View Full Version : Has human domestication made us stupider?

19-04-11, 16:15
"One of the most well-documented differences between domesticated animals and their wild counterparts is their brains: across every species that has been looked at, the brains of domesticated animals are smaller. Why does domestication lead to shrinking brains? And what does this mean in terms of intelligence" source (http://scienceblogs.com/observations/2010/04/domesticated_dummies.php)

other articles of interest:

Can humans be considered domesticated? (http://www.askabiologist.org.uk/answers/viewtopic.php?id=4423)

Effects of domestication on variation (http://www.helium.com/items/1767386-varying-life-by-domestication)

If modern humans are so smart why are our brains shrinking? (http://www.srilankafoundation.lk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=379:if-modern-humans-are-so-smart-why-are-our-brains-shrinking&catid=97:science-a-technology&Itemid=317)

19-04-11, 17:05
Boy, do I expect to be pulled apart by wild dogs (no pun intended) for this one...

I would not dispute the possibility that we are losing our ability to think in abstract terms or to apply logic to our decisions that we make. It may be the result of domestication, meaning that we rarely need to think or plan a way to survive into next week any longer. It may be the result of an intellectual laziness since so much of our work and thinking is done for us by so many others. Maybe it is a combination of both things.
Out of mercy for all, I'll limit this one to a single anecdote to illustrate my point.
In the US, the push to spay/neuter dogs and cats has made it almost mandatory unless one is a licensed breeder. OK, for the most part I get the idea because I too hate to see abandoned puppies.
But look at least at one person gets so taken up by the idea.
When I still was a police dog handler/trainer, we would occasionally look at dogs that people wanted to donate to our agency.
As most dog people know, work dogs must generally be very energetic and have very high play/prey drives. (Those trained to assist the blind are an exception) That is why we buy our dogs from Dutch, Czech, German, Hungarian, etc, breeders.
Due to the fact that we desired very high drives in our dogs, especially those that were being considered for patrol duties, we generally restricted ourselves to taking unneutered dogs (when they were males of course).
One nice lady brought her dog for us to look at. As is the case with most dog owners, her idea of an energetic dog was not the same as ours, so we did not see much in the dog that we needed. Since she took the time to bring the dog over, though, we were giving it fair consideration. At one point, she added "Oh, and he's neutered too". It was clear that she felt that this fact would make our acceptance more likely. I now thought that I had found a polite way in which to tell her that her dog was not what we needed.
I explained the whole idea of desiring intact dogs because they have to possess strong defense drives and have to subdue suspects, etc. She appeared shocked that our dogs were not neutered and asked what would happen if our dogs got loose. I replied that we maintained constant control and did not allow our dogs to run at large. She began to ask the same question repeatedly after each one of my answers "But,.. wouldn't it be better?
The point, which I (as usual) took too long to get to, was that the poor lady was so taken in by the idea of neutering as being some sort or moral requirement for all. She could not even begin to try to consider that there was no need for it in our case or that it would possibly give us undesired results. Here was a very nice person who, at least in this case, clearly had trouble thinking ‘outside the box’ and considering that maybe what is beneficial for most may not work for all.

19-04-11, 17:10
Domestication made animals “stupider” because people protected animals and found food for them, taking away stimuli that make animals smarter. Even most stupid of animals can survive when fed, protected, and selected to breed because it was big or tasty.

Now, it didn’t apply to people because nobody took care of them even when we lived in homes and could be called domesticated. I said didn’t not doesn’t, because right now with huge social help network, governments are taking care of millions of people giving them money and protection to survive.

With shrinking brain the issue is with being more efficient, therefore using less energy for same amount of smarts, therefore it gave recent humans better chance to survive with fewer calories per day. Could be simple like this.

19-04-11, 21:02
If you don't use it, you loose it!

Let's admit it, humanity hasn't be using the brains to its fullest and, consequently, we loose it.

The question is what is that the potential of our brains that fail to develop?

19-04-11, 21:10
One way to increase the density of one's gray matter - meditate ...

19-04-11, 23:50
What you’re saying is that bigger brain is smarter. Generally it’s true because more neurons, dendrites and synapses need more space, just to fit in.
It is not true though for short evolutionary changes.
Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons had bigger brains, but they spent a million years for Neanderthals and 20 thousand for Cro-Magnon on this planet living in caves and didn’t progress much with their big brains.
Modern Humans in short 10 thousand years went from caves to building big cities with thousand time bigger populations than Cro-Magnon. We fly for god sake, we communicate in split second with most people on earth. We know what happened around the globe every day. We live twice or 3 times longer than average CM and Neanderthal and we eat more than we should every day (unheard of in human history!). On top of it we got here with ever smaller brains, and supposedly because we didn’t use it, hmmm.

There are few animals with even larger brains than humans like elephants, dolphins, and whales with brain size 8 times bigger than human. Is whale 8 times smarter than man? How much brain the whale is using (of this 10 kg behemoth) if it only eats, swims, fornicates, and sings?

Also if you compare body size, head size, brain size in humans you will find that there are very smart people with small heads/brains and stupid with huge once, or vice versa. There is a very small statistical coloration between brain size and intelligence in modern humans.

Over all the internal architecture of brain, with neural connections and glial cells configuration is more important than the size of the brain.

I agree that meditation or any brain exercise, especially learning new skills, is good for it.
Play new computer game every week. J

20-04-11, 18:16
Edao, and what do you think yourself about this topic?