Science

Are We Becoming Morally Smarter?

The connection between increasing IQs, decreasing violence, and economic liberalism

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In the 1980s, social scientist James Flynn made a startling discovery: Real IQ scores had been going up, on average, three points every decade since the early 20th century. The existence of this increase had been masked by the fact that the test gets updated and renormed every generation or so, pushing the average score back to 100.

The implications of the eponymous "Flynn effect" are astonishing. A person of average intelligence today would have registered a full two standard deviations higher a century ago, giving him a "very superior" score of 130. We're getting smarter. A lot smarter.

The cause of the Flynn effect is still the subject of debate, but it's not just that we're getting better at taking tests. If that were the case, intelligence scores throughout the test's subcategories should have improved across the board. But results in areas such as information, arithmetic, and vocabulary have nudged only slightly upward over the past half-century when test taking became ubiquitous. Instead, the increases have occurred almost exclusively in the two subtests that most require abstract reasoning (and are least sensitive to education and practice): similarities and matrices.

The section called similarities asks questions such as "What do dogs and rabbits have in common?" If you answer, "Both are mammals," says Flynn, you are thinking like a scientist in classifying organisms by type-an abstraction. If you said, "You use dogs to hunt rabbits," you are thinking concretely, imagining a tangible use for a dog. Matrices are abstract figures that require determining a pattern and then deducing the missing piece, as in the example below.

The improved performance in these two areas (and not the others) suggests that an explanation may be found in broader social changes in society that have led to more abstract reasoning. Instead of manipulating plows, cows, and machinery as almost everyone did in the 19th century, many more of us are now manipulating words, numbers, and symbols. Our economy shifted from agriculture and industry to information, demanding more conceptual, abstract thinking at every level of life.

Flynn himself attributes the effect to an accelerating capacity for people to view the world through "scientific spectacles." During a Skeptic magazine interview, he recalled research by the psychologist Alexander Luria on the reasoning abilities of Russian peasants a century before: "The illiterate Russian peasants Luria studied were not willing to take the hypothetical seriously. He said, 'Imagine that bears come from where there is always snow and imagine that if bears come from where there is always snow they are white. What color would the bears be at the North Pole?' and they would respond something like, 'I've only seen brown bears. If an old man came from the North Pole and told me I might believe him.' They were not interested in the hypothetical, or abstract categories. They were grounded in concrete reality. 'There are no camels in Germany. B is in Germany. Are there camels there?' They said, 'Well, it's big enough, there ought to be camels. Or maybe it's too small to have camels.'"

Flynn and his colleague William Dickens suggest that the increases in reasoning abilities may have started centuries ago with the industrial revolution, which required certain cognitive abilities not needed in a predominantly agricultural society. The manipulation of composite machinery, coupled to the migration to cities with their more complex and cosmopolitan cultures, may have launched the effect. But, Flynn says, it really took off after 1950, when "IQ gains show a new and peculiar pattern. They are missing or small on the kind of IQ tests closest to school-taught material like reading and arithmetic. They are huge on tests that emphasize on-the-spot problem-solving, like seeing what verbal abstractions have in common, or finding the missing piece of a Matrices pattern, or making a pattern out of blocks, or arranging pictures to tell a story. Perhaps the industrial revolution stopped demanding progress in the basics and started demanding that people take abstract problem-solving more seriously." That makes sense. In 1900, Flynn says, only 3 percent of Americans had cognitively demanding jobs-professional occupations in management, medicine, the law, and the like. That figure climbed to 35 percent by 2000 and continues ever upward.

Our improved ability to reason abstractly may also be the result of the spread of scientific thinking-reason, rationality, empiricism, skepticism. Thinking like a scientist means employing all our faculties to overcome our emotional, subjective, and instinctual brains to better understand the true nature of not only the physical and biological worlds, but the social world (politics and economics) and the moral world (abstracting how other people should be treated) as well.

The Moral Flynn Effect

Since the Enlightenment, humans have demonstrated dramatic moral progress. Almost everyone in the Western world today enjoys rights to life, liberty, property, marriage, reproduction, voting, speech, worship, assembly, protest, autonomy, and the pursuit of happiness. Liberal democracies are now the dominant form of governance, systematically replacing the autocracies and theocracies of centuries past. Slavery and torture are outlawed everywhere in the world (even if occasionally still practiced). The death penalty is on death row and will likely go extinct sometime in the 2020s. Violence and crime are at historic lows, and we have expanded the moral sphere to include more people as members of the human community deserving of rights and respect. Even some animals are now being considered as sentient beings worthy of moral consideration.

Abstract reasoning and scientific thinking are the crucial cognitive skills at the foundation of all morality. Consider the mental rotation required to implement the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This requires you to change positions-to become the other person-and then to extrapolate what action X would feel like as the receiver instead of the doer (or as the victim instead of the perpetrator). Although the Golden Rule has been around for thousands of years, as evidenced in the Old Testament, with its tales of genocide, infanticide, rape, and pillaging of peoples in other tribes, it was practiced in a very limited fashion compared to today.

Today, the moral arc of the universe may be bending in the right direction, in part because of something like a "moral Flynn effect," a term coined by the psychologist Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature. Pinker said "the idea is not crazy," but I would go further. I believe that our improvement in abstract reasoning generally has translated into a specific improvement in abstract moral reasoning, particularly about other people who are not our immediate kith and kin.

Evolution endowed us with a natural tendency to be kind to our genetic relations but to be xenophobic, suspicious, and aggressive toward people in other tribes. As our brains become better equipped to reason abstractly in such tasks as lumping dogs and rabbits together into the category "mammal," so too have we improved in our capacity to lump blacks and whites, men and women, straights and gays into the category "human."

As Enlightenment philosophers and scholars consciously adopted the methods of science to establish such abstract concepts as rights, liberty, and justice, successive generations have become schooled in thinking of these abstractions as applied to others in matrices-like mental rotations.

The Evidence

Social scientists have gathered considerable evidence on the connection between various types of intelligence and moral values and behavior. Numerous studies from the 1980s onward, for example, find that intelligence and education are negatively correlated with violent crime. As intelligence and education increase, violence decreases, even when controlled for socioeconomic class, age, sex, and race.

Even more intriguing is newer evidence that shows a positive correlation between literacy and moral reasoning, most particularly between reading fiction and being able to take the perspective of others. Perspective-taking in novels requires a matrices-like rotation of relational positions combined with an understanding of what it would feel like if X happened to you, even though the "you" in this case is a character in the novel.

