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Intelligence vs fertility rate

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Is it true that smarter people tend to have less babies than dumb people?

 

If so, over time, is it inevitable that dumb people will become the majority in societies?

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Did you just watch "Idiocracy"? :D

 

No. It's not about being smarter or not. It's because smarter people of either gender often have more career opportunities and are often focused on advancing their careers rather than making babies. But this doesn't mean that stupid people, when they have similar opportunities for whatever reason, will not pursue the path of wealth and financial stability... or just being hungry for power.

 

As to your second question the answer in probably no again. A unit of evolution is not an individual, but the population (unless you're Genghis Khan with several million direct descendants). What this means is that, let's say we have a person who is a super nerd. Very smart, but lacks any social interaction skills completely. As a result of this he, while having very desirable "smart" genes, will not pass them along. Does it mean that he failed the humanity and these useful genes are forever lost to us? Not really, because, unless, by some chance he is the only person with this particular gene or a set of genes, this genetic material is still present within the population. Maybe these alleles are recessive, but they are still present in the population and maybe his neighbour, a dumbest redneck you could ever imagine, is the carrier of a recessive allele and if he were to marry a woman with the same recessive allele, they might have lots of kids and some of them would have every potential to be as smart as our lonely nerd.

 

EDIT: Even in case the lonely nerd had a unique mutation and was the only carrier of the useful gene, it might still resurface, although it might take a while. It's well documented in geological record that similar adaptations often happen in completely unrelated species separated by vast amounts of distance and/or time. But due to the randomness of mutations, it could take a very long time.

Edited by pavelcherepan

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From a humanitarian perspective, the question is contemptuously worded and insulting to those who are not fortunate to be academically able.

 

Boo.

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It also takes the position that intellect is inherently a "better strength to have" than other strengths. It might be in certain cultural situations, but in others it might be less valuable than some other strength.

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!

Moderator Note

Moved to Evolution, Morphology, and Exobiology. The Lounge isn't a place to hide rigor-free arguments.

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Is it true that smarter people tend to have less babies than dumb people?

 

If so, over time, is it inevitable that dumb people will become the majority in societies?

It's fewer babies, not less. Smart people generally know that.

 

Maybe dumb people have bigger families, AT THE MOMENT, but this century is hardly a tick on the evolutionary clock.

And it only applies in a few modern wealthy countries. And it's more likely to be well educated, rather than smart people, who conform to the stereotype.

 

So in terms of evolutionary science, it's a dumb question.

Edited by mistermack

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Is it true that smarter people tend to have less babies than dumb people?

 

If so, over time, is it inevitable that dumb people will become the majority in societies?

You seem to have made a start.

 

One way to test an idea is to see what follows from it and find out if that matches reality.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_absurdum

So, if (generally, and for a long time) any group with characteristic "X" has more babies and if those babies are successful then, over time the incidence of "X" in the population will increase.

Now, since we know that IQs are rising, and humanity is generally becoming better informed it's clear that higher IQs and better information is a characteristic which rises with time, so it's reasonable to conclude that this characteristic leads to more (or, at least, to more successful) babies.

 

Since it's pretty much the opposite of "smarter people tend to have less babies than dumb people" we can conclude that

"smarter people tend to have less babies than dumb people" is false.

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Slightly off-topic, but I'm interested in some clarification.

 

I sense a bit of hostility towards the OP. Is this because the question in not politically correct and reeks of classism?

 

Personally I have a very little sentiment towards the current epidemic of political correctness, especially when I'm on science forums. Also, films like "Idiocracy" that I mentioned in my first reply have been, while having the exact same premise, a major critical success. Is it more acceptable to ask this sort of question in a form of satire? For many reasons this feels very wrong.

 

Furthermore, responses like "So in terms of evolutionary science, it's a dumb question" are either dishonest or just simply incorrect. Dysgenics as a field of study to the best of my knowledge is not considered non-scientific or a pseudoscience and simply searching in Google Scholar for "dysgenic + intelligence" gave me slightly over 9000 hits for papers and books on the subject. So this topic is getting some attention of science community and, therefore, the sentence quoted is plain wrong. Some examples for your reference:

 

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886914006278

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016028961000005X

 

Simply brushing away these sort of questions on the premise of them being "not worded nicely" or not politically correct is just wrong as far as humanity in general is concerned. If there were any correlation and statistically significant decrease in intelligence levels of the world population over time (and I'm not saying there is), studying it and understanding the causes will help develop ways of dealing with it. By being so easily triggered you're not doing favours to anyone.

