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Thread: Evolution of Intelligence: A Comparison

  1. #31
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    I admit to some frustration regarding your style Colin. It's like a continuous string of "have you stopped beating your wife yet" argumentation. No, I don't keep forgetting about cephalopods. What makes you think I wouldn't agree that intelligence is not a spectrum? What makes you think I'd disagree with anything in your last 2 sentences? I don't discount the many amazing cognitive abilities of the myriad creatures that aren't on the most intelligent species list. Quite often I expound on them.

  2. #32
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    I agree that we should study cephalopods just because they are so different but they show no signs of organised group behaviour (I think, could be wrong. Perhaps they suffer from being so well evolved into their environment that evolution stopped as it did for sharks. Land animals have faced greater changes and change is the driver of evolution. Anticipating change is an important function of intelligence along many of its vectors.
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    I agree that we should study cephalopods just because they are so different but they show no signs of organised group behaviour (I think, could be wrong.
    There are some midocean squids that travel in schools.
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  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Perhaps they suffer from being so well evolved into their environment that evolution stopped as it did for sharks.
    There are many species of sharks, adapting to many different undersea environments. So we can't really say evolution itself stopped for them, just that a general body plan has been maintained over long periods.
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  5. #35
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    Probably "genetic drift" and not evolution but human intelligence is on the decline. Article on NBC news about measurable declines in IQ scores in latest generations, even after adjusting for known demographic factors.

    Secondly, the human brain size supposedly peaked about 20,000 years ago and I read somewhere recently that the volume decline is about that of a tennis ball over this time period. Taking a step back this does makes some sense. There is a tendency confuse "knowledge" with "intelligence". Knowledge is a cumulative thing that can easily be absorbed and built upon from the work of others. Before writing existed (and even further before refined language existed), humans had to exist, hunt, survive, live based largely upon the retained stored info within their craniums. A lot more computing horsepower is needed to do all of the things that humans successfully did without relying on technological aids, books, notes and even detailed verbal instructions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KABOOM View Post
    Probably "genetic drift" and not evolution but human intelligence is on the decline. Article on NBC news about measurable declines in IQ scores in latest generations, even after adjusting for known demographic factors.

    Secondly, the human brain size supposedly peaked about 20,000 years ago and I read somewhere recently that the volume decline is about that of a tennis ball over this time period. Taking a step back this does makes some sense. There is a tendency confuse "knowledge" with "intelligence". Knowledge is a cumulative thing that can easily be absorbed and built upon from the work of others. Before writing existed (and even further before refined language existed), humans had to exist, hunt, survive, live based largely upon the retained stored info within their craniums. A lot more computing horsepower is needed to do all of the things that humans successfully did without relying on technological aids, books, notes and even detailed verbal instructions.
    Myth busted. IQ scores are adjusted in scale for increase in each generation. Scores are not absolutes, they vary and are tested differently over time and by source. Truth is, statistically we're actually increasing overall in cognitive skills as critical thinking becomes more of an educational priority.
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    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Truth is, statistically we're actually increasing overall in cognitive skills as critical thinking becomes more of an educational priority.
    Can you give a reference for that? I didnít know that, though I have to admit itís not something Iíve studied very hard.


