Monday, August 27, 2012

The Culling of the IQ

Recently, I joined OkCupid much on the insistence of a few friends and, perhaps, a little interest from their blogs (link). Like many other dating sites, you choose and answer series of questions in order to find suitable matches. One particular question caught my attention: Would the world be a better place if people with low IQs were not allowed to reproduce? Eh, so we need to stop Idiocracy from becoming reality? The eye-grabber was the number of women answering yes. Nearly, every single one of them. Granted, I selected from a small pool so it is not statistically significant. Still, that is a little scary. And no, I do not wear a helmet.

Swabbed genders between Gump and Jenny during their love scene. How awkward do you feel?

OkCupid, though not for a while, would mine data from all those question answers and member behavior. The data is compiled into trends and the site founder, Christian Rudde, writes about the findings and provide insights/interpretation. Unfortunately, I've not witness any discussion on the IQ question.

Remember when Johnny Depp was his brother

Why should we care? It is a silly little question with no impact. Not so fast because it is revealing of this perception of intelligence falling and the call for culling the idiots. I will not argue the drop in intelligence but it is not certainly due to IQ. There is a little thing called the Flynn effect: measured IQ over the past century has risen. This led to the led to IQ tests to be redesign several times over the decades in order to set correctly set the default at 100. So if you were take an IQ from the 1950s, you could easily be considered Mensa material.

In older IQ tests would have qualified these two as brilliant as James Woods, Dolph Lundgren, and Asia Carrera

There are many theories that suggest the rise of the IQ. More importantly, this rise does not mean rise in intelligence. There are multiple factors that account for raising IQs, such as improve diets, education at eariler ages and for both genders, increased skills at test-taking and we could ramble onwards. Most of all, IQ is a rough measurement of intelligence and not the gold standard. It is really best estimates.

It is not low IQs but our perception of the evolution of our culture. Who of us has not complained about the stupidity of mainstream culture. Of course, we need find the blame and our scapegoats are the 'dumb' people flooding the gates. We have gems like Idiocracy to give life to this perception. The fear/comedy of the film, no doubt many people feel, is stupidity outbreeds intelligence. To a certain degree, this is true, yet it is the whole story?

Consider this: who, in America, is considered the smartest man by IQ standards? Christoper Langan's IQ is measured between 195 and 210. He has been working on the Unitified Theory of Everything...the very thing that Einstein could not figure before his death. In Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success, Langan's background reveals poverty, abuse, rejection, life of manual labor and damn near the bottom of the social ladder. Until the late 90s, the most attention he received was being a bouncer. Admit that when you read that quick description of Langan's life, you're thinking he's one of those damn drunks that somehow passes his genes onwards and bring us closer to Idiocracy.

Langan pondering if he should make galaxies circle around your head

Langan is not the only genius to rise from the rags of the socioeconomic abyss, traditionally thought as the low IQ world. Michael Faraday and Gregor Mendel were both runts of society and only able to become clerks/monks. Benjamin Franklin might be credited with figuring out lightening is electricity but Faraday figured out how to generate and harness it; before the Victorian era. Yes, he was cyberpunk before there was steampunk. And Mendel, the founder of genetics, who reached the magnum opus in his research about 4 years before DNA was actually discovered. Just to note: Watson and Crick did not discover DNA, just its structure and they have wicked PR skills. Guess what? Mendel was a monk from a farming family who funked out of college. No Pissarro family here.

Not the most safest and energy-efficient light-bub. But admit it: you'll pick a Tesla bub over an Edison one.

The problem with IQs and calls for its culling is simple: we really do not have a solid explanation between IQ and inheritance.  There is some suggestion that IQ might be passed down through the mother. And this could explain the Marie Sklodowska-Curie linage of nobel-winning, nuclear scientists, war journalists and biologists.

Which leads us back to the original question. The quick dumb answer: do not impregnate dumb women. The actual answer: it is time to seriously look at our culture and not blame its 'dumbing down' on things we cannot change, such as genetics (for the time being). No, if we wanna avoid this 'dumbing down,' we have start supporting more stimulating interests and hobbies.

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