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The human brain is getting smaller
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cardguy Offline
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The human brain is getting smaller
Thanks to WD-40 for this article!

http://discovermagazine.com/2010/sep/25-...-shrinking

Quote:“You may not want to hear this,” says cognitive scientist David Geary of the University of Missouri, “but I think the best explanation for the decline in our brain size is the idiocracy theory.”

Geary is referring to the eponymous 2006 film by Mike Judge about an ordinary guy who becomes involved in a hibernation experiment at the dawn of the 21st century. When he wakes up 500 years later, he is easily the smartest person on the dumbed-down planet.

“I think something a little bit like that happened to us,” Geary says. In other words, idiocracy is where we are now.
05-17-2014 03:28 PM
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
I think the domestication theory of decline in brain size is also interesting because it explains betas. A beta is simply a domesticated male who is less aggressive, more docile, and overall has a more juvenile brain that is geared more towards cooperating within social structures than to fending for himself in the wild. More neuroplasticity, but packing less raw primal punch in his pants.
05-17-2014 03:36 PM
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cardguy Offline
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
I was reading a book by Stephen Hawking once.

He said the size of women's vaginas put a limit on how intelligent the human race could become.

He said we would need to grow human foetuses in laboratories so that we could allow for kids with much bigger heads (and therefore brains) to be born.

Nothing better that reading Hawking discuss the optimum size for a woman's minge.

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05-17-2014 03:42 PM
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WD-40 Offline
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
I suspect that the increased prevalence of C-section births is relieving selection pressure against overly large heads, and that that may be part of the explanation for the recent bounce-back in brain size.
05-17-2014 03:45 PM
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WD-40 Offline
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
(05-17-2014 03:42 PM)cardguy Wrote:  Nothing better that reading Hawking discuss the optimum size for a woman's minge.

Never knew the guy was hawking minge science and sexpot theories. Well, a man's gotta have a side hustle...
05-17-2014 03:48 PM
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Vitriol Offline
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
I just found a really good interview with Mike Judge last night (he's the guy who made the movie Idiocracy). His views are very red pill if you watch this interview or his older material like Office Space and Beavis & Butthead.



05-17-2014 03:52 PM
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The Lizard of Oz Offline
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
What interests me more is why so many guys are suckers for these evolutionary just-so stories.

I could probably make up another 5 just-so "selection" stories that "explain" this particular observation. They are about as likely to be true as the "explanations" peddled by the dudes referred to in this article.

When "science" consists of advancing fanciful hypotheses that could not possibly be proven right or wrong, it really amounts to a bunch of peeps basically spinning their wheels. I could never see the point.

On a side note, another error that people make is to assume that because guys like Hawking are brilliant within their narrow sphere of competence, things they say more generally have some special relevance. This is almost never the case -- when these guys are speaking out of school, they tend to be goofy as hell. Men who think clearly about almost any subject that comes before them, like Richard Feynman or Milton Friedman, are the exception, not the rule.

same old shit, sixes and sevens Shaft...
05-17-2014 03:54 PM
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WD-40 Offline
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
(05-17-2014 03:54 PM)The Lizard of Oz Wrote:  When "science" consists of advancing fanciful hypotheses that could not possibly be proven right or wrong, it really amounts to a bunch of peeps basically spinning their wheels. I could never see the point.

I do see the point. What you are describing is the brainstorming or theory germination stage of science. The question as to how to correctly operationalize a theory comes later, once it has already been identified as a promising candidate for further improvement.
05-17-2014 04:00 PM
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The Lizard of Oz Offline
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
(05-17-2014 04:00 PM)WD-40 Wrote:  
(05-17-2014 03:54 PM)The Lizard of Oz Wrote:  When "science" consists of advancing fanciful hypotheses that could not possibly be proven right or wrong, it really amounts to a bunch of peeps basically spinning their wheels. I could never see the point.

I do see the point. What you are describing is the brainstorming or theory germination stage of science. The question as to how to correctly operationalize a theory comes later, once it has already been identified as a promising candidate for further improvement.

Yeah but theory of what? There is nothing here remotely close to being a theory of anything. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of these articles which take some random observation and try to latch some evolutionary just-so story on top of it. Some fraction of these just-so stories could be right, for all I know. None of this amounts to a theory of any sort. It's just something that blogger and media types like to go on and on about because it's easy fodder for generating narratives that seem more interesting than they really are.

same old shit, sixes and sevens Shaft...
05-17-2014 04:08 PM
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WD-40 Offline
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
(05-17-2014 04:08 PM)The Lizard of Oz Wrote:  Yeah but theory of what?

Well, a theory of what selection pressures are responsible for driving the decrease in brain size and what the implications are for human intelligence and other cognitive traits.
05-17-2014 04:28 PM
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Doctor Offline
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
What is the time span we are looking at for a brain "de-evolving"? I know the thing with the crickets in Hawaii that evolved in 10 generations and blue eyes in humans in the past 10,000 years, but the human brain seems an unlikely candidate for significant evolutionary change in a couple hundred years.

