NEWS STORIES:
March 4, 2004

Utah's Mensa Members.....
By: Christian Probasco, Salt Lake City Weekly

Brainiac
Utah's Mensa members are smart enough to know that intelligence is a moving target.
by Christian Probasco
March 4, 2004

THE TRIVIA QUEEN

The Puck, a sports bar in West Valley City, is getting busy. Waitresses hurry by with drinks and tipped platters, the general din of conversation escalates, ’80s rock music blares from the club’s speakers and the TVs blat out football commentary, but Linda Hall’s attention is firmly fixed on a TV screen in the corner flashing National Trivia Network (NTN) questions about geography, sports, history, cinema, celebrities, just about any subject you’d find on Jeopardy! Hall’s hand is poised over a key pad which relays answers directly to the network’s headquarters.

“What was Che Guevara’s given birth name?” the screen inquires. The possible answers are Ernesto, Caeser, Jose, Simon or Fidel.

“Oh, Ernesto,” says Hall after a moment’s reflection. “He was Argentinean, you know,” and she goes on to describe how he became involved in the Cuban revolution.

Next question: “Bob Waterfield was a hall-of-fame what?” Answers: boxer, slugger, point-guard, quarterback or hockey goalie.

“That’s a tough one. Not a point-guard, not a goalie. Has to be quarterback.”

She’s right again. In fact, she almost always gets the right answer. There might be 5,000 to 10,000 people playing on the network on any given evening in the United States and Canada, but Hall usually finishes in the top 20. Many times she comes in first. And she’s not stingy with her knowledge; as soon as she knows what the answer is, she’ll say it. This tends to raise the scores of people sitting around her as well.

“When you have a lot of people playing here, they all start congregating around her table as the night goes on,” says Brian, a computer programmer and regular, currently “between opportunities,” who sits across from her.

Hall, who looks to be just a little beyond middle-age, is also “between opportunities.” Actually, she has just retired from her job programming computers for an insurance agency and is devoting a lot of time to the NTN.

“It’s a fine line between a hobby and an obsession,” she says, “And I crossed that line about five years ago.”

Hall finishes in 25th place for the night, a dismal showing for her and no tribute to the obsessive study she has made of trivia since she was a child.

“I had asthma, so I couldn’t go out and play like the other kids,” she explains, not at all apologetically, “I would read the encyclopedia.”

Hall started reading before she was 4 and, as a result, was able to skip kindergarten. She might have skipped fifth grade as well but she chose not to. Since she started keeping track sometime in high school, she figures she has read more than 7,000 books. She got a degree in mathematics from the University of Utah—she remembers “two or three” other women in her graduating class. Then, to validate what she already knew about her IQ and to interact with other people at her intellectual level, she joined Mensa 11 years ago.

MENSA

Founded in England in 1946 by barrister Roland Berrill and Dr. Lance Ware, Mensa is the original high-IQ society. American Mensa was founded in Brooklyn in 1960 and has grown to more than 47,000 members. Utah’s chapter currently has 178 members. The only criterion for membership is an intelligence test score which places the prospective member in the top 2 percent of the population. Because Mensa accepts a variety of such tests, each emphasizing a different facet of intelligence, it has been estimated that Mensa membership actually represents the upper 5 percent to 15 percent of the population. A high IQ is about the only prerequisite needed to join. Mark Hofmann reportedly became a member after he went to prison for blowing up and killing two people and injuring himself with homemade bombs. The California chapter has a member only 3 years old. Geena Davis, of Thelma and Louise fame, is a Mensan, as is Skyy Vodka owner Nayruce Kunbar and Richard Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute? Scott Adams, author of the Dilbert cartoons, is reputedly a member. According to Mensa’s literature, there are “some 100,000 Mensans in 100 countries throughout the world.”

So when are all these people of above-average intelligence planning to take over the world? “Mensa can’t even take over itself,” says David Murray, husband of Utah chapter secretary Dixie Murray, “When you first join, you think, ‘here’s people who are going to think like I do. They’re smarter, and they’ll come to the same conclusions that I do.’ But really, they just give you a better argument from another viewpoint.”

Dixie Murray compares organizing Utah Mensa chapter events to “herding cats.” She believes the original intent of Mensa was “that they would get all the brains together and keep the world from having more wars. And they found out that didn’t work.”

Dixie Murray has been a member for about 20 years, on and off, and has only been the president, or Loc/Sec for a few months now. She grew up on an Idaho farm in a blue-collar family, though her mother was high school valedictorian and had skipped a grade in school.

