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Outsmarting Ourselves

on February 12, 2011
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AFP: “Are Brains Shrinking to Make Us Smarter?Human brains are getting smaller, yet we’re apparently getting smarter. Does that mean dinosaurs with walnut-sized brains could have actually been geniuses?

Joking aside—as there is no word on dinosaur intelligence in the Agence France-Presse report—researchers are trying to explain the remarkable decline in human brain size. Estimates show that in the past 30,000 years (roughly equivalent to the past 3,000 years in creationist models), human brains have become about ten percent smaller, dropping about a tennis ball’s worth of total volume.

University of Missouri psychologist David Geary, one of the researchers, explained, “As complex societies emerged, the brain became smaller because people did not have to be as smart to stay alive.” He believes the increased interaction and divisions of labor as human populations coalesced permitted those with smaller brains to survive. That said, scientists don’t believe our larger-brained ancestors were, on the whole, any smarter.

“[E]ven though a wolf has a much larger brain than dogs, dogs are far more sophisticated, intelligent and flexible, so intelligence is not very well linked to brain size,” noted Duke University anthropologist Brian Hare.

The same conclusion—that despite larger brains, our non-Neanderthal ancestors were no more intelligent, and perhaps less—strikes us as chronological snobbery.

We have frequently mentioned the fact that Neanderthal brains were larger than those of today’s humans, yet Neanderthals are generally thought to have been less intelligent than “modern” humans. The same conclusion—that despite larger brains, our non-Neanderthal ancestors were no more intelligent, and perhaps less—strikes us as chronological snobbery. While evolutionary theory posits a steady progress of life, the creation perspective begins with a perfect Adam and Eve whose sin led to destructive consequences. From the pyramids to the Antikythera mechanism, a number of ancient artifacts reveal that our ancestors may well have been more intelligent than we are!

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