People Not Quite as Clever Anymore

Wouldn't it be interesting to compare our cleverness to that of our ancestors? It would only be possible if today's researchers could use the same measuring tool in the same way that previous generations did. A team of European researchers believe they have done just that, and those convinced that evolution tends to generate higher IQs may be dumbfounded at the results.

One-to-one comparisons between the mental adroitness of modern people and those living a century or more ago are not easy to perform. But researchers publishing in the journal Intelligence capitalized on the well-established link between mental sharpness and physical reaction time.1

The study authors wrote, "Even the most simple measure of RT (i.e., the time that it takes for an individual to respond to a sensory stimulus) appears to be robustly associated with IQ."1 They cited the longstanding suggestion that high IQ scores link to fast reaction times because both functions stem from well-running neurons. This implies that the neurons' proteins are in good working order, and that would not be true unless the neurons' genes were also in ship shape.

They compared hundreds of measurements of "simple reaction time" taken from the 1880s until today.1 The study authors used statistical meta-analysis techniques—reviewing other published studies—to establish that the downward trend in reaction time over the decades reflects a real slow-down, not sampling errors, misleading artifacts, effects of poor health, or lack of education. The data seem to signal a dim future for mankind's mental potential.

The declining reaction times and diminishing IQ data are consistent with what the authors called "dysgenic trends"—downward-trending intelligence genes. This trend matches other recent findings of accumulating mutations in neuron genes.2

So, just how bad is it? How fast is IQ fading from the populations they measured? The study authors wrote, "The decline estimate of -1.23 IQ points per decade from the present study falls within the range of those produced in previous studies…"1

The conclusion follows that our 19th century forebears "were indeed substantially cleverer than modern populations," according to the study authors.1 This result fits Bible history, which suggests that mankind's intellect has dulled ever since mentally sharp Adam, the paragon of humanity, was cursed for his sin.

And like other studies showing high rates of mutational buildup in the human genome, this high rate of IQ loss fits the Bible's timeline much more closely than evolutionary ideas of human history.3 Losing one IQ point every ten years would reduce a genius population averaging 180 IQ points to a truly dull group of people in less than two millennia.

It's quite likely IQs lowered at a slower rate in the past than today.4 But for mankind to have maintained any respectable level of intelligence for the more than two million years that evolutionists imagine mankind to have lived, some miracle must be invoked to preserve that intellect against extremely prolonged exposure to dysgenic trends.

If mankind is less clever today than yesterday, then it comes as no surprise to those familiar with the Bible's timeline and its teaching of the Curse.


  1. Woodley, M.A., J. te Nijenhuis, R. Murphy. Were the Victorians cleverer than us? The decline in general intelligence from a meta-analysis of the slowing of simple reaction time. Intelligence. Published May 7, 2013 online before print, accessed May 21, 2013.
  2. Thomas, B. 2013. Is Mankind Getting Dumber? Acts & Facts. 42 (5): 17.
  3. Thomas, B. 2012. A Recent Explosion of Human Diversity. Acts & Facts. 41 (9): 17.
  4. If more reaction time data were available, they might show an accelerating rate of IQ decline, similar to the recently accelerating rate of genetic differences shown in the diagram in reference 3.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on June 5, 2013.

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