23 October 2014

IQ tests and ‘near-genius’

copy of a letter to an academic

People were always implying that I believed things about my IQ, and that this influenced me in wanting to take more subjects than other people and/or to take exams in them at an earlier age.

It should be pointed out that ideas about IQ and genius were not in my mind or my environment at all, until statements about them were explicitly made by the psychologist who volunteered to do an IQ test on me in an apparently casual way when I was ten. This was just after I had taken the grammar school scholarship exam in Essex – and before my parents and I were told by the Reverend Mother, at a preliminary interview, that I had come top of the county with a 100% score on every paper.

A few days after my taking the test, my father transmitted the following information: my IQ was 180 which supposedly meant I was ‘near-genius’. The IQ of a child was said to be loosely equivalent to mental age* divided by chronological age, which implied that a ten-year-old with an IQ of 140 would have a mental age of fourteen, and that at the age of ten my own mental age was eighteen.

‘Genius’ was defined as having an IQ score of 200 or over. My IQ was 180, and that was allegedly ‘near-genius’. In fact, the cut-off value for the test I took was 180, so that it was impossible to get a reported value above this, but I did not realise this until some years later.

Such statements would not be made nowadays, but at that time they were transmitted to me (via my father) by the educational psychologist, employed by the local education authority, who had administered the test.

One wonders what could have been the motivation of the local council in allowing him to make such definite assertions.

In fact, I developed a view of the situation, as perhaps I was supposed to, in which there was a considerable population of people with IQs between 180 and 200, and even a considerable population of people with IQs over 200. So I felt there was nothing remarkable in the IQ that I had.

I did not think that they might have understated my IQ until decades later, when I read in C.W. Valentine’s The Normal Child and some of his Abnormalities – which had not been published at the time I took the test – that a girl who could read a primer fluently at the age of two (as I could myself) was said to have a possible IQ of 300, since reading implied a mental age of at least six or seven.

* The term ‘intelligence quotient’ was originally coined by German psychologist William Stern to express this relationship between mental age and chronological age.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

21 October 2014

Crisis at the convent

The motto of the
Ursuline convent schools
I want to write about my interview with my father, after he had been summoned to see the Reverend Mother in connection with her concerns about me. First I have to explain what happened.

I have always found it difficult to write about the constant disagreements throughout my education, because they were always rationalised and contradictory. But I think that the underlying forces which affected my position are clear, in retrospect, from the situation which arose when I was fourteen (after I had been prevented from taking the School Certificate exam at thirteen, and thus locked into years of delay before I could take any exams at all).

The ostensible cause of this particular crisis was that I was supposed to have said that I did not believe in God.

Actually Mother Mary Angela (the maths nun), finding it impossible to change my views on what I wanted to do in life, had brought matters to a head by peering at me and saying, ‘Do you believe in God?’ Even then I had not said that I did not, but had said, ‘Oh yes.’

I had always assumed that I would never be asked such a thing, because in the convent environment, saying that one did not believe in God would be too shocking. However, I knew that the tone of my voice was not likely to carry conviction. In fact, Mother Mary Angela reacted as if I had said the opposite.

I do not think her doing so was justified, as people (so far as I could see) often said things they did not mean very much, or meant very vaguely, this being accepted socially at face value. In most cases of people who said they believed in God, or were assumed to do so, I had little idea what they might mean by this. Retrospectively, or perhaps even at the time, I had more of an idea what Mother Veronica (the nun who habitually wore a beatific expression) might mean by professing belief in God. Mother Veronica always seemed to be maintaining a continuous awareness of some kind of presence external to her own mind.

Of course I had not said anything about such things to the other girls, although they knew that I was not actually a Catholic. I remember at least one occasion on which one of them, a grammar school scholarship girl a few years older than me, became very angry that she was unable to convert me to Catholicism on the spot.

One of the things that makes it difficult to write about the conflicts in my education, and made it difficult to understand them at the time, was that they had little or no relationship to reality, but were about fictitious states of affairs. In fact these fictitious problems were a cover for people’s real anxieties about me, which seemed to have more to do with a fear that I might do something radical, or unpredictable, on an intellectual level.

