Christopher Michael Langan lays legitimate claim to having the highest IQ of anyone in the United States. He is a scholar in the original sense of the word. Scholar in its Greek root refers to leisure for reflection, and Langan has devoted his spare time to intellectual pursuits. That said, Langan is an unconventional scholar. Most scholars are associated with universities or think-tanks; they are paid to think. Langan’s day jobs, by contrast, have tended to be in the blue collar world — most colorfully as a bouncer. And yet he continues to read, research, and write. In addition, through his Mega Foundation, he helps others who, like himself, are so far out on the IQ scale that they’ve had difficulty adjusting to the plodding pace and low expectations that characterize much of conventional education.
Mr. Langan, on IQ tests you don’t
just score in the 99th percentile (as members of Mensa, the high-IQ society,
do), but more like in the 99.9999th percentile. How is this difference
There are distinctions to be made between
conventional IQ tests designed for the vast majority of test subjects, and
experimental tests designed to pick up where those tests leave off (around IQ
160 or so). Due to the nature of these distinctions, the difference of which
you speak can only be estimated, not directly measured.
When one exceeds the ceiling of a full-range
standardized IQ test like the WAIS* (as I have, for example), one’s IQ is said
to be “off the charts”. As it cannot be fully measured with a standardized IQ
test, further refinement requires an experimental test with a higher ceiling.
However, because off-the-charts IQ’s are so rare that they are unlikely to be
found in the limited samples on which conventional IQ tests are directly normed
and statistically calibrated, experimental high-ceiling tests designed for them
can only be indirectly calibrated. Basically, one sees how test subjects have
scored on other tests, establishes a correspondence, and extrapolates for the
very highest scores. At best, this yields an “estimated IQ”. [*WAIS = Wechsler
Adult Intelligence Scale]
The items in experimental high-ceiling IQ
tests tend to be complex and quite difficult, and more time is needed to
properly solve them. This affects the requirements of such tests and the manner
in which they are taken, which in turn raises the question of exactly how they
relate to standard IQ tests. The field of high-ceiling IQ testing is thus open
to controversy, as is IQ testing in general.
This controversy is worthwhile in some
respects, but misleading in others. IQ is a politically loaded topic on which
misinformation abounds; purportedly “scientific” criticisms of the IQ construct
and its associated statistics are often motivated less by science than by fear
that they somehow threaten fairness and equality, or by the exploitation of
such fear for hidden social or political agendas. Similarly, critical
commentary about the IQ of a specific person is often a thinly disguised way of
attacking intellectual content.
In my view, ideas and other intellectual
productions are more interesting, more indicative of intelligence, and more
productively debated than IQ alone.
Kids who score that high on IQ
tests tend to be so far ahead of their peers and teachers that they’re often
bored out of their minds in school and thus, ironically, don’t tend to be considered
great students by their teachers. Is this how it was for you?
Much of the time, yes. I had more than one
teacher who considered me a let-down, and sometimes for what must have seemed
For example, I sometimes fell asleep in
class. I can remember trying to resist it, but I wasn’t always successful. I
was even known to fall asleep during tests, sometimes before completing them.
And by “asleep”, I do mean “asleep”. It was once reported to me by one of my
teachers that she had amused the entire class by repeatedly snapping her
fingers in front of my face and eliciting no reaction whatsoever.
In fairness, this wasn’t always due to
boredom alone. I was often tired and exhausted by distractions. For example,
what pugnacious little thugs would be waiting in ambush as I left the school
grounds at the end of the day? How many friends and helpers would this or that
bully bring with him to the after-school fight for which I had been reluctantly
scheduled? Would my stepfather be in his typical punitive mood when I got home?
And so on.
Sometimes, I had trouble paying attention
even when I wasn’t asleep. I had a habit of partially withdrawing from the
class discussion and writing down my own thoughts in my notebook; this made me
appear to be attentively taking notes. However, when the teacher would sneak up
on me from behind or demand to see what I was writing, the truth would out, and
one can imagine the consequences.
As time passed, I would have to say that I
grew increasingly resistant and unresponsive to the Pavlovian conditioning on
which much educational methodology is based. I suspect that between home and
school, there had been a certain amount of cumulative desensitization.
These problems eventually got me stationed
nearly full-time in the school library, where I greatly preferred to be anyway.
Later, I was finally excused from attendance except as required in order to
collect and turn in my weekly assignments.
Please describe your
pre-adolescent years growing up? How precocious were you? Did any teachers see
your potential during that time? Were any effective at guiding you?
I was precocious in some ways, normal in
others. I had three little brothers; except for the youngest, we were only a
year or so apart in age. We played together like normal kids, ignoring
differences of scholastic achievement.
Our family situation was somewhat
extraordinary, and we felt the consequences acutely. We moved around a lot, and
were usually the poorest family in town. My stepfather sometimes worked as a
journalist, and when doing so, he could be brutally honest about things like
small-town corruption. This often resulted in harsh feelings against him, and
by extension, against all of us, inevitably leading to prejudice.
Teachers are supposed to be immune to this
kind of prejudice. But as my brothers and I learned the hard way, not all of
them live up to ideals. Add to that the social liabilities of often being “the
new kids in town” and the tendency of schoolchildren to shun or mistreat
out-group members, and the result was a mostly unpleasant K-12 experience.
