Child Prodigy - Studies and Quotes
(PD) Repin — Medeleeff
Copyright ©2008-2021 — updated February 10, 2021
"Young [William] Sidis's own definition of the fourth dimension was more technical. ..."It is not possible to actually construct models of the figures of the Fourth Dimension, or to conceive of them in the mind's eye."" (The Boy Prodigy of Harvard, Current Literature, 1910, 48, 291-93.)1
"This is a very difficult thought experiment to grapple with since the ability to think four dimensionally is a privilege that only a few in this world enjoy." (Marcela Crowe, Topic #F51 — Epicurus and Lucretius: the physical world, 1 February 2002)2
If a man, whom the world deems to be the smartest on earth, cannot think four dimensionally, then upon what reasoning does the world deem the man to be the smartest? Is not the reasoning built upon the acceptance of what one can comprehend of one's own self, and not reasoned upon a thing that cannot be comprehended?
Of the tremendous quantity of information that pertains to prodigies, the self-questions arise; which information do I speak of, which information do I ignore, and which information do I keep hidden? Known to me, there currently exist various projects in the making, of which various individuals are with the intent to create for-profit multimedia presentations that allege to illustrate prodigious intellects. As Whiz Kids created a circus of children with talents of memorizing knowledge — the television programming solely meant to entertain the average circus audience — so are the current projects with the intent to display talented individuals to the less talented public (for ego and for profit, of course). As crass as the projects may appear, even less aware are some of the individuals who have agreed to become the circus animals, who will jump through hoops and dance upon their hind legs for an applauding audience of baboons. Is it not normal, that it ought to be the lower specie intelligence that is the one to perform tricks for a higher specie intelligence, and not the other way around? Observe, that it is the average mind that sways laws and cultures to raise averageness to the level of supreme superiority, where even the superior mind is relegated into a realm of only being deemed of usefulness as a circus act to entertain the average mind.
The declining to become a circus animal is not the only reason to abstain from sharing one's talents, for there exists also individuals in academia and science who desire to steal information and then claim it as their own invention, thus for their own ego, self-glory, and profit. If humanity is incapable of using a knowledge without twisting it into a weapon to kill and destroy life, then it can only be proper to remain silent and to keep some knowledge hidden. But there does exist a need for an elementary knowledge to be made available to the public, so that there might exist a standard by which the public can judge itself and its interpretations of what qualifies a child as a prodigy.
Rather than my discussing the physics and psychology of prodigious talents, I will instead rely on four simplified concepts that well illustrate the differences between common human intelligence and that of an intelligence that the public is unaware to exist. I very much dislike quoting lengths of words from another author, for to me it is felt as thievery, as plebian plagiarism and laziness to not structure one's own words, but sometimes an author has already sequenced his thoughts so very well that it feels to be a greater injustice to keep his words hidden. For the first concept, the following quotes are from Norbert Wiener's 1953 autobiography Ex-Prodigy — My Childhood and Youth, and it is my opinion that all readers will benefit from how the words of Wiener's may relate to the life of William Sidis and other popular academic prodigies.
"The infant prodigy or Wunderkind is a child who has achieved an appreciable measure of adult intellectual standing before he is out of the years usually devoted to a secondary school education. The word "prodigy" cannot be interpreted as either a boast of success or a jeremiad of failure.
The prodigies whom we generally call to mind are either people like John Stuart Mill and Blaise Pascal, who had proceeded from a precocious youth to an effective adult career, or their antitheses, who have found the transition between early precocity and later effectiveness one which they have become too specialized to make. Yet there is nothing in the word itself which restricts us to these opposite cases. It is perfectly conceivable that after an especially early start, a child may find a place in life in which he has a good, modest measure of success without having stormed Olympus.
The reason infant prodigies are generally adjudged in terms of immense failure or immense success is that they are somewhat rare phenomena, known by hearsay to the public; and, therefore, the only ones the public ever hears of are those who "point a moral or adorn a tale." There is a tragedy in the failure of a promising lad which makes his fate interesting reading; and the charm of the success story is known to all of us. Per contra, the account of a moderate success following a sensationally promising childhood is an anticlimax and not worth general attention.
I consider this attitude of extremes toward the infant prodigy false and unjustified. In addition to being unjustified, it is in fact unjust; for this feeling of anticlimax which the story of the moderately successful prodigy excites in the reader leads the prodigy to a self-distrust which may be disastrous. It takes an extremely solid character to step down gracefully from the dais of the prodigy onto the more modest platform of the routine teacher or the laboratory floor of the adequate but secondary research man. Thus the child prodigy who is not in fact a prodigy of moral strength as well must make a career success on a large scale, for want of which he is likely to consider himself a failure, and actually to become one.
The sentimentality with which the adult regards the experiences of a child is no genuine part of a child's attitude toward himself. To the grownup, it is lovable and right for the child to be confused, to be at a loss in the world of adults around him; but it is far from a pleasant experience for the child. To be immersed in a world which he cannot understand is to suffer from an inferiority which has no charms whatever for him. It may be ingratiating and amusing to his seniors to observe his struggles in a half-understood world, but it is no more pleasant for him to realize that his environment is too much for him to cope with than it would be for an adult under the same circumstances.