Of course, by the time this conversation with Mother Mary Angela took place, I had already been in the same form as two girls, Jane* and Sarah, who were notorious for their rejection of Catholicism, and presumably any form of Christianity. But I do not remember any expression of disbelief in God as such, and even if there had been, I would not have joined forces with it.

I thought of my own position as agnostic, on account of my awareness of the uncertainty inherent in the existential situation, and this ruled out disbelief in God (or in anything else), as well as belief.

Even if it was known that I talked a lot to Jane, I certainly did not talk about my rejection of Catholicism, whereas I think she did like to assert it frequently. It was known that I did not believe in Catholicism, since my parents always passed me off as ‘Church of England’, but I had no interest in expressing this disbelief.

With hindsight, the crisis regarding my alleged lack of belief in God seems to me to have been a cover for a crisis regarding some other aspect or aspects of my personality. The maths nun, Mother Mary Angela, was already aware that I had drives and ambitions of which she disapproved. What she and others may have been really afraid of was my analyticalness, my ability to see through society. They were afraid of my having any social success, and thus of having a chance to use these capacities to get on in life, and also to influence other people.

* Names have been changed.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

14 October 2014

Wasted talent

Writing about Christine Fulcher has reminded me of how difficult it is, and always has been, to say anything about our position.

In Christine’s case, she was clearly IQ-ful enough to have become an academic, even a professor.

It was a reflection on the educational system that, as her school life ended, she was not attracted by the possibility of making a university career in any subject, and not even interested in the idea of going to university at all, as she did not see how it could lead to a life that she could get anything out of. She went to university because her father put her under pressure, regarding it as disgraceful not to do so.

What would she tell her children (he argued) if she turned down the opportunity to go to university? She was told she should follow the example of her mother, who had been to college.

When Christine came to work with me in my independent and unrecognised academic establishment, a sympathetic family might have thought that it was a shame she had no easier way of making a suitable career, and they might naturally have thought that she needed support more than her brothers, or anyone else who was able to have a career that was salaried in the normal way.

But instead of this, they took care to discriminate against her, so that all financial support which might have come her way was cut off, and subsidies to her siblings were correspondingly increased.

Also they discouraged rich relatives and friends from subsidising her, whereas her brothers did receive subsidies (such as wedding presents etc.) from such people. Her family’s treatment of Christine discouraged her from socialising with them. This then gave them a (spurious) excuse to be even meaner to her.

Christine’s suitability for academic pursuits was shown by the fact that she naturally gravitated to subjects which only people with a ‘superior’ IQ are said to be able to do well. That is, sciences and languages – to which I myself was attracted.

Christine had wanted a career in science, but she did not pass her Chemistry O-level, having had mumps shortly before the exam. She wanted to retake it, but was discouraged from doing so by her school, and by her parents making unnecessary difficulties about it.

Christine could read French and German well by the time she left school, although merely attending the lessons provided in those subjects would certainly have been insufficient to produce this result. By the time I met her, she was widely read in the classics of French and German literature.

Many of those with the greatest aptitude for academic pursuits are thrown out by the system – whether at university or earlier – and the waste of their abilities is ignored. They are supposed not to mind, and indeed supposed not to exist except as rejects.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position and that of Christine Fulcher. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

08 October 2014

Books are better than blogs

text of a letter to an academic

I do not think that my blog is a good way of attracting potential associates. We need to publish and distribute hardback books.

I do not know how we would attract anyone like Christine Fulcher into reading my blog.

Christine Fulcher
of Oxford Forum
When Christine was in her late teens, she was interested in helping a genius. But if someone searched the web using the word ‘genius’, they would get thousands of hits, many of them about Einstein, some about Leonardo da Vinci and other geniuses, but they probably would not find my blog. Christine was not interested in parapsychology, nor particularly in mysticism or gnosticism, and would not have thought of looking for blogs about the problems of high-IQ people, although she is one herself.

So I do not know what keywords I would have to use to attract people like her who might be interested in helping a genius, and who are not necessarily aware that they have the problems that high-IQ people tend to have foisted on them.

In fact, the best way of attracting someone like Christine to come and become an associate would be by having plenty of our books on the shelves of university libraries, and on the shelves of bookshops in general.