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  9. #39
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    https://ourworldindata.org/intelligence
    The most common way of assessing intelligence is IQ testing. The Flynn effect describes the phenomenon that over time average IQ scores have been increasing in all countries since the turn of the twentieth century (the earliest point in time for which data is available). The change in IQ scores has been approximately three IQ points per decade. One major implications of this trend is that an average individual alive today would have an IQ of 130 by the standards of 1910, making them more intelligent than 98% of the population at that time. Equivalently, an individual alive in 1910 would have an IQ of 70 by today’s standards, a score that would be low enough to be considered intellectually disabled in the modern world.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect
    The Flynn effect is the substantial and long-sustained increase in both fluid and crystallized intelligence test scores that were measured in many parts of the world over the 20th century.[1] When intelligence quotient (IQ) tests are initially standardized using a sample of test-takers, by convention the average of the test results is set to 100 and their standard deviation is set to 15 or 16 IQ points. When IQ tests are revised, they are again standardized using a new sample of test-takers, usually born more recently than the first. Again, the average result is set to 100. However, when the new test subjects take the older tests, in almost every case their average scores are significantly above 100.
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  10. #40
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    ...The Wiki article indicates that the reasons for the Flynn Effect are more complicated than my answer. So, I'm wrong again.
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  11. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    ...The Wiki article indicates that the reasons for the Flynn Effect are more complicated than my answer. So, I'm wrong again.
    I don't know if you're wrong, but you said that "cognitive skills" are increasing, and I don't understand if you are basing this solely on IQ scores? The reason is, the post that you criticized included this thing about our brain getting smaller, and it seems like an interesting thing to consider, not something to simply shoot down. There seem to be a number of reasons, including perhaps smaller body mass, but there could also be some reason related to how our eyes are getting worse or our jaws smaller. So when you said that "cognitive skills are rising," did you simply mean that IQ scores are getting higher?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I don't know if you're wrong, but you said that "cognitive skills" are increasing, and I don't understand if you are basing this solely on IQ scores? The reason is, the post that you criticized included this thing about our brain getting smaller, and it seems like an interesting thing to consider, not something to simply shoot down. There seem to be a number of reasons, including perhaps smaller body mass, but there could also be some reason related to how our eyes are getting worse or our jaws smaller. So when you said that "cognitive skills are rising," did you simply mean that IQ scores are getting higher?
    Brains are getting smaller, but then Neanderthals had bigger brains than modern humans. Your brain also shrinks as you age.

    I have read articles (anecdote time) that suggested that kids of today do better at certain kinds of cognitive and basic logic tests than 20 years ago. I'll try to find sources.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Brains are getting smaller, but then Neanderthals had bigger brains than modern humans. Your brain also shrinks as you age.
    I prefer to think of the more mature brain size as "concentrated" rather than shrunken.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Brains are getting smaller, but then Neanderthals had bigger brains than modern humans. Your brain also shrinks as you age.
    The thing about Neanderthals, as I understand it, is that they were somewhat heavier than we are, and that the difference may be related to that.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I have read articles (anecdote time) that suggested that kids of today do better at certain kinds of cognitive and basic logic tests than 20 years ago. I'll try to find sources.
    No luck. I'm not even sure what to search for.
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  16. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    No luck. I'm not even sure what to search for.
    I think the idea does make sense. We have better nutrition now, and people are more educated, so depending on what cognitive function you measure I think it would make sense. People who spend a lot of time playing shooting games probably become better at predicting the movements of multiple objects, for example.


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  17. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I think the idea does make sense. We have better nutrition now, and people are more educated, so depending on what cognitive function you measure I think it would make sense. People who spend a lot of time playing shooting games probably become better at predicting the movements of multiple objects, for example.
    It makes some sense, but I still would've like to find a source to cite for it. It just feels... incomplete when I don't. A holdover from my days editing Wikipedia.
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    And the mystery of why our brains are getting smaller does remain. The disconcerting possibility is that you can lose function when you lose the evolutionary pressure to preserve it. Today, I donít think there is good evidence that people with high IQs procreate more successfully than those with lower IQs.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    And the mystery of why our brains are getting smaller does remain. The disconcerting possibility is that you can lose function when you lose the evolutionary pressure to preserve it. Today, I don’t think there is good evidence that people with high IQs procreate more successfully than those with lower IQs.
    Bigger brains do not mean smarter people, and smaller brains do not mean dumber people.

    I'd say, in our modern world of skilled labor, the evolutionary pressure for intelligence is slowly increasing. We need more smarts to work in and navigate today's more complex world.
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  20. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    And the mystery of why our brains are getting smaller does remain. The disconcerting possibility is that you can lose function when you lose the evolutionary pressure to preserve it.
    That may well be the correct explanation.

    The likely reason our canine teeth became smaller than those of other primates, is that our ancestors used flint knives for cutting, so there was no evolutionary pressure to preserve large teeth.

    The likely reason we lost our natural fur coats, is that our ancestors used animal hides for extra warmth, so there was no evolutionary pressure to preserve our own fur.