...I was well along in childhood, probably seven or eight, before I knew enough about the intellectual development of other children to comment in my own mind on their relative speed of learning and my own. ...For this reason what I shall have to say about these matters will scarcely be distinguishable from the history of any other child, except on the basis of the precise year and month in my life at which I passed various stages of development.
...It is probably of considerable interest to the reader to know how the very early intellectual development of the prodigy differs from that of other children. It is, however, impossible for the child, whether he be a prodigy or not, to compare the earlier stages of his intellectual development with those of other children until he has reached a level of social consciousness which does not begin until late childhood. To say that one is a prodigy is not a statement which concerns the child in question alone. It is a statement which concerns the relative rate of his intellectual development with that of others. And it is a thing which his parents and teachers can observe far earlier than he can himself. In one's earlier stages of learning, one is one's own norm, and if one is confused, the only possible answer is that of the Indian, "Me not lost, wigwam lost."
Sidis and Wiener had been classmates at Harvard, both were academic prodigies, and Wiener's description of a prodigy as quoted above, plus his further definition that a prodigy enters college before twelve years of age and receives a doctorate by nineteen, lends evidence that Wiener's view of 'prodigy' was not distant to what the general public holds, albeit Wiener's view was that of an individual who had lived the very life being described.
(Paragraph added April 10, 2010: It needs to be emphasized that the above paragraph speaks of individuals who were themselves known to the public as academic prodigies, who knew that they themselves were academic prodigies, whose thoughts and behaviors and choices were influenced by the individuals knowing that they held a high social status, who lived in the specific era of the early 1900s, who lived in an era of different opportunities and inopportunities as today, who lived in an era where a child might be permitted to enter college at a young age, who had parents and relatives that supported the prodigies' talents, and of the numerous other variables that affected their lives, the reader should realize that Wiener spoke of an era and lifestyle that no one today can adequately understand, not even a modern academic prodigy. The best that we can hope for is to derive a good general concept of Wiener's life and writings, for us to compare known types of thinking styles to Wieners' to determine which might best be similar as his, and for us to make as few errors as possible.)
Wiener's comment, "rare phenomena, known by hearsay to the public," fulfills the story of William Sidis. The public has not walked in the shoes of a prodigy, the public has no means of knowing the thoughts and emotions of a prodigy, and within all topics that an individual cannot experience firsthand, he must learn of through hearsay. Prior to 2006, aside from Ex-Prodigy, no known (to me) article or book about William Sidis was written by a prodigy, and with bluntness of words it must be stated that none of the articles and books possessed the potential of providing a reasonable interpretation of William Sidis.
It is not possible to know the heart and mind of another person, and so it is a great treasure to read Wiener's own words, of his describing how he interpreted his own life and thoughts. By observing Wiener's interpretations of his own life, it is possible to draw useful classifications within the genre of prodigies, and for Wiener himself, his talents would place him within the genre of academic prodigies, a genre accompanied with other notables that include John Mill and William Sidis. Though it is known beforehand that an individual might not write of his true heart, and thus never can anyone know for sure which genre a prodigy might best fulfill, it still remains possible to derive usable concepts of each genre's thought patterns, and thus to develop categories, trends, and generalizations that exhibit their usefulness by illustrating the differences of thinking processes.
Though Wiener was correct in his stating that one is one's own norm, I am uncertain of what Wiener implied about the Indian phrase. For some individuals, confusion does not necessarily result with the individual placing the blame on someone or something else. An event, that well illustrates why Wiener's comment "the only possible answer" is not valid for all individuals, is a fond memory of my own confusion and determination to discover what adults meant when they said "green with envy." I had not myself experienced the emotion of envy, but I associated the memory of an uncle's behavior to what my parents had referenced when speaking the word "envy." Through the observing and remembering of others' behaviors, and my remaining within the thought's question when hearing the word spoken again, in time I was able to verify that specific behaviors among humans were symbolized with the word "envy," and through a similar patience and observation I determined that words of color signified intensities of behaviors. For myself, the confusion was not blamed on the adults, nor was the confusion blamed on anything at all. My confusion was mine, the confusion was the lack of information to derive a useful logic, it was one of the many mysteries that I strived to unravel, I truly enjoyed the quest for understanding, and for myself it is felt as an insult for anyone to imply that I would shirk the personal responsibility of analyzing observations.
It is also important to state that "a thing which his parents and teachers can observe far earlier than he can himself" may not be valid beyond the talents of an academic prodigy. Adults only fool themselves with the belief that they are of sufficient wisdom to recognize a mind of intelligence greater than their own.
Of the writings about prodigies that I have read, in most all there existed a similarity of the children requiring time and age before the children began recognizing differences of intellect. Two primary variables exist within the recognition; one, that of the child being raised in semi-isolation from other children which would of course result in the prodigious child not earlier having been given the opportunity to relate and evaluate his own intellectual talents to those of other children, and two, of the prodigious child that simply does not recognize until a later age that slower intellects do indeed exist. Until a man has lived in a region where the inhabitants are slow of mind, the man may never realize just how slow of mind some humans might be.
