Dr. Jerry Stinner / Dean, College of Science and Mathematics
My name is Jerry Stinner. I am Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics. It is an honor for me to stand here in front of you on such a special occasion.
Congratulations. Not only are you graduating from a major university, you are graduating with a degree in science or mathematics. These are not easy subjects. Getting a degree from this college is a terrific accomplishment—one that you should be very proud of.
I am sure it won’t surprise you when I say that science and mathematics is becoming increasingly important to society and that science and mathematics are affecting everything around us.
But it may surprise you that science is changing the way we humans think. Perhaps you have heard of the Flynn effect, named after James Flynn who in 1984 discovered an amazing fact.
Since about 1900 IQ has been increasing by 10 to 15 points each generation. Thus during the 20th century, IQ has risen 50 to 75 points. This has been demonstrated in nearly 30 countries.
This is a huge increase. I am 61 and so I am two generations ahead of you. So, assuming that your IQ is an average of 100, then my IQ is about 75, which puts me pretty close to mental retardation! Or looked at differently, assuming that my generation had an IQ of 100, then you are close to being geniuses! Either way, I find the comparison to be rather distressing!
What is causing this enormous increase in IQ? Dr. Flynn believes that it is due to the rise of science in society. Viewing the world through the lens of science literally changes the way we think. It moves us from viewing the world in purely practical and concrete terms to thinking abstractly, hypothetically, and logically.
Let me give you a simple example that Dr. Flynn uses. Ask someone your age in 1900 what a dog and a rabbit have in common, and they would likely answer “the dog is used to hunt the rabbit”. This is a very practical answer. Dogs are for hunting and rabbits are for eating. Objects in nature are for our use and control.
Ask someone today what a dog and a rabbit have in common, and they are likely to answer “they are both mammals”. To someone in 1900 this would be a useless bit of information, but today people think in terms of scientific categories.
This change in thinking is not trivial. It means that your generation is better than my generation at using abstraction, logic, and the hypothetical. You as a generation are more ingenious in going beyond the rules you have been taught to solving problems in novel ways.
I am encouraged by this. There are many complex problems facing us today, such as global warming, depletion of natural resources, devastating health problems like cancer and dementia, and conflicts between different nationalities, races, ethnicities, and ideologies. Finding solutions to these vexing problems won’t be easy. It will require ingenuity and creativity. But I am convinced that highly educated people like you can do it. You are the future leaders of the world.
But let me warn you about something I have observed. The stunning rise in IQ scores has not done away with credulity or gullibility. I am always amazed at how many people believe in things like flying saucers, astrology and creationism.
Did you know that one fourth of biology high school teachers in this country teach creation science along with evolution by natural selection? For these high school teachers, creation science is an alternative theory to evolution by natural selection. This is like a physics teacher presenting the earth centered theory of the universe as an alternative to the sun centered theory of the universe! Or imagine pathology professors in medical school teaching the germ theory of disease followed by the alternative theory of demon possession!
And, another one fourth of high school biology teachers don’t teach evolution at all because they are afraid of the controversy. Thus, only one half of high school biology teachers actually teach evolution as it should be taught—and that is today, right now, in the 21st century! So in closing, I give you a challenge. I challenge your generation to do a better job than my generation did in knowing what science unequivocally tells us about the natural world.
Once again I am extremely proud of you, both because you have earned a four year degree from a major university and because your degree is in science and mathematics. You are our best hope for the future.