Notes from and emergency room doctor: The media
has been busy roiling up controversy over the
scientific research that authors Charles Murray
and Richard Herrnstein outlined in their book,
"The Bell Curve." The book discusses
the correlation between intelligence and success
in life. That's not a shocker. But it goes on
to declare that this nation's population is divided
into a "bell curve" with a small ruling
"intellectual elite" at one end, a huge
middle class of mid-intelligence and, at the other
end, an intellectual underclass of 12.5 million
Americans who lack the gray matter to make any
headway up the social ladder.
Many are wagging the naughty finger of racism
at the authors because they place the majority
of American blacks into this inherently disadvantaged
intellectual underclass. The debate over the merits
of the book has also boiled over from science
into public policy. Many are questioning whether
social action programs like welfare and affirmative
action serve to lift up the disadvantaged or serve
to merely encourage reproduction by dullards and
put the intellectually inferior into leadership
I prefer to think of success in life as more
of a "turtle and the hare" contest.
It's not who's smartest or fastest that always
wins. More often it's the one who perseveres the
most. No one should allow a number on an IQ test
or any statistician's theories to dictate one's
goals in life. And as for our many social action
programs, there are plenty of criteria around
to debate their worthiness without concerning
ourselves with bell curves. Nevertheless, I would
like to add to the controversy of who among us
is most intelligent by expanding upon a scholarly
article about evolution and intelligence written
by Dr. Alfred Jay Bollet, Professor of Medicine
at Yale University. Dr. Bollet discussed "The
Relationship of the Gluteus Maximus to Intelligence."
In layman terms, the "gluteus maximus"
is our rear end, our butt.
The greatest evolutionary change in intelligence
came with bipedal motion, that is, when man began
to walk upright. Chimpanzees have brain sizes
of 325-650 cc; Java man had a brain 800-900 cc;
Neanderthal man reached 1100 cc; and Modern man
ranges around 1200-1500 cc. Anthropological evidence
shows that increased brain size and intelligence
corresponded to anatomical changes in the rest
of the skeleton, particularly the shape of the
pelvis and the growth of the gluteus maximus,
the main extensor muscle of the hip, which allowed
the hip joint to extend and support the trunk
upright. This evolutionary change permitted full-time
bipedal motion, freeing up the hands to use tools
instead of assisting in walking. The use of hands
in turn led to the development of more sophisticated
intellectual achievements like writing and art
with corresponding development of the cerebral
cortex, the thinking part of the brain.
Just as Dr. Murray's "Bell Curve"
contains scientific hypothesis, I don't think
it's unreasonable to make a hypothesis of my own.
Since development of the gluteus maximus was an
important part in man's intellectual growth, perhaps
as we become more dependent on our interaction
with computers, those that are able to tolerate
sitting longer in front of video display terminals
will of necessity develop larger brains and greater
intelligence. Obviously, those that are able to
sit longer will have larger butts. Hence, a "big
butt" will be the advantageous characteristic
for "future man." I'm sure, however,
there will be plenty of controversy about Dr.
Pollack's "big butt theory" of intelligence.