Research conducted by a Stanford University geneticist may confirm what many of us already suspect and what the satirical film Idiocracy portrayed: The human species is getting dumber.
Dr. Gerald R. Crabtree has hypothesized there is an ongoing intellectual decline occurring in the human race. His assessments have been published in the Cell Press journal Trends in Genetics. Crabtree blames the deterioration of both intellectual and emotional abilities on adverse genetic mutations.
Behavior and intellect require optimally functioning genes. But the combination of dysgenics and easily affected genes are gradually eroding our intellectual and emotional capabilities.
The development of urbanization, medical advancements, and daily conveniences has weakened the process of natural selection, which would have otherwise weeded out mutations leading to intellectual disabilities within the human genome.
There are an assumed 5,000 genes responsible for controlling the human intellect, which are susceptible to unfavorable changes. Dr. Crabtree estimates that within 3,000 years (about 120 generations) the whole of the human race will sustain two or more deleterious mutations harmful to our cognitive and emotional stability.
These mental and emotional alternations will not be negligible to anyone alive today, in 20 years, or even 100. The proliferation of these variations are slow. If you have recently encountered a discernible level of stupidity, it is likely not directly related to this study.
To further illustrate, a similar principle was applied in the 2006 movie Idiocracy. The opening narration of the film explains the premise and the creation of a dystopian society from dysgenics.
“In modern society, natural selection is indifferent toward intelligence, with the result that in the future, stupid people (who reproduce more often) will greatly outnumber the intelligent.”
The term dysgenics is an antonym of eugenics, the social philosophy of improving human hereditary qualities. In the film, these “less than ideal” genetic qualities are left to flourish. The society is witnessed in contrast by a modern day stasis-slumbering protagonist who rouses from an experimental suspended animation state after 500 years, likewise to how the character Fry awakens in Futurama after being cryogenically preserved. The main character is awestruck and bewildered to how the human race has evolved into indolent simpletons.
The principle of dysgenics or a degeneration of humanity was also represented in H. G. Wells’ 1895 science fiction novella The Time Machine when the time traveling English scientist and inventor meets a post-human race called the Eloi. They are a small band of naïve, childlike adults who lack curiosity and discipline as they frolic about seemingly unconcerned with how they are provided food and shelter. This clan is indiscriminately poached upon by another humanoid race, the subterranean-dwelling Morlocks. Contrastingly, the Morlocks are ape-like troglodytes. They are industrial and brutish in comparison to the ineffectual Eloi.
Gerald R. Crabtree M.D. is a Professor of Pathology and Developmental Biology at Stanford University School of Medicine. He earned his B.S. in Chemistry and Mathematics from Western Liberty State College and his M.D. from Temple University. After a short term at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), he started his lab at Stanford in 1985.
Crabtree has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator since 1987, was induced into the National Academy of Science in 1997, and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. To avoid confusion, Dr. Gerald R. Crabtree is not Dr. Gerald W. Crabtree, the Chief Operating Officer of the biotechnology firm Nuvilex, Inc.
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