    Meanwhile, our brain size was increasing... Until we began to use external devices — first cave paintings, later scrolls of parchment — to store information. When that happened we had less need for storage capacity between our ears, and therefore...

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    I wonder what devices like smart phones will eventually do to human brain size?
    Last edited by Colin Robinson; 2019-May-25 at 09:30 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Bigger brains do not mean smarter people, and smaller brains do not mean dumber people.
    Maybe not, but at least it is possible to make an objective comparison between the brain sizes of (e.g.) Neanderthals and Anatomically Modern Humans...

    Objectively comparing smartness is more difficult. Since Neanderthals were discovered, we've assumed that (in spite of their larger brains) they were dumber because they have a slightly simpler tool set than their AMH neighbours... But do we really know that they were dumber?
    Last edited by Colin Robinson; 2019-May-25 at 09:37 AM.

  22. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    I wonder what devices like smart phones will eventually do to human brain size?
    Way too soon to tell, I think. Evolution takes a while to show its results.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    Since Neanderthals were discovered, we've assumed that they were dumber because they have a slightly simpler tool set than their AMH neighbours... But do we really know that they were dumber?
    As someone with Neanderthal ancestry I think it's fair to say, we don't know what went on inside those big brains.

    The only clue we have is, AFAIK their tool set never advanced much, they stayed largely the same all around until things around them changed too much for them to keep up. So, not necessarily dumb, just not creative enough to go with the flow. They seemed to lack innovation overall.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    As someone with Neanderthal ancestry I think it's fair to say, we don't know what went on inside those big brains.
    One thing we do know, is that the energy cost of a brain increases with its size. So a species is most unlikely to evolve a big brain unless it has a use for one.

    The only clue we have is, AFAIK their tool set never advanced much,
    Perhaps the simplicity of their tools meant that they had to use more strategy when hunting...

    they stayed largely the same all around until things around them changed too much for them to keep up.
    Or, they had physiological adaptations to ice-age Europe, which were no longer advantageous when the glaciers melted...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    One thing we do know, is that the energy cost of a brain increases with its size. So a species is most unlikely to evolve a big brain unless it has a use for one.
    They used it for cooling the blood.

    *ducks and runs*
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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    Perhaps the simplicity of their tools meant that they had to use more strategy when hunting...
    Oh, I'm sure they did. The question is, how or if their strategies changed when the conditions did.

    Or, they had physiological adaptations to ice-age Europe, which were no longer advantageous when the glaciers melted...
    AMH has physiological adaptations and limitations too, we just work around them. Fire, clothing, shoes, water bottles, shelters; we don't need to change our physiology much when we invent tools and can alter our environment.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Oh, I'm sure they did. The question is, how or if their strategies changed when the conditions did.

    AMH has physiological adaptations and limitations too, we just work around them. Fire, clothing, shoes, water bottles, shelters;
    All very useful, but which are actually inventions of AMH? Fire, for instance, was used about one million years ago by the species homo erectus...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    All very useful, but which are actually inventions of AMH? Fire, for instance, was used about one million years ago by the species homo erectus...
    Hmm, well. I am not sure. But I do know that AMH improved on past tools in their own timespan, making things more effective or easier to use. (Most of them no doubt, were things hard to fossilize, so we only know bits and pieces. But those show us a pattern of steady innovations and cumulative changes over the prehistoric time period.)
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  29. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I'd say, in our modern world of skilled labor, the evolutionary pressure for intelligence is slowly increasing. We need more smarts to work in and navigate today's more complex world.
    I'm not sure why you can state that. Are you saying that people with higher intelligence have more chance to survive or reproduce, therefore creating evolutionary pressure? Could you explain how that happens?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    I wonder what devices like smart phones will eventually do to human brain size?
    Yes, I think that's a good question. I saw a person wearing a t-shirt the other day that said, "I don't need Google, my wife knows everything." But as a serious question, since we can look everything up, it might take away the drive to try to have a good memory. And given that, our ability to have a good memory might deteriorate just because there is little evolutionary advantage to having it.
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