Are We Getting Smarter?

(Photo: Unsplash)

It’s rather humbling to admit, but I’m not as smart as I used to be. When I was 22, I could set the world on fire with all the wisdom and common sense my barely post-adolescent brain contained. But over the next forty years, I kept readings, and the more I read, the more I discovered how little I know.

But, hey, I’m still better off than my father … well, maybe my grandfather. Oh, the things I know he never knew. And if I go back a few generations more … well, I come off looking like a genius compared to what they knew.

It’s not that I come from a long line of morons. All of us know more than generations past. Hoo boy, we are getting smarter and smarter! And as smart as we are, our kids and grandkids look at us and pat our little aging heads out of pity because they’re convinced we’re not as smart as they are.

Take George Washington. Father of our country. Great leader both militarily and politically of this young country experimenting with democracy. Can you imagine trying to explain to him the concept of TV or Wi-Fi? C’mon, President Washington didn’t even know about dinosaurs. (Fossilized remains of dinosaurs were not recognized as such until 1841—42 years after Washington died.)

  • Doctors used to use leeches to remove blood from sick patients.
  • People believed the earth was the center of the solar system.
  • People assumed women did not have the mental capacity of men.

People routinely look at “facts” like these to prove we’re getting smarter. We don’t believe some of the silly things our ancestors believed because we’ve progressed; we’re smarter than we used to be.

We know more, but are we smarter?

James Flynn

This idea that we are getting smarter is called the Flynn effect. James Flynn was known for his research on intelligence. In 1980 he published his views that the human IQ is steadily going higher. For example, he said that overall IQs between 1932 and 1978 increased by 13.8 points. He reasoned that IQs increase by 3 points every decade. By his reasoning, our great-grandparents made Forrest Gump look like a genius … and a century from now people will view our generation like we view primitive cave dwellers.

That’s bunk. But don’t take my word for it. Even James Flynn himself saw problems with his findings, but that didn’t keep the Flynn effect from catching on.

And why wouldn’t the idea that we are getting smarter take off? It supports what we want to believe about ourselves. We are improving. We are better people. Society is progressing. It supports the Darwinian idea of evolutionary progress.

I still say phooey.

Knowing things is not the same as being smart. And being smart is not the same as being wise. We may have advanced over time in scientific discoveries, breakthroughs in medicine, and improving our technology, but none of that is making us smarter.

Nevertheless, those who identify themselves as progressives often view the way we previously did things as outmoded and obsolete. If we’re progressing in our science and technology, then surely, we’re progressing in our ethics and morals. “No one thinks that way anymore.”

In general, they dismiss religion and, specifically, they dismiss Jesus. “We’ve grown past all that.” But truth is truth, and truth doesn’t change. Even rational-thinking scientists would affirm that. Facts are facts, and facts don’t change. And the truth Jesus spoke two thousand years ago is still as relevant today simply because it is truth—unchanging truth.

We still need that truth. If the progressives are right, and we’ve progressed beyond the old way of thinking, why do we still deal with racism? Violence? Poverty? For all our technology, there’s no app to fix that.

“For though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless, and their senseless hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:21-22).

We deal with these issues because we still deal with sin. People can try giving sin an acceptable appearance, but sin is still sin—and Jesus is still the answer to all our ills.

I’m thankful for the advances we’ve made in science. I love using a computer with a connection to this whole world-wide-web thingy. I love so much of the progress in technology, but we will never progress past our need for Jesus. And if I want to be more than smart—if I want to be wise—I need to start with Him.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7)

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10).

Subscribe to this blog or like our Facebook page. And share this post with others.

If you would like a printable version of this, check out PrintFriendly.