In a 2011 study, for example, the Princeton neuroscientist Uri Hasson and his team scanned the brain of a woman while she told a story out loud that the scientists recorded and subsequently played back for other subjects while their brains were being scanned. When the reader's emotional brain region called the insula lit up during a certain portion of the story, so too did the listeners' insulas; when the woman's frontal cortex became active during a different part of the story, the same region in listeners' brains was also activated. It's almost as if the fictional story synchronized the reader's and listeners' brains.

A 2013 study by the psychologists David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano explored the causal relationship between reading high-quality literary fiction and the ability to take the perspective of others, as measured by one of several well-tested tools, such as judging others' emotions and eye-gaze directionality for interpreting what someone is thinking. The researchers found that participants who were assigned to read literary fiction performed significantly better on these "mind reading" tests that measured where subjects were looking and how they judged the emotions of others than did participants assigned to the other experimental groups, which did not differ from one another.

This experiment is important because it nails down the direction of the causal arrow from reading literary fiction to perspective taking, eliminating the objection that perhaps people who are interested in and good at interpreting the mental states of others just happen to be people who read novels.

In terms of justice and reason, in a 2004 paper aptly titled "Less Thought, More Punishment," the psychologist Michael Sargent found a correlation between a high "need for cognition" (enjoying mental challenges such as those employed in intelligence tests) and low demand for punitive justice, even when such attitudes are controlled for age, sex, race, education, income, and political orientation. The Enlightenment principle that punishments should be tailored to fit the crime requires grasping the abstract concept of proportionality, a process fundamental to all scientific thought.

Intelligence also predicts classical liberal attitudes toward helping others. A 2010 analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found that among 20,000 young adults there was a positive correlation between IQ and liberalism. Data from the General Social Survey clarified the link in noting that the correlation involves classical liberalism of the Enlightenment kind, in which smarter people were less likely to agree that the government should redistribute income from the rich to the poor but more likely to agree that the government should help African Americans to compensate for historical discrimination. In other words, the effect was more about the moral dimension of how people are ethically treated instead of the more concrete dimension of economic adjustment.

The psychologist Ian Deary and his colleagues confirmed this link in a 2008 paper published in Psychological Science titled "Bright Children Become Enlightened Adults." Deary et al. found a positive correlation between the IQ of British children at the age of 10 and their endorsement of anti-racist, socially liberal, and pro-working women attitudes at the age of 30, holding the usual potentially intervening variables constant. By "enlightened," Deary meant the values that came directly from the Enlightenment, the definition for which he adopted from the Concise Oxford Dictionary: "a philosophy emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition."

Intelligence predicts economic attitudes, most notably abstract concepts such as the way that free trade is a positive-sum game. This runs counter to our folk-economic intuitions that most economic exchanges are zero-sum in a fixed pie of wealth. The economists Bryan Caplan and Stephen Miller culled data from the General Social Survey and published an article in a 2010 issue of the journal Intelligence tellingly titled "Intelligence Makes People Think Like Economists." They found a correlation between intelligence and openness to immigration, free markets, and free trade, and a reluctance to endorse government make- work projects, protectionist policies, and business interventionism.

Concrete thinking leads us to endorse economic tribalism along with populist and nationalist zero-sum attitudes toward other tribes (nations, in the modern world). Abstract reasoning leads us to consider members of other tribes (nations) as potential trading partners to be respected rather than as potential enemies to be conquered or killed.

Democratic tendencies, most notably the rule of law, can also be predicted by intelligence. The German psychologist Heiner Rindermann ran correlational studies on a number of data sets from many different countries, examining their average scores on popular intelligence tests and measures of academic achievement from the period 1960 to 1972. Rindermann found that intelligence scores predicted the level of prosperity, democracy, and rule of law found in those countries in the subsequent period 1991 to 2003-even when controlling for the country's prior level of prosperity. In other words, all other things being equal, a country whose citizens are better able to reason abstractly will be a more prosperous and moral country.

Moral Morons No More

If the moral Flynn effect is real-and I think it is-the implications for the future of humanity are encouraging as we continue expanding the moral sphere along with the abstract complexity of our technologies and culture.

It's hard to accept the notion that people in the early 20th century were moral idiots, two standard deviations dumber than us. Their attitudes about race and gender sure seem morally moronic to us today, but does that mean in another half century our descendants will look at us with equal moral dumbfoundedness? Surely we've learned some things that will carry civilization forward and that are grounded in relatively permanent principles, such as equal rights for everyone. I believe we have.

Given that the moral Flynn effect is cultural, not evolutionary, there are no biological constraints on what we are capable of becoming in centuries and millennia hence, if we apply what we know works to expand the moral sphere: liberal democracy and universal franchise, free trade and market capitalism, property rights, civil rights, equal treatment under the law, porous political and economic borders and the freedom to travel, and other characteristics of free societies that have been hard-learned and earned over the centuries. As we're witnessing today the unfolding of a new rights revolution for gays and lesbians, and yet another for animals, there is no reason to limit our thinking of how much better life can be for more people in more places: Freedom and abundance for all is within our reach this century. We can bend that moral arc even more.

Michael Shermer (mshermer@skeptic.com) is the publisher of Skeptic magazine and monthly columnist for Scientific American. This essay is adapted from his new book, The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom, published by Henry Holt.

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  1. I read the article and I already feel smarter. Low bar, though.

    1. Strange, the article felt like it was trying to sap my brainpower.

    2. They didn’t include “I like bestiality better with dogs than rabbits”.

    3. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
      This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.wixjob.com

    4. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
      This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.wixjob.com

    5. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
      This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.wixjob.com

    6. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
      This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.wixjob.com

  2. Would it be racist to ask if they control for increased numbers of Asian immigrants?

    1. laccissst!

    2. If you’re really curious, it doesn’t explain it. Of course, the Flynn effect has been stopping and reversing in First World countries in recent years (I didn’t finish reading the article, but I’ll guess that didn’t come up for some reason)

      1. Really? Huh. I can toss out a few ideas:

        1. The whole Flynn effect is based solely on reading. As people read more they become more intelligent. People are reading less. Or, they might be reading, but less novels and more tweets, which obviously aren’t going to make anyone more intelligent.

        2. The helicopter kids haven’t been problem solving. Their parents were doing it for them. Many of the 25 year olds have never had to work something out on their own. Or, very little, at any rate.

  3. So instead of calling them “epsilon minus semi-morons,” we now call them “President” or “Prime Minister.”

    1. Or “celebrities”.

      -jcr

    2. Shut up and give me my soma.

      1. Ah, the classics.

        I realise that the world is much less violent and all. I just worry that all these super-smart people keep doing strategically stupid things. And that they have the means to destroy the human race with nuclear weapons.

