Myths, Facts, Lies, and Humor About William James Sidis Part One
(PD) Cammille Flammarion - Flat Earth
Copyright ©2008-2021 — updated February 11, 2021
(Updates include minor modifications of links and date references.)
The following condensed topics are taken from my personal unedited notes, written under the working title of Myths, Facts, and Lies About Prodigies, and from a chapter that lists fifty popular online claims about William Sidis. Each topic's comments have purposefully omitted lengthy detailed information that will not be made public. The purpose of the following comments is to present concepts that question the popular belief that William James Sidis was the smartest man on earth.
My chosen method of learning is to input an action into a thing, and to then stand back and observe the thing's reaction. By what reaction that occurs, so will it in part portray the inward attributes and nature of the thing itself. Through patient observation, much information is attainable that cannot be discovered through any other means.
When this article was first uploaded, it had been about one year since I posted "Was William James Sidis the Smartest Man on Earth? The World's Smartest Man?". In the year's duration, I had observed numerous reactions that were quite interesting to me: as portrayed in the character of Spock, the reactions had been reason to raise an eyebrow.
The Public's Preference For Myth And Hearsay
As observed on other websites during a span of several years, I discovered that only about one online person in 10,000 is interested in reading nonfiction books. The online public reaction to the Myths book has been similar, in that over 99.9% of the population would rather believe a free lie than to spend two dollars and read a book. Is there not a humor and an irony in the value that the general public places upon knowledge? Yes, it can be said with sincerity that some individuals' knowledge is worth what the person will pay, which in this example is less than twenty dimes.
Dwell on this thought: an academician might invest around a quarter of a million dollars and eight years to earn a Ph.D. degree, as might individuals with curiosity invest dozens of years and millions of dollars to investigate and research topics of interest, and yet the general public, the ones that refuse to invest twenty dimes and two hours time, feel insulted when the academician and researcher speak of a knowledge that the average public does not comprehend. On the topic of prodigies, it was predominately the unread public that wrote the biographies and interpretations, and the story of William Sidis was not an exception.
I find it remarkably curious that the general public continues placing full faith in free articles, and the general public continues placing similar faith in the hearsay found on hundreds of web pages that promote information allegedly based on Amy Wallace's The Prodigy: A Biography of William James Sidis, America's Greatest Child Prodigy, and yet the general public declines the opportunity to read Wallace's book or an academic paper with verifiable references.
Humorously, it is upon the general public's chosen preference for sensationalism that the myths of William Sidis and other prodigies continue to grow.
Wikipedia's Article On William Sidis
One of the year's greatest humors was discovered within a Wikipedia article about William Sidis. Before voicing my humor, first is needed the background that describes in part why the Wikipedia's article was silly.
On December 23, 2007 I wrote publically: "The 250-300 IQ claimed by Wikipedia and "The Outsiders" (at Prometheus) are based on wrong information derived from Amy Wallace's book "The Prodigy: A Biography of William James Sidis, America's Greatest Child Prodigy". "The Prodigy" claimed that Sperling said: "In recent years I have tested more than five thousand people. Of all the mentally superior individuals that I have seen, nobody begins to approach the intellect and perspicacity of William Sidis. According to my computations, he easily had an IQ between 250 and 300." Sperling's own version, found in "A Story of Genius", is: "Helena Sidis told me that a few years before his death, her brother Bill took an intelligence test with a psychologist. His score was the very highest that had ever been obtained. In terms of I.Q., the psychologist related that the figure would be between 250 and 300." According to Sperling's version, he based his comments on hearsay from Helena. Helena may have stretched the truth like she reportedly did with other claims about William Sidis' language skills, which were recorded in "The Prodigy" as fact. No known adult IQ test exists today that can accurately measure 250-300, and none existed in the 1940s. The 250-300 IQ claim is a myth. The other claims of newspaper reports and Sidis' language skills are mostly misleading half-truths and misinterpretations. Source: Myths, Facts, and Lies About Prodigies - A Historiography of Willia James Sidis".