The prodigious child that is born into a prodigious family, and thus rarely if ever comes into contact with the average human, will not have the opportunity to observe sizable differences of intellect, and the child may conclude that his own intellect is not only common and normal for himself and his family, but that he may also assume that all humans must surely be of a similar intelligence. It is the average person, not the prodigy, that is likely most often within the more favorable position for recognizing above-average intelligence.
Though it may be difficult for the reclusive academic prodigy to discover that his is an above-average intelligence, the same cannot be said for prodigies of other talents such as in music and art. Though Wiener, Mill, and Sidis may be placed within the classification of academic prodigies, there exists another classification as well that will simply be termed "intellectual awareness." The intellectually aware child discerns immediately upon first contact the outwardly manifested mental and physical attributes of other humans, and thus the intellectually aware child rationalizes the relative intellectual differences between him/herself and all other individuals, and then concludes by what nature that the individuals are behaving accurately or inaccurately. Though an academic prodigy might discover by the age of eight years old that s/he possesses an intellect different than the norm, the intellectually aware child is aware from birth that the humans within his/her environment are slower of thought and reaction.
It is an incorrect assumption by the general public to believe that the intellectually aware child must process his/her thinking in a similar manner as the average human. Where the average individual appears to rely on an education of numbers and words, the intellectually aware child has self-created his/her own self-referencing languages prior to birth, and the languages are expanded upon at birth to include the rationality of the immediate environment. The child is able to observe the world around him/her, to observe through the five senses that there are cycles of scents, cycles of light, cycles of temperatures, cycles of behaviors, and within everything that s/he observes s/he is conscious that Reality is structured upon cycles. Rationally weighing the conclusion that Reality is cyclic in nature, the child can then relate how the behavior of nearby humans may not be in harmony with the cycles, and adding the observation that the humans are slow to recognize variances of tones, scents, hues, and all other events, the child becomes aware from his/her first hours that the human creatures are not of a similar awareness as his/her own.
The intellectually aware child may not conclude with a concept of "the humans are inferior to me," but rather s/he draws a conclusion that the humans are merely inadequate within their environment. It is an error for an adult to assume that all children must possess an adult ego. The aware child may observe the world around him/her as a thing to be observed, a thing for him/her to experience with wonder and the enjoyment of exercising his/her new mind through the acts of perception, memory, and analysis. There may not be a thought nor a sense of superiority, but rather the thoughts might only be weighing the known behaviors of Nature with the behaviors of humans, and concluding that human behavior is not harmonious to the cyclic phases of Nature. The terms "superior" and "inferior" rely on judgments that the aware child simply may not perform. As Zen awareness is that which accepts all things as they exist, without judgment, so might the aware child observe and analyze without judgment. To better explain, there might exist within the child an awareness of differences in qualities, as in the quality of Nature compared to the lack of quality in man-made objects, which might render a conclusion that Nature is that which is correct, and the disharmonious man-made objects are not correct relative to the harmonious relationships within Nature. As an example, upon my first opportunity to gaze upon the earth outside the west-facing living room window, I pondered the sequencings of Nature, that the trees could not exist without the earth, which drew the conclusion that the earth had to exist prior to the trees, and within the numerous other observations there was a cognition of the symmetries within Nature that created the trees and all life, but within the observable symmetries there existed disturbances, objects that did not harmonize with Nature's symmetries, and the disturbances were the man-made objects. Nature is that which creates, Nature is that which is correct, and a thing that does not agree with Nature's creativity is not "inferior," it is merely incorrect, and destructive, relative to Nature.
Wiener's comments may be valid for the academic prodigy that memorizes adult knowledge, but his words are insufficient to enter into a description of what might exist within the mind of an intellectually aware child.
It is also an incorrect assumption by adults that all children interpret the Universe as solid matter and thus the child must structure his/her logic upon the false belief. The child that is born with the cognition that the Universe is wave-based, that child cannot develop a similar ego as does the common human. The human ego is in part created upon the belief that Reality is solid matter and that the self is also constructed of solid matter. Knowing that the Universe is wave-based, the child's logic will be structured upon use of the memory, and the logic will of necessity conclude that this life is a temporary expression of dimensional potential. As has been common throughout known history, it was the average adult who, in his profound ignorance of Reality, who proclaimed it impossible for any child to be of an intellect superior to that of the most dull of adults.
It is a popular myth that newborns cannot think, and even less believed is it that an infant can rationalize with depth, and so it is known that the public will not accept the possibility that a child can be born with an intelligence superior to that of the average human, but regardless of popular belief, there do exist intellectually aware children. It appears, from what I have been able to discover about normalcy, is that society will only deem an individual a prodigy if the individual performs intellectual feats that do not exceed what the average human can comprehend. The following paragraphs well illustrate what I hope to communicate as the second concept.
Dr. David Feldman wrote in The Gifted and Talented: Their Education and Development (78th Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, Part I. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1979) :
"Oddly, perhaps inexplicably, the most extreme forms of intellectual giftedness have been the least studied. If one looks for studies of persons with a very high IQ, there is Hollingsworth's 1940 case study of children above 180 IQ and little else. If performance rather than potential is the metric, then there seems to be not a single work in English.
