While researching the previous post, I came across a claim that the Pygmies are retarded due to having IQs around 55.
No, the Pygmies are not retarded.
If you’ve already read Two Kinds of Dumb, you already know why, and don’t need to continue on. But if you’ve just wandered in, here’s the quick and dirty version:
An actual diagnosis of mental retardation requires not only a low IQ score (I think the bar is 75 but could be 70, I forget,) but also major life impairments. That is, the person must be unable to do, unsupervised, the normal things people do to function, like hold down a job, get dressed, or feed themselves.
While I don’t know the exact IQs of the pygmies, all of the evidence I’ve seen suggest that the average is probably pretty low. For starters, books are heavy, so hunter-gatherers tend not to carry them around, which has a real impact on the average hunter-gather’s ability to read. Second, hunter-gatherers tend not to conduct much trade, so they tend not to need much in the way of mathematics. Some groups don’t even have words for numbers over three. Such groups tend to score lousily on math tests.
I’ve searched high and low for whether or not Pygmy languages contain words for numbers over 3, and come up with nada. But I think Pymies tend to use a lot of words from other languages/be multi-lingual, so if the Pygmies are speaking some other language they picked up from an agricultural tribe, the language could easily have a full suite of number words whether the Pygmies had any interest in numbers or not.
Third, given neither books nor maths in Pygmy history, it’s unlikely that there’s been any selective pressure on the Pygmies to adapt to readin’ and ‘rithmetic.
Fourth, there is a pretty strong correlation between IQ scores and technological complexity. You don’t have to think of IQ as “intelligence” if you don’t want to, but whatever it is, it is necessary for building technologically complex societies. If the hunter-gatherer lifestyle is your thing, then you don’t need much in the way of IQ.
And fifth, their heads are kind of small. Unfortunately, brains have to go somewhere, and this poses a limit on grey matter.
That said, Pygmies are perfectly functional in their environment. They can hunt and gather their own food, carry on some trade with their neighbors, build their own houses, make their own clothes, get dressed, cook, take care of their children (one Wikipedia article claims that one Pygmy group has some of the highest level of fatherly involvement in child-rearing in the world,) are bi- and tri-lingual, and otherwise conduct their lives.
If you and I got dropped in the rainforest, we’d probably die within three or four days.
To over-simplify, mental retardation is generally caused by some form of traumatic brain injury, say, by getting dropped on your head as a child, eating lead, or being born with an extra chromosome. These injuries change your IQ from what it should have been, and cause a general loss of brain functioning.
If you live in a society where the average IQ is 100, then the average person you meet with a 50 IQ is most likely someone who suffered a traumatic injury.
However, if you live in a society where the average IQ is 50, this is the normal, um-injured IQ of people in your society. It just means that people in your society are bad at reading and math, not that they were all dropped on their heads as infants and cannot care for themselves.
“But wait,” I hear you saying, “what if Pygmy low IQ is caused by malnutrition? After all, they ARE pretty short.”
Doubtful. There’s no reason to think that Pygmies would have been more malnourished than all of their neighbors for thousands of years (we have records going back that far.) Also, their height is genetic (see studies on Pygmy genetics,) not due to malnutrition. According to Westhunter, an average-heighted person would have to starve to death twice before mere malnourishment would make them as short as a pygmy.
Are Pygmies human?
I’ve also come across this question during my research, so I think it bears addressing.
Look, the term “human” is a social construct. So is the whole concept of “species.” You can come up with a personal definition of “human,” if you feel like it, that doesn’t include the Pygmies. Certainly their neighbors, who rape, murder, eat, and enslave the Pygmies (and sometimes evict them to make more room for gorillas,) do not regard the Pygmies as human. Personally, I look down on the Pygmies’ neighbors for their despicable behavior toward the Pygmies, rather than look down on the Pygmies for their stature and lifestyle.
Practically speaking, people only declare other groups of people “not humans” in order to justify killing them. I have no desire to kill the Pygmies; it seems more pleasant to me to live in a world where Pygmies exist, while still recognizing them as one of the most genetically distinct groups on Earth.