Imagine my surprise to find a story on Fox Nation, the lie-riddled community web site of Fox News, about the decline of human intelligence. Was this an attempt to convey the results of an academic study, or are they just bragging?
The article refers to a study done at the University of Amsterdam that concludes that westerners have lost 14 IQ points on average since the Victorian Era. The study’s author surmised that a number of complex factors led to the conclusion that was based on tests of visual reaction times. The tests reflect a person’s mental processing speed which correlates to IQ. Among the explanations offered for the brain drain were the migration of populations to densely packed cities and a tendency for more intelligent women to choose to have fewer children.
Not surprisingly, the Fox Nationalists utterly misconstrued the study’s findings. Their linked source for the story was an article on the conservative blog, Townhall, where the web editor dismissed the science behind the research and offered his own opinion that the decline in IQ was caused by MTV and video games. Somewhere along the way he missed the fact that the reported decline occurred over a period of more than a hundred years, which makes his hypothesis focusing on modern television and technology a pretty good example of a dumbed-down contemporary human.
The rejection of science is not unusual for conservatives who persistently refuse to accept the scientific community’s nearly universal consensus on things like evolution and climate change. That may explain why scientists themselves veer away from conservative associations. A study by the Pew Center for the People and the Press revealed that “most scientists identify as Democrats (55%), while 32% identify as independents and just 6% say they are Republicans.”
Furthermore, if there is a decline in intelligence, it is most starkly evident in the Tea-publican Party. A report published by (of all places) Fox Business, surveyed the nation’s academic profile and found that the ten states with the best educated citizens were all “blue” states, while nine of the ten worst educated were “red” states (and eight of those were in the south).
The decline of western intelligence, according to the Amsterdam data, has been in the works for many decades. It would be interesting to conduct another version of this research that measures IQ in the United States since 1996, the year that Fox News debuted. Numerous studies have already documented the fact that Fox News viewers are more ill-informed than consumers of other media. In fact, one study demonstrates that the more one watches Fox, the more misinformed one becomes. Of course, being ignorant or misinformed is not the same as lacking intelligence. But it has the same effect on electoral outcomes and, consequently, public policy.
So whether Fox viewers are stupid or ignorant is immaterial. The important thing is to continue to provide a counterbalance to the propaganda Fox spews and rescue citizens from their deceitful disinformation that only benefits the wealthy, right-wing elites who Fox was created to serve.