Are we dumber than our ancestors?


It’s tempting to think of ourselves as smarter than people in generations past. And why not? We have smart phones (although, I’ll be the first to admit, my phone is smarter than me), smart TVs and smart cars are on the way. But does the invention and proliferation of new gadgets and devices mean our intelligence is increasing?

The theory of evolution would say yes. Why? Because the theory says evolution works through natural selection (to be clear: I believe natural selection is real, but not evolution). From an evolutionary viewpoint, it makes sense that the smartest humans would have an advantage over less smart humans (natural selection) and over time the human race would get smarter (evolution). Right?

Unless it doesn’t happen that way. What if our DNA is not becoming better as evolution would state, but instead is accumulating more and more mutations? In fact, some studies show each child inherits between 30-50 new mutations from his/her parents (most of these mutations are harmful or neutral). These add up over the generations.

Another study, completed by scientists from Sweden, the Netherlands and Ireland and published in the journal Intelligence, reaches the conclusion that human intelligence is decreasing. The scientists analyzed the results of 14 studies conducted between 1889 and 2004 that measured visual reaction time, which they believe is strongly correlated with general intelligence. Their conclusion is startling. According to these researchers, human intelligence (IQ) has declined at a rate of 1.16 points per decade or 13.35 points since the late 1800’s.

Why then do we feel so much smarter than our ancestors who used to live in caves, without so much as an IPod for entertainment? It’s not like these devices make us smarter (despite my son’s claims). In fact, we can look up all kinds of stuff people used to have to memorize, kind of like borrowing from a collective intelligence. Which leads me to think the amazing innovations and inventions of today are more likely due to the accumulation of knowledge, rather than an increase in our intelligence.

What do you think? Is human intelligence decreasing? With so much individual variation, can we even measure that as a species? Does it matter if we’re getting smarter or not?

References: “Rise and Fall of Human Intelligence,” Answers, Oct-Dec 2013, 8(4), p. 11, and

Photo Credit: ID 18932264 © Hubis |




Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

Romans 8:5,9

I’m in a bathroom stall at the airport and I hear screaming. The loud, angry scream of a mother yelling at her child. I come out and start to wash my hands.

More screaming. Those of us at the sink look at each other, wondering where it’s coming from and not sure what to do. I almost left, but a nudge from somewhere within turned me around.

I peeked over the other set of sinks and found a woman sitting on the floor, trying to change a poopy diaper on her two-year old daughter. The girl was rolling around in the mess, desperate to get away from the screaming, which only made the mom yell more.

Right then, I had to make a choice. I wanted to lecture the woman about how it wasn’t her daughter’s fault, that her daughter didn’t deserve this, and that all she had to do was grab the girl’s feet, hold her down with one arm and wipe with the other, a maneuver I’ve done hundreds of times.

Fortunately, the Holy Spirit took over.

Instead, I knelt down next to her and said, “Let me help you.” I grabbed the wipes and we cleaned the girl up, then I managed to get her diaper on while she squirmed. After we were done, the woman thanked me and I went to wash my hands. Another woman came up and whispered in my ear, “That was a great thing you did.”

But she was wrong. I didn’t do it. I wanted to lecture the woman and tell her what a bad mom she was. It was Jesus that did it. And the feeling of being used by Him is addictive (in a good way).

Dear Lord, it’s humbling and amazing when You take over and we do things so radically opposed to our nature. Let us all become addicted to being used by You. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Fun Science Fact


Are men and women really different? Of course, we see personality differences all across the board from sensitive males to dispassionate females, but as a whole, aren’t we all just the same deep down?

I remember arguing with my dad as a kid, telling him men and women were the same inside, we merely had different parts on the outside. He laughed at me and my young hubris–for good reason. If you live long enough, you recognize the general differences between the sexes. Still, I’m not into stereotypes.

As a geologist, I was a woman in a male-dominated field. I discovered there were many people, mostly men, who went in to geology because they loved to figure out the details of things. Me? I loved the ideas behind the science. Also, many of these detail people had trouble getting past the details and communicating science to the general public. Not me. One of my favorite parts of the job was leading public meetings where I could educate and answer questions. Was this because I’m female or was it because of my personality? Maybe both.

New research has confirmed the previous findings that, as a general rule, the brains of men and women function differently. Scientists used a technique called diffusion tensor imaging to map nerve connections between regions of the brain. They found the brains of men and women have different neural connections.

Male brains tend to be more connected from the front to back of the same hemisphere, while female brains are more connected between the left and right hemispheres. This explains why men typically outperform women on spatial tasks (like map reading) and motor skills, while women are typically better at tasks involving verbal skills, memory and intuition.

Since, I’m the map reader in our household, but I often have the memory capacity of a flea, I guess I’m just a walking contradiction (not the first time I’ve heard that, by the way). But aren’t we all packed with contradictions?

Now, I would say to my dad, that, yes, men and women are different. Each of us was made just as God intended—a remarkable mishmash of marvelous and challenging traits.

Reference: “Men and Women really are different,” Creation Magazine, 36(3), 2014, p.8.