 

Maybe a poor analogy, but see if you can find something wrong with this phrase - "Our team has developed potentially the most effective cancer treatment, but further research has been abandoned, because testing the medicine on either humans or animals is morally wrong".

Edited by pavelcherepan

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I don't see that fall even close to the issue of dysgenics. The main issue is not whether it was nicely worded or not, but not recognizing that in humans fertility is not simply a biological, but mostly a social trait. How many offspring someone gets in many societies (with at least a sense of gender equality, for example) is decision-based as humans have the ability to restrict offspring production. Thus, in the end, it is not a question well-suited for the biological section.

Rather than the example your provided a better analogy would be trying to figure out whether we are evolutionary driven to like Apple products.

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I don't see that fall even close to the issue of dysgenics. The main issue is not whether it was nicely worded or not, but not recognizing that in humans fertility is not simply a biological, but mostly a social trait. How many offspring someone gets in many societies (with at least a sense of gender equality, for example) is decision-based as humans have the ability to restrict offspring production. Thus, in the end, it is not a question well-suited for the biological section.

Rather than the example your provided a better analogy would be trying to figure out whether we are evolutionary driven to like Apple products.

 

I respectfully disagree. First of all, this question, for whatever reason, has been originally posted in the Lounge and was later moved to Biology by Phi, so if you don't think it should be in biology, mad_scientist had nothing to do with it. Secondly, while I don't support this view, papers I've linked seem to place this question firmly in a realm of dysgenics and there are quite a lot more of studies on the same topic.

 

As I understood the question in the OP, I would paraphrase it as: "Is there any correlation between Total Fertility Rates vs some measure of intellect, IQ for example? Will this eventually lead to an increased prevalence of lower-IQ individuals in the population?"

 

At least that's how I understood it.So it's not about fertility per se, as in "ability to have offsprings", but about the average number of children per woman.

 

Finally, on one hand there's Flynn effect showing the gradual increase of IQ over time, for multiple reasons, which suggests that the simple answer to OP is a "no", but on the other hand there are some recent studies that show that this increase had either stopped or even turned into a decline in the last two decades.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect#Possible_end_of_progression

 

I don't have enough knowledge of the topic to even try to analyse the potential cause, but I think there is a scientific value in this discussion.

Edited by pavelcherepan

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I am not opposed to a discussion on the topic per se. However, in my mind it is one of the topics that have to be navigated carefully, especially by scientists, as an hyperbolic extrapolation by some scientists have resulted in a large set of popular beliefs with rather unsavory results.

 

While i am no expert on this area myself, the mere issues with IQ as a measure in itself as well as the common occurrence of spurious correlations has led me to believe that extrapolations on this measure alone have to be treated with the highest level of scrutiny before we can embark on what is essentially the second part of the question of OP. There are psychologists (Lynn and Rushton for example) that have published heavily on these areas, but are considered to be controversial by experts.

 

On of the biggest issue I have with this or similar works is the evidence is entirely correlative, whereas the conclusions are strongly describing causal relationships in broad strokes. Some of these appear make the use of IQ rather questionable to me in the first place (such as the IQ of Kalahari bushmen).

 

To me (as a non-expert) there does not seem to be enough meat to it (if I apply the rigor of biological rather than psychological research). While it is true that this thread was moved here, I think that before starting the discussion one has to preface it with a longer discussion on IQ and other issues. One, which we clearly cannot do exhaustively. And from that standpoint I think it is fair to say that as laypersons we must be careful to do extrapolations (and no, it is not the issue of PC, it is the issue of making strong statements based on weak data).

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This is all very speculative, but here it goes.

