Thursday, September 11, 2014

IQ in decline across the world as scientists say we’re getting dumber

This is a generally good article below but it needs a little more background.  In particular, one needs to know why IQ scores rose for most of the 20th century (the "Flynn effect").  The evidence seems to converge on more schooling. As people got more and more  schooling (as they mostly did throughout the 20th century) they learned more and more test-taking strategies and that helped when they did IQ tests.  But that process obviously had its limits and that limit has now generally been reached.  Now that the Flynn effect has run its course we see what the underlying tendency is -- towards a dumbing down of the population.  With dumb women having most of the babies, any other result would be a surprise

FOR at least a century, average IQ has been on the rise, thanks to improved nutrition, living conditions and technology.  But now, scientists think the trend is going into reverse.

In Denmark, every man aged 18 is given an IQ test, to assess them in case of military conscription. It means around 30,000 people have been taking the same test for years — and scores have fallen by 1.5 points since 1998.

The pattern is repeated around the world, according to New Scientist, with tests showing the same thing happening everywhere from Australia and the UK to Brazil and China.

The most rapid signs of IQ growth in the US appeared between the 1950s and 1980s, the magazine reported, with “intelligence” rocketing by around 3 points per decade.

The trend for rising IQs was first documented by New Zealand scientist James Flynn, and is known as the Flynn Effect. It has been attributed to advances in health and medicine, as well as ever-expanding technology and culture forcing us to contend with a multi-layered world.

Now, the theory is that in developed countries, improvements such as public sanitation and more stimulating environments may have gone as far as they can in terms of increasing our intelligence.

The first evidence of a dip in IQ was reported in Norway in 2004, closely followed by similar studies emerging from developed countries including Sweden and the Netherlands.

Dr Flynn has said that such minor decreases could be attributable to reversible issues with social conditions, such as falling income, unhealthy diet or problems with education.

But some experts believe our IQs are in a state of permanent decline.

Some researchers suggest that the Flynn effect has masked an underlying decline in our genetic intelligence — meaning more people have been developing closer to their full potential, but that potential has been dropping.

This has been attributed in some quarters to the fact that the most highly educated people in society are having fewer children than the general population.

It is an uncomfortable thought, and one that strays worryingly close to controversial theories on genetic modification and even eugenics.

Richard Lynn of the University of Ulster in the UK says our IQ has declined by 1 point between 1950 and 2000, which seems very small.

But Michael Woodley, a psychologist at Free University of Brussels in Belgium, said even such a small drop can mean a dramatic reduction in the number of highly intelligent people — those geniuses who are responsible for our greatest innovations.

In fact, Dr Woodley says our IQ has been in decline since Victorian times, while Professor Gerald Crabtree says it happened as soon as we started to live in densely populated areas with a steady supply of food — 5000 to 12,000 years ago.

The importance of IQ trends is up for debate in itself, since IQ tests can be an unreliable measure of intelligence, skewed by education and preparation for solving certain kinds of problems.

Furthermore, many experts say there are multiple forms of intelligence. While academic intelligence is important, it is often people with other qualities, such as determination and self-control, who are most successful or socially productive.

When we say we are becoming more intelligent, are we simply learning different ways of thinking?

As Dr Flynn himself said: “There are other intellectual qualities, namely, critical acumen and wisdom, that IQ tests were not designed to measure and do not measure and these are equally worthy of attention.

“Our obsession with IQ is one indication that rising wisdom has not characterised our time.”



A nasty one for the meat haters

The medical literature is full of admonishments to eat less red meat.  Is a backflip on the way?  Meat is certainly the easiest way to get a high protein diet

The study  was of a good sample of people people aged 30–54 years and featured very extensive controls -- so the inferences are fairly secure  -- which is unlikely to be equally true of other studies in the area

You might think that a diet involving juicy steaks, blocks of cheese or pots of houmous is a heart-attack waiting to happen.

But people who eat a high-protein diet have a lower risk of high blood pressure than those who eat less protein.

U.S. researchers found people who consumed about 102g of protein a day had a 40 per cent lower risk of developing high blood pressure than people who consumed half this amount.

In terms of food, 102g equates to about four beef steaks, five chicken breasts or ten tins of chickpeas.

Fibre was also found to be beneficial, so a diet high in this and protein led to a 59 per cent reduction in the risk of high blood pressure.

High blood pressure - also known as 'hypertension' - is called the 'silent killer' because it rarely has obvious symptoms.  If left untreated, however, it can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.

According to NHS figures, around 30 per cent of people in England have high blood pressure but may not know it.  The only way of knowing there is a problem is to have blood pressure measured by a GP or other healthcare professional.

Previous studies have shown protein-rich foods like eggs or seafood have blood pressure-lowering qualities.

The new study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, tracked 1,361 healthy people for an average of 11.3 years to see if they developed high blood pressure.

Researchers found both animal and plant proteins were associated with lower blood pressure readings.