A few of my teachers – perhaps as many as one
in four – sometimes tried to make things a little less unpleasant and a little
more rewarding for me. However, this sometimes backfired, as when they would
arouse the resentment of other students by holding me up as a scholastic
Adolescence is a time of big
changes. Describe your high school years. In what ways were they better and
worse than your first years? Presumably, you blew away all standardized tests.
Were Harvard and Caltech beating down your doors to have you as a student? If
not, why not? What happened after your high school years? When did your formal
I’ll be candid. I quickly came to see high
school as an extended, survival-of-the-fittest physical combat regimen
punctuated by the occasional brief oasis. A not insignificant number of people
know, or at least think they know, what it feels like to be among the least
popular kids in high school; for a male student, it means that one either
fights to defend oneself, or swallows an unlimited amount of disrespect and
abuse from other kids, right down to mockery and physical assault. I usually
opted to defend myself, thus precipitating a further decline in personal
popularity while at least salvaging a modicum of respect.
As far as I was concerned, I was “ready for
college” by the 10th grade (and arguably before that). But of course, that
meant nothing without an advocate within the system to furnish advice and
recommendations. As I was without a mentor and in no position to pursue my own
interests, that was the end of the story until graduation.
I applied to two colleges, each of which
offered me a full academic scholarship. One pressured me to major in ancient
languages, but as I preferred mathematics and philosophy, I chose the other.
Unfortunately, for various reasons I hadn’t foreseen, this was not a good
choice. To make a long story short, I found myself with a case of culture shock
and intellectual alienation, an “advisor” harder to track down than Bigfoot,
and sharp personality conflicts with two or three of the worst and most
self-absorbed instructors I could have imagined … and after my K-12
experiences, that’s really saying something! I was even accused of
participating in a riot at which I was never present, and given no opportunity
to respond. All in all, I’d have to call it a disappointment.
Then, after taking a year or so off to work
and save up a little tuition money, I tried to make a fresh go of it. This
turned out to be yet another waste of time. Although I encountered unexpected
physical difficulties that I tried hard to resolve, the university
administrators – citing my problems at the first institution –
refused to budge in my direction, leaving me no choice but to depart in
mid-winter. At that point, having finally read the writing on the wall, I shook
the dust from my work boots and took my intellectual destiny into my own hands
as best I could. As Wittgenstein might have put it, I resolved to “go the hard
On several occasions after that, I allowed
myself to be persuaded by others to give the system yet another chance. On the
first occasion, the college claimed to have “lost” my application after the
enrollment deadline. On the last occasion, I applied to the PhD program at a
foreign university only to have my application rejected without explanation
despite glowing written recommendations from various highly credentialed
people. I could go on.
Evidently, my reconciliation with academia
was not to be. Experience has taught me that I was right to trust my intuition:
there is nothing to be gained by pretending that academic involvement is
necessary, or even always desirable, in the quest for truth and knowledge. In
fact, owing to the academic penchant for orthodoxy and political correctness,
it can be a hindrance.
For many years you earned your
livelihood in non-intellectual pursuits. When 20/20 did a story on you in the
late 1990s, they described a long string of jobs you have held, including
bouncer. What were some of these jobs? Which of them did you enjoy most?
I’ll skip the boyhood lawn work and paper
My first real job was farm work…weeding
potatoes (fifty cents per hour) when I was 13-14 years old or so. The money
went to my mother for groceries. The next, which occupied me until I was about
17, was working as a ranch hand on various ranches, where my regular duties
included stacking hay, manual irrigation, and working with horses and cows
(12-14 hours of labor per day, 7 days a week come rain or shine, $200 per month
before taxes plus a bunk in a covered wagon and all the eggs and stew I could
My next employer was the US Forest Service,
in which I served as a firefighter, lookout, and regional fire guard (something
less than a full ranger, but with direct responsibility for a relatively large
geographic area). This work was seasonal and spanned about four years. During
the winters, I began working construction, from digging ditches to banging
nails and pouring concrete on projects from small houses to ten-story grain
Only when I was in my twenties did I get
around to nightclub security, i.e., being a bar bouncer, interspersed with yet
more construction work. It was risky and often distasteful, but it let me save
a little money and usually left me enough physical and mental energy to pursue
my studies during off-hours.
There were other jobs as well – e.g., digging
clams on the Great South Bay of Long Island, a bit of ocean lifeguarding, a few
weeks spent installing and reconditioning tennis courts, and so on. And of
course, when the weather was bad or times were tough, there were also a few
stretches of unemployment.
In keeping with my days as a ranch hand, I
now finally own a horse ranch, but at a time when the horse market is severely
depressed. While this has kept my income not far above its previous low range,
at least the lifestyle is clean and healthy.
As far as enjoyment is concerned, almost all
of these jobs offered a little of that, though in most cases not enough to make
up for the pain (the potato weeding and tennis court work were uniformly boring
and hell on my back). It’s notoriously hard to work for someone else when one’s
true calling beckons; scheduling conflicts are unavoidable and tend to be
Now that I own a ranch, most of the
scheduling is up to me. That alone makes it the best “job” I’ve ever had, all
the more so because it calls on much of what I learned in other lines of work.
Why, despite your intellectual
gifts, did you turn to non-intellectual pursuits for your livelihood?
I did so by necessity.
