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wundayatta's avatar

Can you think of any evidence at some point in history that would support a relationship between the shape of a body of water and the improvement of human intelligence?

Asked by wundayatta (58349 points ) December 31st, 2009

I had this weird dream last night (isn’t that an oxymorom?), in which a number of strange events culminated in my realization of this idea.

It started with a whole crowd of us watching young men take on some kind of obstacle course that involved the physicality of a gymnast and the intelligence of a physics professor. We saw several people fail and then one young man got further than anyone else. In fact, he completed the first part.

Then it turned out there was a second part. It was a large lecture hall. So the few of us who had been following trundled in and were about to see the continuation, when, all of a sudden, hundreds of people came in shouting slogans and what not.

Then the professor who had designed the obstacle course took me aside and showed me all these maps of bodies of water. They were all vagued oval shaped, but the most important one was the Mediterranean Sea.

I pondered these shapes, and realized (with dream thinking) that all these bodies of water had seen more rapid development of human intelligence. While I was thinking about this, yet more and more people came in to see the final test.

At this point, some demonstrations broke out. Jews and Arabs held counter-demonstrations—I assume about the pending results of the test, but I don’t know. Then the room was overcrowded—fire marshal shut down crowded. For no announced reason, the room was evacuated. I think little skirmishes were breaking out, but I’m not sure.

When I got outside, it was night, and I had to walk…. where? Home? To my car? I don’t know. And that was the end of the dream.

Comments? Interpretations? Was this some brilliant dream insight? Or just weirdness?

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12 Answers

Chatfe's avatar

I’m still trying to get a handle on this story… and am also giving it the benefit of having been your dream… But it reminded me of a metahistory scholar (I can’t think of his name) who had a theory that the great poets/musicians throughout the ages lived near water… Sorry I can’t remember more about the theory than that.
There’s also the possibility that living near bodies of water bring forth different tasks from the population. Instead of only hunting, gathering, farming etc there would also be fishing, sailing etc and all the industries that they require.
Well, sounds like an interesting dream.

Val123's avatar

I’m telling you, when I read this question it was like Whaaaa? If had been anyone but you @daloon I wouldn’t be in here typing right now!

Sounds like you’re really worried about world events? Also, actually yes. Bodies of water have literally improved human knowledge/ intelligence. Every major event involved water…the seafarers, the explorers, the warriors. Plus it was the ability to move large quantities of goods with relative ease over water that expanded human interaction, thus improving our knowledge and understanding of the world. Every major city, Seattle, NYC, etc. started out as a sea port.


wundayatta's avatar

@Val123 Well it is a dream, after all. I rarely remember my dreams, and I don’t know why this one stayed alive long enough for me to write it down. I’m not a great believer that dreams mean much, but this one seems to have put off most people. Maybe it is the title. I don’t know. Perhaps I should ask it in another way. But it’s all silliness, anyway.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I think that the first part of your dream is about the political process by which we select presidents in the U.S. That is, “presidential primaries”. Candidates there do have to navigate an obstacle course involving physical and mental trials: they have to be able to travel vast distances in short times and have the stamina to keep at this for several years on too little sleep, too many meals and too much loud speaking. At the same time they have to appear to be brilliant in 3-second flashes, despite how dumb they really are (or to at least appear to be just a shade brighter than the bubbas that they want to appeal to). This also involves a fair amount of mental ducking and weaving, too, so that they can speak without actually answering questions, wrap themselves in the flag, jump to conclusions, etc. Mental gymnastics.

By the time they arrive in office (the second part of the obstacle course?) and are presented with a map of the world as it really is, and the chanting, conflicting masses of people that they have to deal with, it all breaks down… and then we are faced with the ‘obstacle course’ of having to endure that presidency for the next four to eight years.

At least that’s how it appears to me. But what do I know? My dreams are about sex.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I am stumped but I like @Val123‘ss points about the role of water in the expansion of human knowledge. I’m not sure it affected intelligence.

Zuma's avatar

@daloon Interesting. I think that intuition—the flash integration of all the disparate information-filled images you presented—may be the correct way to make sense of dream imagery such as this.