...Prodigious achievement is better conceptualized as a remarkable coincidence. The coincidence consists of a human organism with a set of powerful predispositions or qualities that interact in a human environment over a segment of time during which it becomes possible for that individual to express the potential he possesses.
...Is it reasonable to suppose that Einstein would have achieved his remarkable insights into the workings of the universe if he had been born before the era of science, or for that matter, of history? Perhaps Einstein would have done something remarkable regardless of the age in which he was born, perhaps not. The point is that the transcendent quality of Einstein's achievement was as critically a function of the state of a field of knowledge at a particular point in its own history as it was a function of that talent itself.
...It is more dazzling because the same processes that are responsible for all human development are responsible for early prodigious achievement, as we shall see in later sections of this chapter.
...Early prodigious achievement will not occur in the absence of specialized resources and intensive efforts on the part of master instructors in the field, that is, without education.
...Early prodigious achievement is also not spontaneous, and this too it shares with other cultural and developmental phenomena
...Of note in this connection is the fact that Einstein's field was physics, in which truly prodigious early achievements, at least as I define them, have not occurred. Einstein was no prodigy, but his field is one in which early prodigious achievement is unheard of."
...Nonetheless, Einstein's achievements in physics were built upon existing theory and existing facts.
...Thus, the occurrence of remarkable achievement within a field by a young child depends in part on the existence and transmission of a highly evolved and economically communicable domain of knowledge."
...As mentioned earlier, even in the most extreme cases on record, intensive education over several years is required in bringing the talented child to full bloom as a master practitioner.
...No matter how remarkable are the feats of child prodigies, these feats are not achieved without intensive, prolonged, educational assistance.
Dr. Feldman presented several logical conclusions, and if the topic were limited to Feldman's likely experience with prodigies, then the article's thoughts would be very correct. John Mill, William Sidis, Norbert Wiener, Bobby Fischer, Mozart, Einstein, Newton, and all other well-known intellectuals relied upon the thing that Feldman correctly concluded — preexisting adult knowledge and education — but observe the structuring of logic within the article. The logic begins with three unsubstantiated beliefs; one, that IQ and intelligence are synonymous (or near), two, that no individuals are intellectually capable of spontaneous self-learning, and three, that the current level of adult knowledge cannot be far exceeded. If IQ were intelligence, if humans could only learn from other humans, and if adult knowledge were the ultimate knowledge in the Universe, then the logics within the article would be correct, but since all three assumptions were incorrect, so then must the article's sum of conclusions be incorrect. Feldman did not err in his observations nor in his logic, but his observations were not yet sufficient to provide the information necessary for logic to derive at a more correct conclusion, and if he had been exposed to an intellectually aware child, then surely the article would have been written differently.
The "education" claim is based upon a Wiener-like interpretation, that of the belief that a prodigious child must of necessity be an empty-headed know-nothing child, of whom the self-glorying know-nothing adults believe must be taught adult knowledge, as if the adults themselves were the sole possessors of a worthy intelligence and knowledge. The typical level of adult knowledge and intelligence is not of sufficient quality nor quantity to challenge some children, and if it were, then the child would not be of a superior intellect. It is the average mind that believes no other intellect can be superior to the norm, and it is the average intellect that believes that if a superior mind might exist, then the superior mind should strive to achieve averageness.
The article only recognized the prodigious children who accepted adult knowledge as their goals, but never can it be an acceptable logic that an education from an average adult can cause superior results. The article used examples of chess prodigies, music prodigies, and other existing adult talents that a child might find interest in, and the article was correct that such a child will require time to master the adult talents, especially when competing against other prodigies with similar goals, but the article did not recognize that a child might find adult activities to be boring and unchallenging, nor did the article recognize that the child may master a yet unknown talent without any assistance.
Similar to Wiener's view, the article drew the concept that a prodigy can only do what all other people do, but the prodigy can do more of it and at an earlier age. Though a child may be eons ahead of modern physics, still the adults insist that the child's mind be dumbed-down with the knowledge of average adults, the adults not recognizing that it is in fact their inferior form of knowledge that stunts and destroys prodigious intelligence. The adults cry for a want of prodigies, but the very moment that a prodigy is discovered, the adults force-feed ignorance upon the prodigy and shape the prodigious mind into one of mediocrity.
Early prodigious achievements in physics have occurred, but the common average adult denies the possibility that prodigious children can recognize attributes of Nature with sufficient acuity to mentally discern physics beyond the average adult's capacity for comprehension. The adult is the one that demands that all minds must agree with currently accepted theories of physics, and though a child might be born with an awareness beyond modern theories, it is the adult that cries "no!" and insists that the child's intellectual concepts must wholly agree with the beliefs of the adults'. The aware child, who thinks four and five dimensionally, whose physics are beyond those of his era, the child might as well have been born a Buddhist into a fanatical atheist cult, for never will his words be listened to, and forever he will be hated for his not agreeing to the dogmas of the cult. Modern science has its cults, and unless the aware child agrees with the religious dogma of modern science, never will the child's thoughts be allowed a voice among the adults.
