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Reverend Ivan Stang: Co-Founder & Author, Church of the SubGenius

 Reverend Ivan Stang

ABSTRACT

Interview with co-founder of and author for the Church of the SubGenius, Reverend Ivan Stang, discussing the following subject-matter: geographic, cultural, and linguistic heritage for family background, and their concomitant influence on his development; youth and coming to this point including grades, young sexual frustration, and general anger toward the world at a young age; design, development, and foundation of the Church of the SubGenius, and key components to the foundation of a religion; pivotal transition to the design, development, and foundation of the Church of the SubGenius; three key things to know about J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs; definitions of ‘Bob’, ‘The Conspiracy’, and ‘Slack’; the way in which The Church of the SubGenius differs from mainstream religions; the way in which the Church of the SubGenius differs from fringe religions; controversial nature related to the Church of the SubGenius; infinite funding for an organization; unpopular reactions to the church; Church of the SubGenius and other groups going in the near, and far, future, and work on a screenplay or radio play; recommendation of The Onion; and fear, worry, or concern for the Church of the SubGenius in the future.

Keywords: Association for Consciousness Exploration, Chas Smith, Christian, Church of the SubGenius, Dallas, Dr. Hal Robins, Dr. Philo Drummond, Federico Fellini, Fleischer, Fort Worth, Frank Zappa, G. Gordon Gordon, Harvard, H.P. Lovecraft, Hunter Thompson, Jay Kinney, Jimi Hendrix, John Birch Society, MAD Magazine, McGraw-Hill, Monty Python, Orson Welles, Paul Mavrides, R. Crumb, Ray Harryhausen, Reverend Ivan Stang, Rip Off Press, Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Shea, Robert Williams, Seculars, Simon & Schuster, South Carolina, Steve Wilcox, The Firesign Theatre, The Merry Pranksters, The Onion, The Three Stooges, Tim McGinnis, Tom Wolfe, Warner Brothers, WASP, Zap Comics.

1. In terms of geography, culture, and language, where does your family background reside? How do you find this influence your development?

Long story short: we were seculars surrounded by the religious. I am technically a standard WASP, but “mixed race” — half Yankee, half Southerner. My father is from a small town in South Carolina but is a Harvard-educated lawyer and retired Navy captain. My mom was raised in Connecticut by a Bronx Irish mother and an award winning writer/architect father (with the worst stutter I have ever heard, to this day). While my father is an expert on the Bible and even teaches somewhat subversive Bible studies at the local Methodist church, he is nonetheless what ignorant people would call an atheist. I was raised on science and science fiction. “Pappy” tried to get me interested in hunting and horseback riding, but that didn’t take. I’m more a wildlife photographer and amateur zoologist than a hunter. I hike in the woods and hunt in video games.

I grew up in Fort Worth and Dallas — most of my family now lives on a big ranch outside the Metroplex — so culturally I was surrounded by Southern Baptist kids. I had to pretend to be a Christian; I suppose one might say I got just a wee bit tired of that.

I knew I was an outsider during my first weeks of Kindergarten. At age 5 I was interested in sex (although I didn’t know what it was) and I was NOT interested in baseball. I knew every dinosaur’s name — which was easy in 1958 — but I couldn’t tell a hot rod from a Volkswagen.

I was a nerd before it was cool, in other words.

2. How was your youth? How did you come to this point?

I did fine in school until we moved to Dallas and my parents put me in a private school for males only, St. Mark’s School of Texas. We were not rich and once again I didn’t fit in. I went from straight As and foiled interest in girls to struggling for Cs and NO GIRLS AROUND AT ALL. I had to hang with the theater club because that was the only part of school that involved girls, imported from other schools. My love life was adversely affected at this critical age, which helped make me angry at the entire world, and it also led to my foolishly getting married at age 20 to the first young lady who would give me much more than the time of day. Luckily she was a very nice person and the perfect mother.

Did I mention anger? I was a very angry and lonesome young man. At that time my parents were fighting continuously and drugs/alcohol were a problem across the board; of course, for this was the early 1970s, post-hippie, pre-punk, but all drugs.

I had lots of interesting friends at that private school, though, and was voted Weirdest in the Class of 1971. I campaigned hard for that post; I earned it. I had been doing weird art projects, mostly monster/sf oriented but later more consciously surreal, since the age of 10, when I bought my first 8mm movie camera with money earned by cleaning dog kennels.