  4. The section called similarities asks questions such as “What do dogs and rabbits have in common?” If you answer, “Both are mammals,” says Flynn, you are thinking like a scientist in classifying organisms by type-an abstraction. If you said, “You use dogs to hunt rabbits,” you are thinking concretely, imagining a tangible use for a dog

    My first thought was “both are quadrapeds”, then something to do with fur, and the fact that both are both pets and foodstuffs. Both also infest my apartment complex. ‘Mammal’ didn’t make the top five. Hunting wasn’t even on the radar.

    1. And the more I read of Flynn, the dumber Flynn sounds.

      social scientist James Flynn

      Oh, that’s even less flattering.

      1. Antisocial scientist is more like it.

    2. I’m with you – “we give both as stuffed toys to our granddaughter, they’re both furry, uhhhh….they both have floppy ears, well, our dogs do….uhhhh”

      Fuck this guy.

      Plus, I hold out all the SJW’s as evidence that the average IQ CLEARLY is going down.

      Also – Botard, shriek and Choney.

      1. “Fuck this guy”

        A nice summation of your contributions on H&R

        1. “Evil SoConz are taking over”

          A nice summation of your contributions on H&R

          1. He’s also a top flight anti-Israeli jew hater.

            1. Nah, not even in the same league as Reason’s own Sheldon Richman, the Poor Man’s Noam Chomsky.

              1. Again, notice the similarity in Team Players: just as racism is casually tossed out by Team blue so is anti-Semitism by Team Red.

                Richman is Jewish himself (so is Chomsky). The accusations are so casually reckless that we have to have all these people walking around prejudiced against themselves and their own families. Incredible.

                1. Richman is Jewish himself (so is Chomsky). The accusations are so casually reckless that we have to have all these people walking around prejudiced against themselves and their own families. Incredible.

                  Are you actually unaware of the “self-hating Jew” concept?

                2. just as racism is casually tossed out by Team blue so is anti-Semitism by Team Red.

                  Except that the left has a historical record of oppressing and murdering jews and others that is beyond debate.

                  1. Look up “if my sons did not want wars there would be none.” Toss what you learn against your accepted consensus reality.

            2. Rev Al chimes in

            3. So he is a huge intellect then! Only the smartest can identify humanities only true enemies.

          2. FUQ, you’d think if you’re going to parrot you’d at least try to get it right.

            I don’t say this place is lousy with SoCons. It’s lousy with conservatives, many of which just don’t care much for seeing their allies mocked. There’s very few SoCons here.

            1. . It’s lousy with conservatives, many of which just don’t care much for seeing their allies mocked.

              That must be the same reason you get your panties in a bunch when we mock progressives and socialists.

              1. I’m all for mocking statists of all stripes. It’s not me that’s so oddly particular.

                1. I’m all for mocking statists of all stripes.

                  Except when someone actually mocks progressives (both the case of Lena Dunham and the UVA case come to mind), you throw a hissy fit.

                  1. *crickets from Bo*

                2. I’m all for mocking statists of all stripes. It’s not me that’s so oddly particular.

                  I don’t recall there ever being an SJW crusade you didn’t at least agree with.

        2. Fitting, however.

      2. I think his premise is that the smarter you are the more economically liberal you are, not politically liberal.

        1. like where they found that those opposing redistributing wealth have higher IQ’s? What exactly does “economically liberal” mean to you?

    3. “What do dogs and rabbits have in common?” If you answer, “Both are mammals”

      Nope. Both are increasing in numbers. Clearly, there must be a connection with the high IQs and low violence. Cute things make us smarter and less likely to mug people. /genius

      1. They both taste like chicken.

  5. Wassamatta, online version doesn’t reproduce the matrix example?

  6. This only applies to those people who have acquired a college degree. Everyone else is unqualified to increase their IQ.

    /Botard

    1. I appreciate that my moniker seems to have been adopted by the commentariat. Thanks, FUQ 🙂

    2. Why, anybody can have a brain. That’s a very mediocre commodity. Every pusillanimous creature that crawls on the Earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain. Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have. But they have one thing you haven’t got: a diploma.

      1. This is what Bo really believes.

      2. Marvelous comment. I believe Old Man has captured the basic essential.

        1. The quote was from Oscar Diggs.

        2. It’s amazing the similar thinking of Team Red to Team Blue. The whole ‘I think it’s just so unfair and stupid that so many people and businesses place such a value on a college degree Im just going to cover my ears and go la la la regarding it’ reminds one of the liberal response to so much.

          1. “Let us turn ours into a country of mushrooms by making mushroom cultivation scientific, intensive and industrialized!”

          2. I don’t think you are going to find too many people here who identify with Team Red.

          3. The problem isn’t really that college degrees are worthless. that isn’t exactly what is believed.

            Anyone here, if hiring a new employee, would add some weight to applicants having a degree. That alone would not be enough, they would want to see that applicant demonstrate competence. Still, the non-degreed but competent would be chosen over the degreed.

            The reason that criticizing Walker for not having a degree is a non-starter is because Walker has already demonstrated competence in a very public and spectacular manner. Everyone already knows he is competent. By everyone I mean everyone in the country.

            It is pretty simple Bo. Continuing to run with the ‘but he doesn’t have a degree’ nonsense just validates those who accuse you of doggedly hanging on to positions when you have been defeated completely. Of being pedantic and nit-picking irrelevant points.

            Faucahontas isn’t going to get in the oval office. Neither is the Hildebeast.

            It is going to be an R. Paul, Cruz, Walker would be ok. God forbid Jeb.

      3. I think you’re disregarding sponges, which describes most government employees/parasites.

    3. Serious question, why do you guys still engage Bo-Bo?

      1. I stopped engaging Bo a long time ago, when he demonstrated that he was incapable of arguing honestly and in good faith.

        1. “when he demonstrated that he was incapable of arguing honestly and in good faith.”

          Read,’when he dared break up my conservative support group groupthink here at my favorite hangout’

          1. You’ve gone off the deep end if you think these people are concervatives.

            1. And I don’t know how to type.

            2. When it walks and quacks like John, I mean a conservative…

              1. “Let us turn the whole country into a socialist fairyland by the joint operation of the army and people!”

              2. Typos know no ideology… though that would make for an interesting study, seeing if there was a difference in the most common typographical errors made by proponents of various political theories.

                Useless information, but potentially interesting.