Photo Credit: ID 25649645 © Manaemedia |



God’s amazing design of the carnivorous pitcher plant has inspired scientists to develop similar nanoparticles. The leaves of the pitcher plant trap water in such a way as to create a frictionless surface. When an insect lands, it hydroplanes along the leaves and down into the pitcher, where it drowns in a special fluid. Not a very nice plant to come upon if you’re an insect, but fascinating for scientists.

In fact, scientists at Harvard University have developed a nanomaterial coating based on this design, called SLIPS (Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surface). When applied to clothing, SLIPS fills in the tiny pores with nanoparticles of silica or alumina, creating a slick surface which stains cannot stick to. This means that you can pour engine oil down the front of your shirt and it will slide right off. While the material has some advantages, it makes the original fabric less breathable. Even so, this may be the future of stain-resistant clothing.

Personally, I think this coating should be a requirement for every bib and burp cloth on the market. Maybe I’ll start my own company for that. Maybe, call it Nano-tots. Oh, and I’ve even got the slogan already—It’s not just clean, it’s nano-clean!

What do you think? Who’s ready to front me a few million for a start-up?

Reference: Winkless, Laurie, “Nanotech Is Finally Here: Clothing That Never Gets Dirty,” Science Uncovered, May 2014, issue 6, p.76

Photo Credit: ID 23724929 © Donkeyru |


Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance.

Psalm 33:12

I don’t usually like to go political, especially in devotions, but a visit by the Vice President of China had me wondering what other countries think of the United States. Would they call us a Christian nation anymore?

Yes, we send aid to other countries when disasters hit and we try not to start wars for our own gain. But most of us in the U.S. worship ourselves and money more than God. Our values change with the day and center on what is the most convenient for us and what makes us most happy.

I’d love to see that change. I’m sure there are blessings God wants to give our country that we are missing out on because we don’t follow His ways. What can we do about it?

The best action is prayer. Pray for a revival in this nation, so we can once again be one nation under God. So we can set a godly example for the rest of the world.

Dear Lord, let us be people of prayer. You want to steer hearts back to You and we long for revival. Help us to be faithful prayer warriors for this country. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Fun Science Fact


Did you know that space dust rains down on us constantly? And a lot of it, too. Scientists estimate as much as 40,000 tons per year. Space dust is thought to originate mainly from collisions between comets and asteroids and is composed of fine particles made of mostly silicate minerals with some sulfides, metals and carbonaceous material.

No wonder my central vacuum gets such a workout every week. And to think, I blamed the hairy dog and my crumb-dropping kids.



Photo Credit: ID 25681056 © Nienora |

Our Mindless Brain?


In the last several years I’ve developed the habit of snacking late at night after the kids go to bed. And not harmless snacking either—cookies, cake, candy, anything chocolate, really. Next thing I know, all the sugar has kept me awake until after midnight. When I finally fall asleep, here comes the crazy dreams because my brain is wired. Like the one I had where I was an acrobat balancing on one toe on the head of a pin, while singing that addictive song from Frozen. Okay, so maybe the dreams are kind of fun, but still exhausting.

I’ve tried to break this habits several times with little success. I end up beating myself up for being so weak. Why can’t I stop? I didn’t used to have this problem.

Turns out there’s a reason habits are so hard to break. They involve multiple parts of the brain in a phenomenon similar to the “chunking” used in our memory storage. Habits are imprinted in multiple circuits between the neocortex (specifically the infralimbic cortex) and the striatum (in the midbrain). These areas of the brain set up feedback loops to help us determine if a particular behavior is worth repeating. Once we decided that it is, the striatum sets up boundary markers for these chunks of behavior so they can be completed easier. God has hard-wired this into our brains so that we can use our brain power for other functions while our habits are performed almost without thinking. Which is great, unless it goes awry with a bad habit.

Amazingly, researchers have found that, even though habits feel out of our control, they aren’t. In testing mice, they discovered that turning off the neurons in the infralimbic cortex (using a light-sensitive technique called optogenetics) caused the animals to lose their habitual behavior. It seems that a decision-making part of the brain is monitoring the habitual activity, even when we haven’t consciously decided to perform it.

What does this mean for my bad habit at bed time? Since I’m not about to allow researchers to embed light-sensitive electrodes in my brain to turn off some of my neurons, for me, it means a lot of work. Breaking a habit is not unlike breaking an addiction (albeit on a much smaller scale). I need to make the conscious decision every night to ignore the chunk of my brain dedicated to my bad habit. One way to do that is to find a reason to break the habit that’s more important to me than the habit itself (perhaps disrupting that feedback loop in my brain).

Something more important. Like maybe losing weight or better sleep at night. Problem is, those things can’t compare with cookies—hence my dilemma. Perhaps I should re-think the electrodes in the brain thing?

What about you? Do you have any bad habits you’ve tried to break or have broken? Have you stopped a habit only to have that chunk of behavior come back?

Reference: Graybiel, Ann M., and Kyle S. Smith. (2014). Good Habits, Bad Habits. Scientific American, 310 (6), p. 39-43.


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