The statement "...the occurrence of remarkable achievement within a field by a young child depends in part on the existence and transmission of a highly evolved and economically communicable domain of knowledge" is simply and unreservedly false. As I will repeatedly state, it is unreasonable for the belief to exist that the average adult intelligence is the pinnacle upon which all other intelligence must be judged. Some infants self-create their own form of mathematics, a mathematics structured upon cyclic relationships of distances and durations, four and five dimensional thought patterns that the average adult mathematics has not yet achieved, but since the average adult cannot comprehend such a system of measuring, nor of thinking, therefore the average adult proclaims it an impossibility for any child to possess the capacity of spontaneous self-created thought. Where the intellectually aware child may self-create a self-referencing language, one that communicates his/her existence to Nature, and Nature's to him/herself, it too is a language that is alien and incapable of being learned or comprehended by the average adult, and therefore the average adult claims that self-referencing languages cannot exist, nor even the child.
Wiener was correct that a teacher or parent might first recognize the talents of an academic prodigy before the prodigy recognizes his own talents, but Wiener's description, as too Feldman's, was not applicable for all prodigious talents, and for the child who is born of intellectual awareness, it is not expected that the child's talents will ever be recognized by anyone but the child him/herself and by those individuals of similar talents.
So, for concept two, the words of Feldman's agree with the words of Wiener's, and the words illustrate that there exists the academic prodigy, one that relies upon the memorization of adult knowledge, and relies upon the use of preexisting languages, mathematics, and all other adult-made inventions. The child prodigy who is similar to Wiener, is also within the Feldman classification, the child is classified as an academic prodigy, and the child will never be allowed to exceed the intellectual limitations of common adults, or in other words, the academic prodigy is built upon and exists within the sealed envelope of common intelligence.
The third concept is one that bravely questions the first two concepts, and the third concept demands that a conclusion be reached in regards as to whether the academic prodigy is truly unique, or if the academic prodigy may have simply and wrongly been given an unwarranted title.
"One of the things that my research clarified for me was that there are actually very few deeply "gifted" kids with transcendent cognitive or artistic abilities; therefore kids are being incorrectly labeled as exceptionally gifted. The peril is that some children who have been led to believe they are highly gifted will suffer, like Icarus, in their later lives." (Alissa Quart, Hothouse Kids – The Dilemma of the Gifted Child (The Penguin Press, New York, 2006), page 205.)
Surely most all parents wish to believe that their children are of prodigious intellects, for it is a common thing for a parent to desire of their children to be exceptional, and it is one of life's most tender and happiest moments to witness one's own child receiving awards that are bestowed upon only a precious few. Boris Sidis' writings boasted of William Sidis' academic achievements, as other parents have boasted of their children's achievements in the arts and other fields, and though the parents' boasts were genuine, still there exists the question of by what measure were the children's talents judged? It does appear that though there may be many prodigious children of good qualities and talents, it must be asked; are the qualities and talents of a level that exceeds the normal capacity of man? Transcendent?
In part, the psychological methods that Boris Sidis applied to heighten William Sidis' precocity are capable of being used on many healthy children and adults, and if the methods were to become commonly used, would William Sidis still be interpreted as a prodigy of unique talents, or might he instead be viewed merely as a common result of the methods? Several systems of methods exist that can raise an average mind into levels of precocity, and one known method can quickly achieve states of consciousness that previously required decades of training, but can a taught method give rise to a mind that is itself greater than the minds that created the methods? Is a Buddha a Buddha if he first studied under Buddha? No. Only he who spontaneously self-creates a new standard can be the standard, and no man who learns of the standard can spontaneously self-create the standard, which in the end always leaves the learner to be as the circus animal that mimics the master.
There exists great beauty in the observing of children, as well as adults, who illustrate the furthest talents known to mankind; that of music, of the arts, of literature, of languages, of mathematics, and of morals, but which child among them has communicated to humanity new thought that is not "built upon existing theory and existing facts?" There do exist individuals whose thoughts and talents are not structured upon existing theories, nor structured upon existing knowledge of any form, but rather the individuals' thoughts are structured upon a manner of intellectual cognition that the general public does not have the desire to understand. The problem, however, is that before the aware child can communicate his/her observations, s/he must lower and dull his/her intellect to learn the oral languages of the common man, and in so doing has the child destroyed his/her own intellectual potential. For the intellectually aware child, who is of a superior form of intellect, s/he is faced with a lose-lose situation, for if s/he remains quiet and within his/her prodigious cognition, the public will not understand his/her words, and the public will declare the child to be an ignorant failure; and if the child should choose to learn the language of common man so as to permit communication, in so doing the child must self-destroy his/her prodigious talents so as to then be of a type of mind that can communicate at a common level, and upon that time will the child declare him/herself as common, and of no greater cognition than that of the most ignorant of men who use the same language.
A technique known as "image streaming," the act of quickly describing with words all of one's mental visualizations, claims to improve one's mental abilities. The use of words, even if the results may earn higher scores on IQ tests, dulls and renders the mind incapable of observation and mental awareness. A technique that I lightly spoke on in Reality was for a sensorial focus, and of the few individuals that experimented with the technique, the individuals reported a far greater degree of mental acuity than what could be possible with worded thoughts. It is known without question that the use of words is detrimental to one's intelligence, and yet adults continue insisting that a mind can only be intellectually prodigious if it is intoxicated with an education of words.