                1. “Typos know no ideology”

                  John makes typos.
                  John is an evil Conservative
                  You make typos
                  You are an evil Conservative

                  /Bo logic

                  1. As usual you don’t just miss my point, it’s like you shot in the opposite direction. I’m not talking about typos at all.

                2. “Useless information, but potentially interesting.”

                  Kind of like the vast majority of “studies” funded by our tax dollars! 🙂

              3. There was a bit of unintentional hilarity and insight on the PM links a few days ago when Rufus said that he noticed that almost all the links the commentariat puts up here are to right wing sources. It was beautiful watching everybody leap over Occam’s Razor in discussing why.

                1. My first thought is ‘confirmation bias’. I am the most soldily right-wing poster I see here, and yet a lot of the links I’ll throw out come from the BBC, which has revealed itself to be left leaning of late, unsurprising given it’s a UK government institution. You want to see a pattern, and notice the evidence which supports it. If I counted the number of slate and jezabel links thrown out by the same commentariat, they’d certainly add up too.

                2. It’s easy to see how lousy this commentariat is with right Leaners.

                  Just look at the threads where Reason takes the standard LP Cato etc, line on issues where conservatives part with libertarians: abortion, gay marriage and immigration. You’ll see that a good chunk, sometimes up to half, of the commenters will disagree with the Reason writer and agree with the acknowledged conservatives on this site.
                  And here’s what’s even more interesting: the overlap between those who disagree and those that like to give me the most grief is significant and apparent.

                  1. You use ‘right leaners’ as a criticism.

                    Perhaps you could explain why that is inherently bad?

                    I typically think of people not as right or left but as collectivist vs individualist. I suppose I am right leaning because I find that left leaners are far more collectivist in their thinking. I part with the right leaners when they do the same.

                3. There was a bit of unintentional hilarity and insight on the PM links a few days ago when Rufus said that he noticed that almost all the links the commentariat puts up here are to right wing sources. It was beautiful watching everybody leap over Occam’s Razor in discussing why.

                  Well “right-wing” sources (as if the media isn’t 99.9% leftist) are those sources that aren’t overtly beating it’s readers over the head with socialism. If you see some tendency towards rightist ideologies it’s only because there’s a tendency away from the mendaciously fallacious leftist ideologies.

                  1. Bam. Nailed it FS.

                4. I didn’t jump high enough. My scrotum’s severed.

                5. Not what jumps to my mind. Mostly I read people linking to absurd left wing postings.

              4. Just another Bo job! 😉

          2. Thanks for demonstrating my point.

      2. This.

        Also, Brawndo’s got electrolytes.

        1. It’s what plants crave.

      3. In my case….. boredom and its fun to twist the key in his back and watch him march around screaming about the evil SoConz.

        1. Man, pointing out SoCons can be quite statist really gave you a scar there FUQ.

          Have you tried bacitracin?

          1. I nor very many people here have defended the statist policies of SoCons. You really need to quit arguing with the SoConz in your head.

            1. Why so mad then bro?

              1. As stated below. Turning the key in your back and watching you throw temper tantrums is hilarious. You don’t have the capacity to anger me. You pathetic attempts at logic only embarrass yourself and amuse me.

                1. Yes, that response just screams level headed calmness.

          2. SoCons ARE very statist. However not many of them hang here as it disturbs them to encounter thoughts deeper than “my pastor says so”.

            Not by the way intended to slam Christians (I am one) or religion in general. Just people who maintain a superficial understanding of them.

      4. He’s on my fascr list – there was much rejoicing.

        1. “fascr” doesn’t show up in my efforts to look into it. Do you have a link?

          1. argh – can’t find a link either.

            It’s a Firefox add-on that allows user muting or blocking.

            1. Yet the add-on search finds nothing, and google finds a lot of false positives. That’s why I came begging for a link.

              1. Its called “reasonable” for chrome. I wasn’t aware there was one for Firefox but maybe the same name?

              2. It seems to have dropped off the map. I’ll do some more digging.

            2. H&R mention here:
              https://reason.com/blog/2014/04…..nt_4429725

              Download here:
              https://bitbucket.org/bdhr/fascr/downloads

              You will have to download it and then manually add it to Firefox.

              1. see here for manually adding an add-on:
                http://www.accessfirefox.org/I…..nually.php

              2. Thanks for the info.

        2. “He’s on my fascr list – there was much rejoicing.”

          ‘Just knowing there’s a guy at the bar who disagrees with me ruins my whole experience!’ Lol

          1. You’re more like a drugged out naked man bursting into the bar screaming about how everyone there are demons.

      5. How sad is it to post this question? Are you a twelve year old girl?

        1. “Let the strong wind of fish farming blow across the country!”

      6. NIH page on Aspergers

        The ideal treatment for AS coordinates therapies that address the three core symptoms of the disorder: poor communication skills, obsessive or repetitive routines, and physical clumsiness. There is no single best treatment package for all children with AS, but most professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.

        An effective treatment program builds on the child’s interests, offers a predictable schedule, teaches tasks as a series of simple steps, actively engages the child’s attention in highly structured activities, and provides regular reinforcement of behavior. It may include social skills training, cognitive behavioral therapy, medication for co-existing conditions, and other measures.

        1. Almost like Taiwan’s drivers, aggressiveness, lack of sound judgement, and poor driving skills.

          1. That sounds like it should be self-correcting.

      7. Engage what?

        All I see are blank spaces (thanks Reasonable!) where some aspy is dishonestly blathering about something meaningless.

        Just ignore it and it will go away.

  7. I may have missed the part where they control for these important variables?

    1. Better prenatal and early childhood nutrition (intelligence increases)
    2. Aging population (decreasing violence)

  8. Even some animals are now being considered as sentient beings worthy of moral consideration.

    Only by moonbats. Last night I was playing Black Flag for the purposes of filing time, and I was thinking to myself “I wonder if they make a whaling game?” as I harpooned an albino whale. Or was it the Orca? Either way, a mod or a spin-off focused on whaling could be fun.

    1. “Only by moonbats. ”

      Yeah, it’s only every state that has animal cruelty laws on the books, many for over a hundred years.

      1. Animal cruelty laws are not a sign of acknowledgement of sentience.

        1. Well, there are noble heroic dogs that can issue search warrants, it’s only a small step to letting them testify in court.

        2. Yeah, they’re just property, which is why we have armchair cruelty laws too.

          Animal cruelty laws are evidence that a bit more than moon bats give animals moral consideration.

          1. You’re deliberately ignoring key elements of the original statement. “sentient beings worthy of moral consideration” is not equivalent to simply “worthy of moral consideration”. You are arguing against a point not made.

