Socrates, Plato, Lucretius would not have allowed Einstein to pass out of the fifth grade. (

 We humans are dumber than we were 1000 years ago

Are we devolving rather than evolving? Is the human brain, which is 98.4% the same as a chimpanzee’s, slowly deteriorating? If Lucretius (99-55 BC) had known Einstein would he have considered him no smarter than a fifth grader?

These hominids had it much tougher than us and had to be a lot smarter. (

These are not frivolous questions and a recent study by Gerald Crabtree a geneticist at Stanford University suggests that the capacity of our human brain maxed out before we came out of Africa–not the movie, our ancestors. That should give us pause before we use the pejorative, “knuckle dragger” to refer to someone we think is stupid.

Lucretius envisioned and wrote about the atom long before Albert Einstein thought much about it. (

According to Crabtree’s research, the intellectual ability needed by hominids some two million years ago was more critical than it is today; therefore, under the stress and strain of survival they developed more of the genes that create intellectual capacity. Because survival in the jungle and on the savannahs was tougher than it is today (yeah, tell that to a single mother of four living on food stamps). Crabtree says, “Ever since

[then], human intellect has been on the decline because the advent of agriculture and urbanization has lessened the demand on our brain.” He adds. “I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas and a clear-sighted view of important issues.” Did you know that the philosopher, scientist and man-about-Greece, Lucretius, identified and envisioned and wrote about “atoms” in the 1st century BC.

The human brain, the most dynamic and marvelous invention in the universe is slowly deteriorating according to new genetic research. Damn! Just when we thought we were getting ahead of the curve. (

Think about it

It’s logical that our brains could be regressing. We are only marginally different than other primates and since our world has changed drastically, we would, as evolution has shown, adapt to it. In his book, The Third Chimpanzee, Jared Diamond demonstrates how similar humans (the third chimp) are to our distant cousins that we keep locked up in zoos and labs. He shows that despite only a 1.6% difference in our DNA, we have developed, in a relatively short period of evolution, a greater ability to do what we do–the good, the bad and the ugly. But now, in the modern era–let’s say the last 3000 years–we have become less and less dependent on our brainpower for survival. In fact, many of us in western civilization do not have to think about survival at all, it’s taken care of. Therein lies the problem. If we do not have to practice, test and expand our mental capacity, it will regress. Crabtree says that this lack of dependency on using our brain has encumbered the process of preventing genetic mutations that hamper intelligence. So slowly but surely our intellectual faculty is declining. We’re getting dumber and dumber.

Hunting and gathering at Costco is a tribal ritual and almost as tough as tracking, killing, gutting and dressing buffalo. (

And why wouldn’t we?

We no longer have to do anything near as difficult or intellectually challenging as our hominid, Greek and native ancestors did. Compared to them, we’ve got it easy, physically and mentally. No more survival treks to traverse glaciers (the only ice we know comes in a glass of scotch). No more navigating and seafaring to see if the world is flat (Google Earth does that). No more “CSI” thinking to search and destroy buffalo for food (Costco does that). No more quill pens and abacuses (computers and calculators do that). No more smoke signals and Morse code messages (Twitter does that). Basically, not much thinking required for the vast majority of the human species (Ray Kurzweil in his book, The Age of Spiritual Machines claims that by 2029 computers will think like humans).

Thomas Edison said, “There is nothing man won’t do to avoid the difficult task of thinking” and a hundred years later we have avoided it even more than Edison could have imagined. Daniel Pink in his excellent book, Drive, quotes Gary Hamel as saying that if you could transport a 1960s CEO to 2010, we would find today’s management rituals “little changed from those that governed corporate life a generation or two ago.” Friedrich Nietzsche called it “eternal recurrence”– the circular limitation in the human capacity to evolve.

Dumb and Dumber, made in 1992, might be a prescient peek into our future–2092 or 2192? (

Are we sinking in an intellectual sea of mud?

So with our dependency on a handful of intellects, scholars and scientists, there doesn’t seem to be much opportunity left for us to think and exercise our intellects about survival. We’re adrift in a glacial sea of intellectual mud: Tabloid news, political lies, corporate greed, religious fanaticism, gluttonous materialism, pervasive apathy and human ignorance. Other than that, everything is okie dokie. We’ve got most things we need down pat: How to operate microwaves (food), screw tops (water); mobile computers (tribal communications); pill dispensers (procreation control), tepee construction (30 year mortgages) and TV remotes (campfire entertainment).

So what if we’re getting dumber and dumber. Somebody smarter than us will figure it out and let us know what to think. Or cousin Chimp can look after it.