Through its jealous stranglehold on
intellectual certification, academia has all but monopolized gainful
intellectual activity; if one has no money, no connections, and no degree,
one’s intellect is all but vocationally irrelevant. Given two people, one with
an IQ of 100 and a college degree and the other with a 200 IQ and no degree,
all else equal, any job that involves much intellectual processing will go to
the former in almost every case. This is because academia has managed to
convince the world that intelligence equates to academic certification, when in
fact, it is a largely innate capacity independent of academic training and
When I first parted ways with academia, I
understood that this would hurt my chances to make a good living; I had no
choice in the matter anyway. But in deciding to make an intellectual go of it
on my own, I simply discounted the tremendous obstacles I would face in getting
attention for my work. After these obstacles began to emerge, I moved on
several occasions — always at the urging of others that I not “give up on the
system” — to give academia another try. But even after I’d been featured in the
national media and presented in a #1 NY Times best-seller as someone who would
probably be well-suited for a faculty position at a university such as Harvard,
my efforts were either rebuffed or ignored!
It seems that academia, rather than
encouraging the participation of anyone in particular, finds comfort in the
assumption that no matter whom it excludes and neglects, no good idea can
possibly elude it. But of course, this assumption is absurd on its face.
Academia is a function of individual minds which exist independently of it, not
vice versa; individual academics serve its educational mandate, produce its
scholarly output, and harbor its loftiest aspirations. Without them, academia
is literally nothing.
This makes it all the sadder that by ignoring
outsiders and thus keeping a closed shop while cravenly submitting to the
diktats of their institutions and embracing “consensus” at the expense of
intellectual freedom and honesty, many academics unwittingly reinforce the
hubris of an overweening bureaucracy which sometimes places its own interests
above truth itself. Clearly, this is not the way to do justice to the intellectual
potential of humanity.
As I have no more time to waste on vain
attempts to penetrate the academic bureaucracy, it now behooves me to seek
freer channels of communication.
Despite earning your living
largely through blue-collar jobs, you never stopped learning. Indeed, most of
your education has come through self-study. Please describe the course of study
that you set for yourself. What were you reading? How much were you reading?
What fields of inquiry most interested you? Who were your conversation partners
(literally and metaphorically)? What were you trying to accomplish through all
When I was very young (up to about the age of
6), I concentrated on the books in my grandparents’ bookshelves, on subjects
ranging from science to Egyptology and Asian culture (my grandfather was a
shipping executive who made frequent trips to China, India, and other Asian
countries). I remember being especially fond of the encyclopedias. Then I
discovered fantasy and science fiction, reading extensively in those genres.
By the time I was 13 or14, I had moved on to
authors requiring a bit more emotional maturity, e.g., Shakespeare, Tolstoy,
and Dostoevsky, as well as philosophers like Charles Darwin, Bertrand Russell,
and Albert Einstein (Einstein is widely regarded as a physicist, but his work
goes so deeply into the fundamental nature of reality that he can also be read
as a metaphysical philosopher). When I went away to college for nine months, I
read a considerable amount of classical literature as part of the curriculum.
This included Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas, who provided me with an
introduction to theology and metaphysics. Meanwhile, when I could afford it,
I’d buy and pore over dense but influential works like Kant’s Critique of
Pure Reason and Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica.
After that, my access to good reading
material was often quite limited, and I was forced to become more opportunistic
as a reader. Translation: often lacking access to a decent library or
bookstore, I read what was available. Books that I went out of my way to
acquire usually involved technical subjects like logic, mathematics,
philosophy, physics, and biology.
As one might gather from this reading list, I
was feeding the general hunger for knowledge typical of bright youngsters. But
at all times, my underlying goal was to know deep reality, the world as it
really is rather than as it is superficially presented to us by the senses. I
had discovered early on that no matter how smart the people I questioned, they
really had only the vaguest understanding of the world, and I found this
particular kind of ignorance totally unacceptable. Why live this life we are
given without knowing it for what it really is?
Thus, while other kids worried about being
liked and looked forward to making money, acquiring lots of cool stuff, and
having an all-around good time, I poked around by myself in the deep, dark
crevasses of reality in search of meaning and flashes of enlightenment…always a
strange occupation for a young person, and becoming more so with each passing
In the last decade, you’ve been
actively developing what you call a “Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the
Actually, I’ve had the essence of the CTMU
(Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe) for well over two decades, and
began to publish essays on it in 1989.
Since then, I’ve been periodically amused to
watch academia and/or the media get excited and wax philosophical over the
rediscovery of what seem to isolated, vaguely-formulated scraps of it by
While I certainly don’t want to downplay the
insights of others, I’ve come to suspect that in the dog-eat-dog,
publish-or-perish world of academia, few if any are really up to making a
forest of the trees.
Can you sketch the CTMU — in plain English
— for our readers?
The name literally says it all. The phrase
“Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe” contains three main ingredients:
cognitive theory, model, and universe. Cognitive theory refers to a general
language of cognition (the structural and transitional rules of cognition);
universe refers to the content of that language, or that to which the language
refers; and model refers to the mapping which carries the content into the
language, thus creating information. The way in which the title brings these
three ingredients together, or “contracts” their relationship to the point of
merging, reflects their perfect coincidence in that to which the title
implicitly refers, i.e., reality (the physical universe plus all that is
required to support its perception and existence). Thus, the CTMU is a theory
which says that reality is a self-modeling universal language, or if one
prefers, that the universe is a self-modeling language.
