The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Thursday, December 14, 2006

What is a genius? Is IQ enough?

A reader, from India, some time ago, searched for: "Is high IQ enough for genius?" on Google. I have given answers to this spread throughout my blog, but not answered it directly in one post.

Is high IQ enough for genius? The short answer is no. A high IQ does not mean one is a genius - although the term is often used to describe those who possess a high IQ. This is incorrect. A true genius is not merely the possessor of a high IQ, but the owner of a unique type of mind. A genius is one who can create something utterly new. A genius can learn what everyone else learns, but then see in it what no-one else saw. A genius is one who can not only work well with the thoughts of others, but who actually has thoughts no-one has ever had before. A genius is one who does not recreate the work of others, as is so often required in academic work - but actually creates work unlike anything that has gone before. A genius has the power to change the world in a very fundamental way - to revolutionize an area of human thought. How much impact a genius has depends on the area of thought they choose to work with. A genius might compose music that has never been heard before; a genius might write books unlike any before written; a genius might think of a new scientific theory that explains the previously unexplained; a genius might draw and paint in a way that has never before been done and found a new "ism". A genius can work in, and change any area of human life. The key thing to remember about genius is that they create - they don't imitate, they don't recreate, they create. This is the important factor that distinguishes a genius from someone who simply has a high IQ. Many high IQ types are exceptionally good at working with the pre-existing knowledge base of Humanity and reasoning within it. In so doing, however, there is never a need to actually create. Their type of thought process involves recreation of the work of others, use of the work of others, application of pre-existing techniques. No matter how accomplished one is at these tasks, it can never amount to true genius - although it can be very impressive. Sometimes people can be astounded at the speed and difficulty of problems that those with the highest IQs can solve. Yet, in not actually adding anything new to the sum total of human knowledge, these processes do not amount to genius. They amount to "intelligence". Intelligence and genius are not the same thing. A genius is usually highly intelligent - but the highly intelligent are usually not geniuses.

True genius is very rare. To see how rare, one need only look back at the past. How many names in history are known to you? Think of the people of science, art, music, literature and philosophy that you know. In any era, only a small number of people will have distinguished themselves enough to be known to you. These will tend to be the geniuses of their era. They are so very few in comparison to the number of able people, intelligent people who lived in their times. A few minutes of reflection on this exercise will tell you how rare actual genius truly is. Genius is not best served by the exaggeration of its occurrence caused by the confusion between IQ and genius. High IQ is not genius. High IQ is only one tool that a genius may use in their productive work - but that tool, on its own, does nothing new and cannot, therefore, be called genius. The mislabelling of high IQ people as "geniuses" has led to a world in which genius is devalued - for it seems to be more common than it is. Genius is rare, very rare.

So, in answer to my reader, from India: a high IQ does not mean your child is a genius, but then it does not mean that your child is not a genius. A high IQ means your child has one of the attributes commonly found in genius - but also, more commonly found in people who never demonstrate genius. A high IQ is something useful in itself - for solving problems and analyzing the world, but is not the fount of genius. Genius remains a rare and in some way mysterious human attribute.

If your child has a high IQ and they create profusely material that is new and cannot be said to derive from the work of others, then they may have the makings of a genius, in them.

So, look not to the IQ as a marker for genius - but to creative activity. A genius is more likely to come from a highly creative child, than from a high IQ child.

Good luck on raising your gifted children.

(If you would like to read about my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, seven years and three weeks old, then please go to: I also write of child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:56 AM 


Blogger arifa said...

Found it!
I wish I could tell you just how much this post helped me. I read it a few months ago, and came back just to find it and say: THANK YOU!

6:53 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Arifa, I am happy to have helped you in some way. What was useful about this post for you? I would be interested to know.


9:18 AM  

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