            1. What does a dog and a VW rabbit have in common? Neither can explain why it’s not property.

              1. You can add infants to that.

            2. Sentient just means able to feel and perceive. It would be passing strange to prohibit ‘cruelty’ to things that lack that.

            3. He frequently argues with the point not being made or with the point he heard in his head.

              1. Wow, the projection…
                FUQ|2.17.15 @ 8:39AM|#

                “Evil SoConz are taking over”

                A nice summation of your contributions on H&R

                Bo Cara Esq.|2.17.15 @ 9:10AM|#

                FUQ, you’d think if you’re going to parrot you’d at least try to get it right.

                I don’t say this place is lousy with SoCons. It’s lousy with conservatives, many of which just don’t care much for seeing their allies mocked. There’s very few SoCons here.

                1. a. Make popcorn
                  b. Turn key in Bo’s back
                  c. Watch eruption

                2. It’s lousy with conservatives,

                  Agreeing with conservatives on some things doesn’t make someone a conservative in all things. You really are logically impaired.

                  many of which just don’t care much for seeing their allies mocked.

                  Maybe that’s because they’re not conservatives.

          2. The recognition that animals experience pain, and that causing unnecessary pain is morally wrong, does not directly lead to admission of sentience for animals.

            Logic Bo, “try it you’ll like it!”

        3. Animal cruelty laws are not a sign of acknowledgement of sentience.

          Wait, so your problem is with the sentience, not the moral consideration? I wasn’t aware it was remotely controversial that animals were sentient.

          1. This is probably because of confusion in what sentience means.

            Definitionaly sentience means “able to feel, see, hear, smell, or taste”
            or “aware”

            However, in many modern written contexts sentience is equivalent to human intelligence.

            So if you use the 1st definition, many would consider almost all animals sentient, but if you are going by the second, you’ll come to the opposite conclusion.

            1. Definitionaly sentience means “able to feel, see, hear, smell, or taste”
              or “aware”

              That seems a little broad. There are plants that can ‘taste’, detect sound, smell, detect light (if you can call that ‘seeing’). I think the one ironclad detail of sentience is that last one you mentioned, that of ‘awareness’.

            2. Anyone who lives with or works with animals knows that different animals fall into a spectrum of sentience. It would just be silly to claim that dogs are not sentient. Less silly to make that claim about cattle, but still silly (incredibly dumb but still social animals). Not so silly to make the claim about snakes, snails, crickets.

            3. Yes.
              I always assumed it meant “able to talk, and prone to random acts of engineering”.
              Seems I was mistaken, read too much sf, I guess.

              Heh, even “sapient” doesn’t seem to take language into account, so it seems if a cow behaves the right way in front of the right people, it too can be sentient and sapient.

    2. +1 Nantucket sleighride

      1. +1 Leslie West.

  9. Ken Wilbur, the most translated living philosopher, has this moral effect and a lot more mapped out in something called AQAL, with stages, states, types, quadrants, lines, and a lot more … a bewildering thing at first glance but quite useful.

    1. Wilber wrote an excellent book that explains the thought process of liberals and why their actions have such a terrible effect on tthose they claim to care about.

      Boomeritis is the title and I can’t reccomed it enough.

    2. Wilber wrote an excellent book that explains the thought process of liberals and why their actions have such a terrible effect on tthose they claim to care about.

      Boomeritis is the title and I can’t reccomed it enough.

    3. Wilber is a hippie narcissist, and most other integral theorists are basically just second-rate progressive “intellectuals” who hide behind neo-Buddhist jargon, but All Quandrants, All Levels is an interesting way of mapping reality in such a way that you don’t flatten everything out to emergent material phenomenon (the naturalist’s version of God-did-it handwaving).

      It might’ve been interesting to see Shermer interview with Wilber before Ken got sick. If you want a real mindbender, Wilber did a long interview with Nathaniel Branden a few years ago that’s available for sale on both of their websites. They were apparently good friends for several decades, which probably shouldn’t surprise given how much Wilber reminds me of Rand.

  10. Shermer makes a pretty good case for improvements in test scores, but I think it has more to do with enhanced availability of information than any real improvements.

    Don’t forget that self-described skeptic Shermer is a died-in-the-wool warmist, who takes AGW at face value to which skepticism is never applied. [Admittedly, in some recent articles he has become a bit less dogmatic.]

  11. Abstract reasoning and scientific thinking are the crucial cognitive skills at the foundation of all morality.

    Well, that would explain why Tony has no moral foundation.

    1. I was wondering what the problem was! LOL

  12. “What do dogs and rabbits have in common?”

    They make cops fear for their lives?

    1. With one, I can understand. I mean, Look at the bones!

      1. Step away from the carrot.

      2. One… two… five!

        1. One…two.. five! Bang x 9… Freeze!

    2. Well, Jimmy Carter anyways.

  13. Abstract reasoning and scientific thinking are the crucial cognitive skills at the foundation of all morality

    Uh no.

    This is the central fallacy of the progressive left.

    1. Really? Because I don’t see much abstract reasoning or scientific thinking from the left. Nor do I see much morality beyond “might makes right, and government is might, so I will use government to get my way.”

      1. Sure, but they think that they are morally superior because of their superior intelligence.

        The fact that neither is true, kind of prooves the point.

        1. I should’ve refreshed

      2. Agreed, but they still believe they have those attributes and that they’re connected. “Talented tenth”

    2. This is the central fallacy of the progressive left.

      Uh no. Concepts like ‘first principles’, law, ethics, contracts, property are all abstract concepts whose origin is rooted in reason and can be discovered using rational philosophy (science).

      1. No, a first principle is something like the non-aggression principle. You can reason from that position to other but you cannot arrive at that position from reason.

        For instance, someone could have maximizing their own enjoyment as a first principle and reason from their that they should lie, cheat an steal their way to financial success.

        1. No, a first principle is something like the non-aggression principle.

          Which is an abstract concept.

          You can reason from that position to other but you cannot arrive at that position from reason.

          Yes, you do. The NAP wasn’t revealed to me on a mountain top by Zeus. I arrived to it with reason with some convincing by authors who arrived there by reason.

          For instance, someone could have maximizing their own enjoyment as a first principle and reason from their that they should lie, cheat an steal their way to financial success.

          Maximizing enjoyment isn’t a first principle, it’s utilitarian calculus. Adhering to a first principle would be forgoing that enjoyment so that you can better serve the needs of your children et cetera, i.e. the betterment of your children would be a first principle and you’ve reasoned that the way to do it is to refrain from blowing your money on hookers and cocaine.

