darn thing,” said Brea Stokes, a Weber State University sophomore. “We have so much information available at our fingertips, but it seems like we can’t retain any of that information.”
Crabtree wrote that life today is easy, and humans no longer have to be intelligent to survive and produce offspring. In the past, if one was unable to hunt and gather to sustain his or her family, the family would die and that would be the end of that genetic line.
“We have programs in place that allow those who cannot fend for themselves an opportunity to enroll in programs like welfare, which help them and their families survive,” said Maddison Spanehower, a biology senior. “Natural selection doesn’t exist anymore. Families don’t just die off because they can’t eat. Everyone has the chance to survive.”
The study states that about 2,000-5,000 genes are coded for human intelligence. The genes are susceptible to mutations, and they will start to degrade substantially. In the past 3,000 years, in about 120 generations, Crabtree calculates, humans have already sustained at least two mutations that have affected their intellectual and emotional stability.
“It makes sense that we are losing genes, so if we don’t use it, we lose it,” Stokes said.
Crabtree explained that most people feel evolution is improving mankind; however, there can be no improvement without natural selection, because strong or weak genes have the same chance at survival.
“Sometimes I wish we still had natural selection — you know, like survival of the fittest,” said Chadwick Brazae, a WSU graduate. “I think of all the people I meet each day, and I wonder how they make it through the day. I have no faith in humanity anymore, and I think we are creating our own doom.”
The study suggests that human evolution now selects for traits like good health and not intelligence. When humans started moving into villages and cities, the spread of disease was the cause of many deaths. Those humans with the genes to survive disease passed their genes on.
“I don’t want to think about where human species will be 10,000 years from now,” Spanehower said. “When I think about how far we as a species have come in just a few thousand years, who knows where we will be in the future? Maybe something we see in all those science-fiction movies.”