Or, if we are assuming an actual change, could smaller equal more efficient? As dumb as I think a lot of people are, I it is hard to argue that the average person today is less intelligent than the average person of 100, 200, or 300 years ago.
(This post was last modified: 05-17-2014 04:43 PM by Doctor.)
05-17-2014 04:39 PM
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The Lizard of Oz Offline
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
(05-17-2014 04:28 PM)WD-40 Wrote:  
(05-17-2014 04:08 PM)The Lizard of Oz Wrote:  Yeah but theory of what?

Well, a theory of what selection pressures are responsible for driving the decrease in brain size and what the implications are for human intelligence and other cognitive traits.

How could such a theory possibly be proven true or false? And why is this even a particularly interesting question?

Supposing there really is an observed decrease in brain size (which I'm far from convinced is the case), it could be due to literally hundreds of possible "selection pressures". And given how little is understood about the determinants of intelligence and other cognitive traits, the implications of this alleged trend, if any, are quite obviously unknowable.

Taking a particular random observation and speculating on how it might be related to any number of vastly complex and interlocking phenomena by making up more or less plausible stories that could not possibly be proven right or wrong is not a fruitful way to arrive at an understanding of anything.

The only thing that can be said with certainty about human intelligence is that by any functional measure, we have vastly more of it than at any previous time in history, and the trend is for this increase in intelligence to continue and accelerate. That statement requires no fanciful explanations or just-so stories, but only the exercise of plain faculties of observation. The latter are very much underrated -- one of the weaknesses of an age obsessed with quantitative and analytical thinking is misconstruing the proper limitations of such thinking, and not knowing when it is warranted, and when plain observation is both adequate and superior.

same old shit, sixes and sevens Shaft...
05-17-2014 04:41 PM
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WD-40 Offline
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
Sure it's all speculation at this point, Lizard, but if you don't like it, you don't have to discuss it.
05-17-2014 04:44 PM
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WD-40 Offline
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
(05-17-2014 03:42 PM)cardguy Wrote:  He said the size of women's vaginas put a limit on how intelligent the human race could become.

So what you are saying is that slores with loose vazhïns can grunt out bigger-headed betas. I see what you did there!
05-17-2014 04:53 PM
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The Lizard of Oz Offline
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
(05-17-2014 04:44 PM)WD-40 Wrote:  Sure it's all speculation at this point, Lizard, but if you don't like it, you don't have to discuss it.

Yes, but my point is not just that I don't like it -- I'm not just trying to be an asshole, believe it or not. Wink

I feel that intelligent and curious people waste their time on these just-so stories and are taken in by them and led to feel that there is more there than there really is. Whereas in reality I believe that there is essentially nothing there at all.

It's as if there was a food that people believed was very nutritious but in fact was an extreme version of junk food -- simply empty calories, and maybe some nasty artery-clogging trans fats thrown in for good measure. I would try to tell people not to eat it.

That is how I feel about such just-so story wheel-spinning: the intelligent and thoughtful people who engage in it feel that they are doing something that amounts to thinking, something that is good for their minds. Whereas I believe that they are consuming the emptiest mind-calories possible, and are likely to emerge with some confusions to boot. That is why I have tried to argue against this with some persistence.

If one wants to think well and clearly, it is very important to figure out what not to think about, where not to direct one's attention. And this is actually far from obvious and where many intelligent people go astray.

same old shit, sixes and sevens Shaft...
(This post was last modified: 05-17-2014 04:57 PM by The Lizard of Oz.)
05-17-2014 04:55 PM
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cardguy Offline
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
To be fair to the Lizard man. I think he is right.

I studied evolution for a couple of years and became very interested in it. But I am always shy about trying to come up with reasons for why anything actually happens. After a while you get sick of all the 'Just So' theories that people pull out of thin air. But it is still valid for people to shoot around ideas - as long as everyone realises they are just a starting point. Once you come up with a seemingly plausible idea - you can then look for experiments (or evidence) which may back it up. But even then - you are still a long way from comprehensively proving anything.

A common mistake is to think that anything happens for any one reason. Sometimes they happen for a mixture of reasons with some more important than others. Trying to untangle all that is very difficult.

Not that I really care.

I got burned out studying evolution and find it quite boring now. Even though it was the most interesting field of study I have come across in terms of philosophical insight - at least at the time. Now I am not so sure...

But still - I do consider Charles Darwin to have had the best philosophical idea of all time. Richard Dawkins once explained why the Theory of Natural Selection is a brilliant piece of philosophy and not science:

http://www.rooshvforum.com/thread-25063-...#pid476184
(This post was last modified: 05-17-2014 05:25 PM by cardguy.)
05-17-2014 05:20 PM
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The Lizard of Oz Offline
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
Here is what I think is the most interesting point to be made about evolution.

Once we start making targeted changes to the germline -- directly manipulating genetic material to select certain genotypes -- then, strictly speaking, the standard theory of evolution no longer applies, since an essential ingredient of it is that the changes to the germline are random.

And since direct targeted intervention in the germline, including the human germline, is only a matter of time, it follows that insights obtained from the theory of evolution that apply to our past will not necessarily be applicable to the future.