The operation of combining language,
universe, and model to create a perfectly self-contained metalanguage results
in SCSPL, short for Self-Configuring Self-Processing Language. This language is
“self-similar” in the sense that it is generated within a formal identity to
which every part of it is mapped as content; its initial form, or grammatical
“start symbol”, everywhere describes it on all scales. My use of grammatical
terminology is intentional; in the CTMU, the conventional notion of physical
causality is superseded by “telic causation”, which resembles generative grammar
and approaches teleology as a natural limit. In telic causation, ordinary
events are predicated on the generation of closed causal loops distributing
over time and space. This loop-structure reflects the fact that time, and the
spatial expansion of the cosmos as a function of time, flow in both directions
– forward and backward, outward and inward – in a dual formulation of causality
characterizing a new conceptualization of nature embodied in a new kind of
medium or “manifold”.
That’s as simple as I can make it without
getting more technical. Everything was transparently explained in the 56-page
2002 paper I published on the CTMU, which has been downloaded hundreds of
thousands of times. But just in case this still doesn’t qualify as “plain
English”, there’s an even easier way to understand it that is available to any
reader familiar with the Bible, one of the most widely read and best-understood
books ever written.
In the New Testament, John 1 begins as
follows: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the
Word was God” (my italics). Much controversy has centered on this passage, as
it seems to be saying that God is literally equivalent to logos, meaning
“word”, “wisdom”, “reason”, or “truth”. Insofar as these meanings all refer to
constructs or ingredients of language or to language itself, this amounts to
the seemingly imponderable assertion that God, of Whom believers usually
conceive as an all-powerful Entity or Being, somehow consists of language. The
CTMU is precisely what it takes to validate this assertion while preserving the
intuitive conception of God as the all-knowing Creator – or in non-theological
terms, the “identity” or “generator” – of reality. Nothing but the CTMU can
fully express this biblical “word-being duality” in a consistent
The CTMU is not just a theory; it is logical
model theory applied to metaphysics, and as much a logical necessity as any
branch of mathematics or philosophy. One can no more escape from it than from
X=X or 1+1=2. But when it comes to something that packs this combination of
scope and power, many people, including certified academics, committed
atheists, and even some religious believers, are apparently afraid to stare X=X
in the face.
Little wonder. After all, once one has beheld
the metaphysical structure of reality, there is no longer any such thing as
plausible deniability or defense by ignorance; it’s the end of innocence, so to
speak. Understandably, many people find that a little scary.
What are you trying to accomplish
with the CTMU?
As a general theory of reality – or if one
prefers, the general framework of such a theory – the CTMU has potential
applications in virtually every field of human inquiry and endeavor.
Human knowledge is a veritable Tower of
Babel. Various theories of science, mathematics, and philosophy centering on
various parts and aspects of reality are couched in diverse formalisms and
vocabularies that often bear little resemblance to each other and exhibit no
obvious connections. The situation is reminiscent of a disorderly range of
mountains; one can get from one valley to another by climbing the mountains,
but by the time one gets to the next valley, the last is no longer visible.
Worse, the inhabitants speak a different tongue with no discernable connection
to the languages spoken in other valleys.
Theoretical compartmentalization creates the
impression that certain parts or aspects of reality are indefinitely related to
each other or not related at all, causing rifts and false divisions to appear
in our conceptual and perceptual topography, fracturing and fragmenting our
worldview. Sometimes, this leads to scientific crises; for example, relativity
theory is seemingly impossible to unite with quantum theory. Some rifts may
even be seen as mutual irrelevancies; for example, science and theology are
often considered to be separated by an unbridgeable gulf, and thus mutually
This is hardly an ideal situation. In a
reality where the physical world is held accountable to empirical or
mathematical science, any scientifically irrelevant theology is implicitly
displaced. This makes theological systems untouchable by science and vice
versa, depriving science of moral guidance and encouraging the revelatory
creation of different metaphysical realities associated with conflicting
promises and instructions involving the physical world. (These metaphysical
realities include not just overtly religious frameworks, but the random
materialism embraced by many scientists and followers of science.) The
resulting disagreements cause, or provide pretexts for, real-world conflicts.
In order to unify and make sense of our
knowledge, we must have a universal foundational language in which the
special-purpose languages of science can be consistently expressed and
interpreted. The fact that this foundational language controls the
interpretation of physical theories demands that it be metaphysical; it must
refer to science “from above”. Yet, in order to do its job, it must also be
necessarily true, which requires that it be a mathematically verified
ingredient of science.
In other words, the required metalanguage is
that through which science, including both mathematics and empirical
applications of mathematics, becomes self-referential and self-normative…the
“bootstrapping” of ordinary mathematical-scientific discourse to a higher
verificative level of discourse spanning science in its entirety. This
requirement leads directly to the CTMU and SCSPL, exactly as described in this
interview and elsewhere.
Among the benefits of such a language are
these: properly developed and applied, it can synergistically unite the various
fields of science; it can remove false conceptual divisions, reconciling
science with philosophy and theology, mathematics with physics, and physics
with metaphysics; it can promote a general understanding of reality, so that
people cannot be so easily cheated of meaning by those wishing to create an
illusion of amorphous “relativism” in order to exploit the attending moral
vacuum; and it can serve as the basis of an overarching worldview capable of
modeling all lesser theories and creeds up to mutual consistency, thereby
promoting intellectual accord and conducing to peace and harmony on earth.
