April 30, 2011

Smart Caesareans

The Flynn Effect is the worldwide slow but steady increase in the results of IQ tests (at least until recently). Numerous explanations have been posited, e.g. better nutrition, education, a more stimulating environment. Commentator "Cruxious" has an enormously clever suggestion here.

Humans, unlike any other animal, are bipedal. We stand upright. This means we need narrow hips. Humans also have giant heads, packed full of the brains we use to read blogs and speculate on celebrity scandals.

The trouble here is that big heads are heard to fit through narrow hips. This is a major reason why childbirth used to be so incredibly dangerous for women. Before modern times, if her baby had a head just slightly too large to fit through the birth canal, mom, baby, or most probably both would die.

But now, with caesarean sections, forceps, inductions, better monitoring, and a whole host of other interventions, it becomes safer for women to have babies with big heads. Big heads can have big brains, and since brain size is associated with higher IQ, better obstetrics can result in a smarter population. Anyone want to write a paper testing this hypothesis?

Posted by jeffreyb at April 30, 2011 11:49 AM
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