Incidentally, religious people tend to have more offspring. I suspect that this is the work of oxytocin, which has an important role in reproductive behavior and has been suggested to have a role in religious behavior. As it turns out, administering oxytocin improves the ability to read faces, and oxytocin may treat the social deficits that are present in autism and may be largely responsible for their diminished religious behavior (see, Mentalizing Deficits Constrain Belief in a Personal God). There are two competing brain networks, the Default Mode Network (DMN) and the Executive Attention Network (EAN) that have been implicated by research showing that social problem-solving actually activates the DMN rather than the EAN (see, Social and Menchanical Reasoning Inhibit Eachother, PsychologyToday).


This could explain, for example, why atheists have a higher average IQ even though their social skills are probably less.


.. and their children fewer.

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Well, some religious people (Catholics) are told not to use birth control. So that certainly contributes to having more children. And as far as IQ goes, I think it makes total sense to reason that religion has is origins in an attempt to "explain the un-explainable." People with higher intelligence are more likely to be familiar with and understand the scientific explanations for things, and thus have less need for religion as a "catch all" explanation.

 

Anyway, the above is sheer speculation - just a guess, but it feels like a reasonable guess.

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Well, some religious people (Catholics) are told not to use birth control. So that certainly contributes to having more children. And as far as IQ goes, I think it makes total sense to reason that religion has is origins in an attempt to "explain the un-explainable." People with higher intelligence are more likely to be familiar with and understand the scientific explanations for things, and thus have less need for religion as a "catch all" explanation.

 

Anyway, the above is sheer speculation - just a guess, but it feels like a reasonable guess.

 

Except for the cases where you have a scientist who is very religious, like my thesis adviser in the university, who is a great scientist, was a president of International Mineralogical Association and yet he's extremely religious and has 6 or 7 kids, but that number is still growing, so I'm not 100% sure it's still the same :)

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Well, if there's anything I believe in it's that all "rules" have exceptions. :) I didn't mean any of the stuff I wrote as an absolute.


I in no way think that scientific knowledge precludes religious faith. An omnipotent God could make any darn universe He wished to, including the one we see around us. I don't think the "need for explanation" is the only reason people have religious faith.

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Furthermore, responses like "So in terms of evolutionary science, it's a dumb question" are either dishonest or just simply incorrect. Dysgenics as a field of study to the best of my knowledge is not considered non-scientific or a pseudoscience and simply searching in Google Scholar for "dysgenic + intelligence" gave me slightly over 9000 hits for papers and books on the subject. So this topic is getting some attention of science community and, therefore, the sentence quoted is plain wrong. Some examples for your reference:

 

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886914006278

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016028961000005X

I didn't say it was non-scientific, I said it was a dumb question. Scientists CAN ask dumb questions, and produce dumb answers. They are not exempt.

I think it's a dumb question for the reasons I gave, which you ignored, so I'll repeat.

The modern situation is just a miniscule blip in evolutionary time. Even if there were some sort of trend, it's likely to be local and temporary.

That's because it's a result of culture, rather than ingrained non-changing properties. Culture changes quickly in evolutionary terms, and the changes are accelerating all the time, in multiple new directions.

I do think it's dumb to claim that you can predict the consequences of something so volatile and varied.

 

It's only a moment in evolutionary terms, since parents used to select the partners for their children. Some still do. What about the effect of that change?

And many women now have children by two or three different men in their lifetime, or even more. That applies across social boundaries, with divorce being common and growing.

Are the different partners all going to have the same level of dumbness?

 

Just to simplify it to such an extent, as to say "dumb people have bigger families" shows a complete lack of insight into how complex and unpredictable human culture is, compared to evolutionary pressures in wild populations of animals that are far far less intelligent than humans, and consequently, much more predicable.

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Intelligence is not just a genetic condition but environmental as well. Individuals with little opportunity for education will likely have fewer resources to change their birth rate. Women in many cultures have little or no self-determination with regards to their own bodies and are often neglected educationally. This does not make them stupid or unintelligent merely ignorant. Education is often the biggest factor in determining birth-rates. Other factors include religious upbringing, politically leanings, economic position, physical and mental health conditions. The best way to control population growth is to educate the population including women especially.

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This is all very speculative, but here it goes.

Incidentally, religious people tend to have more offspring. ...

You may want to discuss that with nuns, monks + priests.

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