Obviously, the CTMU is a
cross-disciplinary project. On what disciplines does it draw?
Because an ultimate theory must accommodate
every valid theory pertaining to every part or aspect of reality, it must be
approached in the most general terms possible. It must also be formed from the
top down rather than just from the bottom up, as it is easier to maintain
initial coherence as specificative distinctions are added than to create it ad
hoc by cobbling together distinct entities. This means that we must begin with
a perfectly general theoretic identity and work inward.
One therefore begins with mathematical logic,
all the way from the propositional and predicate calculi to lattices and model
theory; arithmetic, abstract algebra, and elementary analysis; basic probability
theory and statistics; foundational mathematics, including the theories of sets
and categories; and of course, metaphysics and theology. One can then move on
to the theories of computation and information; the algebraic and computational
theories of language, generative (computational) grammar and the logical theory
of metalanguages; geometry and the theory of manifolds; classical and quantum
physics, including relativity theory and cosmology; the study of causality and
evolution in fields like biology, neuroscience, and cognitive psychology;
decision theory and economics, especially as they relate to the nature and
maximization of utility and the stratification of utility functions and
distributions; and so on up to (intellectual) exhaustion.
I’ve just named what some would view as an
intractable multiplicity of disciplines, each splitting into branches, each of
which is rich enough to occupy a dedicated specialist throughout his/her entire
academic career. This naturally presents a problem for generalist-interdisciplinarians,
especially independent researchers without access to academic libraries or the
academic grapevine. Outsiders are seldom invited to academic conferences and
symposia designed to bring interested academics up to speed on the work of
specialists; they may even lack knowledge of up-to-date search terms through
which to filter recent academic literature for material relevant to their work.
Accordingly, they may find it more expedient to address conceptual deficiencies
and solve problems from scratch than to sift through vast piles of academic
literature for what they need.
Take mathematics, for example. The scholarly
output of the mathematical community has been nothing short of tremendous. This
obviously has an upside: mathematicians who are “in the loop” can often find
what they need in the prior work of other mathematicians, or at least determine
that they’re in virgin territory unexplored by others. But it also has a
downside: those who are not in the loop may literally find it easier to
discover or rediscover the mathematics they need than to scour the literature
for some intelligible indication that somebody else has already written about
it, and then decipher and back-engineer the meaning of the complex vocabularies
and symbologies employed by previous authors. Personally, I’ve found myself in
this position on more than a few occasions.
Much the same applies to other fields of
science, where it can be even more difficult to solve problems instead of
looking up their solutions. So let’s just say that I’ve had my share of
challenges along the way…and that I really appreciate the Internet!
Have you completed work on this
model or is it still a work in progress? What, if anything, remains to be done?
The classical Laplacian-deterministic
worldview is all but dead. As reality is affected by every possible kind
of ambiguity, uncertainty, indeterminacy, and undecidability, no theory of
reality can ever be complete. In principle, this makes any such theory a
permanent work-in-progress in which a very great deal always remains to be
done. Exploration must continue.
However, a theory of reality can still be
comprehensive, classifying knowledge in the large rather than determining it
exhaustively. The CTMU already provides a self-contained framework for
theorization about reality, represents a pronounced departure from established
lines of inquiry, and was ready for prime time even as presented in my 2002
Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe: A New Kind of Reality Theory.
Of course, the CTMU doesn’t end with the
paper. I do something new to develop and refine it nearly every day, and it all
adds up. As a metaphysical (ontological, cosmological, and epistemological)
framework, the CTMU has no real competition, and can thus be developed without
fear of having to start over from scratch.
What has been the model’s
reception in the academic world? How are you publicizing this work?
“What reception?” indeed.
While it’s true that I sometimes see my own
concepts, some of them decades old and ostensibly original with me, flow from
the pens of properly-certified academics and regurgitated in the lofty ad hoc
speculations of university philosophers, I have (to my knowledge) yet to be
officially cited by any of them. While I’ve been told that some influential
academics have privately admitted to finding my work “ambitious”,
“interesting”, and even “admirable”, they would apparently need to be coaxed
out of the closet before admitting it publicly. (After all, I’m not a member of
The CTMU is a profound departure from other
theories of reality. To a typical academic snob, my status as a working man
with only a year or so of college no doubt suggests that it cannot withstand
expert analysis; given its unique structure, any flaws should be readily
apparent to some qualified expert who can be attached by name to his arguments
and thus held to reasonable standards of analysis and debate. But despite
occasional incoherent sniping by anonymous Internet gadflies, no qualified
individual has ever found fault with it. This is not only because it is (as
some claim) “incomprehensible” or philosophically and theologically loaded, but
because it is substantially correct.
