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November 21, 2004


Tim Worstall

I'd plump for nutrition as the cause of rising IQ's, myself.
Can't prove it of course but:
1) We know that inadequate nutrition in childhood reduces IQ.
2) We know that nutrition in childhood has got better over the past century and a half (ricketts was not unknown only 50 years ago, for example).

I'm not all that certain that we need any more complicated explanations than that, although willing to be corrected, of course.


Diet was my first thought too, but I'm not happy about the rickets comparison because, like scurvy, it's a disease of deficiency: and once you have enough vitamin C or D, more doesn't benefit you at all. Diet was poor during WWII, yet there was a high demand for Penguin Books (probably higher than there is now), so lot of people were prepared to do some intellectual reading.

Instead, the rising IQ phenomenon reminds me of Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man. IQs were uniformly lower in people from Southern Europe. I suspect were're becoming culturally more homogenous around Northern European values, and IQ scores reflect that. But I don't believe IQ is of much use anyway. Most of its adherents use it as a justification for unpleasant racist claptrap.


Cheers for the link - will reciprocate.

IQ's an indicator of cognitive capacity... This explains its continuing interest; but also the interest in manipulating it.

The increase maybe also has something to do with increased information flow, with newspapers, TV, radio, more free time to take it in? Admittedly, this has been at the expense of depth (entertainment wins over education), but doesn't most research suggest that cognitive ability is pretty much determined in the early years of childhood... where depth is less important than scale of exposure, I'd guess?

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