A Stanford University biology professor, writing in a peer-reviewed journal, suggests neo-Darwinian evolution is causing humankind to lose mental capacity—at least for the last 3,000 years. This conclusion may suggest that the second law of thermodynamics applies to biological systems and provide important support for a creation model.
Are humans becoming smarter or more stupid? Comparing our modern lives and technology with that of any preceding generation, one might think we are becoming increasingly smarter. But, in two papers published in Trends in Genetics, Gerald R. Crabtree of Stanford University claims that we are losing mental capacity and have been doing so for 2,000–6,000 years! The reason, Crabtree concludes, is due to genetic mutations—which are the backbone of neo-Darwinian evolution.
The significance of these articles is that a senior scientist, writing in a peer-reviewed journal, claims that humankind is susceptible “as a species to random genetic events [mutations] that reduce our intellectual and emotional fitness.”1 This conclusion is consistent with the second law of thermodynamics, which states (among other things) that natural systems tend toward a state of disorder and that random processes cannot bring order out of disorder. (This is such a fundamental law of nature that British astrophysicist Arthur Eddington wrote, “But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”2)
In contrast, the theory of neo-Darwinian evolution claims that natural systems progress in the opposite direction. That is, random genetic mutations serve to advance a species toward a state of order. Yet Crabtree’s findings seem to imply that the second law of thermodynamics is right, and neo-Darwinian evolution is wrong.
Based on data produced by the 1000 Genomes Project Consortium3 and two recent papers in Nature,4 Crabtree estimates in the first article that, in the past 3,000 years (approximately 120 generations), about 5,000 new mutations have occurred in the genes governing our intellectual ability. He claims most of these mutations will have no effect, while about 2–5 percent are deleterious and “a vanishingly small fraction will increase fitness.”5 Crabtree bases his conclusion that humankind is losing mental capacity on the ratio between the deleterious and the beneficial mutations. (One critic calls this a “back-of-the-envelope calculation;”6 but if Crabtree’s objective is a reasonable order-of-magnitude estimate, then he seems to have achieved that.)
In the second article, Crabtree moves away from the science of genetics and moves into anthropology, which he admits is “not [his] area of expertise.”7 He opines that humanity began losing intellectual abilities with the advent of agriculture and permanent communities 3,000 years ago because such a change would “tend to reduce the selective pressure placed on every individual, every day of their life.”8 In the 50,000–500,000 years prior, Crabtree suggests, humankind achieved an increase in intellectual abilities as they experienced an “expansion of the human frontal cortex and endocranial volume”:9