          1. Maximizing enjoyment isn’t a first principle, it’s utilitarian calculus.

            No it’s not.

            Utilitarian calculus is how to achieve the first principle, whether that be my own self interest, or respecting the freedom of others, or enhancing the welfare of my children.

            1. Enjoyment, maximized or minimized isn’t a principle. But in any case you haven’t demonstrated how the NAP isn’t an abstract concept or how it’s not something discovered by reason.

              1. The NAP is not discovered by reason. Coercion has worked throughout history and continues to work for a great many people. That fact does not make it moral.

                1. The NAP is not discovered by reason.

                  So the NAP was revealed by a deity to some prophet? Cool story.

                  Coercion has worked throughout history and continues to work for a great many people. That fact does not make it moral.

                  What does that have to do with anything? I never claimed coercion was moral nor do I see how that non-existent claim has anything to do with anything being discussed. But again, great job refuting an argument that wasn’t made.

              2. Enjoyment, maximized or minimized isn’t a principle.

                It can be.

                Grab as much as I can and fuck everyone else – is a sort of principle.

              3. Perhaps the definition of the phrase first principle will help you.

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_principle

                1. It can be.

                  Grab as much as I can and fuck everyone else – is a sort of principle.

                  Oh it can be? Am I supposed to take your word? The word ‘goal’ is not a synonym for ‘principle’.

                  Perhaps the definition of the phrase first principle will help you.

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_principle

                  Perhaps if your brief journey through wikipedia validated any of your claims. But again, you have not demonstrated how the NAP, or any first principles, are not abstract concepts, nor how exactly principles are revealed and not reasoned.

        2. OOOOooo, a narcisist!

          (not exactly, but still!)

          1. Sure or sociopaths.

            Either way, they can be entirely rational in pursuing their goals. In fact, they could claim to be more rational that someone forgoing their own interest for some greater good.

    3. It’s also anti-Hayekian and anti-Darwinian. Morality is emergent, not something created via top-down planning or reasoning (all apologies to Randians).

      Also why it’s important to distinguish between small-scale ethics (which are rational and rule-based, not intuitive) and the much broader field of morality.

      1. It’s also anti-Hayekian and anti-Darwinian. Morality is emergent, not something created via top-down planning or reasoning (all apologies to Randians).

        Also why it’s important to distinguish between small-scale ethics (which are rational and rule-based, not intuitive) and the much broader field of morality.

        Maybe semantics are distracting us. Morality is indeed not reasoned into existence, it’s discovery is owed to our reason. Axiomatic truths already exist, in this case it already exists within human interaction, we just have to discover it and to do that we do need to be able to reason.

    4. Agreed VG. Morality is a quality indispensable for societies. Any animal that lives in a social group – whales, canines, gophers, ants, bees, lions, etc – are moral creatures. If you want to consider the ability to empathize and to understand the behavior of others abstract thinking then ok, maybe. But its a stretch.

      The foundation of morality is social living.

      Scientific thinking has nothing to do with it.

  14. So – we’ve established that the Botard’s butt still hurts. Good to know.

    1. Is there any commenter he hasn’t labeled a Socon?

      1. SHUT UP SOCON JOHN’S COUSIN!

        THIS SUMS UP YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS TO REASON!!!

        ALSO – MOARRRRR SOCONZZZZZZ!!!11!

    2. Really? I had not idea his butt looked that much like ……

  15. Maybe he addresses this in his book, but I heard of countries where people trained in abstract reasoning – university students, academics, lawyers, physicians – flocked to totalitarian movements.

    You know who had the support of disti guished Herr Doktors and a disproportionate number of university students?

    1. David Hasselhoff?

      1. Leni Riefenstahl?

  16. Jesus this is certainly one of the dumber articles I have ever read on Reason. What a bunch of pseudoscientific bullshit.

    1. Yeah, well, that pretty much sums up your contributions to HyR, SOCON John’s Cousin!

      /Botard

    2. It’s Shermer Bard. It’s Shermer.

  17. If the population is becomimg more moral, how do you explain the popularity of theiving philosophies like Socialism?

    1. They’re so smart-n-moral they figured out how to make socialism work without theft. That and Picketty or something.

    2. If the population is becomimg more moral, how do you explain the popularity of theiving philosophies like Socialism?

      People have become more moral in their direct interactions with others but have become no more moral in their abstract interactions with others. Such as it is, socialist policy preferences are marketed to people as moral positions, “the poor deserve your money”, “women deserve more money”, “non-whites deserve reverse discrimination”, “property is theft” et cetera. Morality is the vehicle that socialists use to drive to your house and execute you.

      Socialism’s popularity today would not be possible without the Enlightenment several centuries prior.

      1. Socialism is based upon ideas that are much older than the Enlightenment. As Bastiat said, “Government is the great fiction where everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else.” It is my belief that forced collectivism (socialism for example) in some shape or from has been the downfall of every civilization in history.

        1. Pretty big statement there. Not that I disagree, but go on…

        2. Socialism’s popularity today would not be possible without the Enlightenment several centuries prior.

          1. I disagree. I think that socialism’s popularity exists because it makes sense as long as you don’t think about it. It feels right. It appeals to human nature. You know, we’re all in this together, so let’s work together. Now what about free riders and shirkers? Well, they need to be forced to get off their asses since they’re a drain on everyone else. Combine that with faulty economic assumptions, like the zero-sum game fallacy and the belief that profit is theft, and socialism becomes even more appealing. If anything, the Enlightenment showed the flaws in socialist system. The only problem is that seeing those flaws requires conscious thought. It requires seeing the unseen. Most people don’t do that. They just feel.

            1. I disagree. I think that socialism’s popularity exists because it makes sense as long as you don’t think about it. It feels right.

              Where are the ancient People’s Republics? Where was the ancient communist states based on socialist ideology?

              I realize that the “intellectual” basis for various leftisms have their origins in Plato, the sophists and others but my only position is that the pervasiveness of socialism would necessarily be limited in societies where moral values remain undeveloped or carry no influential weight. The lack of ancient moral development is precisely why there were so few (if any) non-religious wars of ideology.

              If anything, the Enlightenment showed the flaws in socialist system.

              I agree. Don’t misunderstand me, I love the Enlightenment for all it’s worth. But on the other side of the coin, the rapid expansion of moral literacy (and by extension pseudo-moral axioms), meant that ideologies, good and bad, were now transmittable like never before.

              1. “Where are the ancient People’s Republics?”

                There was not enough of other people’s money around to afford one. There was enough to enrich the occasional warlord/king, but not enough for a welfare state.