Anyway one book immediately blinked into mind: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. This is a kind of ecological-technological-epidemiological account of human history, which takes into account things like how bodies of water shaped trade and migration routes, and how when these population movements were horizontal (to the equator) they gave rise to the proliferation of agriculture, the domestication of animals, the rise of civilizations and their conflicts.

Diamond describes the New Guinea bushmen he met as much brighter and more physically fit than their sedentary, mentally unchallenged, couch potato, “civilized” counterparts; and so one gets the image of early human prehistory as a kind of obstacle course run by very fit and intelligent men. Now that we have “moved indoors” as a civilization, so to speak, we face what is perhaps our greatest test as a civilization: given the increasing potency of our (nuclear, bio-tech, nanotech) technology, the whole of the human race can be wiped out by a mere handful of rogue individuals, giving rise to social movements and protests over what should be done about it.

Pazza's avatar

People who lived near water would probably have eaten more fish, maybe its an omega3 thing where higher intake levels of omega3 would have over time produced more intelligent people. That together with Val123’s comments about commerce.

Talimze's avatar

Sounds to me like it was just a weird dream. Of course, I don’t believe that dreams actually mean anything , so naturally I’m not going to bother trying to interpret it. It is really weird though, I’ll give you that.

Well, I’ve never heard of anything saying that humans living next to large bodies of water experienced an increase in intelligence over time simply because they lived near the water. I don’t really know what you mean by “intelligence” either. It’s a pretty vague word in this context.

Human civilization began in places like deserts, where cultures had to evolve in order for anyone to even be able to survive. Elsewhere, in places that were more hospitable, there was no incentive to change from nomadism/pastoralism/tribalism, so they didn’t. That’s about the closest thing I think could be to “intelligence:” the invention of civilization.

But of course, humans like to live near water no matter what, since we need to it survive. Every human settlement has to have some kind of access to water, and it can be useful for other things, like travel. So the fact that most major human developments happen near bodies of water is in no way surprising, and the fact that they do does not mean anything.

Nullo's avatar

I don’t know if there’s any causal relationship there, but there is this: Early civilizations flourished near water, and civilization tends to attract people. The nature of work in cities is more often intellectual in nature (trading, accounting, writing, crafting, etc.) than work outside of the cities, so you’ve got more of a certain kind of person in the cities than in a randomly sampled group of similar size. Over long periods of time, you might begin to see selection for intelligence.

I’d say that developmentally, cities are no more than a +1 or +2 INT boost.

Draconess25's avatar

It could be that proximity to water is naturally relaxing, & you think better when you’re realexed.

SubjectivelyTruthful's avatar

My thoughts bring me to an adverse way of asking your question… human intelligence and the relationship of land without water? In earth’s beginning, land was fused as pangea. Of course there was no human life or intelligence then. So maybe in preparation for human life and intelligence, the plates split allowing bodies of water to enter and life to begin. Thus intelligence, and different tribes of people.

This concept in the dream was your way of rationalizing what happened at the obstacle course. So you looked at the big picture (the Map) and noticed the water. And tried to form a conclusion that made sense. What was causing the dispute or division? in the dream you were trying to decide who the winner was? and in that was it a deeper question of faith and religious beliefs of yourself or society? I think it was an attempt at finding out the truth about the major divisions in the world with religion: Judaism vs. Islam vs. Christianity. To take it further:

Young men doing obstacle course gymnastics: symbolic of war or transition of power?
the young man who won: symbolic for maybe Jesus? a profit? an idea? Did you see the man?
people with slogans in hall= religious zealots?
most important part of Med. sea?: Italy, Rome, Vatican, Catholic Church?

Just sounds to me that you were pondering faith and the plight of the world.

Or it could mean something more prophetic. Like something is about to happen in Italy that will change the world?

And I could be totally wrong and off my rocker. The religious theme overwhelmingly stood out to me. Maybe I’m projecting. Only you can know for sure! Very interesting indeed.

SubjectivelyTruthful's avatar

I forgot to say that the designer of the obstacle course was God.

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