No such thing as genius? How about Philip Pauli?

Somewhere I read that there is no such thing as a genius.

Then I saw this report on Philip Pauli, from Denver, CO. His IQ is said to be so high it isn’t charted.

Philip was playing the violin by age 1 and 1/2, and also composing simple tunes. He went through all the hard sciences, and of course was a whiz at geometry, algebra and all of those things.

He was the first person to note that the Denver Museum’s T’ Rex was missing the tail section, and that a 14th century painting had a French helmet instead of the Spanish.

By now he has probably graduated from college, he would be around 12 or so. He had to wait until he was 10 to get into the college. In the meantime, at age 8 he was on an archeological dig for dinosaur bones.

If this kid isn’t a genius, then what is he?

Is it physically possible for a one-year-old baby to play the violin?

Where did you read that there’s no such thing as a genius? If that’s so, then the word has the wrong definition… Define “genius” in such a way that there is such a thing.

That said, this Pauli fellow you mention may or may not be a genius, but he’s certainly a prodigy. The difference is this: None of the accomplishments you mention is, in itself, remarkable: The only thing that makes them remarkable is the age of the person doing them. There’s plenty of folks who play the violin, graduate from college, and go on dino digs but who are not genii. Let’s see if this kid keeps up the pace.

By the way, “IQ so high that it can’t be charted” doesn’t say much… There hasn’t been an IQ test yet devised that is reliable for a person in the 99th percentile or higher, which means that one person in a hundred has an unchartably high IQ. This assumes that IQ even has any significance in the first place.

In Psychology I think genious refers to someone with an IQ above a certain number. I’m not sure of the number, it might be 160.

Yes, most IQ tests say specifically that they can’t measure an IQ above 160. About one person in 31,000 or 32,000 has an IQ above 160. This isn’t a very interesting observation in itself. All it says is that you can’t do better than answer all the questions in a test right. Obviously a test can’t predict which of the people who got all the questions right might get all the questions right on a much harder test.

I think there’s another sense in which there’s no such thing as a genius. There’s no jump between “merely intelligent” people and geniuses. As you look in populations of larger and larger size, certainly you are going to find a few people who are smarter than anyone you’ve looked at before (learned some things earlier than anyone else, for instance), but you won’t find any gap between the smartest “merely intelligent” people and the geniuses. It’s like saying that there’s no gap between “merely tall” people and giants. There are just people who are farther and farther out on the bell curve.

I think we need to return to the old, original meaning of “genius,” which was someone who was the sine qua non at his or her vocation (or avocation, I suppose). This modern meaning of “someone with a really high IQ” is silly.

To reiterate what other posters have said, “genius” is an archaic term in psychology, though it still has colloquial utility. “Very superior” is the current verbal description for I.Q. scores higher than 130 or so. True genius, on the other hand, comprises more than what’s measured by an intelligence test, as pldennison points out.

There are two reasons that I.Q. tests don’t measure I.Q.'s above 160. First, there are very few people in the general population with I.Q’s that high. This makes it very difficult to obtain a standardization sample large enough to ensure reliability and validity of high scores.

The second reason is that there is very small demand for a test that can measure such high scores. I.Q. tests are used to classify people as mentally retarded, learning disabled, gifted, and so on. If a child’s I.Q is above a certain cutoff, he or she will qualify for gifted programming regardless of whether the actual score is 130 or 175.

dusting off my dictionary, it seems that an IQ test has little to do with “genius”, but instead, brain development. The IQ number is determined by dividing the mental age by the chronological age and multiplying by 100. So, it’s basically assessing whether your thinking ability is right for your age. (normal=100) I assume “mental age” is asymptotic at “adult”, unless wisdom (knowledge) is part of the measurement…which it does not seem to be from the IQ tests I have seen. Therefore, IQ seems to be more applicable to child prodigies and less applicable to identifying genius in adults. (although it can be used to measure adults with less developed intelligence skills)

Phobos, the mental age/chronological age ratio isn’t used anymore. Today, IQ scores are purely statistical, based on the normal curve.

You assume correctly, for the most part. Scores on performance tasks on IQ tests decline very slowly after age 20 or so, while scores on verbal tasks remain stable and may even increase slightly. Overall, it’s a wash. Full-scale scores are stable in adulthood.

Hmmm… I guess it depends on how you define “genius.” But IQ tests are equally reliable for children and adults, across the entire range of scores.

I’d throw the name Srinivasa Ramanujan into the genius hat.

Born in India and living in near complete poverty he taught himself nearly a thousand years of western mathematics. That is to say, he didn’t read a book and learn so much as derive most of what constituted advanced mathematics all by himself. He wrote a letter to Godfrey Hardy, a famous british mathematician, who arranged for a scholarship and had Srinivasa brought to England.

Once there he was able to toss out some really interesting (at least to a mathematician) work. The gaps in his education were unfortunately apparent since he didn’t write his theorems in a way that most scientists found easily understandable or readable. Even so, some of his work is still poured over today. It’s sad to think what he might have achieved if he had access to better resources as a child.

