Our shrinking brains
Illustrated by Caleb Salisbury
Thousands of years ago, humans had bigger brains. That conclusion was reached after researchers showed that ancient human skulls from Europe, the Middle East and Asia had an average brain capacity of 1500 cubic centimetres, compared to today’s 1359 cc.1,2
The old skulls tested were almost certainly post-Flood, hence at most a few thousand years old by biblical reckoning, and ‘only’ tens of thousands of years old in evolutionary belief.
If the result had shown that today’s brains are bigger, this would no doubt have been interpreted as humans evolving more ‘smarts’. But this outcome has caused surprise—not just for being contrary to evolutionary expectations, but because of its extent and speed. John Hawks of the University of Michigan called it “a major downsize in an evolutionary eyeblink”.
In reality, bigger brain size does not automatically correlate with higher intelligence, and evolutionists who mention this in response to this unexpected finding have a point. However, this needs to cut both ways. Skulls labeled as Homo erectus (which creationists would regard as one group of the post-Flood descendants of Adam, and which even some evolutionists say should be reclassified as Homo sapiens3) have a brain capacity which, while still within the modern human range,4 is on average smaller than that of the average human today. This is taken to mean that, being ‘less evolved’, erectus specimens had less intelligence; but as we’ve seen, this does not necessarily follow.
This finding nevertheless reminds us that humans today, while they have more knowledge, accumulated from many predecessors, are certainly not smarter than their predecessors. The ingenuity of ancient man is clearly displayed in such things as the construction of the pyramids. If there is going to be a trend in intelligence, one would expect today’s humans to be less intelligent, if anything. This is because of the load of mutations (inherited genetic copying mistakes) increasing with each generation since the Fall of Adam. And in recent times, an extremely rapid documented rate of these human mutations has emerged (see geneticist John Sanford’s book and DVD on creation.com/store5).
Other evolutionists, perhaps trying to put on a brave face post facto, have claimed the result was “not surprising”. Duke University anthropologist Brian Hare speculates that modern humans “developed different, more sophisticated forms of intelligence”, presumably somehow requiring less brain size.
Other anthropologists say that because early people were “larger and stronger” they needed “more grey matter” to “control this larger mass”.
Note the ‘heads we win, tails you lose’ approach. If our brain size had been enlarging, it would have been taken as evidence for humans evolving more intelligence. Since it is getting smaller, evolutionists have to put a new ‘spin’ on it. E.g. David Geary, evolutionary psychologist 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.” It seems that whatever the data, or whichever evolutionist is making the reassessment, evolution itself is never doubted.
But consider … our ancestors just a few thousand years ago were larger, stronger, and had more grey matter than we have—Genesis creation, anyone?
References and notes
- Our brains shrinking, The Courier-Mail, 7 February 2011, p. 21. Return to text.
- Santini, J., Are brains shrinking to make us smarter?, The Sydney Morning Herald, news.smh.com.au, 6 February 2011. Return to text.
- E.g. Milford Wolpoff, also at the University of Michigan. Return to text.
- Woodmorappe, J., How different is the cranial-vault thickness of Homo erectus from modern man? J. Creation 14(1):10–13, 2000; creation.com/cranium. Return to text.
- And interview in Creation 30(4):45–47, 2008; creation.com/sanford. Return to text.
“It seems that whatever the data, or whichever evolutionist is making the reassessment, evolution itself is never doubted.”
The above line really sums up what is going on in both politics and science today. You said it very well too. I recall hearing Dr. Bob Jones Jr. say that these guys are like jell-O. That is, they conform to whatever is needed to continue their lies. You can hit them are with facts and they just absorb the blow. If it were not so serious, your article would be sort of funny. For example, the reason why Brains are smaller today is because “humans ‘developed different, more sophisticated forms of intelligence’, presumably somehow requiring less brain size.” Rich! Or this, “early people were ‘larger and stronger’ they needed ‘more grey matter’ to ‘control this larger mass.’” Brilliant! So now I must ask a question Dr. Wieland. Do these highly evolved educated Homo erectus’s have to take a course to learn how to twist a truth or fact into a lie? Let me know, because it sound like it is a course I could easily get an A in. Hm, did I just show my shoe or brain size with that? Laying jokes aside, it is a great article.
Bigger brains long time ago; whose brain / skull is being checked? That of someone 9 feet tall of long time ago?
And whose brain / skull today? That of someone up to 6 feet tall?
Who have bigger brain / skull? Mr 9 feet tall or Mr 6 feet tall?
Presumably these were measurements from a range of skulls of earlier humans, closer to the time of Babel. Many of them would not have had post-cranial remains, but where these are found, they are mostly not 'supersized'. BTW, 9 feet is pretty well the current maximum size of humans today and likely it always was. People reaching that size would have been regarded as 'giants' both then and now, like the 9-foot Goliath. For a brief discussion of the 'scale' problem that means that no-one in the human line would have been able to be (as is sometimes speculated) much taller than that, see the relevant section in our article on Arguments we think creationists should not use.
40 years ago I mentioned the fact that Cro Magnon man had bigger brains and the reply to that was, their brains must have been less organised....an argument from silence.
Thank you, Dr Wieland. I enjoyed reading this article. “Heads we win, tails you lose” I think just about sums the evolutionist approach perfectly. As long as their imaginations can bring up something they can twist about and draw on a board they will convince millions that’s just the way it happened. I’m sure it’s been said before but I believe people cling to this ‘religion’ called evolution because they don’t want to believe in The God responsible for it all. The beauty and symbiotic relationships... every living thing on this planet is a testament to God’s wisdom. Thank you and God bless you and everyone at CMI.
This article does not make sense. I'm not sure what it is even claiming in its content and text. As it critiques but then asserts conclusions which no one made. For example Brain size is not directly correlated to intelligence, this has been know for decades (longer still but not technically supported, thanks sexist societies). This can easily be show with women and men. Women being usually physical smaller have slightly smaller brains, but any IQ test and even history will show women are just as smart as men.
I am also really confused by this particular quote ‘less evolved’ brain. The way the words are used make me highly questionable about the author's understanding of their meaning. Or at least the source the author is reading from.
I'm going to read all the sources in hopes of understanding this.
I certainly hope you do come to understand as much as possible. For example, brain size has often been used in evolutionary texts to correlate with intelligence when it comes to fossil skulls, and just as for any character in which there is disparity in size between the sexes that is of course taken into account. Let me know if I can help further once you have read the sources.
When we look at the things people could do in ancient times, it seems obvious that they were smarter: Ancient Greek had 32 principal parts of speech, meaning you had to master all those inflections just to communicate!
And Alexander the great, fought 8 years of unbroken wars, conquered all countries from Egypt to India, had his men build many fleets of ships, build ports in every place from the Hellespont to the mouth of the Indus river, construct literally hundreds of cities and he died at 32.
It is hard for us to imagine doing all these things, let alone do them.
"Early people were larger and stronger". Another example of evolutionists changing their story. According to some evolutionists (admittedly, these particular evolutionists probably had very little facts about what evolutionists are supposed to believe) our ancestors were supposed to be a lot smaller than us. In fact one of them bragged that he was "a full foot taller than his parents" as the exclamation mark to his argument for evolution being proven fact.