Give notice that I omitted the "m" in William in the last sentence.
On January 5, 2008 I wrote on a blog (abbreviated):
"I like michellezm's comment. I have seen it posted on other sites as well (I am not sure who wrote it first though).
The clip itself is from Grady Towers' "The Outsiders". A large percentage of popular online myths about William Sidis came from "The Outsiders". "The Outsiders" (1987) was based on "The Prodigy" (1986) plus a lot of half-truths and inventions. "The Prodigy" was predominately a sensationalized account of hearsay and invention. As an example, "The Prodigy" claimed that Sperling gave Sidis an IQ test for a civil service job and estimated Sidis' IQ at 250-300. Sperling himself wrote in "A Story of Genius" that Sidis' sister, Helena, told him that a psychiatrist had given William Sidis the test and that the other psychiatrist estimated the IQ at 250-300. Records of Helena portrayed her to exaggerate on other topics, and it is possible that Helena's comments may have been exaggerations or outright inventions. The information in "The Prodigy" was not true, and thus the information in "The Outsiders" was not true. A letter written by William Sidis stated that he had taken a civil service exam, that he passed the state clerical exam, and that he was number 254 on the list; "not so encouraging". It may never be known if Sidis actually did take an IQ test, and it may never be known if the 250-300 number arrived from Sidis' placement in the job pool. There is no question of Sidis' talents with languages and mathematics, and there is good reason to believe that he would have scored well on an IQ test since IQ tests rely almost entirely on language and mathematics, but there have been numerous individuals of much better skills, and there is no reason to believe that Sidis was the world's smartest man. The clip's claim about black holes is also very incorrect."
On July 3, 2008, an individual replied: "The 250-300 IQ claimed by Wikipedia and "The Outsiders" (at Prometheus) are based on wrong information derived from Amy Wallace's book "The Prodigy: A Biography of William James Sidis, America's Greatest Child Prodigy". "The Prodigy" claimed that Sperling said: "In recent years I have tested more than five thousand people. Of all the mentally superior individuals that I have seen, nobody begins to approach the intellect and perspicacity of William Sidis. According to my computations, he easily had an IQ between 250 and 300." Sperling's own version, found in "A Story of Genius", is: "Helena Sidis told me that a few years before his death, her brother Bill took an intelligence test with a psychologist. His score was the very highest that had ever been obtained. In terms of I.Q., the psychologist related that the figure would be between 250 and 300." According to Sperling's version, he based his comments on hearsay from Helena. Helena may have stretched the truth like she reportedly did with other claims about William Sidis' language skills, which were recorded in "The Prodigy" as fact. No known adult IQ test exists today that can accurately measure 250-300, and none existed in the 1940s. The 250-300 IQ claim is a myth. The other claims of newspaper reports and Sidis' language skills are mostly misleading half-truths and misinterpretations. Source: Myths, Facts, and Lies About Prodigies - A Historiography of Willia James Sidis".
Yes, there is humor in finding my own words being presented to me as a reply, including the missing "m," but the hilarity continued escalating when I discovered on July 7, 2008 that the William Sidis article on Wikipedia was updated with the same comment of "The 250-300 IQ claimed by Wikipedia... A Historiography of Willia James Sidis".
The humor in the absurdities is quite strong, and that the most useful information within the Wikipedia William Sidis article was a copy/paste of words from a blog. Not so humorous was the observation of how the public copies another man's words, and the public then believes that the recitation of words might somehow imply knowledge within the holder. It is unfortunate that schools today teach memorization without the schools first teaching a comprehension of the topic.
