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Thread: Have any species evolved a lower intelligence for survival?

  1. #1 Have any species evolved a lower intelligence for survival? 
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    I was having a debate with a friend of mine. His contention was that generally animals will evolve greater intelligence as a natural progression.

    Mine was that there was no reason to assume this as intelligence has been used by some species as a survival strategy but the vast majority of species get away with having no such ability.

    It is my belief that intelligence is no better or worse than any other survival strategy such as strength, size, speed, mimicry etc... and if a species benefitted more from evolving into a more stupid species then it would do so.

    I was then challenged by him to say when such a case had happened but I don't know of one. Does anyone know of such an example?

    Also, do certain traits such as intelligence take a kind of primacy in the evolution of species?


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  3. #2  
    M
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    Your point is hard to prove, because there is no reliable way to determine the intelligence of an excavated (and quite dead) specimen. Brain size (skull size) has been used in the past but could be deceiving. Most animals, even intelligent ones, don't use tools and leave no traces of their intelligence.

    Having said that, I think it's just as hard to falsify your claim. Why don't you ask your friend to come up with a prove that no species ever lost intelligence for the favor of a more beneficial trait? The brain needs to be fed with energy, presumably more so the more active it is. To be beneficial, intelligence does not only provide an advantage,... that advantage has to be large enough to make up for the cost (energy) and significantly increase the chances for reproduction.


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    Forum Freshman electricant's Avatar
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    You may be interested to read Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut. It's a science fiction novel in which the author describes the future evolution of mankind with our intelligence lost over generations. It takes place after a global disaster. The surviving humans catch their food in water so evolution acts to streamline the human skull at the expense of intelligence.

    This is basically a sound ide for a mechanism for loss of intelligence. If there is some threat to humanitys survival (in this instance starvation) then evolution will shape us to accomodate this selective pressure. Even at the expense of sacrificing intelligence.

    You should try the book, its actually quite funny.
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    Thanks, interesting replies. I like Vonnegut but I don't think I've read that one. As far as sci-fi novels that relate to my question there is another by Olaf Stapledon titled "First and Last Men". It's very ambitious as it charts an imagined future for mankind beginning with the near future of a coming cataclysmic war between the United States and China and moving on to the post-nation state humans who are constantly being thrown into cycles of evolving greater then lesser intelligence.

    I think it was written in 1930 so the idea of a massive conflict between China and the United States may have seemed far-fetched in those days, not so much now.
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  6. #5  
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    The surviving humans catch their food in water so evolution acts to streamline the human skull at the expense of intelligence.
    Sounds interesting, but again, to link skull size or shape directly to intelligence seems a little fishy. :wink: That evolution also presumes that human survivors of the desaster are already not smart enough to wear a streamlined hat!

    I'd be more impressed if the author had made a case that, spending much time in the water, the need for more energy to keep up the body temperature outweighs the benefit of a smart and energy hungry brain.
    (Fish that live in underwater caves are known to have lost eyesight for that very reason: It would cost energy and be completely useless in the dark.) But again, that evolutionary trend would only happen if these guys are already not smart enough to come up with some kind of swim suit.

    Intelligence on a human level is able to outrun evolution, as long as deliberate innovation happens on a much faster pace!

    Let me guess: Only dummies survived the desaster, or the world was void of all resources (unlikely).
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    Forum Freshman lince!'s Avatar
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    hey, some suggestions:
    your friends point is that generally animals will evolve greater intelligence as a natural progression, right?
    surely the best couterarguement is to find an organism become more and more intelletually-disabled
    but you can also try to argue that some organisms just do not seem to become smarter but they still evolve, or rather they stay the same!
    think this example should be easier to find out.....
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  8. #7  
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    I am thinking of quite controversial example, some researchers claim that Homo neanderthalensis were more peacefull and intelligent and were thereby elimated by the crueller Homo sapeins.
    But to be completely honest I am just throwing a fishing line here, cause I do not knowif I read this in the fiction or scientific area...; always the problem with popular topics… especially with my mind
    he who forgets...will be destined to remember (Nothing Man - Pearl Jam)
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  9. #8  
    M
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    I am thinking of quite controversial example, some researchers claim that Homo neanderthalensis were more peacefull and intelligent and were thereby elimated by the crueller Homo sapeins.
    But to be completely honest I am just throwing a fishing line here, cause I do not knowif I read this in the fiction or scientific area...; always the problem with popular topics… especially with my mind
    I am guessing on romantic fiction, because scientifically it seems unlikely. If Neanderthalensis had been more intelligent, he should have been able to defend himself. If he was stubbornly pacifistic and watched on while being decimated by Homo Sapiens, he couldn't have been much more intelligent than sheep, willingly walking to the slaughter house.

    Of course, you could argue that Neanderthalensis was simply overrun by a much larger population of Homo Sapiens. But again, that would speak for Homo Sapiens being more developed. Efficient use of tools, hunting techniques, and sophistication of society are surely more effective for supporting large populations than brute force ignorance.

    On the other hand, there may have been reasons other than intelligence that might have given Homo Sapiens a head start, for example geographical advantages in their native land, like abundance of wild game and domesticable plants. The scenario you paint is not impossible, but it's difficult to prove. If anything, the only thing we know for sure (the outcome of the struggle) would more likely speak for Homo Sapiens' intelligence. David is more likely to win over Goliath than vice versa, because intelligence is superior to brute force.
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    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by M
    David is more likely to win over Goliath than vice versa, because intelligence is superior to brute force.
    David won because he had the media behind him.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Him
    I am thinking of quite controversial example, some researchers claim that Homo neanderthalensis were more peacefull and intelligent and were thereby elimated by the crueller Homo sapeins.
    But to be completely honest I am just throwing a fishing line here, cause I do not knowif I read this in the fiction or scientific area...; always the problem with popular topics… especially with my mind
    I've heard this also, but it is my undestanding that they were two branches from a common ancestor rather than two stages on a single evolutionary chain.
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