Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Degeneration and History Part I

Of Chaos and Geniuses
This is the first in what I envision as a long series of posts that attempt to articulate a developing worldview I am slowly but surely coming to embrace. I hope my thoughts may help some others as much as they are helping me place things in perspective.

O, I wish I was in the land of cotton
Old times there are not forgotten

We all know the words. Everyone truly part of the Southern movement at one point or another has pined for a return to something better.

It would seem that no matter the place, time, language or country one can always find folk that reminisce about the good ole days. For the most part we attribute this to nothing more than mere nostalgia. Sure we look and see particular things we like better about parts of the past but the current generation generally always feels that their's is the superior to the past. After all, surely one can always look around and see the signs of greater technology and learning.

Suppose for a moment that the past is indeed better. The converse of this thesis is that the future will be worse. Do not think on that too long just now. Simply humor me and accept my supposition that the past is indeed better than today.

If one were to apply the Chaos Theory to social evolution it would seem plain that all currently held views relating to the development of civilizations, governments and societies are flawed.

You say the Chaos Theory is non-applicable to a non-deterministic system such as the items I list above; If you assume that these things are without deterministic value then it would be correct to state that this theory cannot be applied to a view of the development of mankind.

I contend that it is possible apply values to the various functions that comprise the equation that has produced the current state of human affairs. I also contend that this system in dynamical, in other words the values of the functions within the equation have changed over time.

I say it is possible, that is not to mean that we ourselves can perform this calculation. We are capable of only creating variables for items that we can observe at least to some degree. Attempts by man in his finite wisdom to create such an equation will fail. Science has as its purpose the study of that which can be observed. We cannot observe the variables affecting this equation and ultimately supporting my theory that things are indeed worse today than yesterday we must therefore turn to another discipline.

Philosophy has often filled the void in humanistic thought where science leaves off. For all the inherent flaws in philosophy the art of logic, deduction and reasoning may serve us to some degree in the dissection of this discussion.

What facts might we consider in a logical, reasoned approach to the question of were things actually better in the past? A partial list would include several of the great mysteries of history.

Consider the Great Pyramids. Today we look in awe and ask, how did such a primitive people build such enormous structures. Of course Egypt is not alone in this regard, there are other great structures around the world; all built by peoples that we consider primitive.

Many theories and explanations exist to explain these structures. One fact however remains; a great deal of engineering expertise went into the construction. Archeologists are continually amazed at just how bright previously considered dim humans have proven to be.

We often assume our own superiority based upon our accumulated knowledge. There is a vast difference in accumulated knowledge and intelligence. In fact, logically if one were to create a system, a society, it would seem most prudent to place the most intelligent individuals early in the development of the system. Thus the thoughts efforts and works of the most intelligent would be passed down as accumulated knowledge for lesser men to build upon.

The Butterfly Effect states that small variations in the initial stages of a system have the most reaching affects on the long-term behavior of the system. Since knowledge is nothing more than accumulated learning, smarter men earlier in the system produce greater impacts. If we were to build a system from scratch, logic dictates that we would follow this model.

Our assumption that we are superior simply because we know more is flawed; we merely stand on the shoulders of the giants that preceded us.

One pillar in my theory that things were better in the past than they are now is that men were simply smarter. We cannot prove this nor can it be disproved. We have insufficient data. We can but look to the past and ask, do we have the sort of thinkers, builders and creators among us now to compare to men of old.

Could a modern engineer, robbed of his technology and deprived of centuries of accumulated knowledge mange a project such as the construction of the Egyptian pyramids? Original thinking is a sure sign of intelligence, not the mere adaptation of previously developed concepts. How many Leonardo De Vinci do you suppose we have produced in this generation? Our population is so much greater; one would assume we have produced such men.

I can present only anecdotal evidence to support my assertion that humans were more intelligent in the past than the present. We simply do not have enough data covering enough time to prove otherwise. We do have smaller samplings of data to support this conclusion however.

I wrote a small post back in march that I thought little of at the time. IQ and wealth of Nations conducted research into the mean IQ level of developed and underdeveloped nations from 1950 and projected IQ levels out to 2050. While the discussion of the book is centered on the impact of mean IQ level in relation to the prosperity of nations it does serve to uncover an important fact.

In 1950 the global mean IQ was 91.64. In 2005 the mean IQ is 88.88. Some would say that this is of little consequence; after all the sampling size is much larger and on the genius side of the 2005 sampling surely there much be more people. This is true, what this study does show is a gradual shift to the left. Given enough time, a couple thousand years, such a shift logically would even impact the far ends of the bell curve. It is perfectly reasonable to combine our anecdotal evidence with this small sampling of data and conclude that it is entirely possible that mankind is in fact becoming less intelligent.

In one small way this supports the notion that yesterday was better than today.

Another question must be raised by this assertion, if true. If man is becoming less intelligent then that would surely indicate a degeneration of sorts.

Science has yet to even notice such a degeneration, philosophy it would seem will no longer serve us in an attempt to answer why this degeneration may in fact be occurring. We are left with religion to answer this question.

I will provide further justifications in future posts that support my theory that mankind is indeed degenerating and yesterday was better than today. I am really just getting started with the articulation of this thought.

Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem
El Cid

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