By age 15 I had won grand prize in the Kodak Teenage Movie Awards for a stop-motion short I’d done in “claymation.” This led to international film festival awards and a big head. By college I thought I was the next Orson Welles, and produced an ambitious 45-minute 16mm underground film called LET’S VISIT THE WORLD OF THE FUTURE. This was heavily influenced by a lucky early exposure to “underground comix” — the work of R. Crumb, Robert Williams, etc. in things like Zap Comics — and by The Firesign Theater, a pre-Monty Python American comedy group that remains way ahead of its time. The weird art that I was discovering helped keep me from suicide — because I felt that maybe this was something I could do right. Weird movies, weird art. But mostly movies, then.

Instead of finishing college I got married and took a documentary film job on the Rosebud Lakota Indian Reservation in South Dakota. For two years I had an often adventurous and educational time in this bizarre “prairie ghetto.” It was there that I learned that when everybody else is seeing a UFO, I CAN’T!

When we returned to Dallas, my sister in law introduced me to an interesting fellow, Steve Wilcox, aka Dr. Philo Drummond. He was the first person I had ever met who was into comic books and Captain Beefheart and everything else weird and kooky. This describes half the people I know now, but then, it was a first! We compared our collections of fringe publications, UFO paperbacks, kook pamphlets, etc., and at one point thought, “Hey, we could make a fake brochure just like this little John Birch Society pamphlet, and leave it in Laundromats to freak people out!” That notion became SubGenius Pamphlet #1, which we printed on Jan. 2, 1980.

3. Before moving into the core discussion on the design, development, and foundation of the Church of the SubGenius, you have discussed the core elements of any religion, what three things does any religion need to have to flourish?

A religion really needs only one thing: to make believers feel like they’re better than everyone else. A perceived oppressor and a perceived savior are helpful, but the main thing is telling people what they most want to hear.

I have observed seemingly educated people falling for the most blatantly ludicrous notions simply because it was what they most wanted to believe. As my Pappy said recently, “I believe what I need to believe.” To me that sadly sums up the human condition. I have seen some extreme and depressing examples of this, resulting in my having to personally deprogram the gullible from my own fake cult! In some notable cases, I failed.

4. What do you consider a pivotal moment in the transition to the design, development, and foundation of the Church of the SubGenius?

The primary thing was my friendship with Philo Drummond. All of the basics of the Church came from our verbal “jam sessions” in 1978 and 1979. There was a third main contributor very early on, “Dr. X,” the late Monte Dhooge, but he died young. Another pivotal event was probably when the late Tim McGinnis, a young book editor in New York, found SubG Pamphlet #1 in the back seat of my sister in law’s car on a picnic in 1982, flipped out, and offered us a book deal — which in turn allowed us to score a literary agent, the late Jane Browne of Chicago.

Prior to Tim’s offer, we had sent Pamphlet #1 as a possible book project outline to every publisher I could find in Writer’s Digest. We got 150 rejection slips, including ones from McGraw-Hill, Rip Off Press, and Simon & Schuster, all of whom later made decent money off our books and comics.

In the trashcans of Rip Off Press and Last Gasp Comics, two artists, Paul Mavrides and Jay Kinney respectively, found that Pamphlet, and they were the ones who helped us put it in the hands of other artists and also reviewers — that was our big leg up in the early 1980s.

Yet another pivotal moment was in 1990, when I was invited to speak at a pagan festival called Starwood, run by some folks in Cleveland, the Association for Consciousness Exploration or A.C.E. That in turn introduced me to a lot of people in Ohio who ended up being huge contributors, not least of all “Princess Wei R. Doe,” my wife. Cleveland, perhaps ironically considering its rep as a rust-belt dump, turned out to be much friendlier ground for me than Dallas had been. I changed into a happy man after that move. I got Slack.

5. As you have stated many times in public forums, and maybe private ones too, for those unaware of J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs, i.e. ‘the unsaved’, what three things do they need to know?

If they don’t instantly see what’s funny about it, they should probably avoid it. 2. If they can’t read between the lines, they should probably stop reading. 3. If they often confuse MAD Magazine, or Saturday Night Live, with the news, they should RUN FOR DEAR LIFE.

