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 +

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The value of being gifted.

Someone arrived on my site, today, with what I regard as strange search terms: "IQ 130 - how much money make".

It wasn't the grammatical choices that concerned me terribly, but the underlying world view of such a query of the internet. I cannot discern whether this is someone who has just had their IQ tested and is wondering how much money they will make in later life, or someone just interested in how much such a person would make. I can tell this, however: they haven't truly understood what being gifted means and the opportunities it presents.

Giftedness is not about money-making. If it was, the richest people would be the smartest - and oddly, they are usually not. They are "smart enough" to run their businesses, but not necessarily as smart as some of the people they employ. Their primary gifts are not necessarily in intellectual areas at all. No: richness and wealth do not equate. Wealth comes from a certain approach to life, in some cases one that others may not agree with - but it is not the inevitable product of intelligence. They are some rather dim rich people and some rather bright poor ones. Though, generally speaking, someone of high intelligence will do "alright" financially - though not necessarily as well as their not-so-bright but more money minded sibling/classmate.

Giftedness presents opportunities for doing things other than make money. It provides the opportunity to do something special. A gifted person who was also creative might write a novel, create a new product/invention, compose music, start a new business, in a new niche, propose a new scientific theory and any number of possible contributions. A gifted person who was not creative might make an outstanding accountant, lawyer or doctor - or any other professional in which intelligence, but not necessarily creativity, was required.

Giftedness is about doing something better than others could - or doing something outside the norm if creatively gifted. If there is money to be made by doing so, it is not usually the primary goal of a gifted person.

Gifted people are usually deeper than to choose the one-dimensional aspiration of "making as much money as possible". If someone's aspiration is to do just that, they are not usually particularly gifted, in my observation, because they have not seen a deeper meaning to life than material acquisition - and so are usually not the brightest of the bright.

A gifted person will often find a goal for their life that is unusual, a goal that others might not understand, but which, if attained, or even just pursued, will add to life in a unique way. That is a better contribution to life and the world, than just amassing the greatest possible fortune.

A gifted person is many things - but the one thing they are usually not, is a money-making machine. That latter accomplishment is usually left to those who are not as bright, but are much more switched on by the drive to amass money.

Linus Pauling, the Chemist and double Nobel Prize Winner, didn't make much money (apart from his Nobel Prizes). There are many, many far less bright people who were much richer. A typical American doctor, for instance, would be much richer than Pauling was. Money-making wasn't Pauling's primary objective: expanding the reaches of science was.

Pauling's life provides an example as to why the most gifted are usually not the richest: their life objectives are higher ones than making money. Any money they make is incidental to the higher calling that is their life's devoted goal.

Were there no people like Pauling - people devoted to their subject or cause, the world, as a culture, would be much the poorer. These gifted people make life richer for all of us, if not for themselves, by their contributions.

Gifted people will often live rich lives in ways not measurable by money. Their lives are rich in experiences, contributions, ideas, projects, new things done and great goals achieved. It is for these things that we should look to them, in admiration - not their yachts and mansions (which they probably won't have).

Society needs gifted people whose goals are other than making money. These gifted people may make ideas that change life for the better for many or for all - and such people are of greater value, therefore, than the world's plutocrats, most of whom don't make much real difference at all. (They do what would be done anyway, without adding anything new).

Some societies drill their gifted young people to aim for money as their highest goal. Singapore is one such place. I wonder how limiting that is, in the way they go on to lead their lives. If a nation's gifted people have the one-dimensional aspiration of money-making as their sole goal, then that nation will never truly shine. Perhaps that explains the way Singapore is: a nation whose gifted people are not encouraged, or even allowed, to have higher goals than the pursuit of wealth. The result is clear to see.

It is telling that the searcher who came to my site with those words: "IQ 130 how much money make" was searching from a Singaporean IP address.

It is time that the education system, here, instilled a deeper set of values than the almighty dollar and its pursuit. The dollar is not the meaning of life - and if it becomes so, the life that is led is ultimately fruitless, and shallow.

They are many other values which a nation could impart to its young. There are many other things in life of value than just money alone. Perhaps it is time for the dollar obsessed nations of the world - of which Singapore is one - to urge their young to look to these other values, too, so that some might choose a deeper path for life.

Oh, by the way, an IQ of 130 is probably enough to make as much money as you might wish for - if the moderately gifted person chooses the right area in which to apply their minds. Some very rich people don't appear to be any brighter than that.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 3:42 PM 


Blogger Shannon said...

I really like your perspective on this matter. The pursuit of monetary wealth, at least as an end in itself, isn't worthwhile. Financial corporations often recruit mathematical and engineering talent by offering competitive salaries and high bonuses. Some of our brightest minds are spent or used to make banks and companies more profitable. This certainly isn't a bad thing, but I feel that certain people have the intellectual potential to do more (more in the sense of making a difference in the world rather than just a CEO's bank account.) Is there a moral obligation or greater responsibility attached to high IQ, prodigy, genius?

(Also, just for the record, lawyers are creative people. They produce legislation, statutes, discovery, oral and written arguments, interpretations of law and policy. A talented lawyer can turn a trial into a masterpiece.)

11:33 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Sorry, Shannon, that it has taken me so long to reply to your interesting comment.

Yes. I feel that there is a moral obligation for the brightest to aim for something higher than mere materialism. In a sense it is an obligation not only to society, but to themselves: they should not waste the gifts they have - gifts that few possess. A niche should be found and a contribution made that others could not make.

It is an utter waste to seduce the brightest into working for financial corporations. By making money their primary goal, these gifted people lose the possibility of ever making a more meaningful contribution to society (and, in a very real sense, they fail themselves.)

Thank you for expanding upon what it is that lawyers do.

Kind regards

10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes I get discouraged, as an undergraduate linguistics major who wants to become a linguistics professor and do interesting research. (I would rather just do the research, but I suppose teaching comes with the territory.) Anyway, it seems like everyone I talk to about it, especially my family, thinks this is a silly thing to do: "Why spend tens of thousands of dollars on graduate school to get your doctorate in linguistics when linguistics professors make so little?" Practically, I know they're right. But I wish it wasn't so. Sure, I could do other things with linguistics, but I love learning, discovering, and wondering about linguistics-related things. I really want to do linguistics research, even though my family thinks it is a waste of my talent and sees me ultimately living in a cardboard box. Thank you for this encouraging post.


9:19 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said... what would really fulfil you irrespective of the financial rewards. A happy life comes from expression oneself as deeply as possible. It does not come from having a bigger car than your neighbours.

Become the researcher you wish to be. An academic's contribution lasts forever (in the literature)...can the same be said of a Wall Street number cruncher? That won't even last the next recession.

Best wishes

11:20 AM  

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