There is a phenomenon in economics known as ‘framing’, in which the same cultural product can receive quite different reactions depending on the context. A famous violinist can give a performance at Carnegie Hall in which seats sell for $100, but if the same violinist gives his performance for free on a subway, few people take any interest. A famous professor like Richard Dawkins can write books which are published by a respected publisher and sell in the tens of thousands. If he was unknown, the text of those books, if available for free on the web, might only attract a few hundred readers.

Christine found my book The Human Evasion in the philosophy section of Heffers Bookshop at the University of East Anglia. The title attracted her, and my ideas rang a bell with her. By the time she had read something in the book to the effect that a genius might need help, she was determined to come and see me. After about six weeks, she had already corresponded with me, and she was ringing at the door of 118 Banbury Road. At that time, our books were published by Hamish Hamilton, and their reps were taking them round to bookshops automatically, along with all other current Hamish Hamilton publications.

For any chance of attracting people who are as interested and potentially long-term as Christine, we need to be publishing new books, reissuing all our old books in large quantities, sending thousands of free copies to university libraries in this country and worldwide, and promoting the books to bookshops so that they stock them, probably especially in university towns. For this we need hundreds of thousands of pounds, but any smaller contribution would certainly be welcome.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

06 October 2014

Modern students

Recently we have been making contact with various undergraduates. The impression most of them give is that they are determined to make things as easy as possible for themselves at university, without trying to make their work interesting, or to do as well as possible at it. Certainly of recent decades I have heard and read statements that might have been thought shocking before the onset of the Welfare State.

For example, one fairly well-off, upper-middle-class pre-undergraduate, who had expressed an interest in becoming associated with us, refused to consider working for us before college or during the vacs, although we said how badly we were in need of extra manpower. He said he could not take on either employment or voluntary work until he had got the full benefit of three full-time years at university. The attraction of which, according to him, was that he would not have to do much work while there. Presumably it was to be taken as understood that he would be able to spend most of his time having ‘fun’, as he and his contemporaries would call it. From what one hears, this would seem to include plenty of social life and getting drunk.

Nor, apparently, do students mind much about having to leave college with large loans, built up by not paying the fees themselves. Another pre-undergraduate was quoted in an article as saying that he did not mind about the debt which he would incur by going to university, because he would not have to start repaying it until he was earning above a certain level. This suggested the possibility that repayment could be avoided indefinitely by taking care to earn little or nothing.

I hear or read of many modern graduates and university dropouts who are disaffected by the difficulty of getting started on a career in the modern world. They are, however, not attracted by the possibility of becoming associated with us, where they could share in our sense of purpose and direction. In a way this is not surprising, as they have become identified with the avoidance of effort, intensity, and purpose.

Throughout my life there has been an almost universal rejection of my need to live with the maximum of intensity and purposiveness, and an unwillingness to accept that my life could be damaged by being deprived of the possibility of such things.

The modern educational system opposes purposiveness and favours its opposite. It has succeeded in creating, on a wide scale, what might previously have been described as ‘demoralised laziness’.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

28 September 2014

The fear of breakthroughs

text of a letter to an academic

I remember that you once asked me why schools, even the Ursuline convent school, wanted me to do maths in preference to physics, which is what I wanted to do. I said, “I don’t know. It was crazy.”

But actually, although none of the rationalisations which were expressed or hinted at held water, it seems clear that everyone was afraid of my doing research in an area where I might easily find out something fundamentally groundbreaking.

Albert Einstein
in 1921
Theoretical physics bought you up against the inadequacy of the current set of concepts about the physical world, and that was why I wanted to do it. I felt a little like Einstein when he said:
We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which the books are written. *
When I was attending the Ursuline school, aged about eleven, my father thought it was now appropriate to ask me what I wanted to do in life. I replied without hesitation, “I am going to be a physicist and do research.” My father looked a bit shocked but also, as his initial reaction, impressed. But later I found that both he and everyone else opposed my doing physics. In fact, there was opposition to everything that I did want to do, including getting more degrees than other people, and doing so at an earlier age. So there was not only opposition to my doing research in physics, but to all my ideas for working towards that end result.