Again, I’ll speak freely. It appears to me
that the academic world is far too wrapped up in itself to make time for
anything or anybody else. The situation is exacerbated by a tendency among
academics to assume that if it wasn’t coughed up from the belly of the academic
beast, it can’t be worth a glance. The prospects are especially dim for
potentially “game-changing” work that is perceived to run afoul of academic
orthodoxy, threaten the economic status quo, or have difficult social or
As I’ve already mentioned, academia has all
but monopolized gainful intellectual activity through its stranglehold on
intellectual certification. The dependence of economic opportunity on academic
certification is impossible to miss; it should be no less obvious that this
dependency relationship extends to the intellectual advancement of mankind. Woe
to any would-be contributor who parts ways with the academic machine, for
intellectual commerce is governed by a “publish-or-perish” economy of publication
and citation in academic journals, wherein the obstacles to publication and
proper attribution are proportional to the obscurity of the author, the
importance and controversiality of the topic, and the level and prominence of
the periodical. As a result, important technical works by authors without
academic credentials and affiliations are unlikely to be published or cited,
and even if these authors beat the odds against them, they cannot benefit in
any meaningful way from their effort.
There are at least two obvious reasons for
(1) Much like an intellectual trade union,
academia reserves all of its benefits for members, affording nonmembers no
standing, no incentives, and no avenue of recourse should others use their
ideas without credit. By making sure that people cannot get along without
academic credentials, academia assures itself of a continued influx of paying
clients and thus feeds its pyramidal growth economy without necessarily
delivering all of the educational services it owes the public.
(2) Professional academics consider it risky
to associate with those who may be perceived as “unqualified”, preferring to
cite well-credentialed, well-connected authors likely to reflect well on their
academic reputations. This aversion to risk applies a fortiori to journal
editors and reviewers, and even to the commercial publishing houses
specializing in scholarly nonfiction. This greatly increases the likelihood
that meaningful contributions by academic outsiders will not be published, and
if they are, that they will be used without credit.
Unfortunately, this means that people without
academic credentials have nothing to gain, but everything to lose, by
attempting to publish in academic journals, and thus that academic journals do
not qualify as a rational venue for their ideas. Just as one need not step off
a succession of cliffs to understand what will happen if one steps off the next
cliff, one need not repeatedly hurl oneself at the closed shop door of academia
to know that one will simply bounce off, the sound of impact echoing without
citation or appreciation if at all.
As far as publicity is concerned, I’m afraid
that I’ve been derelict in the self-promotion department. As a matter of
personality, I’m far more interested in generating and pursuing the
implications of my ideas than in selling them to the media and the public. I’ve
never been keen on the salesmanship aspect of anything I’ve done; there are too
many accomplished salesmen out there who excel at attracting attention to
themselves despite having nothing of real value to sell, and competing against
them is nearly always a waste of time. This is especially true in the
intellectual sphere. Unless the audience is able to follow complex
argumentation while steadfastly resisting sophistry and rhetorical trickery,
such competitions usually devolve to shouting or pissing matches.
Of course, despite my contempt for sales, I
keep promising myself that in the future, I’ll do a better job of disseminating
and promoting my work. I think that once the Mega Foundation Media Center is up
and running, we’ll start gaining more headway in that department.
You founded the Mega Foundation to
“create and implement programs that aid in the development of extremely gifted
individuals and their ideas.” Why is it necessary to help these exceptionally
gifted kids? Don’t they have a leg up on the rest of us already? How many deal
with challenges similar to your own in growing up?
Owing to the shape of a bell curve, the
education system is geared to the mean. Unfortunately, that kind of education
is virtually calculated to bore and alienate gifted minds. But instead of
making exceptions where it would do the most good, the educational bureaucracy
often prefers not to be bothered.
In my case, for example, much of the
schooling to which I was subjected was probably worse than nothing. It
consisted not of real education, but of repetition and oppressive socialization
(entirely superfluous given the dose of oppression I was getting away from
school). Had I been left alone, preferably with access to a good library and a
minimal amount of high-quality instruction, I would at least have been free to
learn without useless distractions and gratuitous indoctrination. But alas, no
While my own background is rather
exceptional, it is far from unique. Many young people are affected by one or
more of the same general problems experienced by my brothers and me. A rising
number of families have severe financial problems, forcing educational concerns
to take a back seat to food, shelter, and clothing on the list of priorities.
Even in well-off families, children can be starved of parental guidance due to
stress, distraction, or irresponsibility. If a mind is truly a terrible thing
to waste, then the waste is proportional to mental potential; one might
therefore expect that the education system would be quick to help extremely
bright youngsters who have it rough at home. But if so, one would be wrong a
good part of the time.
Let’s try to break the problem down a bit.
The education system is subject to a psychometric paradox: on one hand, it
relies by necessity on the standardized testing of intellectual achievement and
potential, including general intelligence or IQ, while on the other hand, it is
committed to a warm and fuzzy but scientifically counterfactual form of
egalitarianism which attributes all intellectual differences to environmental
factors rather than biology, implying that the so-called “gifted” are just
pampered brats who, unless their parents can afford private schooling, should
atone for their undeserved good fortune by staying behind and enriching the
classroom environments of less privileged students.
This approach may appear admirable, but its
effects on our educational and intellectual standards, and all that depends on
them, have already proven to be overwhelmingly negative. This clearly betrays
an ulterior motive, suggesting that it has more to do with social engineering
than education. There is an obvious difference between saying that poor
students have all of the human dignity and basic rights of better students, and
saying that there are no inherent educationally and socially relevant
differences among students. The first statement makes sense, while the second
The gifted population accounts for a very
large part of the world’s intellectual resources. As such, they can obviously
be put to better use than smoothing the ruffled feathers of average or
below-average students and their parents by decorating classroom environments
which prevent the gifted from learning at their natural pace. The higher we go
on the scale of intellectual brilliance – and we’re not necessarily talking
just about IQ – the less support is offered by the education system, yet the
more likely are conceptual syntheses and grand intellectual achievements of the
kind seldom produced by any group of markedly less intelligent people. In some
cases, the education system is discouraging or blocking such achievements, and
thus cheating humanity of their benefits.
