Linking Average National IQ and Infectious Disease

Christopher Eppig at Scientific American writes about his search for the factors that determine average national IQ. This is a topic that’s apparently been studied quite a bit, and Eppig explains that the cumulative evidence points towards rates of infectious disease as a determining factor. 

One study found that newborn humans spend close to 90 percent of their calories on building and running their brains. (Even as adults, our brains consume as much as a quarter of our energy.) If, during childhood, when the brain is being built, some unexpected energy cost comes along, the brain will suffer. Infectious disease is a factor that may rob large amounts of energy away from a developing brain.

I was a bit hesitant about linking to this article because a) it’s written by the grad student who conducted this research, although I leave it to Scientific American to ensure that he’s being honest and accurate, and b) not once in the article does he question IQ as an objectively meaningful measure of intelligence. That’s a huge elephant in the room that I’m really surprised he did not address, and it definitely detracts from the article.

Nevertheless, this is an interesting theory that may not have been the most obvious explanation (I doubt I would’ve thought of it), so I put it out here for you to mull over. Mull away.


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