However, it is now seems likely that what underlay all the rationalisations, which were supposed to justify making me do something I did not want to do, was an absolute fear of the breakthroughs which I might make, in view of my lack of inhibitions. The same thing has also been true of my attempts to start doing research in the areas associated with perception and hallucination, in which I opened up what could have been new areas of research, operating with extremely limited resources.

In fact, everyone all along has been afraid of my doing any research at all, and actually quite rightly so. As I am uninhibited in considering possibilities, I certainly would have made at least a few breakthroughs, if I had not been prevented from doing anything at all.

It is still true that I would make progress very rapidly in either physics or the psychology of perception, if not kept rigorously starved of financial support.

* quoted in Denis Brian, Einstein: A Life, John Wiley, 1996.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

25 September 2014

Innate ability, and its enemies

The belief system associated with the egalitarian ideology has been increasing in influence for a long time, and is now overwhelmingly dominant.
Splitting pupils as young as six into classes based on ability – known as streaming – makes the brightest children brighter but does little to help the rest to catch up, according to new research into schools in England.

The analysis of the progress made by 2500 six and seven-year-olds in state primary schools in England, conducted by academics at the Institute of Education in London, found that the use of streaming appears to entrench educational disadvantage compared with the results of pupils who were taught in all-ability classes.

“Children in the top stream achieved more and made significantly more academic progress than children attending schools that did not stream, while children in the middle or bottom streams achieved less and made significantly less academic progress,” wrote the authors, Susan Hallam and Samantha Parsons.

The research ... [is] to be presented on Thursday at the British Educational Research Association annual conference ...

The authors [of the research report] conclude that the widespread use of streaming will do little or nothing to arrest the difficulties faced by children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those whose parents have low levels of education ...

“The data suggest that streaming undermines the attempts of governments to raise attainment for all children whatever their socio-economic status,” the paper concludes. “Overall, the evidence indicates that streaming, particularly where it begins at a very early age, is likely to be counterproductive in reducing the attainment gap.” (The Guardian, 25 September 2014)
Celia Green with mother,
Dorothy Green (née Cleare)
My own case might seem to provide a counterexample to the idea that there are no innate individual differences influencing ability and development. Early in my life, when the modern ideology was less dominant, my exceptionality was often commented upon. An early example of this was told to me by my mother several decades after it happened. A few weeks after I was born, some sort of health visitor or nursing aid for new mothers was helping my mother to bathe me. Presumably this person had a wide experience of babies, but she expressed surprise about me, soon after seeing me for the first time. She said something on the lines of:

“Gosh, isn’t she intelligent!”

“How do you know?” my mother said.

“It’s the way she looks at things,” the nurse said.

It did not appear to be the case, as people would like to think, that recognition of my exceptionality at an early age had no predictive value for my later development.

When I was two, I was found to be able to read. When I was ten, I came top of the Essex County grammar school scholarship exam. When I was seventeen, I was awarded the top scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford.

However, as time passed, and the modern ideology gained ground, people told me more often that I was not special, I was just an ordinary person, and that no conclusion could be drawn from early precocity.

At the same time, I was increasingly frustrated and deprived of opportunity, since what might have been regarded as indications of my exceptionality aroused hostility and obstructiveness.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

22 September 2014

Professor Otto Frisch and psychokinesis

Of course I knew when I was thrown out, to try to do research in the wilderness, that there was no sympathy with my position or predicament. I did not suppose that there was any great motivation in the world for the advancement of science per se, but the absolute negativity of the response to anything I could produce as evidence of my ability to make progress was a constant surprise, even to me, and one concludes that only the most absolute restriction and obstruction is to be expected. That is a simple law of human psychology, although not totally easy to understand.

Professor Otto Frisch FRS
(1904 -1979)
To give one example, the late Professor Otto Frisch of Cambridge University, who had been involved in the development of the atom bomb, once said to me that if there was such a thing as PK (psychokinesis), every physicist in the world should drop whatever they were doing and work on nothing else. This showed a theoretical recognition of its importance, although it would have been a stupid way of tackling the problem.

