Martha Nussbaum (a relatively well known literary critic and theorist) once wrote a huge essay on how we need literature to cultivate humanity. Simply put, if you read, you will become a better person, with better morals, education, language, and well informed opinions; she also believed the same was true for all forms of expressive art.
Putting aside the elitist nature of this argument it seems pretty obvious, to me at least (after a two hour debate in University), that this theory holds true. I for one, would class myself as intelligent. By that I don’t mean at the same level as a doctor, or a scientist, but I did make it into University to study a core subject. That counts for something doesn’t it? At least I hope so… Anyway, the point is, I read a lot; and so do most intelligent people I know (not just in my Literature class).
On the other side of the theory, there are people out there who don’t read, or pay attention to any forms of art. If you need an example, imagine someone sits next to you, then asks you how to spell a name, which then turns out to be their name! Or someone who thinks clouds help us to breath, or thinks the common Duck…is a human! Wow, those were oddly specific, and in no way apply to people I know… Ok so I do know two of them, but neither of them read frequently.
So, either not reading leads to low intelligence, leaving a poor soul’s mind to chew over the latest events of Hollyoaks, or Twilight film. Or low intelligence causes people to become less inclined to read. This much is obvious, there is a relationship between the two, it might vary from person to person, it might be effected by social status, but it is definitely there.
Of course, there are exceptions, and there are those who choose to explore different forms of art; there are even those who choose to base their entire life around science. While not being entirely on the side of science, I would say I have a lot stake in it.
Anyway, the point I’ve been driving towards through this meandering river of digression is that because less and less people read, and pay attention to art, as time goes on, will we fall into a spiral of evolutionary regression? There is a theory that the human race will one day split in two, the first group will regress continually until they reach neolithic status, and the second will continue to become more and more intelligent.
Personally I think this this theory goes a little far, but I do think, if we carry on as we are doing, huge gaps between intelligence levels will open up. Picture the streets of New Delhi, will the poor living on the street, struggling to feed their children, and the rich barely lifting a finger to do the same. Is it possible that in 1st world countries, intelligence will take the place of currency, or that intelligence divides will lead to income divides?
I certainly hope not.