The Mega Foundation hopes to provide a
modicum of damage control by offering encouragement and fellowship to those who
were accidentally left behind the door, or deliberately held back for the sake
of expediency or “social justice”, by those running the education system.
When did you start the foundation,
where is it located, and what programs are you currently offering through it?
What are the three best things that could happen to help your work with the
foundation? It is organized as a non-profit. Where can interested persons give
donations to it?
The Mega Foundation was begun in 1999 and
incorporated in Connecticut. In 2004, it was relocated and incorporated in
Missouri. It was established for the benefit of gifted people of all ages, as
well as for all of those who can benefit from their insight. Ultimately, this
means humanity in general.
While our wider mission has not changed, most
of our recent programs and activities have been geared for adults, particularly
along lines of networking and fellowship. This is largely due to the fact that
while there are many programs for gifted kids these days, there are few for
gifted adults who have fallen through the cracks of the education system.
Despite many challenges, we’ve managed to
acquire a building for use as a media center. For the last couple of years, my
wife and I have steadily worked to repair and renovate it with limited funds,
but have been held back by cost factors and a local scarcity of workmen
qualified to repair and maintain this kind of facility (a massively-constructed
decommissioned power station). At this stage of the project, many of our
planned activities are temporarily on hold. We estimate that the renovations
should be complete within two years, at which point we will expand our current
networking capabilities and resume conferencing.
The long-term needs of the Foundation are
pretty generic. As one might expect, lining up sources of funding and
generating exposure and public interest would probably top the list.
For anyone who is interested, our email
address is email@example.com.
Looking over American education,
K-8, high school, college, and graduate school, what say you? Does the U.S.
education system make it possible for people like yourself to thrive? Should
From where I sit, the bottom line is really
very simple. There are many people these days who are quite low on knowledge
and ability, but sport impressive college degrees and great jobs, sometimes
even in academia itself. Yet, there are others who are at least as intelligent
as the average college professor and possessed of the will and ability to
contribute to society, but without a degree and at best menially employed. Many
intelligent people eventually reach an impasse with the education system
despite their best efforts, but when they attempt to make do without its stamp
of approval, their situation becomes well nigh impossible.
There is something very wrong here, and given
the power of the system, it cannot deny a measure of responsibility for this
imbalance and its harmful effects. So my answer would have to be yes, the
education system should try harder to let the highly intelligent thrive within
it. Where circumstances make this difficult, it should at least make remedial
allowances for the exceptional individuals whom it has clearly failed. Through
standardized testing alone, for example, it could make low-cost or no-cost
degrees available to capable individuals who cannot afford tuition or benefit
from its regimented mass-production style of instruction.
Unfortunately, there appear to be some rather
unsavory reasons for academia’s reluctance to make such allowances.
Historically, it has always been subject to pressure by powerful economic and
political interests. This pressure is generally directed toward the creation of
a self-reinforcing arrangement: those in power tell academia how they want
students to think; academia produces a constant supply of certified experts
guaranteed to tell those in power what they want to hear; and those in power,
having placed these experts in advisory positions, encourage them to uphold
whatever consensus appears to justify their actions and desires.
Obviously, far from wanting to stimulate and
empower their future competition, the socioeconomic elite would rather mold
potential competitors into docile workers and consumers. Just as obviously,
this has nothing to do with maximizing the intellectual potential of individual
human beings, especially those with psychological traits that could make them
“problematical”. Woodrow Wilson, speaking as the President of Princeton
University in 1909, put it like this: “We want one class of persons to have a
liberal education, and we want another … a very much larger class of necessity
… to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform
specific difficult manual tasks.” This has been impressed on academia through
economic and political pressure exerted over many decades by various
well-funded and tightly-controlled nonprofit foundations, policy institutes,
learned councils, and advisory committees.
In other words, while education is obviously
a dire social necessity, the education system shares a peculiar distinction
with the mass media: both are ideal means of indoctrination, mental and
behavioral conditioning, and social manipulation, all of which are practiced by
the wealthy and powerful out of sheer self-interest, and all of which are
diametrically opposed to intellectual depth and objectivity. This exposes the
education system to forms of interference which bias it against certain ideas
and compromise its basic educational functionality. Unfortunately, it appears
to be unable to defend itself against such interference; while subjecting
nearly everything but itself to ruthless deconstruction, it remains perfectly
blind to its own systematic abuse.
Largely thanks to such interference, the
education system is now seriously flawed. Its problems are almost too numerous
to list: it is bureaucratic and peremptory, profit-oriented in a pyramidal way,
full of prejudice against traditional American culture and values, and addicted
to various articles of PC nonsense which it prosecutes aggressively and with
astonishing intolerance and sanctimony. It worships orthodoxy, punishes
originality, and often rewards intellectual mediocrity as if it were the sacred
torch of human brilliance. Though unable to justify its highly standardized
worldview, it demands near-perfect intellectual conformity therewith, thus
creating a suffocating atmosphere for students and teachers alike. One could
easily go on.
