“His name was William James Sidis, and his IQ was estimated at between 250 and 300. At eighteen months he could read The New York Times, at two he taught himself Latin, at three he learned Greek. By the time he was an adult…
“His name was William James Sidis, and his IQ was estimated at between 250 and 300 [8, p. 283]. At eighteen months he could read The New York Times, at two he taught himself Latin, at three he learned Greek. By the time he was an adult he could speak more than forty languages and dialects. He gained entrance to Harvard at eleven, and gave a lecture on four-dimensional bodies to the Harvard Mathematical Club his first year. He graduated cum laude at sixteen, and became the youngest professor in history. He deduced the possibility of black holes more than twenty years before Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar published An Introduction to the Study of Stellar Structure. His life held possibilities for achievement that few people can imagine. Of all the prodigies for which there are records, his was probably the most powerful intellect of all. And yet it all came to nothing. He soon gave up his position as a professor, and for the rest of his life wandered from one menial job to another. His experiences as a child prodigy had proven so painful that he decided for the rest of his life to shun public exposure at all costs. Henceforth, he denied his gifts, refused to think about mathematics, and above all refused to perform as he had been made to do as a child. Instead, he devoted his intellect almost exclusively to the collection of streetcar transfers, and to the study of the history of his native Boston.” (Towers)
I’ve been reading about geniuses recently and I learned they often have great difficulty adjusting to life. They’re unlikely to find peers with whom they can relate to. Kids their own age just don’t have the same interests and they aren’t inclined to organize their activities in the way a child genius often desires to. So kids with high IQs tend to isolate themselves. Also, because everything comes so easy to them they sometimes struggle with self discipline and persistence. They often know more than half the material taught in school so they find it very difficult to engage. It might seem hard to empathize with someone who’s extremely smart but they really do face a serious struggle: mainly to just fit in.
One of the most difficult problems is communication with someone of significantly lower intelligence. Most of us have experienced this ourselves at one time or another. You know, you’re talking with someone and you know what he’s going to say before he even says it. You feign interest as best you can but after a minute or two you’re already bored. You’d love to talk to this person about your own current topic of interest but you can already tell: there’s just no point. Your topic of choice is simply beyond his understanding. So while your ears endure his awkward and mundane conversation, your mind is figuring out how to escape.
I think that happens to everybody occasionally, but for a genius, it’s often the rule rather than the exception.
This phenomena can be explained by science. For an IQ test, one standard deviation equals 15 IQ points, and we know communication problems arise between two people where we find a gap of two standard deviations, or 30 IQ points. (see Towers) William James Sidis’s IQ was estimated at 250. If he’s trying to make himself understood to someone whose IQ is a dead on average 100, that’s a gap of 150 IQ points, which is five times the gap where we begin to see communication problems. So how is an average person supposed to understand everything about the way William James Sidis looks at the world? We’re simply not capable. Historically, that’s been a problem for people of superior intelligence. The propensity for the gifted to be misunderstood is an ancient story. Leta Hollingworth in her book Children Above 180 IQ writes:
A lesson which many gifted persons never learn as long as they live is that human beings in general are inherently very different from themselves in thought, in action, in general intention, and in interests. Many a reformer has died at the hands of a mob which he was trying to improve in the belief that other human beings can and should enjoy what he enjoys. (Hollingworth, as cited in Towers, 1987)
So it’s not logical for us to expect the person of average intelligence to understand a person like William James Sidis. After all, at age two he taught himself Latin and Greek. He was a Harvard freshman at age eleven and he even lectured on four-dimensional bodies to the Harvard Math Club–in his first year. And he figured out that black holes were possible before black holes were even a thing.
The average person, looking up from a position a full ten standard deviations below, will never understand the way a person like Sidis, or others of greatly superior intelligence, looks at the world.
Which brings us to God, who is omniscient. God knows everything. Which begs the question: How many standard deviations above William James Sidis is God’s IQ?
And is it really logical to expect even a man like Sidis to understand everything about God? After all God didn’t discover black holes, God created black holes. And he created quarks and comets. He created the language encoded in our DNA. God created the Yosemite Valley, and the Grand Canyon, and 100 billion galaxies. He created supernovas. What’s the IQ of a Person who created such as these? 1,500? 15 thousand? 15 million?
Is there even a limit? When we talk about the Creator of the universe and all that’s in it, we’re talking about a Person who’s beyond IQ. He transcends IQ.
And that’s why it’s only logical that even a genius, even a genius like William James Sidis, looking up from a position hundreds or thousands of standard deviations below, if you will, is never going to understand everything about the way God looks at and interacts with the world.
“He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way.” John 3:31
References and Resources:
Stephen E. Brock, Ph.D., NCSP, Descriptive Statistics and Psychological Testing, California State University, Sacramento
Grady M. Towers, The Outsiders, Prometheussociety.org, 1987
Leta Stetter Hollingworth, Harry Levi Hollingworth, Children Above 180 IQ
Image via walknboston – Creative Commons