Our shrinking brains
First posted on homepage: 26 October 2013 (GMT+10)
Re-posted on homepage: 9 February 2022 (GMT+10)
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.