“When I was in school,” she says, “they didn’t want me to know that I was smarter than the rest of the students, so they would have my mother go in and talk to the teachers when I wasn’t there. They told her I had very high test scores and my grades could be a lot better. I could get decent grades without studying or working, so I never bothered. They wouldn’t let me take shop class, because that was a boy’s class, and I was never interested in home economics. I was a tomboy. I thought about going into the service after high school, so I took the test and they told me I had the highest score they’d ever seen a woman get there in Boise. That’s when I started realizing that even though my grades were B’s and C’s, I was actually college material.”

She married at 18 and followed her husband to his job in Blackfoot, Idaho, and then to Layton, Utah. She had two children, played housewife, and made money on the side repairing watches and jewelry. She also restored motorcycles, winning several awards at vintage motorcycle shows. That marriage lasted about 20 years, after which she met David at a Mensa meeting.

David Murray grew up in Louisiana where his father owned 11 local newspapers. He got involved with every aspect of the newspaper business: running the presses, reporting, shooting photos, selling advertising. Good at sports, he always made the all-star pitching team in Little League and considered becoming a professional pitcher for a while, but an injury kept him from the tryouts. After a custody battle for his daughter, he moved to Utah, far enough away from Louisiana for him to breathe easy. He earned degrees in sociology and psychology from the University of Utah and ran a series of printing businesses. He also joined the Army Reserve to earn some extra money.

“That’s how I ended up in Saudi,” says David Murray. “That wasn’t part of the plan.”

Also not part of the plan was contracting Gulf War Syndrome. A few months after he returned from the war, he began to lose his sense of balance, followed by problems with his vision. Finally, his memory began to blur. He visits the Veterans Hospital twice a week. Even so, he was able to qualify for Mensa, which says something about the correlation between intelligence and memory.

“I have a damaged memory,” says David Murray, “My math skills have deteriorated, and I didn’t think I could qualify for Mensa, but I did.”

MEET THE MENSANS

At a Christmas meeting at national Mensa ombudsman Eldon Romney’s house, about a dozen members discuss Dilbert, reptiles, planned obsolescence, Marxism, Spinoza, Aldous Huxley, Ayn Rand, parapsychology, Mad magazine, death, God and smoking—the list goes on and on.

“The conversation, most nights,” says the slim, mustachioed Romney, an amateur herpetologist who runs an environmental consulting business, “will go all over the map and crisscross several times. One person described it as ‘intellectual intensity without confrontation.’ You can talk about anything, even religion and politics.”

And fairly soon, religion comes up. One young member, a lab technician, says that he is working on a novel wherein he will provide mathematical proofs which will “disprove the existence of God,” to which someone else replies, skeptically, “There will be a lot of people interested in exactly how you’re going to do that.”

Paula Klieves, a member since 1986 and editor of The Utah Synapse newsletter picks up on the conversation through a sixth sense. A communications equipment installation supervisor and a mechanic and technical writer, she is also a professional human and pet psychic who has survived eight attacks of viral meningitis, the first one nearly fatal (“I died the first time,” she says, “but I came back.”). She has her own take on God and religious experiences:

“As a psychic, I know, for sure, there’s something on the other side, whether it’s God or a series of gods or just people who have crossed over,” she said. “When I died, I got to the white light and met people there and turned back.”

“They wouldn’t take you?” Romney asks.

There are about a dozen people here tonight and this is typical. Only a fraction of Utah Mensans actually attend any of the meetings. Dixie Murray calls the rest of the members “closet Mensans.”

“I ran into a Mensan the other week through another group I was involved in,” she says, “and she told me she was a member but she hadn’t even told her fiance. A lot of people are that way. They hide it. A lot of people who join sign up just to prove they can and they never participate.”

David Murray nods, but he knows all too well what can happen when you advertise your membership. He listed “Mensa” under the “extracurricular activities” section of his résumé once, and though he got the job, his new boss expected him to do everything without mistakes. Murray was overwhelmed and ended up quitting. He doesn’t recommend using membership to advance a career.

The talk ebbs and flows all through the evening, with some people jumping from one conversation to another, some holding two conversations at once, some remaining silent until a topic they are intimately familiar with comes up and they can no longer stay quiet. Eldon Romney is used to this sort of undirected behavior.

