Monday 18 June 2012

Essential reading for IQ scholars: Grady M Towers essay The Outsiders


I sometimes wonder how many of those interested in IQ have read this brilliant and important essay on the problems and disadvantages of those with ultra-high IQ (above about 150); written by a man himself with ultra-high IQ who experienced many of the phenomena which he describes.



I would guess that not many have read it, since it is credited with only 6 citations on Google Scholar.

Well, there are the links: get on with it!


P.S.: Grady M Towers worked in a menial job, as a night watchman, and was murdered on March 20, 2000 in the course of his duties.


Note: The Outsiders essay is written from an apparently atheist perspective, as is common among those with very high IQ (William Sidis was an early example of a public atheist).

This may account for the 'Nietzschian' views expressed towards the end and also in the quotation from Aldous Huxley - which play with the idea that "men of genius are the only true men"; and that 'normal' people are not really human in the way that the tiny minority of geniuses are fully human.

The argument is made on the basis that it is to geniuses which humanity owes its great achievement and material advancement. 

I think that it is indeed substantially correct to assert that it is to geniuses which humanity owes its great achievement and material advancement. 


I suppose it depends what is meant by 'true' in 'only true men' - but for a Christian, genius is of secondary importance.

Genius is orthogonal to, independent of, salvation which certainly is not restricted to men of genius! 

(Of course we cannot know for sure, but...) If anything, the statistical relationship between IQ and salvation would be inverse and negative rather than positive.  



Simon said...

Is Christianity workable in a society where the average IQ is 80?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Simon - of course! Christianity arose in what was probably a low average IQ society; and Christianity's major growth regions in the modern world include both the highest and lowest average IQ societies.

Simon said...

To be clearer, a few questions so I can understand this topic better:

What would you estimate the IQs to be of Christianity's greatest Saints? (For example, it is obvious Seraphim Rose (even though he is not yet a Saint) possessed a very high IQ)

Is Christian theology the work of high IQ peoples?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Simon - there is a danger of getting way off topic here: but among the greatest Saints would be St. Paul and St. John the Evangelist who are certainly among the most intelligent people who ever lived - but then of course there is the matter of divine inspiration and miracle.

Many other Saints have been 'simple' folk, fools for Christ etc.

In general, yes theology is a product of highly intelligent people. The question is how important theology is for the mass of Christians: not very, would be the answer.

Theology (the science of God) is a response to the problems and questions of intelligent Christians - it may help, or it may make matters worse (usually does, in fact).

In sum: theology is not essential to Christianity.

Obviously not!

Catherine said...

An atheist perspective seems to me to lead to IQ-worship as well (even among those without exceptionally high IQ themselves).

Without a concept of the soul/the image of God/the Holy Spirit, all that truly separates us from the animal world is our intelligence and reason, and animal intelligence of course works on a continuum (apes and crows being more "intelligent" than lizards, for example).

It follows from this that the most intelligent/rational among us are the fullest examples of "true" humans, and that humanity itself becomes integrated into this animal continuum (as in Huxley's quote, the ideas of Peter Singer, etc).

Cantillonblog said...

Bruce - what do you suppose the average Weschler IQ was in Society in the England of 1870? What do you suppose the average is in 'elite' circles today (media, universities, and the chattering classes)?

It is striking reading biographies of men from a century ago - their letters etc - how much smarter and more refined people who were leading but not exceptional members of these circles were then.

Woodley discussed the average, but not the skew.

I suppose differential fertility, war, etc might have had an even greater effect on the top end than might be expected based upon the assumption that the distribution is truly normal and that only the mean changed.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Cantillonblog - Well, I am pretty sure there would be a much wider scatter of IQ in 1870 - a lot more people of low intelligence by modern standards (due to disease and malnutrition), and a lot more of high intelligence by modern standards, and some of higher intelligence than we see now.

So the average doesn't tell the whole story.

No particular reason why there would be a normal distribution curve either - as you say, a skew is more likely.

Probably then a negative skew, with a high (median) average and a thick tail to the left...


As for the average in 'elite' circles - well that has declined by at least half an SD in the past 25 years - mostly due to different selection criteria. Modern elites are 'not even trying' to get intelligent recruits - they *always* prefer docil, obedient conscientiousness.

But since the professions have mostly grown in total size and at each institution - it is very hard to do a direct comparison.

But IQ is only half (or less than half) the story - since the elites are now almost wholly uncreative: so profoundly uncreative that they don't even know what is creativity, and imagine that contrived and manufactured novelty (e.g. random variation and mixing) is the same thing.

And the modern elite are extremely cowardly - whereas there used to be some extremely brave individuals.

Cantillonblog said...

I meant the average IQ not of society, but of Society.

Cantillonblog said...

To what extent is courage as manifested in behaviour inherited versus trained and brought out via practice and example?

If conditions were to change, and courageous behaviour once again permitted (let alone rewarded), would we not find that certain qualities that today seem to us forever lost were only slumbering, awaiting a time for their expression.

There was some concern in WW1 that the men of higher classes of that time, much more accustomed to comfort, would be ruined for war. But it didn't play out quite that way. We are very much more spoiled today, but conditions could change again.

Bruce Charlton said...

Courage - there is training, and social reward - and there is having something to be courageous *about* - all of which are severely deficient.

Nathan said...

I stumbled upon Mr. Towers' essay a few years ago and had about the same reaction as you had. He described the article as a "portrait", and I think that his article was very good insofar as it was a portrait, but his judgment on the worth of the the portrayed was unnecessary and off the mark. I've read a few other things that Mr. Towers wrote during his life, and I can't quite decide if he actually was of the opinion expressed by Huxley or not. Who knows.

I think that perhaps his portrait becomes more helpful the more that it is like a mirror to the reader, and it is probably for this reason that it has not been cited very often (The number of intelligent scholars has surely diminished with the diminishing of intelligence in general...).

A person of high intelligence (especially a genius) is simply more, but this also means that the task of overcoming one's self becomes that much greater.