What is the Darwinian explanation for stupid people?

I’m not talking George Bush stupid, I’m talking stoopid!
[ul][li]People who break a glass then say “It wasn’t me” even though they’re the only person in the room.[/li][li]People who stub their cigarettes out on the arm of the couch.[/li][li]People who use a cigarette lighter to check whether the petrol tank is empty.[/li][/ul]

Because they’re slightly less stupid than the amount of stupid you need to be to kill yourself before you reproduce.

Ding ding.

As to George W. Bush: After earning a degree from Yale and an MBA from Harvard, he went on to win the governorship of the second most populous state in the union, handily whipping a popular incumbent. Then he was elected president over the odds-on favorite eight-year incumbent V.P., winning even the V.P.s own state AND that of his widely worshiped president–and will in all likelihood win a second term as well. If your kids aren’t doing well in school, this is probably the kind of stupid you want them to be.

As to your question: Thanks to modern science, we no longer have survival of the fittest anymore. We have survival of everyone, along with the concomitant dilution of the gene pool. Just be glad you won’t be around for the REAL Rise of the Stupid.

Sapience leads to different breeding conditions.

First of all, even stupid people can breed.

Smart people – theoretically, at least – breed when their personal conditions are right, and limit the number of offspring to what they can safely and comfortably support.

Stupid people don’t.

Theoretically, anyway.

For most of human history,( up until about 150 years ago), being stupid was no disadvantage in survival. There was no technology to learn to cope with, no dangerous machinery to read the owner’s manual of, no need for knowing how to read at all. Sure , Isaac Newton and Shakespeare had an advantage because they had marketable skills . But virtually all the human race lived by substistence agriculture.You lived your whole life in the village your were born in, you ate what was grown locally, and got paid for working with your back, not your mind.Many people didn’t even need to know how to count money–barter was a common way of doing business among American farmers (sharecroppers) till the Civil War, and even later.

Stupidity, like any other biological trait, presents with a range of values. You’ve got more stupid people, and less stupid people. The ones at both ends of the range get picked off by natural selection. But no matter how stringently the the environment selects against these limiting cases, you still end up with a range, and that range defines what we mean when we say someone is stupid.

I think you’re being over pessimistic about the scope of human history, chappachula – to give just one example the eastern Mediterranean (Greece, Italy, northern Egypt, and Asia Minor) during the Hellenic and Classic periods was pretty cosmopolitan and developed specialized economies that lasted close to a millennium (or more). Also, the development of European urban areas where success could be often be a product of education or training in a craft was well on its way 500 years before the U.S. Civil War. However, your point stands that the type of “intelligence” we value today was of much less value – or at least, the lack of it was less harmful – when the economy was less specialized and more completely agrarian.

I think, however, that the more likely answer is that stupidity isn’t particularly a product of genetics. My understanding is that “intelligence” is more likely to be a product of good early nutrition, good education, physical security, and other environmental factors. The “stupid” among us are probably more likely to have failed to meet their genetic potential than to have simply been born that way. The late Stephen Gould wrote a book on the subject, “The Measure of Man.”


Well, any time socities become sufficiently advanced as to require economic specialization, the natural selective forces against that society are going to be pretty weak to non-existant, which is to say they take care of their weak/dumb/etc.

Depends on the “flavor” of selection at work. Natural selection can operate to weed out the extremes (stabilizating selection), or to weed out all but one extreme or the other (directional selection).

That’s “The Mismeasure of Man”. It was written as a direct counterargument to Herrnstein’s and Murray’s “The Bell Curve” which advocated genetic determinism in intelligence.

Sure, but the later would mean that the human race is getting stupider, or less stupid over time; a proposition for which I’ve seen no evidence.

Yet Cliffy seems to be saying modern science, far from leading to the Rise of the Stupid you seem to predict, can lead to a more intelligent population (through better nutrition, education, etc.).

What exactly do you mean by a “concomitant dilution of the gene pool,” and what proof do you have that this happening?

Recite over and over: “Darwin’s theory doesn’t require the optimum solution.”

If these things were unattractive to the opposite sex, they would have vanished long ago. And who has a big social life in high school, the smart ones? The smart ones often end up as outcasts.

Your above list is compatible with “being successful” today and in the distant past. Imagine rich, confident, cuthroat competitive parents with lots of kids who display all of the above characteristics and many more.

Since you’re qualified to insult the intelligence of The President of the United States, which country are you currently the leader of?

Society has not automated many rote tasks and needs all sorts of people. As my mother was fond of saying, “someone needs to dig the ditches”. The same idea could be applied to a very large number of occupations. I’d imagine if everyone had a degree in physics and was able to discuss quantum mechanics as small talk, getting your garbage collected would be a real bitch.

I don’t think merely being the leader of a country is a criterion. Here is one of those cases where I think reference to Hitler is justified. He was the unquestioned leader of Germany and a genius at knowing how to rouse them to action. However, I’m not sure he was particularly intelligent.

Then what is your defination of intelligence? I am not trying to be stupid myself with that question, however while I disagree with almost everthing Hitler did I do not think he was a stupid man.

Intelligence has been more or less increasing. Read this thread for more on the phenomena known as the flynn effect.

Ah, but does the Flynn Effect actually measure a rise in intelligence or merely schooling? I’d argue the latter.

Ironically, the areas where the flynn effect were most dramatic happened to be the most global areas of the IQ test. Eskimos and Kalari Bushmen could understand and do these sections of the test. Read the link in the other thread for more details.