“When you are trying to have a productive meeting,” he says through clenched teeth, obviously recalling meetings which were anything but, “somebody has really got to rein people in. If you’ve got a target, you’ll quickly get way off that target unless you’ve got somebody to take charge.”

Each member realized they were slightly different from others at a certain point in life. Hall figured this out when she was 4 years old, helping her 8-year-old cousin with math homework. Romney says, “I got in the Army and maxed out the Armed Forces Qualifications Test, and they wanted me to join the EOD. That’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal. I thought, ‘This is a reward for doing well on the test? I can go blow myself up?’ I said, ‘No.’”

Like everyone in the general population, Mensans had subjects they excelled in or were indifferent to. But what subjects Mensans gravitate toward is open for debate.

“Music, for me—I could care less,” says David Murray, “I don’t want to listen to it. Two common things for most Mensans, which most Mensans are familiar with or adept at, are computers and science fiction.”

But here a few heads shake. Others try to figure out which traits besides intelligence might separate Mensans from the general population. Klieves says that “a majority of Mensans grew up playing an instrument of some sort.”

“Well, that lets me out,” Dixie Murray replies.

Hall finally suggests, “As a group, we probably read more than the average American.”

The general conversation moves on to overthinking exam questions. “Sometimes when you’re taking a test,” notes Dan Cortsen, a photographer and technical writer, “you don’t give the answer the teacher is looking for.”

“Right,” says Romney, “The stock answer.”

“The answer looks too obvious,” says Dixie Murray, “so you start looking for a more difficult answer.”

“I remember going up to my college professor and asking, ‘What do you mean by this question?’” says Romney. “And he said, basically, ‘shut up and sit down and do it like everybody else,’ and I said, ‘OK.’”

“I was once asked to name the greatest contribution to humanity in the 20th century,” says Klieves, “And I said it was the flush toilet because better sanitation allowed people to live longer. Our professor had given the correct answer in a lecture I missed because I was skinny-dipping in the sinkhole.”

It is, indeed, like herding cats.

ONE-IN-A-MILLION

As far as high-IQ societies go, Mensa is far from the most exclusive. Beyond the “Top 1 Percent Society” there’s “The International Society for Philosophical Enquiry,” the “One-in-a-Thousand Society” and the “Triple Nine Society,” all of which only accept individuals with IQs in the top 10th of the top 1 percent of the population. Then there’s the “Prometheus Society,” which accepts individuals whose IQs exceed 99.997 percent of the population, and the “Mega Society,” which, as its name implies, only takes individuals whose IQs are high enough to make them, effectively, “one-in-a-million.”

The more exclusive the society, the fewer the members, of course. Utah boasts no members of the Mega Society. Then again, there are only 25 Mega Society members in the world. The Prometheus Society has 73 members. Measured geographically from Utah, the closest member of both of these societies is Dr. John Fila, psychoanalyst and ombudsman of the Prometheus Society, who lives in Santa Monica.

To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, the highly intelligent are different from you and me. On the phone, Dr. Fila, whose IQ would have to be somewhere above 175 on the Langdon Adult Intelligence Test, sounds like a Mensan on fast-forward, though his voice always remains low. As you might expect, he’s a good listener. He seizes on questions and answers them very quickly. Fila grew up in Boston, where he skipped three grades ahead in private school. He earned his bachelors at Harvard and his doctorate at Berkeley.

“Berkeley wasn’t as difficult as I had expected and Harvard was worse than what they say. Harvard is a tough place even for the so-called smartest of us,” he says.

Fila can’t recall a time in his adult life when he really had to struggle to make ends meet. “Things came easier to me. Academics came easier to me,” he says, “I just happened to read very quickly, and I could figure out abstract problems. “

There is always an urgent tone behind Fila’s voice. He believes that motivation and focus are essential parts of intelligence.

Because members of super-high IQ societies are so spread out, they communicate primarily by e-mail. Their conversations run the gamut from “astronomy to zoology,” as Fila says. Current affairs, science, sports, politics: it all gets put on the table.

When asked about the smartest thing he ever did, he doesn’t hesitate: “Pursuing my education,” he says.

And the dumbest? He has to think about this question for 30 seconds, an eternity for Fila. Finally he answers: The dumbest thing he could do is be impertinent.

“What I mean by that is going out of my way to be rude or insolent. You should never underestimate anyone. That’s foolhardy. Sometimes I tend to be presumptuous, to assume people know more than they really do, and I expect more from them than they can deliver, so I’ve had to work hard at acquiring patience. I like people, I have a lot of friends, but sometimes I have a hard time understanding people’s shortcomings.”

