The IQ’s the thing…or is it?

Recently I’ve seen a few news reports in which several people have claimed they have an IQ greater than Albert Einstein.  Einstein is a sort of benchmark, a point to compare yourself with.  (If you want.)  If your IQ is greater than his, you can consider yourself a member of a rather elite group.  One girl, 11 years old, in England, claims an IQ of 162; a French woman claims 175; a 12-year-old boy says his IQ is 170.  I have no doubt that other claims of similar IQ levels are floating around out there,  but my concern in writing this essay is not that these people exist (that’s not in question), and not that their claims are false, but that their assertions are not necessarily what they say they are.

IQ tests are legion.  IQ testing has been around for a hundred years or more, but I’m not sure that IQ testing actually measures what it was that made Albert Einstein great.  In fact, I would go so far as to state that Einstein’s abilities had little to do with intelligence per se, and more to do with an undefinable aspect of the human brain, that, for a lack of a better term, I’ll call insight, or perhaps, creativity.  The presence of a high score on an IQ test doesn’t necessarily correlate with either of those two.  The IQ test is largely a test of memory, the ability to recall facts and figures and regurgitate them by marking a piece of paper or a computer screen.  Many people without a high IQ can be very creative, though having the ability to remember a lot of information helps.

Einstein almost certainly had a good memory, and his mind allowed him to visualize, and later put down on paper in the form of mathematical equations things the rest of us couldn’t see at all.  He understood how light worked, how gravity interacted with matter, and how matter and energy were interrelated.  These are not so much an aspect of intelligence, though that’s an important part of it, but more they are an aspect of creativity and his ability to form associations between two or more seemingly unrelated concepts.  That’s what made Einstein unique and set him apart from the rest of us. 

We’ve got a lot of creative people in this world who aren’t necessarily going to solve problems of high-energy physics, or evaluate the question of the interconversion of the three types of neutrinos, or whatever.  Composers, writers, artists–they’re all creative to one degree or another even though most of them aren’t working on a theory of everything (which Einstein failed to accomplish before his death).  But it’s these people who look at the human condition and illustrate aspects of it that resonate with all of us.  As a writer, I try to do the same thing.  I’m nowhere near the intelligence of Einstein, but I can do my part.  I try to write novels that reflect a little of humanity in a way that no one has thought of before, and by so doing, give my readers an entertaining story that will move him/her/them/it in an infinitesimal way toward a better state of mind.  If you read, say, Dickens, or listen to, say, Tchaikovsky, or look at a painting by, say, van Gogh, don’t you feel something?  Isn’t that what the arts are all about?  Isn’t that all we ask?

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