                One might consider the ‘bread and circuses’ of Rome a proto-socialist state.

                1. There was not enough of other people’s money around to afford one.

                  There’s never enough of other people’s money to afford one. As if math was ever a reason for a socialist not to do what they do. The ideology didn’t exist, and in fact scarcely any political ideology existed due to the fact that people were too preoccupied trying to get enough food out of their fields to trouble themselves with ideological concerns.

                  One might consider the ‘bread and circuses’ of Rome a proto-socialist state.

                  Bread and circuses were not ideologically driven. They were essentially a mass bribe and basically everyone at the time knew it. The function of those bread circuses were the furtherance or maintenance of the giver’s political power, there was no ostensible ethical demands being satisfied.

        3. Socialism is a direct follow-on from German feudalism.

          The central concept in feudalism is that the peasants are part of the land and the lord owns the land. He is therefore responsible for taking care of the land and the peasants.

          Socialism maintains that the population is part of the nation and the nation is owned by the government so the government is responsible for taking care of the nation and the population.

          The enlightenment directly challenged feudalism. Socialism is the recast of feudalism to rebut the ideas of enlightenment.

          1. Socialism is a direct follow-on from German feudalism.

            Decentralized Germany during the medieval era was perhaps the most sophisticated society on Earth at the time.

            The central concept in feudalism is that the peasants are part of the land and the lord owns the land. He is therefore responsible for taking care of the land and the peasants.

            What you just described is serfdom, not feudalism. To put it simply feudalism is a system of contracts between landowners and in some places, between landowners and political leaders. The two institutions sometimes existed at the same times and places, but having enserfed peasants is not a prerequisite for a feudal relationship between polities and landowners.

      2. People have become more moral in their direct interactions with others

        Only if moral (only) = a lack of interpersonal violence.

        Which isn’t even true. Defending yourself is not immoral.

        1. Only if moral (only) = a lack of interpersonal violence.

          Which isn’t even true. Defending yourself is not immoral.

          What the fuck are you talking about with self-defense? Slavery has been abolished as a legal institution and human society has never been less violent. We’re also not burning witches, practicing human sacrifice or executing non-believers (aside from Muslims). Saying that we’re less moral than in the past is to ignore the past.

          1. Seems to me that it is trivially true that we are more moral in general than we were in the past.

          2. We’re also not burning witches, practicing human sacrifice or executing non-believers

            Popular histories of Christianity and pre-Christian societies aside, neither were most human societies in ages past. And frankly, it’s tough to find societies worse than the horrors which emerged in the 20th century.

            1. Popular histories of Christianity and pre-Christian societies aside, neither were most human societies in ages past.

              Pre-Christian history is most of history, fyi. You know how humanity overcame the plague of cannibalism? Because eventually humans in nearly everywhere realized that slavery was more profitable than cannibalism. There can be doubt whatsoever than humanity is more moral than in the past, as evidenced by the fact that we’re sitting here right now debating on the internet.

              The horrors of the 20th century were more visible and have left scars on us that in prior generations would be old and forgotten within a generation. School children hear all about the horrors of Nazi Germany, but next to nothing about the horrors of the 30 Year War in Germany which was in many respects unimaginably brutal even for a Adolf Eichmann to wrap his head around.

              1. There can be doubt whatsoever than humanity is more moral than in the past, as evidenced by the fact that we’re sitting here right now debating on the internet.

                The argumentation ethic. Good ole HHH.

                I’ll just add that the only reason humanity is more “moral” is because we’re massively richer and can afford to be. There’s a reason why slavery was a universal reality until the fruits of the industrial revolution became widespread, and there’s a reason why people suddenly began caring about the suffering of domesticated livestock a few decades ago.

                The short version of this argument is that it’s really hard to give a damn about slavery or the slaughter of hogs when you spend your brief, illiterate adulthood burying your 40-year-old husband & wife along with half your kids. Rich populations are vastly more compassionate than poor ones, as the relative cost of compassion is substantially lower.

                1. The argumentation ethic. Good ole HHH.

                  I trust you mean Hans Herman Hoppe? He happens to be my favorite Rothbardian. I suppose you could say I’m a Hoppean-Rothbardian if you wanted to pinpoint it.

                  I’ll just add that the only reason humanity is more “moral” is because we’re massively richer and can afford to be.

                  Exactly right. Similarly we only abolished child labor because we can afford to do so since the IR enabled us to do so without jeopardizing our own survival.

                  I’ll add that were we not more moral, i.e. if we didn’t properly recognize other people’s rights to life, liberty and property, we wouldn’t have advanced past man’s natural state of abject poverty to begin with.

            2. Clean Britches 😉 is correct. We never had widespread burning of witches, human sacrifice was never widespread even in societies that practiced it (Aztecs).

          3. What the fuck are you talking about with self-defense? Slavery has been abolished as a legal institution and human society has never been less violent. We’re also not burning witches, practicing human sacrifice or executing non-believers (aside from Muslims). Saying that we’re less moral than in the past is to ignore the past.

            Yes there is less interpersonal violence than existed in the past. If that is your be all end all of defining morality then you can claim that humans are more moral now.

            The self defense comment was to highlight the fact that interpersonal violence is value neutral in and of itself. For example, a woman that defends herself from rape by killing her attacker is engaging in a higher level of interpersonal violence than was the rapist. But her action is moral. This has real world consequences where modern pacifists claim that defending yourself is as wrong, immoral, as is the person attacking you.

            1. Yes there is less interpersonal violence than existed in the past. If that is your be all end all of defining morality then you can claim that humans are more moral now.

              I don’t recall claiming that reduction of violence was my “be all end all” of anything. But necessarily a reduction in violence in general is a reduction of aggression in particular. Logically you should be able to figure out that self-defense is preceded by someone else’s aggression. Good strawman though, you argued the shit out of the pacifist that isn’t here.

              1. You were countering my observation that a lack of interpersonal violence is not the be all end all of morality.

                Beyond that countering, I never directly claimed that you believed anything.

                So your claim of a strawman argument is itself a fallacy.

                But it is nice of you to agree to my original point.

                1. You were countering my observation that a lack of interpersonal violence is not the be all end all of morality.

                  You were responding to my statement that “People have become more moral in their direct interactions with others” and you said:

                  Only if moral (only) = a lack of interpersonal violence

                  Which is a non-sequiter since I never claimed there is “a lack of interpersonal violence”, but instead only that people are more moral in their direct interactions with each other, i.e. less aggressive personally towards others, than was historically the case.

                  It’s just strawmen built atop strawmen with you. Sophistry isn’t an ideal to strive for fyi.