GENIUS AND INTELLIGENCE

Is Fila a genius? Yes and no. Until the 20th century, the term “genius” was most often applied to a person with extraordinary creative or artistic abilities, or to those whose mental abilities seemed to transcend human potential as opposed to those who excelled at reasoning. So Fila is a genius in the modern and popular, but not necessarily the technical and traditional sense of the word. Because IQ is tied fairly closely to verbal ability and abstract reasoning, a genius like Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Picasso, Matisse or Rembrandt might have come up short in terms of IQ when compared to writers like John Stuart Mill or Goethe, both of whom had exceptional abilities in disciplines easier to measure. Even so, there is a poor correlation between IQ even for modern day “geniuses” of the scientific kind. James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA, had an IQ of 115 by his own account, and Richard Feynman, inventor of quantum electrodynamics and the subject of James Gleick’s book Genius, also by his own account, had an IQ of about 124. Neither were very far from average, and neither would qualify for Mensa membership.

The fact that people who are remarkably intelligent don’t necessarily have remarkably high IQs causes some confusion. That’s because intelligence is continually being redefined, while IQ can always be measured.

The modern idea of the IQ test can be traced back to Frenchman Alfred Binet, who developed a set of tasks for identifying “slow” students in French schools in 1904. These problems, or ones like them, were eventually set down on paper and a student’s performance was compared to that of other students at the same level of education. By dividing a student’s intellectual level, or ‘mental age,’ by his actual age and multiplying by 100, later specialists could obtain a subject’s “Intelligence Quotient.”

Binet never had ambitions for his tests beyond identifying students who might need additional help in their studies, but others turned IQ tests toward more sinister purposes. Soon “social scientists” began using IQ tests to justify restrictive immigration policies, and they were even employed as part of the rationale to forcefully sterilize tens of thousands of “mentally deficient” Americans in the early part of the 20th century. Still, college entrance exams, which are direct descendants of IQ tests, helped move the criteria for acceptance into most universities away from the “old boy” networks, which used to predominate, toward something resembling merit.

Currently, mental tests are moving away from one-number concepts like “IQ.” At the University of Utah, there’s a big, white obelisk known as the Social and Behavioral Science Building crammed full of academicians attempting to solve all our questions about minds, brains, behavior and intellect. Yana Suchy, a neurophysiologist with a slight European accent (which makes her sound very smart) works in a cramped office on the 13th floor, has a few opinions about general intelligence:

“Probably the next versions of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale will not even have an IQ figure,” she says. “It’s not a very useful number, and what we pound into students about IQ tests is, ‘Be very careful about how you use this number because the lay public has attached a mysticism to it.’”

Furthermore: “There isn’t much correlation between IQ and success in life as far as income. It also doesn’t correlate with social success. And it doesn’t necessarily tell you how natively smart a person is.”

So what’s IQ good for? According to Suchy, IQ might tell you one thing: a person’s aptitude within an academic environment. But even IQ as a predictor of academic success is up to question, as the Mensans’ Christmas meeting reveals. Many very intelligent people hide their ability in order to fit in socially. So somebody with a high IQ could end up with low grades for social reasons. Additionally, there’s the problem of controlling for motivation; a very intelligent person might not feel motivated to even try and do well on an IQ test.

Add all this up, and you start seeing some serious biases. “It’s also important to understand the effects socioeconomic status have on these tests,” says Suchy. “If farmers designed IQ tests, for example, most city folks wouldn’t do that well, but IQ tests are designed mostly by white, middle-class men from universities.”

Down a few floors, on level six, psychologist Cynthia Berg has made a career studying the discrepancies between IQ and conventional measures of success, and her work has won her an award from Mensa. “There’s a huge movement to try to understand how people use intelligence in their daily life,” she says, “and oftentimes the correlation between standard measures of intelligence and how people function in their daily lives is very poor.”

Berg and her colleagues are interested in how the context in which tests are given affects the outcome. She cites a paper by Stephen Ceci and Antonio Roazzi as an example of the kind of research currently being undertaken in this field. They found that whether the same test material was presented to students as part of a baseball game, a bird-watching exercise or a Star Wars game deeply affected the scores of their young subjects. Similarly, a study of poor young Brazilians working as vendors and traders found that they performed much better solving mathematical problems in the context of more familiar “customer-vendor transactions” than when the same problems were presented to them abstractly.