No rational mind can conceive of the possibility that language existed prior to human thought, but the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis attempts to present the absurdity as legitimate fact. Whorf believed that concepts of time and matter "depend upon the nature of the language... Newtonian space, time, and matter are not intuitions. They are precepts from culture and language. That is where Newton got them." (Benjamin Whorf, The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language, 1939.) Edward Sapir believed "It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language." (Edward Sapir, The Status of Linguistics as a Science, 1929.)
If the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis were true, that language structures the mind, then by forcing a prodigious intellect to learn common language, in so doing has the teacher and the parent dulled the prodigious mind into a common mind. The greatest threat to the intellectually aware mind is an adult education. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is both correct and incorrect, and the knowing of why depends on the knowing of what manner of mind that the hypothesis applies.
The transcendent child is not with a desire to learn the knowledge handed down from adults, for the child begins life with an awareness that adult knowledge is as a nothing compared to what the child perceives within Nature, and the child's life becomes not one of reaching for adult approval, but rather merely desiring a life of observing, of learning, of analyzing, and of remaining within the experience of Nature's wonder. It is the common adult that falsely accuses children of not being intelligent, and it is the adult, in his great ignorance, that utterly destroys all potential for superior intellects to rise.
Wiener's comment, "...child to be confused, to be at a loss in the world of adults around him... To be immersed in a world which he cannot understand is to suffer from an inferiority which has no charms whatever for him. ...his struggles in a half-understood world, but it is no more pleasant for him to realize that his environment is too much for him to cope with than it would be for an adult under the same circumstances," holds numerous potential interpretations, with perhaps the intended concept being that of a child that has not yet learned of the adult world, and with the concept not being meant to imply the child does not understand the physics of the world, for indeed it appears rational to assume that Wiener never entertained the possibility that a child might comprehend physics prior to an education of physics. In the world of academic prodigies, the child is learning adult knowledge, where, until the child learns adult ways, there might exist within the child a sense of knowledge-inferiority relative to adult-knowledge.
But for an aware child, there may never be a sense of inferiority within him/herself, nor is there a sense of living in a half-understood world, and never is there a difficulty in coping with his/her environment. The prodigy that Wiener describes appears to best fit that of himself and William Sidis; a learner of adult knowledge, who might interpret one's self as inferior relative to adults until the child has acquired sufficient adult knowledge to be superior of knowledge relative to the average adult. Wiener's description does not pertain to the intellectually aware child who is with a knowledge of the world and has little or no desire to limit his/her learning to that of the average adult's potential. Wiener's description paints the concept of a child acquiring adult knowledge at an early age, but Wiener's description does not touch upon the child whose intelligence and/or artistic talents might already be beyond adult potential. The infant who is already superior to adults, s/he has no standard example to be his/her goal in life, and for such a child, his/her goals in life will not be recognizable by the public.
It is important to remember that some individuals are not capable of simple intellectual tasks, and that the prodigy may not consider it useful to place such individuals within a classification being weighed to the average. An example is the simple arithmetic problem of 143-28=125: "The student subtracts the smaller digit in each column from the larger digit regardless of which is on top." (Diagnostic Models for Procedural Bugs in Basic Mathematical Skills, J. S. Brown & R. R. Burton, Cognitive Science, 1978, 2, 155-192.) There may exist a weighed balance of classifying different intellects where the prodigy — having discerned that some individuals are incapable of the simplest of mental tasks — the prodigy places the individuals within classifications that are not later mentally recognized as useful of being compared further. As a man might not find it useful nor important to compare the intellectual acuity of a farm animal to that of a human child, so might a prodigy not recognize that the sub-average academic intelligence is useful of being included in analyses of academic classifications. There are times when a prodigy might discuss upper and lower intelligence, and if the weighing were defined, it would be discovered that the thoughts of lower intelligence were that of the range that the public popularly interprets as average and above-average. Analogously, as a 100 IQ may view a close similarity between 50 and 60 IQs, so might a 140 IQ view the 90 and 120 IQs as too similar, and as might a 200 IQ not give effort to discern much difference between the 80 and the 140. The higher the view, the closer together do all distant objects appear, and similarly with intelligence, the higher the intellect, the less distinction is seen between the challenged and the gifted.
In an extended example, the intellectually aware child may conclude that all human intelligence is of such a low ebb that, instead of comparing intellects, the child may give his/her greater attention to human behaviors. Within such an observation and system of classification, the intellectually aware individual may interpret correctness of behavior as being the only meaningful measurement of intelligence, where though an individual may have a 100 IQ, and the individual is capable of honest speech, so might the intellectually aware mind conclude the individual as more intelligent than a 200 IQ individual who cannot speak truth. As an academic prodigy might not recognize the mathematically-challenged individual as useful of consideration when discussing academic mathematics, so might the intellectually aware child not recognize a dishonest academic prodigy as being of a significant intellectual capacity to warrant attention, and thus the intellectually aware child may group the academic prodigy along with the most challenged of intellects into a single classification of "average."