As to the OP and what others have written about prodigies and the like I’d venture to say this guy stands out given that what most people require a good deal of schooling for he had naturally wired into his brain.

*Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica,5716,64161+1,00.html *

thanks…it was an old dictionary! :slight_smile:
So, now IQ=100 is “average”.

Similar to what pldennison said, perhaps there is genius in overall ability (like DaVinci), and genius in one area or in one’s vocation (like a math genius, or a comic genius).

Quoth pldennison:

Naw, the old, original meaning is the personification of a given man’s libido and virility. Much more interesting than any of this silly intelligence stuff, IQ or otherwise, no?
I’d agree about the bell curve thing, although there are a few “disorders” which tend to corellate with higher intelligence-- ADD, autism, and dyslexia, for instance. Still, there’s no reason we shouldn’t have a special name for the upper tail of the bell curve, is there?


Yup. But here’s an interesting fact: what’s average keeps getting better. When they re-standardize the tests every 10 or 15 years, they always find that the mean score has crept higher.

I think that the last time the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children was re-normed, the mean had increased to around 106. So the test publishers have to change the scoring to make the mean equal 100 again. Since 15 years isn’t long enough for significant genetic differences to arise in a population, the increase is primarily attributed to improved education.


Actually, something like 80% of autistic kids are profoundly mentally retarded. And I’m pretty sure the relationship with dyslexia derives from the way we define reading disability, so it’s not a “real” correlation. But the ADD correlation sounds interesting; I hadn’t heard about that before. If you have cites, I’d be interested in seeing them. I’m doing an internship in school psychology next year, so it would be very helpful.

I find the whole IQ concept pretty annoying. We run into this problem of judging people on how well they perform in a testing environment, rather than what they can learn or accomplish.

We’ve produced generations of people who believe that math is something you’re “born with;” that creative, artistic people are “right-brained,” and thus incapable of understanding science.

No cites, unfortunately, just word of mouth. Since you seem more knowlegeable than I on autism and dyslexia, I’ll take your word on it there. ADD, I suspect, might be a case of better test-taking ability, rather than intelligence per se: A person with ADD will occasionally “hyperfocus” on something, in which case they can’t be distracted by anything else, and can accomplish a lot if they’re focused on something constructive, such as a test. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult for an attention-deficit person to induce hyperfocus, although I’ve heard some promising things about biofeedback.
The Jargon File hypothesises that ADD may actually be common among hackers (NOT an insult), and that this may account for a good portion of the archtypical hacker personality.

I have a site! I have a site! It’s seems to be an anti-drug site.

Actually, while I’ve been researching gifted children lately I’ve run across this correlation often. It seems that kids that have already learned their alphabet before Kindergarten don’t want to sit through the rest of the class learning it. Imagine that! Then they tend to be labeled as ADD or socially immature because of it.

There are more sites out there, but I don’t have enough attention span to go find them because I’ve already read them and I’ve lost interest now. Do a search on “gifted children” and there will most likely come up some that are talking about ADD. That’s what I found.

Thanks for the hyperlink, SoMoMom. Gifted kids who are inappropriately placed in classes beneath their ability do indeed exhibit similar behaviors to children with ADHD, and some of those gifted kids are even be misdiagnosed with ADHD, as the website points out. What I asked Chronos for was a citation from the scientific literature showing a correlation between intelligence and an accurate diagnosis of ADHD. Have you come across anything like this in the course of your research?

Oh, you want documented facts and peer reviewed journals and stuff like that. You might try to see what you can find.

Thanks again SoMoMom. That’s a great reference site. I’ve saved it to my Favorites. :slight_smile:

Jeff_42 writes:

> I’d throw the name Srinivasa Ramanujan into the genius
> hat.
> Born in India and living in near complete poverty he
> taught himself nearly a thousand years of western
> mathematics. That is to say, he didn’t read a book and
> learn so much as derive most of what constituted advanced
> mathematics all by himself. He wrote a letter to Godfrey
> Hardy, a famous british mathematician, who arranged for a
> scholarship and had Srinivasa brought to England.

This is the romanticized version of Ramanujan’s life. Here’s the facts:

He was born into a Brahmin family. His father was a clerk. Anybody who could as much as read in late 19th century India clearly wasn’t poor, and Ramanujan graduated from high school and started college, so he was way above the average in education already. He was recognized as a genius in his early teens, and he entered the University of Madras at 16 with a scholarship. He spent all his time there on math and neglected his other subjects, so he lost his scholarship. Still, other Indian mathematicians recognized how good he was and helped find him a job as a clerk so he could do his mathematical work at night. By the time he wrote Hardy, he had already published a mathematical paper. It was another Indian mathematician who suggested that Ramanujan should write G. H. Hardy, since he knew that Hardy was the only one who might be able to help Ramanujan with his research.