          4. We are, however, embracing socialism, which, at it’s core is extortion, fraud and racketeering, and we are coercing folk to recognize gay marriage, hell, we’re coercing folk to recognize marriage, coercing folk to serve or hire folk they may not want to, for whatever reason, coercing hardware stores who may want to sell Tommy guns and grenades, forcing business owners to pay racketeers to be “permitted” to run a business…
            Plus ca change.

            Also, slavery and human sacrifice are still practiced in Africa.

      3. The original moral leap was trade with others. Happened 10’s of thousands of years ago, maybe a 100,000 thousand years ago.

        Trade is more important than the oppose-able thumb to the development of the species. Started the distributed organic computer…the one that Progs refuse to acknowledge the existence of.

        We are traders at the core.

        1. Yep. Trade is directly tied into the human gains owed to division of labor. Probably started with trade between men and women and the division of labor to pass along the old DNA.

    3. Uncle Joe’s visiting?

  18. For me, the article raises more questions than answers. For example, all those “concrete” thinking peasants and “hunter-gatherers” were pretty good at basic survival. Might this mean that in the event of some calamity all of us highly intelligent, abstract thinkers are doomed? Also, is our enhanced abstract intelligence the reason why so many people these days seem incapable of actually doing anything not involving abstract intelligence? For a self-proclaimed skeptic, the author seems a little romantic-idealistic about what he calls “science.” Mostly, what he refers to when talking about science looks more like some sort of secular religion drawn up in universities by people who want to be called scientists to give themselves a patina of credibility. I’m not one to argue from authority, but I do find it interesting that the philosopher Whitehead once opined that he believed it took as much intelligence to invent the bow and arrow as it took to split the atom.

    1. My personal observations (not truly scientific of course) indicate that we as individuals are increasingly unable to do much of anything for ourselves.

      My wife and I have noticed that most of our friends are unable to grow more that tomato plants pre-planted from Home Depot, replace a fuse, decide if the fuse is the problem, or even use a paintbrush.

      I do believe that it is possible to have both forms of intelligence, but we, as a society, are increasing composed of people who could never survive without the full support system of modern society.

  19. “Since the Enlightenment, humans have demonstrated dramatic moral progress. Almost everyone in the Western world today enjoys rights to life, liberty, property, marriage, reproduction, voting, speech, worship, assembly, protest, autonomy, and the pursuit of happiness.”

    So if someone is born in a feudal system, they’re less moral than someone born into 20th century America? That screams progressivism to me, that circumstances dictate your moral culpability. It’s fatalistic and elitist.

    1. Yes. Like most elitists he assumes a mantle of authority. He offers all this research to support initial presumptions which are not supported. He uses the cover of science to bowl everyone over and impress. This essay is dishonest and uses tactics common with progressives.

      What the hell, Reason?

    2. Society can advance in its moral reasoning without it being a Prog plot. The advancement toward classical liberalism would be a case in point.

      1. People were freer in 1890 than now, except for the slaves, of course.

  20. Since the author quotes Pinker, he may want to note Pinker’s assertion that most psychology never frees itself from a “rat’s nest of confounded variables”. Which may apply here. But an interesting essay nonetheless.

  21. Shermer doesn’t even bother to define morality and identify what makes something objectively moral in this turgid piece. He identifies all these markers and assumes everyone agrees they define morality. Well, Islamists think genocide is pretty, peachy-keen moral, dude. Whataboutthat? Jezopete.

    1. A lot of the “Islamists” who think genocide is A-OK also come from backwards ass third world shitholes that the Enlightenment kind of skipped over.

      I strongly suspect that the average Pakistani goat herder is probably more likely to think like the 19th century Russian peasant described in the article, and to also average about the same IQ wise.

      None of which is meant excuse the head chopping behavior of groups like ISIS, just pointing out that backwards people are going to do morally backwards things.

      1. Not sure you are addressing my main point. But just to be contrarian, I will point out that many of the folks-especially the leaders–in those airplanes back in October, 2001 had Western educations. A lot of the recruits to ISIS are also fairly well educated.

        1. Crapola, September, 2001.

  22. Real IQ scores had been going up, on average, three points every decade since the early 20th century. The existence of this increase had been masked by the fact that the test gets updated and renormed every generation or so, pushing the average score back to 100.

    WTF?! This shrub considers himself an intellect, and he isn’t aware that IQ tests map to the normal distribution rather than assigning 100 to a static value for intelligence from now until the end of time? And he thinks this is a conspiracy where such things are “masked” from the understanding of the American public? And he’s writing on IQ? Jesus.

    Michael Shermer (mshermer@skeptic.com) is the publisher of Skeptic magazine and monthly columnist for Scientific American.

    Ah. That explains it.

    1. excellent points!

    2. Ah a columnist for SciAm…has to be a moron then.

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  24. To paraphrase Agent K from MiB, individuals may be getting smarter, but people are just as dumb as always.

    It seems like any given nation or society always ends up dumbing down to the lowest common denominator.

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  26. I’m pessimistic about the article on both fronts. I,m not terribly optimistic about people being smarter- if anything education seems to be being dumbed down. It seems things that I was taught in middle school isn’t even learned by people walking around with college degrees. I think that anyone over the age of 35 knows exactly what I am talking about.

    As far as Moral superiority – not seeing that one either. I do see alot of people walking around sanctimoniously spouting liberal sensibilites but not a whole lot of real concern for the problems of other people. It seems people want to feel “enlightened” but in reality they are not that much different than anyone else. furthermore there seems to be just as much war, devastation and evil in the world as there ever was.

    The “evolution of humanity” is a socialist/collectivist tool to herd people into giving up their individuality and individual rights. When everyone is “the same” they are easier to manipulate and control which is what leftists really want- to control society.

    My advice – improve yourself – forget about improving society.
    -that is the essence of Libertarianism -improving society by each person improving himself by pursuing his own self interest.

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  28. I would love to believe this bs

    1. I’d like to believe alot of BS but I can’t – its just BS

  29. hope for the future (?)

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  34. “Our economy shifted from agriculture and industry to information, demanding more conceptual, abstract thinking at every level of life.”

    And that probably sheds light on why we have abandoned the coarse-minded materialist view of money evident in the gold standard, something our peasant ancestors understood, over to the conceptual, abstract thinking behind the idea of state-issued fiat money.

  35. We are receiving far superior training in abstract thought. This is what most intelligence tests measure. We are not getting smarter, we are better trained.

  36. Well, that article cost me 5 IQ points, but I made them back reading the comments.

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