At this point, and to better present the fourth concept, it is useful that a reference be made about mathematical talents, of how the mental processing of mathematics might occur in some prodigies. As background, for decades some individuals challenged the myth of frontal lobe activity denoting consciousness. Some individuals are with a conscious perception of regional brain activity, that of temperature, energy use, blood pressure, and other perceivable attributes. The individuals know as surely as the eyes perceive light that their consciousness and/or mental activity does not dwell within the frontal lobes, and yet many of the individuals endured their lives under the ridicule of science-believers who claimed that it was impossible for an individual to perceive a thing that the believers could not, and that the science-disbelievers were also wrong because the holy books of science declared it a holy truth that frontal lobe activity denoted consciousness. Only in recent years has man's science discovered it logical to measure the brain activity of individuals with higher intelligence, and the findings were as the individuals had claimed for over forty years, that some people will show an increase of rear brain activity when in some forms of conscious analysis. It is the ability, to observe and perceive things that common man cannot, that enables a child to possess talents that common man has no knowledge of. If only it were possible for an intellectually aware child to whisper in Feldman's ear: "We exist."
While it is unknowable to me how other individuals process thought when summing numbers, for some of us there exists a consciously and purposefully established state of mental activity that is focally exercised in its fractal nascent within an upper right forward region of the brain that is perhaps roughly about 1.5 inches front to back, 1 inch tall, and half an inch in curved thickness. There are very important reasons why the dimensions of brain activity closely resemble that of the golden mean, but the reasons are of my own discernment, and the knowledge is not to be made public. It is said that a similar brain region is used for mathematics in many other humans, but the sizing is different, and to my knowledge science has not yet discovered the reasons why, nor how, mathematical function exists. For some of us, by choosing a specific emotional tone, one that is quiet and of intensity of speed/pressure, large mathematical equations are quickly and easily summed within the mind. The functioning of the mathematical process is in part created possible by the presence of an acute short-term memory, enhanced cyclic rate of brain activity, and of the several other elements that actively combine to create the talent of mathematical abilities, there is also required an absence of mental and emotional turmoil. The psychological methods of Boris Sidis', as applied to William Sidis, appear to have used similar attributes, although it is doubtful that Boris Sidis arrived at the methods with an understanding of why the methods work. It is the common negativity of common man that causes turmoil within the prodigious mind, and thus robs humanity of prodigious intellects. But the circus trick of adding numbers in one's head is of little value in the real world, and the point useful of being emphasized here is that, at least for myself, and my normal 'mathematics,' when applied to the observing and analyses of Nature, is computed through use of the whole brain and other details that are not proper to comment of here. I understand what it is like to think with numbers in a small portion of the brain, and what it is like to quickly sum large calculations in the mind, but I also know what it is like to use the whole brain to weigh measurements of far greater complexities than what is possible within man-made mathematics, and upon my weighing the relativity of thinking little things like numbers, and thinking large things like weighted durations of interrelated forms, I can find no reason to believe that the mathematics of an academic prodigy are sufficient enough to warrant undue worship by the public.
The purpose, of my having shared a small detail of my manner of thinking, was to illustrate an obvious difference between most academic prodigies (who speak no words that a common man might not also speak about his own intelligence), and the individuals who perceive and think thoughts that the academic prodigy may not. The academic prodigy is not a god of intelligence to be worshipped, but rather his/hers is almost universally within the limits of common thought, as Feldman correctly observed and rationalized.
So when is a prodigy a prodigy, and when is a prodigy not a prodigy? The English term "prodigy" simply implies rare intellectual talents that are capable of rare intellectual achievements, i.e. academics and arts, but the term does not necessitate genius: "The intellectual ability and application to correctly perceive sensorially and mentally, correctly analyze perceptions, and correctly react creatively to one's environment at a degree that is beyond the ability of the average human." (Larry Neal Gowdy, Myths, Facts, and Lies about Prodigies, an unfinished manuscript.) All prodigies are rarities, and all geniuses are prodigies, but not all prodigies are genius. John Mill, Norbert Wiener, and William Sidis were child prodigies due to their having learned mathematics and some languages earlier than average, which is a rarity, but the learning of an existing language does not make a person a genius. William Sidis has been claimed intelligent for his inventing Vendergood when seven years old, a language structured on several preexisting adult-created languages including German, French, and Latin, and yet for the infant who prior to birth creates a complex four or five dimensional language based upon the perceivable cycles of Nature, and then expands the language throughout life, the average adult does not accept the child as intelligent, nor so much as possible.
The child, born with an intelligence capable of discerning what common average adults cannot comprehend, that child will never be termed a prodigy, for regardless of what s/he may accomplish in life, and regardless that s/he may prove a hundred times his/her perceptions correct, the child will never be deemed intelligent until after the child lowers his/her intellectual standards to meet those of the common average adult's.
There are classifications of intellects, from dull to sharp, and though an individual might be aware of each classification, the knowledge of a thing does not necessitate a judgment of any, but rather there can remain a love and appreciation for all, and it is the man of proper behavior that loves all things in Nature, regardless of the thing's talents, and my words should never be construed to imply that I value one man over another for his/her intelligence, for indeed, I interpret us all to be quite dull compared to the razor-sharp cognition of Nature's most common of waves.
A child prodigy is s/he who is of talents that do not exceed the capacity of the common adult to comprehend, and the child, therefore, is common him/herself. The child whose talents exceed the potential of the common adult's comprehension, if s/he cannot find another of his/her kind, is alone.
