THE Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman was once celebrated as the “smartest man in the world.” His mother’s response? “If that’s the world’s smartest man, God help us!”
Who are the most intelligent people on the planet? Depending on which survey you read, it could be the Germans, the Japanese, the Chinese or maybe the Pakistanis.
Our IQ, according to one recent survey, may be powerfully affected by our genetics. Another suggests that breasfed babies are more intelligent. And another that intelligence is linked to meat eating.
Yet another survey concludes more intelligent children grow up more likely to drink alcohol heavily and have less sex as adults than less intelligent children. The reasons aren’t quite clear.
These sort of surveys are fraught with danger. Intelligence is so subjective.
British scientist Sir Francis Galton thought there was an obvious, common sense link between a person’s intelligence and his or her head size. The bigger the head, the more intelligent you were, he said.
Musician Ernest Newman said the higher the voice the smaller the intellect. There is no truth in either theory.
There is no standard definition of intelligence. The word comes from the Latin verb “intellegere”, which means “to understand”. .
And there’s more than one way to be smart. Many researchers now subscribe to the idea that there are multiple intelligences, including the hard to define social intelligence and the even harder to define spiritual intelligence.
A few years ago, a study tried to establish the IQ levels of American presidents and concluded that the leaders who acted more decisively were the ones at the mid-to-lower end of the clever scale. The “smarter” presidents considered too many options to act decisively.
Albert Einstein said he wasn’t that smart. “It’s just that I stick with problems longer,” he said.