Re: >H Hayflick on death and immortality

Hal Finney (
Sat, 30 May 1998 16:58:05 -0700

Here is an excerpt from a posting I made to the list October 14, 1995:

> I just received my November Scientific American, and found a fascinating
> article about the "Flynn effect" (page 12). "In the early 1980s, while
> studying intelligence testing in the U.S. military, Flynn found that
> recruits who were merely average when compared with their contemporaries
> were above average when compared with recruites in a previous generation
> who had taken exactly the same test.... Flynn found that scores on
> virtually every type of IQ test - administered to military recruits and
> to students of all ages - had risen roughly three points per decade since
> they were first instituted in the U.S. Flynn learned that 20 other
> countries for which sufficient data are available... showed similar
> increases.
> "The gains ranged from 10 points per generation, or 30 years, in Sweden
> and Denmark to 20 points per generation in Israel and Belgium. The
> upward surges tended to be greatest for tests that minimize cultural or
> educational advantages by probing the ability to recognize abstract
> patterns or solve other non-verbal problems. Flynn has recently analyzed
> scores from Raven's Progressive Matrices, which is considered to be one
> of the least 'culturally loaded' IQ tests. The birth dates of those
> examined span a century, ranging from 1877 to 1977. Flynn concluded that
> someone scoring in the 90th percentile 100 years ago would be in the
> fifth percentile today."
> That means that someone who was better on this test than 90% of people a
> century ago would be worse than 95% of people today!
> The article goes on to say that elderly people score poorly on IQ tests
> not because they've gotten dumber as they get old, but because everyone
> did so poorly on those tests when they were young.
> Several explanations are rejected, among them that people today are more
> experienced at test taking (fewer people take tests today than in some
> past days), that it is a matter of more education (education hours have
> fallen in some countries), that television is making people smarter (the
> phenomenon long predates television), and that better nutrition and
> medicine have improved health (studies have not found much correlation
> between nutrition and IQ).

I would not assume that people are stupider today than in the past, unless
you have actually interviewed people who lived many decades ago.