At that time, Professor Frisch asked me whether, among all the cases of possible PK that I had ever read or heard about, there was one that provided conclusive proof of the existence of PK. Of course I said that there was not, because proof of anything is, strictly speaking, impossible. However cast-iron a case might seem to be, the possibility would always remain that one’s informant was lying or misremembering. Professor Frisch seemed relieved at this, and said he was glad to hear me say that, so that he did not have to feel under pressure to organise any research into PK at all.

Now if somebody with my IQ, who has done enough relevant research of a respectable kind, has a lot of information and ideas about the possible psychology of PK, this would appear to be an opportunity for a scientific breakthrough potentially of such magnitude as to constitute a fairly irrefutable claim on funding. Especially considering the billions that are annually poured into totally futile ‘research’ guaranteed to lead to no outcome of any importance whatever.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

21 September 2014

A friend in need

Text of a recent letter to a potential associate, whom I had known as a child, and with whom I had corresponded some months ago.

Dear ...

I was disappointed that you did not come to visit me here after you had apparently said that you would. You seemed to want to reminisce about an earlier stage of my life, and I could hardly think of doing that without correcting the misinterpretations that have always been placed upon me (and, of course, on my father as well). And when I talk about my past, I really want to get more of my past history into writing, which means dictating and editing.

Maybe you, or any other visitor, would be willing and/or able to help with the secretarial work that will go with doing this, when I am able to do it, but in any case it would be a break for me to have a visitor. Until people have made some contact with me here, there is certainly no possibility of their passing on any information about me, my need for new people, and my need for money, to other people, and this information is what I need to get spread around.

Anyway, could you not come and visit as a favour to me. Any new people might make a tremendous difference to me, and even a very temporary visitor who might pass something on would give me a boost.

Follow-up letter by me, in response to his reply.

Dear ...

It is interesting that you make it explicit that you will not visit me if I make the condition that I talk to you about my situation.

It has often seemed to me that this must be the reason for visitors rushing away soon after turning up, but you are the first person to make it explicit that you do not want to hear anything about my situation.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

14 September 2014

Serviam (‘I will serve’)

Further to the previous post, the following is another extract from The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

This episode occurs soon after The Rat starts to live with Stefan Loristan (the exiled king), his son Marco and his servant Lazarus. The Rat goes to Lazarus’s room to talk to him, and to ask what he can do to serve Loristan.
“I want to find out everything he [Loristan] likes and everything he doesn’t like,” The Rat said. “I want—isn’t there anything—anything you’d let me do for him? It wouldn’t matter what it was. And he needn’t know you are not doing it. I know you wouldn’t be willing to give up anything particular. But you wait on him night and day. Couldn’t you give up something to me?”
Lazarus pierced him with keen eyes. He did not answer for several seconds.
“Now and then,” he said gruffly at last, “I'll let you brush his boots. But not every day—perhaps once a week.”
“When will you let me have my first turn?” The Rat asked.
Lazarus reflected. His shaggy eyebrows drew themselves down over his eyes as if this were a question of state.
“Next Saturday,” he conceded. “Not before. I’ll tell him when you brush them.”
“You needn’t,” said The Rat. “It’s not that I want him to know. I want to know myself that I’m doing something for him. I’ll find out things that I can do without interfering with you. I’ll think them out.”
“Anything any one else did for him would be interfering with me,” said Lazarus.
The attitude of wanting to serve an admired person by doing useful things for them is very much at variance with the attitude of employees nowadays. The richest and most famous are left to eat cold food alone on Christmas Day, or after a late-night performance, so that their assistants, however highly paid, can give priority to their own interests.

Frances Hodgson Burnett
Frances Hodgson Burnett had spent decades of her life in social environments where attitudes like that of The Rat and Lazarus were much easier to observe and imagine. The attitudes ascribed to Loristan’s associates seem to go beyond what might arise from wishing to curry favour with someone who could confer advantages upon you.

The average modern employee seems to reject considerations, such as currying favour with his employer, or doing something for idealistic reasons, as being beneath him or her.

* Serviam is the motto of the Ursuline convent schools, one of which I attended for four years after coming top of the Essex Grammar School Scholarship exam.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.