What comes to mind when the word “genius” is uttered?
Some may think of an off-the-chart IQ, perhaps a know-it-all, or one may even think of a person who may lack social skills but can multiply to the nth number in the second it takes for the average person to even digest the question. Movies such as A Beautiful Mind should also ring a bell when trying to define “genius.”
But what does the word “genius” really mean?
In Merriam Webster, “genius” refers to “a single strongly marked capacity or aptitude; extraordinary intellectual power especially as manifested in creative activity; a person endowed with transcendent mental superiority; a person with a very high IQ.”
The intelligence quotient or IQ is a number used to quantify the intelligence of a person. IQ is a score that is a product of a standardized test, relative to the subject’s age and intelligence versus that of the performance of others of the same age. Today’s intelligence tests were originally derived from a French psychologist, Alfred Binet, who was instructed by his government to determine who was in need of extra assistance in school. Binet’s original measure was based on the average abilities of children in a particular age group.
The average IQ score is 100. Typically, an IQ score over 140 is counted as a high IQ. A number higher than 160 is considered to belong to those with a genius IQ. However, a score that goes beyond 200 is also referred to as “un-measurable genius.”
With these parameters in mind, surely there are a huge number of people walking this planet that are geniuses? With the standard IQ test alone, a score of 125–134 shows that this range can already be attributed to individuals who hold post-grad degrees. And we have scientists, researchers, doctors and experts in various fields—particularly those in fields of hard and groundbreaking science!
So what is this fear that we are running out of scientific geniuses?
Dean Keith Simonton, a professor at the University of California–Davies, has a theory that we may be running out pure geniuses.
By his definition, scores on standardized tests or degrees aren’t enough. A true genius is that rare individual who does more than just understands the world and how and why it works. A true genius is an individual who changes our understanding of the world. Geniuses are those who come up with unexpected ideas, those who provide with more than just an extension of a previously existing idea.
Another man comes to mind, what about Stephen Hawking? Surely that man must be considered a pure genius for even being able to translate and expound on the works of a legend like Albert Einstein himself?
According to Simonton, Hawking does not fit his definition of a true genius. Although brilliant by his own right, the professor deems Hawking simply as a “highly creative scientist.”
This definition and its subsequent findings may be a bit depressing for the average human. After all, if men like Stephen Hawking doesn’t even make it into Simonton’s book on true genius, what does that leave the rest of us with?
Simonton’s arguments argue that before, one did not necessarily need to go to college to become a great scientist. Present times has people striving to get through college, obtain a degree, build on that one and obtain a post-graduate degree, and if you’re persistent, pluralize that degree and work on just more than a single field of study. Following this train of thought, the lengthened training of the base of expertise is narrowed.
Ever hear of that saying “Jack of all trades is a master of none”? Well true genius is, based on Simonton’s study, a Renaissance man—the kind of guy who could do anything and do more than just well in doing what he sets out to do. The arising pattern of how every new advancement is simply…well, an advancement, emphasizes the point brought by research that indeed, findings and new studies nowadays are simply building upon something big that has already been built years before.
I suppose this study does leave us average people with something to think about, however.
Although brilliance and intelligence can be quantified and proven by degrees and accolades, perhaps there is still hope for the individual who only went to college, but thinks beyond what the paper and numerous textbooks say. If Simonton’s hold any weight, it’s that true genius goes beyond titles and designations. It’s more than just understanding this life. It’s actually changing what our understanding not just of this life but for the ones that preceded it and everything else that will continue to exist after it.
~M. A. Gumapac