It is a quite simple and obviously correct point, yet I have not seen it made anywhere.

same old shit, sixes and sevens Shaft...
(This post was last modified: 05-17-2014 05:30 PM by The Lizard of Oz.)
05-17-2014 05:29 PM
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WD-40 Offline
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
(05-17-2014 04:55 PM)The Lizard of Oz Wrote:  If one wants to think well and clearly, it is very important to figure out what not to think about, where not to direct one's attention. And this is actually far from obvious and where many intelligent people go astray.

It is perfectly fine for you to want to figure out for yourself what topics are worth thinking about or not worth thinking about and then stick to that.

Personally, I hugely enjoy engaging in speculative or ludic modes of thought, but I don't ask or demand of others to share in my proclivities.

Whether it be contemplating Ada or Ardor's texture of time, or pondering the philosophical dimensions of Kukai's doctrines, or boggling at the latest developments in M-theory, or identifying tropical butterflies in my garden and tracing them back to the plants that they pollinate, or theorizing about the developmental trajectory that agriculture in pre-Columbian Peru might have taken had Pizarro not murdered Atahualpa, or wondering what the tragedy of the anti-commons in Austrian economics implies for institutional design, or attempting to model gender dynamics as Stackelberg competition, or teasing out the structural themes of Paul Celan's Death Fugue, or musing over whether the Pirahā language does or does not contradict the principles of universal grammar, or trying to find new examples for Kan extensions, or speculating on which exo-planets we might find extra-terrestrial life forms that we can fuck.

If you want to tell me how to think, then have something new to teach me. Don't just tell me that it's important to not think about certain things because I might get confused.
05-17-2014 05:32 PM
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
Question: Is brain size important for intelligence? Why aren't whales the smartest creatures in the universe?

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05-17-2014 05:37 PM
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
(05-17-2014 05:20 PM)cardguy Wrote:  But it is still valid for people to shoot around ideas - as long as everyone realises they are just a starting point. Once you come up with a seemingly plausible idea - you can then look for experiments (or evidence) which may back it up. But even then - you are still a long way from comprehensively proving anything.

My point exactly.
05-17-2014 05:43 PM
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
Where does our investigation get its importance from, since it seems only to destroy everything interesting, that is, all that is great and important? (As it were all the buildings, leaving behind only bits of stone and rubble.) What we are destroying is nothing but houses of cards and we are clearing up the ground of language on which they stand.

-- Ludwig Wittgenstein, "Philosophical Investigations"

same old shit, sixes and sevens Shaft...
05-17-2014 05:47 PM
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cardguy Offline
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
You guys are familiar with Godwin's law.

I think we should start a new one called Ludwig's Law.

"As an online philosophical discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Wittgenstein or the nature of language approaches 1." 

:-)
05-17-2014 06:02 PM
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
Revised version of Ludwig's Law: ""As an online philosophical discussion grows longer, the probability that every participant invokes a comparison involving Wittgenstein or the nature of language to support his point approaches 1."
05-17-2014 06:08 PM
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Thomas the Rhymer Offline
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
(05-17-2014 03:28 PM)cardguy Wrote:  Thanks to WD-40 for this article!

http://discovermagazine.com/2010/sep/25-...-shrinking

Quote:“You may not want to hear this,” says cognitive scientist David Geary of the University of Missouri, “but I think the best explanation for the decline in our brain size is the idiocracy theory.”

Geary is referring to the eponymous 2006 film by Mike Judge about an ordinary guy who becomes involved in a hibernation experiment at the dawn of the 21st century. When he wakes up 500 years later, he is easily the smartest person on the dumbed-down planet.

“I think something a little bit like that happened to us,” Geary says. In other words, idiocracy is where we are now.

I've looked and I've looked for some sort of properly published science data to back up this guy's statement, but I can't find anything.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the idea of brain shrinkage is bullshit and that there is little to no evidence to back it up.

It's not like there is some sort of scientific research institute that has been collecting human brain volume data for the past 1000 years. At best we can guesstimate average skull volume, which may or may not be a good indicator of brain size (the skull also contains fluid - perhaps it's just the fluid volume that has been falling?) and the skulls that we have archeological access to are probably from the relatively upper class who could afford to be buried, giving us a skewed picture of average brain volume (since we'd only be taking into account the brain volume of the well fed).

I'll happily change my opinion if someone can show me some decent raw data, but I'm going to laugh off this media article.

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05-18-2014 02:53 AM
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RE: The human brain is getting smaller
(05-17-2014 05:37 PM)Samseau Wrote:  Question: Is brain size important for intelligence? Why aren't whales the smartest creatures in the universe?

Im not entirely sure, but I think its the ratio of brain to body size. Lizard might hate me for this, but I will conjecture that most of your brain is controlling your body; and so any additional brain size counts towards your intelligence.

Plus (on a slight tangent here) I think its been discovered that you have neurons in other parts of your body. Mainly in your gut, so many people call your gut your second brain. Also, there are reports of people whove gained organs through surgery supposedly gaining some of the traits of the original person those organs belonged to. So its likely there is cellular memory that exists outside the brain.
(This post was last modified: 05-18-2014 04:26 AM by cooledcannon.)
05-18-2014 04:24 AM
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