Dated February 27, 2008, the discussion page on Wikipedia stated "Was William Sidis the smartest man on earth? The simple answer is I don't know and nobody ever can know. To date there still does not exist any evidence to support the claim that Sidis was the smartest man on earth, and without evidence there is no logical reason to entertain the idea. Nevertheless, there is evidence of how the myth was born and popularized." See this recent article: Was William James Sidis the Smartest Man on Earth?, 13 February 2008 (UTC)"
For over six months the Wikipedia folks have known of resources (the Myths book and article) that refute the Wikipedia William Sidis article, and yet Wikipedia continues to allow misinformation to exist and to be presented to the public as fact. An unknown hundreds of thousands, or tens of millions, of Internet users have read comments on Wikipedia and various blogs about William Sidis, and in almost all instances the information was not true. The myths of William Sidis might be dispelled if the general public were to exert the effort to read useful books and to visit useful websites like this one and Mahony's sidis.net.
A historiography researches information in a manner that is similar to how the previous comments and references were arranged. I have been researching and verifying the veracity of various topics for about thirty years; this is what I do, I do not accept hearsay as truth, I verify to the best of my ability how and why each topic came into existence and how the general public invents the myths. There is a world of difference between the individual who studies the origins of a topic, and the individual who blindly accepts whatsoever hearsay that might be presented in newspapers and tabloids.
Read! Verify for yourself what is true and what is an invention. Stop believing the nonsense of popular opinion. Visit Mahony's site and read every page. Mahony's website is one of the very few shining stars within an otherwise dark history of ignorance and inventions in the history of William Sidis.
The general public will not invest twenty dimes and two hours into learning a useful knowledge, and though I present some information on this website for free so that the general public will have some access to useful information, I will not share all information, and I knowingly omit the most important information. The individual who possesses the effort to learn, s/he will increase in knowledge and intelligence, but s/he who chooses no effort, they will be given the allowance to continue believing myths.
I have input an action into a thing, my action being words presented to the general public, and I will now stand back and observe the public's reaction. By what reaction that occurs, so will it in part portray the inward attributes and nature of the general public. My curiosity is with a wondering if there will be any reaction at all.
Myth - William Sidis Had No Concept of Beauty
The myth, that William Sidis held no concept of beauty, is an entertaining study into the mannerisms of the average mind. The Outsiders stated of William Sidis: "He found the concept of beauty, for example, to be completely incomprehensible." The Outsiders was marked as published in 1987, a year after "The Prodigy: A Biography of William James Sidis, America's Greatest Child Prodigy" was published, and it is verifiable that The Outsiders was based upon The Prodigy due to how The Outsiders quoted conceptual phrases and a specific page number from The Prodigy.
According to a report in The Prodigy, which itself was based upon the hearsay of a newspaper article, Sidis did not find a mountain painting beautiful: "Frank Mack [said]...William did not know how to enjoy himself: "He has no conception of play or pleasure - outside his intellectual pursuits. Likewise he has no conception of beauty. I once showed him a remarkable picture of a mountain. 'Don't you think it's beautiful?' I asked, 'No' he said, 'it's only a big hill.'" The Outsiders perverted The Prodigy statements beyond what The Prodigy had already perverted the newspaper statements, and upon further investigation it was found that the newspaper article itself was a perversion of fantasy, invention, and hearsay.
Are the claims about Sidis valid? How might an individual know if the claims are true or false? As everyone who knows about the psychology, physics, or philosophy of the mind, it is a truism that no one can know the heart and mind of anyone other than themselves. Who is so bold as to believe that they know the heart and mind of William Sidis? As written in Passaconaway in the White Mountains, Sidis had an excellent concept of beauty, and he was able to put his thoughts of beauty into meaningful words and concepts of sensorial perceptions: "...we would be rewarded by seeing a deer step gracefully from the forest to the water's edge, and then slowly proceed into the water. ...they are prettier than any picture that can be painted. ...About southwest, over the white village of Centre Sandwich, is the exquisite beauty of Squam Lake, with its blue bosom dotted with wooded islands." Passaconaway in the White Mountains paints a wholly different picture of Sidis, one that the general public claims to not exist. The general public much prefers to believe in and to speak of prodigies' negative natures, rather than the general public investing two hours into reading a book for themselves.