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Addendum April 08, 2010
From the time of having uploaded this article on October 9, 2008, I invested about a year and a half observing a portion of the general public that I previously alluded to as those that a prodigy might not consider useful as placing within the average. For most people, our occupations and lifestyles usually keep us within a relatively small segment of the population, a segment that is composed of individuals with similar traits and interests as our own, and it is natural that we have little experience with the world outside of our little cliques.
The segment that I observed was commonly composed of individuals whose memory was inadequate enough to remember two numbers when separated by a different topic, and whose ability to reason-through a normal every-day scenario was simply nonexistent. As a general example, if you owned a home worth $100,000.00 that you still owe $50,000.00 on, and you lost your job resulting in your having no means of making further payments on the home, what would you likely do? Two possible choices quickly pop into mind, (1) that of renting the house to someone who could make the payments while giving you enough extra income to pay for economical rent in a less expensive home until you could find another job, or (2) you could sell the home, pay off the mortgage, and put about $50,000.00 in your pocket. That which appears terribly simple to many of us may in fact be outside the capability of some people. In the year and a half of my observing the segment of population I witnessed numerous individuals having their homes and cars being repossessed, and not once did I observe any of the individuals make an attempt to sell their possessions to pay off their loans.
I surmised that perhaps the segment of the population I observed might be one that interprets a high IQ as being synonymous to intelligence, for indeed any useful display of memory and reason would surely appear remarkable to the segment, and I further mused that surely the segment would also deem an average display of intelligence as being superior (which it would be when compared to the segment's talents), but then another question begs an answer: what is average?
In previous years I had observed individuals with low rated IQs who had various illnesses and genetic impediments, and though the individuals may have had difficulties with reasoning, in none did I find the bizarre behavior as what I witnessed in the most recent segment. The segments with schizophrenia, dementia, and similar abnormalities usually still possessed a sense of right and wrong, but the latest segment exhibited so precious little reasoning that I am unsure how to categorize the group. But what I do know is that the segment was composed of individuals with average rated IQs, and as I have opined numerous times before, an individual's use and display of intelligence will be greatly influenced by the individual's chosen standards, that is, a person's behavior and thinking process will be regulated to conform to what the individual has concluded are the most important things in life, and for the most recent segment their standards appeared to be little more than greed and slothful self-centered interests, and so great was their slothfulness and greed that they could not progress through a simple logical analysis of how to best deal with a simple thing like selling their home or car. The reader likely cannot imagine a sizable segment of the population being as bad as what I have painted, and I fully confess that I too did not believe it was possible for so many people to be so intellectually vacant, but the people do exist, and they typically would not be included in a comparison of average intelligences. But what is average?
An unpleasant reality is the vulgar and crude behavior found within academic prejudice and envy. It is not so uncommon for a male academician to vulgarly ridicule and belittle a female, especially when her academic credentials and achievements exceed those of the man's. A similar intellectually vacant behavior is found in high IQ societies and, I assume, in many other social groups as well. Aside from a regional chess club, I know of no social group that is free of unwarranted prejudices and vulgar crudeness. So, if an individual's behavior is that of lies, deceit, greed, and slothful self-centeredness — as exhibited in academic and high IQ envy — then has that become the average for humans, or perhaps worse, has that always been the average?
The quantity of hate, vulgarity, and lies is more than a little large on the Internet, and if the Internet has such a large population of users, then is not the average behavior of Internet users an indication of average intelligence? In my mind is the comparison of a letter written by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis perhaps almost fifty years ago, a letter that was so elegant and of such a fine etiquette that its style remains as one of the scales that I judge other writings by. I have seen the writings of some professors' that were superbly crafted with clarity and style, and though I understand why writings of such superior quality will never be found on the Internet, still, it is more than a little displeasing that the average website will not so much as attempt to mirror a style of concern for cleanliness of vocabulary and elegance of presentation.
So for myself, I am brought back to my original conclusion, that intelligence is not marked upon a scale of numbers, but rather whether or not the individual is mentally capable and willing to behave with a degree of civility that encompasses the ability that exists within compassion, empathy, and concern: correctness.
An average intelligence is not marked with an IQ score, but rather an average intelligence is measured by the individual's degree of behavioral accuracy within his/her environment, and I have witnessed many individuals of most all IQ scores exhibit the average intelligence of the inaccuracy that exists within lies, deceit, vulgarity, and the slothfulness of willful ignorance.
Though a child of nine years old has been admitted into a college, still, can the child speak accurately, with truth, and if not, then is the child a prodigy or simply one more product of an average society?
If a child speaks with accuracy — honesty — and does so because the child wants to and has chosen for themselves the standard of accuracy in thought and behavior — unlike the average intelligence that has chosen for itself the standard of greed — then that child exhibits the traits of having a superior intelligence.
Addendum March 24, 2013
My questions of what is average and normal have finally been found, and the book Beyond Prodigies speaks of the research that discovered the answers.
"Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius." Wolfgang A. Mozart
"The first and last thing required of genius is the love of truth." Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
1 (A dead link now: it was formally sidis.net/currentlit1910.htm)