Despite these failings, most people still see
the education system as the universal incubator and caretaker of human
knowledge, the cynosure of human intellectual progress, and a safe repository
of the priceless intellectual resources of mankind, naively trusting in the
integrity of honest and dedicated teachers and researchers to prevent outside
forces from subverting its machinery for ulterior purposes. However, America’s
steady decline in overall academic performance, and our current dismal
socio-economic predicament – for both of which academia clearly bears a large
measure of responsibility – show that this faith has been largely unwarranted.
While some of the responsibility can be
“kicked upstairs” to the political realm and beyond, educators are still left
holding the bag. It is time for them to worry more about education, and less
about guarding the power structure and promoting its conceptions of political
correctness and social justice at a net loss of our most crucial intellectual
What’s good about the education
system? What isn’t? What would you change?
What’s good about the education system is
that it provides a bit of worthwhile instruction to those who need it while
bringing people together to exchange information and share ideas. What’s bad
about it is that it does so more inefficiently, inequitably, and unaffordably
by the day, and mixes legitimate educational content with various questionable
assumptions that turn up, unsurprisingly enough, in questionable social and
If I could change this, I would.
Unfortunately, it appears to be driven by large concentrations of money and
power, and the kind of media and government cooperation that only big money can
buy. Since I don’t have that kind of money, I’ll confine my answer to
educational methods themselves.
First, let’s make a distinction between the
bottom-up and top-down approaches to learning. Bottom-up learning starts with
the details and basic skills and works toward the big picture; top-down
learning starts with the big picture and uses its overall organization to
motivate and clarify the details. Those who favor the standard bottom-up
approach hold that in any subject, the requisite skills and details must be
mastered before higher-level knowledge can be imparted; those who favor the
top-down approach hold that the big picture provides crucial motivation and
clarity regarding the requisite skills and details. Learning is best achieved
by constructive feedback between these two approaches.
Unfortunately, this constructive feedback is
seldom if ever properly achieved in standard curricula. Instead, one
usually finds a cumulative sequence of tedious courses designed to teach facts
and skills without concern for student interest or motivation. Generalization
tends to be excessive; guiding principles are offered without sufficient
justification, while in mathematics, methods and details are shorn of motivation
and understanding for the sake of “abstraction” and “rigor”. Essentially, the
student is expected to trot briskly on the academic treadmill like a donkey
after a carrot on a stick, eyes on the prize of a prestigious degree and the
material rewards that it seems, ever more deceptively, to promise. The
all-important flashes of insight craved by gifted minds are regarded as
Thus, the standard curriculum may be likened
to a play which keeps its audience engrossed with a series of portentous mysteries
and cliffhangers, except that the portent is largely missing, and the mysteries
appear disconnected from each other and therefore utterly trivial.
In technical fields, the problem is
exacerbated by the way in which textbooks are often written. Background
knowledge is assumed, rigor and abstraction are rigorously and abstractly
pursued, and motivation and proper interpretation are left to the instructor,
without whose helpful hints and background explanations the text is all but
indecipherable. This prevents the text from being of much use to academic
outsiders, and is seemingly calculated to make even the brightest and most
eager autodidact throw up his hands and slog resignedly back to academia, hat
and money in hand.
Obviously, this sort of thing is very
supportive of the academic profit incentive and the long-term financial
security of academia and academics. After all, academia does not need to worry
about engaging the student when attendance is either compulsory or coerced by
threats of lifelong poverty and frustration for want of credentials.
Unfortunately, it is not nearly as beneficial
for the student or for the world at large, which loses the insight of brilliant
minds unable to make the academic connection.
Where to from here? What are your
aspirations for the future? What projects are you working on now and what
projects would you yet like to undertake? Any final thoughts you would like to
share with our readers?
Distilled to a single sentence, my
aspirations come down to making the world a better place.
I’ve already mentioned the Mega Foundation
Media Center. Despite the fact that it’s still full of lumber, tools, and
scaffolding, we’ve already got it outfitted with some sound and video
equipment. Our idea is to produce educational films and related documentaries.
We have some very promising projects on the drawing boards.
Some of these projects relate to a book I’ve
been writing on mathematically proving the existence of God. Surprising as it
may seem, this can certainly be done. In fact, save for a few crucial
ingredients, it was nearly accomplished by (e.g.) Anselm of Canterbury in the
11th century AD. (Sadly, neither Anselm nor his various followers and modern
analysts were able to pin down all of the logic and ontology required to fill
out and support his essential argument.)
Some people, reasoning from past failures,
regard such a proof as impossible. But then again, many people had considered
it impossible to solve the venerable chicken-or-egg problem, for which I
concise case-by-case solution around a decade ago. The chicken-or-egg
problem and the existence of God both relate to the general issue of circular
dependency, a connection to be explored in the book.
I would hope that in time – if we still have
the time – my work along these lines could revolutionize theology. Some will no
doubt warm to this prospect; others will not, including committed atheists,
uneducable agnostics, and theists who insist on ascribing illogical “divine
properties” to God on dogmatic grounds ultimately having little to do with core
scripture. But no matter what anyone may say, truth, logic, and God are
equivalent concepts. To cheat one of them is to cheat all of them.
I believe that we can afford to cheat none of
them, and I’m quite sure that God would agree.