“If you look at a cross-perspective of societies, intelligence could be viewed as, ‘adapting mentally to the needs of one’s environment,’” says Berg, “And this is one idea Binet was thinking about, because he was concerned with mental ability in an academic environment.”

Many psychologists see the need for a new paradigm of intelligence, and both Suchy and Berg have a ready answer. They both point to the Multiple Intelligences theory of Howard Gardner, a professor of Education at Harvard University. According to Gardner, each of us can and do rely on eight broad mental categories to get us through the day: visual/spatial, verbal/linguistic, logical/mathematical, bodily/kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic. Some of these, of course, can be more easily measured and none necessarily reflects intelligence more than another.

ONE-IN-SIX-BILLION

Gardner’s theory is supported by what’s come to be known as the “Savant Syndrome.” As Darold Treffert explains in his book Extraordinary People, Savant Sydrome is an exceedingly rare condition in which persons with serious mental handicaps, either from developmental disability or major mental illness, have spectacular islands of ability or brilliance which stand in stark, markedly incongruous contrast to the handicap.”

The “islands of ability” Treffert discusses in his book tend to conform to Gardner’s multiple intelligences. There are certain savants, for example, who can rapidly multiply eight digit numbers in their heads, others who, upon once hearing a complex musical score lasting more than an hour, can play it back flawlessly, and still others who can tell you which day of the week, 40,000 years into the future or past, that any particular date will fall. There was a savant Treffert identifies as “Fleury” who calculated 2 to the 30th power in 40 seconds (it’s 1,073,741,824) and who also calculated the cube root of 465,484,375 in 13 seconds (it’s 775) and there was another named “Billy” who could make basketball free throws repeatedly, for as long as he wished, all day, all week, forever, and he never missed. There are savant human clocks who can tell you, whenever you ask, the hour and minute of the day and there are savant composers, savant painters and savant mechanics.

And then there’s Kim Peek, an autistic savant who lives in Sandy and who was the inspiration for the movie Rain Man. Peek has many, many “islands of ability.” Peek can tell you which day of the week your birthday fell on, and on which day of the week you will retire, assuming you retire at 65, almost as quickly as you can tell him your date of birth. Name any city in the United States and he can tell you its ZIP code(s), the major highways that run through it, which television and radio stations it’s served by, which county it’s in and possibly its history. He can also give you instructions on how to get from that city to any other city in the United States.

When Peek reads, he puts his face about a foot from the page and his left eye scans the left page and his right eye scans the right page. According to his father, Fran, the younger Peek read Tom Clancy’s 432-page Hunt for Red October in 1 hour and 25 minutes. He will read this article in about a minute, and remember about 99 percent of it verbatim.

Kim Peek watches Jeopardy! from Double Jeopardy on because the first round bores him. Barry Morrow, author of Rain Man, once sat down with him and asked 300 difficult sports questions: Who won the Super Bowl in a particular year? How many runs did a particular baseball player make over his career? And so on. Peek missed five questions. Scientific American magazine calls him the “most prodigious savant alive.”

In person, at the new city library, Peek stutters and tilts and rolls his large head when he’s speaking and seems unwilling to meet anybody’s gaze directly until he’s been asked a question that requires some thought. Then his eyes come to the same plane as the listener’s, his smile vanishes and he gives the answer quickly, in a deadpan tone, without stuttering, as if he is channeling someone else. Then he goes back to tilting his head and smiling, talking loudly and laughing even louder.

Morrow may have been inspired by Peek, but Peek is not the Rain Man. For one thing, the only time he sounds like Dustin Hoffman’s Raymond Babbit is when he is in his deadpan “automatic” mode. Otherwise he sounds like Rod Decker, only louder. He is also more responsive than Hoffman’s character, more in tune and interested in what’s happening around him.

“The Jazz aren’t doing very good this year,” Peek says. “They weren’t really strong in the first couple of months, and then it started to turn around. But the biggest thing this week is Tiger and those people (the PGA) begin their season in Maui.”

