Here’s a thought for would-be editors of a national paper of record: any time your headline editorial starts with the phrase “in spite of the evidence,” it’s probably a good time to reconsider what you’re writing. On what basis are you going to argue, then, if not evidence? Gut feelings? Dreams? Divine revelation?
Ever since the Margaret Wente scandal broke (if not before that), the Globe & Mail has certainly made an art form out of making an ass of itself. Friday’s editorial, however, took the cake. I almost hesitated to be that harsh on them. Unlike most of their rivals in the newspaper sphere, the Globe & Mail at least claims to be pro-science. But it isn’t. It isn’t even science literate. And that, I have to suspect, is why it published an editorial more becoming a third-rate free community weekly than a national “paper of record.”
Last week, a Stanford biologist named Gerald Crabtree published the first part of a series of papers which will argue that human intelligence peaked thousands of years ago and is now gradually declining. It’s the result, Crabtree says, of the accumulation of genetic defects on the X chromosome. Once communities began growing large and well-organized, especially but not solely because of the invention of agriculture, individual baseline intelligence started to become less important than other factors for survival in groups, combined with the fact that once we invented language we could pass on knowledge through education, rather than each of us needing to carry with us a genetically determined toolkit making each individual capable of, in essence, re-inventing the wheel.
It’s heady stuff, the sort of “reality TV is making humans dumber” stuff that’s guaranteed to get a lot of headlines (even though, you’ll note from the above, Crabtree is talking about genetic evolution resulting from group dynamics over thousands of years, not reality TV or any other modern-day ills). So naturally he got a lot of headlines. Even the Globe & Mail couldn’t pass the story up. And that’s where the trouble started.Tweet