Both types of protein also led to a statistically significant reductions in the risk of high blood pressure.

The beneficial effects of protein were apparent for men and women and those of any weight.

The study's author Justin Buendia, a research assistant at Boston University School of Medicine in the U.S., said eating more protein could mean we might feel fuller sooner,

As a result, we eat less of other high-calorie food groups, improving our overall diet.

He told Yahoo news: 'It may be that people who eat more protein have healthier diets in general.

'With higher protein consumption, you may eat less of other high-calorie foods.

You may feel full sooner, and that would lead to lower weight, which would lead to beneficial metabolic outcomes, such as lower blood pressure.'

However, he added that protein itself might have a quality that reduces hypertension because the amino acids in proteins may help dilate blood vessels, effectively lowering blood pressure.

Arginine - an amino acid found in both plant and animal protein sources, including eggs - plays a role in blood-vessel dilation, he said.

He added that recent animal studies suggest some amino acids in dairy products may have similar effects.

'Having an egg or some milk for breakfast is probably a good way to start the day. In terms of snacking, instead of going for a bag of chips or bread, have yogurt or a piece of cheese or a small handful of nuts.'

However, another study found for middle-aged people, eating protein from animal sources like meat and cheese was as deadly as smoking.

The University of Southern California study found for those aged 50 or more, people who ate the most animal proteins were almost twice as likely to die early as those who ate low amounts.

They were also four times as likely to be killed by cancer, a figure comparable to smoking.

The protein found in meat, cheese, eggs and other animal products was responsible for feeding tumours and fuelling the ageing of the body's cells, the researchers said.

Protein could also be bad for your kidneys, increasing the risk of developing kidney disease, and can also increase the risk of calcium kidney stones.



Favors and Loot for Sale

By Walter E. Williams

At a July fundraising event in Chicago, Mrs. Michelle Obama remarked, "So, yeah, there's too much money in politics. There's (sic) special interests that have too much influence."

Sen. John McCain has been complaining for years that "there is too much money washing around political campaigns today." According to a 2012 Reuters poll, "Seventy-five percent of Americans feel there is too much money in politics." Let's think about money in politics, but first a few facts.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Barack Obama raised a little over $1 billion, while Mitt Romney raised a little under $1 billion. Congressional candidates raised over $3.5 billion. In 2013, there were 12,341 registered lobbyists and $3.2 billion was spent on lobbying. During the years the Clintons have been in national politics, they've received at least $1.4 billion in contributions, according to Time magazine and the Center for Responsive Politics, making them "The First Family of Fundraising."

Here are my questions to you: Why do people and organizations cough up billions of dollars to line political coffers? One might answer that these groups and individuals are simply extraordinarily civic-minded Americans who have a deep and abiding interest in encouraging elected officials to live up to their oath of office to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution.

Another possible answer is that the people who spend these billions of dollars on politicians just love participating in the political process. If you believe either of these explanations for coughing up billions for politicians, you're probably a candidate for psychiatric attention, a straitjacket and a padded cell.

A far better explanation for the billions going to the campaign coffers of Washington politicians and lobbyists lies in the awesome government power and control over business, property, employment and other areas of our lives. Having such power, Washington politicians are in the position to grant special privileges, extend favors, change laws and do other things that if done by a private person would land him in jail. The major component of congressional power is the use of the IRS to take the earnings of one American to give to another.

The Dow Chemical Co. posted record lobbying expenditures last year, spending over $12 million. Joined by Alcoa, who spent $3.5 million, Dow supports the campaigns of congressmen who support natural gas export restrictions. Natural gas is a raw material for both companies. They fear natural gas prices would rise if export restrictions were lifted. Dow and other big users of natural gas make charitable contributions to environmentalists who seek to limit natural gas exploration. Natural gas export restrictions empower Russia's Vladimir Putin by making Europeans more dependent on Russian natural gas.

General Electric spends tens of millions of dollars lobbying. Part of their agenda was to help get Congress to outlaw incandescent light bulbs so that they could sell their more expensive compact fluorescent bulbs. It should come as no surprise that General Electric is a contributor to global warmers who helped convince Congress that incandescent bulbs were destroying the planet.

These are just two examples, among thousands, of the role of money in politics. Most concerns about money in politics tend to focus on relatively trivial matters such as the costs of running for office and interest-group influence on Congress and the White House. The bedrock problem is the awesome power of Congress. We Americans have asked, demanded and allowed congressmen to ignore their oaths of office and ignore the constitutional limitations imposed on them. The greater the congressional power to give handouts and grant favors and make special privileges the greater the value of being able to influence congressional decision-making. There's no better influence than money.

You say, "Williams, you've explained the problem. What's your solution?" Maybe we should think about enacting a law mandating that Congress cannot do for one American what it does not do for all Americans. For example, if Congress creates a monopoly for one American, it should create a monopoly for all Americans. Of course, a better solution is for Congress to obey our Constitution.



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