Monday, 7 February 2011

We Become Smarter As Evolution Shrinks Our Brains

A new monkey tale turns old ”truths” upside down.

Joel Kontinen

Darwinian explanations are often intriguing. A recent version says that humans have become smarter because evolution has shrunk our brains.

As researchers have measured old skulls, they have noticed that the brains of modern man have shrunk 10 per cent in ”30, 000 years”. According to John Hawks of the University of Michigan, this is “a major downsizing in an evolutionary eye blink.”

For instance, Neanderthals had much larger brains than modern humans.

David Geary, professor of psychology at the University of Missouri, says: ”As complex societies emerged, the brain became smaller because people did not have to be as smart to stay alive".

Although brain size does not directly correlate with intelligence, it is good to remember that not so long ago Darwinians “knew” that bigger brains meant a more evolved human being.

Professor Philip S. Skell, a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, who died last November, criticised Darwinism in a famous article in The Scientist. He for instance said:

Natural selection makes humans self-centered and aggressive – except when it makes them altruistic and peaceable. Or natural selection produces virile men who eagerly spread their seed – except when it prefers men who are faithful protectors and providers. When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery.”

In other words, Professor Skell thought that Darwinian explanations were redundant.


Santini, Jean-Louis. 2011. Are brains shrinking to make us smarter? Yahoo! News (5 February).

Skell, Philip S. 2005. Why do we invoke Darwin? Evolutionary theory contributes little to experimental biology. The Scientist 19(16):10. (29 August).