In one sense, Peek’s mind works the same way everyone else’s does: by association. But Peek has a thousand associations for each subject, and they are so strong it’s almost as if he has to follow them. You might ask him about Amarillo, Texas, and he will go into “automatic” mode and say, “Forty and 27,” the major highways, and then he’ll sing, “Get your kicks on Z-Amarillo!” which is a radio station there, and then he’ll start singing “Get Your Kicks on Route 66!” and then he’ll tell you Route 66 was recorded by “Nat King Cole with Nelson Riddle in the mid-’50s.” And so on. And as he progresses, his voice gets louder. Tell him you used to live on Route 66 in Flagstaff, and he goes into automatic mode again and says, “Forty, 89 and 89A. Old 66 follows 89 at Santa Fe Road. Eighty-Nine A starts at San Francisco Street. Just beyond there [Flagstaff] is Winslow and Joseph City,” and then he starts to sing, “Beyond the Blue Horizon,” which is one of the songs from Rain Man. His father asks, “What are the TV stations in Flagstaff?” and Peek snaps back and answers, like a computer, “[Channel] 2 is northern, everything else is Phoenix. [Channel] 7 is Prescott and the Verde Valley. Nine-twenty-eight is the area code. Before that, everything was 602.”

“What county is it in?” his father asks.

“Coconino.

“What station can you watch ABC on?” the elder Peck asks.

“Used to be 3, now it’s 15 because 15 is now 10. Three is independent.”

“What are the call letters?”

“KPNX Phoenix.”

And that’s how it goes. Kim Peek also takes everything literally. He is interested in the facts and only the facts. When father and son are asked what they think of the new library, Fran Peck answers, “Oh, it’s very nice,” and his son says, “It’s been here seven months.”

But Kim Peek also has a fair amount of “social intelligence.” He used to be a very shy individual, but since the making of Rain Man, he has become increasingly willing to meet and reach out to people on their own terms. Fran Peek and his son spend much of their time on a worldwide speaking circuit. The elder Peek estimates they have met or spoken before more than 2 million people.

His son also has a deep empathy for people who are suffering, especially children. Fran Peek writes, “Trauma or violence inflicted on children disturbs Kim immensely. An airplane crash that kills 300 adults sends him into near hysterics. However, if the newsman mentions that one baby was injured or killed, he goes into a tearful, almost uncontrollable tantrum.” His son’s credo is that “learning to recognize and to respect differences in others and treating them like you want them to treat you will bring the peace and joy we all hope for.”

INTELLIGENCE

Kim Peek’s brain differs from the brains of normal individuals in that, while a normal brain is divided into two hemispheres with a bundle of nerve tissue called the corpus callosum conveying messages between them, his brain has no such connection: both lobes of his brain have actually fused together.

But there might be an even more exciting difference between savants like Peek and the general population, which has to do with early development. You might rue a period in your life when you drank too much or maybe did too many drugs and killed off some brain cells that would have come in handy later in life (picture Ozzy Osbourne), but the fact is we all experienced our greatest loss of brain cells prior to birth. Humans and other mammals form an excess number of neurons during development and anywhere from 15 percent to 90 percent of these brain cells fail to form connections and die off in the womb. Treffert discusses a theory in which a large “reservoir” of right-brain cells might compensate for damage to the left lobe prior to this dieoff, preserving many neurons which may otherwise have perished.

Peek’s brain appears to have compensated for damage it received before birth, or perhaps something interfered with the normal dying off of brain cells that the rest of us experienced. In any case, whatever happened appears to have lowered his IQ, which is in the mid-70s, and this raises the question, again, of whether IQ corresponds in any sense with intelligence. And that begs the question again, of what intelligence is, exactly.

Eldon Romney, for one, would say that intelligence is “knowledge and the ability to use it,” but he also admits to a multi-intelligence view similar to Howard Gardner’s. However, he sees the difficulty in trying to score certain types of multiple intelligences. “How would you measure social and political intelligence?” he asks, “How do you measure ethical intelligence? Do you follow someone around all day and note the ethical choices he makes? Do you plant a ‘lost’ wallet with money and identification in his path to see if he returns it, and if he does, is that intelligent behavior or not?

A believer in God, Romney often finds himself outnumbered in Mensa meetings by skeptics, agnostics and outright atheists. His belief in a higher power informs his view of intelligence. “You could look at intelligence as a pervasive, cosmic force,” he says, “Something which is manifested all around us, in nature, in inanimate objects, in mathematics. One and one is two; that’s a sort of intelligence,” and then he pauses for a moment to remember a slogan he saw at Brigham Young University which seems to sum up the idea he wants to put across. It comes from the Mormon Doctrine and Covenants. “The glory of God,” he finally says, “is intelligence.”

Of course, he could always debate that conclusion with a fellow Mensan.

Errors, omissions, suggestions, questions, comments? Please contact Don Denton
Read our privacy policy.
© 2004 - 2017, DonRDenton.com