Observe the flaws within the average mind and how it twisted information into the absurdities of Frank Mack, the newspaper reporter, the newspaper article, The Prodigy, and then The Outsiders. Frank Mack was obviously not a prodigy, nor qualified to comment on artistic talents and tastes, and thus Frank Mack's comment was merely an unqualified opinion. The nescience and bias of Frank Mack was perpetuated through the twentieth century and can now be found in the twenty-first century to be believed as fact by the general public.
The story of Sidis' interpretation of beauty does not end with Passaconaway in the White Mountains, but rather the history quickly broadens into an entertaining complexity that I, with the spirit of mischievousness, will not further explain. If an individual wishes to believe that Sidis held no concept of beauty, then fine, but the individual should know that the belief renders him foolish, and yet if an individual wishes to believe that Sidis held an appreciation of beauty, still the individual should know that the belief, without first possessing evidence to support the belief, also renders the believer foolish. Yes, I am grinning with the knowledge that for an individual to know whether Sidis perceived beauty or not, requires that the individual exert the effort of reading, researching, and reasoning, which are three things that the general public too often avoids.
You can lead a cow to water, but you can't make it whinny.
William Sidis Myth - Sidis Did Not Believe In God
Returning to Wikipedia discussion pages, a comment is found, not unlike thousands of others on the Internet, one that claims dogmatically: "Guess what? One of the most intelligent man on earth (that ever existed) did not believe in God. He was truly intelligent, in my opinion."
Where is the evidence that the Wikipedia claim is true or even rational? The Prodigy claimed that Sidis had learned Aristotelian logic by the age of six years old, and if the claim were true, then Sidis could not have been an atheist as was also claimed by The Prodigy. Atheism is a belief in a disbelief, the belief being based upon the preference to choose emotional fantasy rather than rational thought, and if Sidis was rational and had the capacity for Aristotelian logic, then atheism could not have been a possible presence within Sidis.
As repeated by The Prodigy on page 144, a newspaper article spoke of Sidis' criminal trial when he was twenty one years old. Connolly, counsel for the defense, was the one asking Sidis questions:
""Do you believe in a God?"
At this shocking admission, Connolly turned to the judge and in his client's interest, asked that the court establish what was actually meant by the word "God."
...William attempted to explain his position further: He said that the kind of God he did not believe in was the "big boss of the Christians," but he did believe in something "that is in a way apart from a human being.""
It is the average mind that jumps to believe that the word "God" must carry with it a singular definition that is of the same shallowness as that held by the common man. What is God? What is the definition? It is an absurdity for anyone at any time to claim that a word must possess the same definition for all people, and that the word itself must express a fullness of knowledge of a topic.
Individuals with an education in higher physics cannot evade the recognition that a form of universal intelligence exists that is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, the very attributes of a god. It is only the uneducated masses that speak the terms "god" and "atheism" with the belief that the undefined words automatically carry with them defined meanings.
If the newspaper article was correct, Sidis did believe in a God, and the Wikipedia comment, along with the many thousands of others, are manifestations of willful silliness.
If the public were to stop and listen to what those like Sidis might say, the public might discover that just because a person does not accept Biblical information as being the full description of God, it does not imply that the person does not perceive the existence of a universal intelligence.
If membership in a sect, whether Hinduism or atheism or any other religion, somehow renders the member superior of intelligence, then surely the atheist can meet the challenge of producing three logic links that support his/her belief in disbelief. I myself have not yet met an atheist who can present a rational explanation of why a god does not exist. Some atheists have challenged theists to give three logic links of why a god exists, or how a god created Reality, but no atheist is capable of giving three logical steps of anything that atheists believe either. The 'three logic links' is a good place to begin self-challenging one's self to determine if one's beliefs are valid, or mere imagination. Whether a god exists or not is immaterial for this topic; what is important is whether the believer/disbeliever can describe why the belief is allegedly valid, which is a thing that I have not yet witnessed from anyone.