Beyond that, the key points are “Bob,” Slack, and The Conspiracy.

6. Regarding ‘Bob’, ‘The Conspiracy’, and ‘Slack’, how do you define each term? Why did these become a foundation within the creation of the Church of the SubGenius?

Slack = the goal, what we all want (although it’s different or each person). The Conspiracy (of the Normals) = what hinders Slack. “Bob” = the magic formula which facilitates Slack. But a major aspect of “Bob” Dobbs is the graphic portrait of “Bob.” That single image, inexplicable as it is, somehow ties all of it together. The moment that Philo showed me his book of clip art and we both simultaneously saw that damn halftone face was when we both knew we had something. We still do not know what.

7. How does the Church of the SubGenius differ from most mainstream religions, e.g. Christianity (Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and Anglicanism), Islam (Shia, Sunni, Sufi, and Kharijite), Hinduism, Chinese Traditional Religions, Buddhism, various Ethnic Religions, African Traditional religions, Sikhism, and so on? 

I suppose the biggest difference is that we admit we are bullshitting you. In that respect it is a remarkably honest religion. Also, we don’t define Slack; it’s different for each person, so there are no absolute values — except maybe for the tricky part about not robbing others of their Slack. Most religions become ever more specific about “right” and “wrong” and are essentially formulas. We do not provide any stable formula; in fact we illustrate that trying to fit human behavior into codified formulas is folly.

Also, we pay taxes.

One of my favorite lines is, “We’re like any other religion. It’s not that we love “Bob” all that much, it’s that we love the idea of everybody else going to Hell.”

I hope it goes without saying that most SubGeniuses don’t even believe in “Bob,” much less Hell.

8. Furthermore, how does it differ from other fringe religions, e.g. Christianity (Restorianism, Chinese Originated Churches, Church of the East, and Unitarian Universalism), Juche, Spiritism, Judaism, Bahá’í, Jainism, Shinto, Cao Dai, Zoroastrianism, Tenrikyo, Neo-Paganism, Rastafarianism, Scientology, Pastafarianism, Mormonism, Arceusology, Discordianism, Paganism, Crowleyites, and so on?

We’re much, much funnier than any of them, even Scientology.

9. What do you consider the most controversial part of your church compared to the mainline religions? In addition, what do you consider the most controversial compared to the other fringe religions? How do you examine the issue?

Some people become sincerely upset that we portray the God of the Bible as a monster from outer space. No punishments are threatened for sins like gluttony, adultery, addiction, etc. I guess the main point of contention is that we are making cruel fun of literally everybody’s most cherished beliefs, often simply because they are cherished. We are the Balloon Poppers, the Antidote to All Placebos.

10. If you had infinite funding, what organization would you found? What question would you research for an answer?

The world doesn’t need another organization, but if I had infinite funding I have a very expensive movie screenplay I’d love to see produced (with my son, an actual Hollywood director, directing), and a video game idea that would cost more to produce than Grand Theft Auto 5. If it was TRULY INFINITE funding, I suppose establishing a Fun Police would be good. We’d force everyone to have his or her idea of fun. That would not be cheap, due to all the special cases. Also we would start the Mind Your Own Business Police.

11. Did you ever have unpopular reactions to your church? Can you provide an example? 

We get more butthurt grief and criticism from stodgy New Agers of various stripes than from, say, Christians. It’s not on the average person’s radar, but attracts attention from people who are already fanatics about something. It’s Kook Flypaper. We get hate mail from pseudo-intellectuals for not being serious enough, and for being grossly ambiguous (one of our specialties that I’m most proud of). I used to get death threats from white supremacist groups because of my unkind reviews of their literature, to the extent that I’ve had to call the FBI a couple of times. On the other hand, we got investigated as a hate group by the Secret Service and the FBI, but they must have found us relatively boring.

The worst thing that ever happened to us on a personal level was a child custody case in which a simpleton New York state family court judge denied custody to a very worthy mother because of her involvement with the Church of the SubGenius. (Google “Bevilacqua SubGenius Child Custody Case.”) She regained custody when the father proved himself to be a complete and utter scoundrel, but for 3 years a sane, hard-working, educated mother was denied access to her child mainly because she had taken part in our “cult,” and Judge Punch didn’t have what most people would call common sense.

12. Who most influenced you? Can you recommend any seminal books/articles by them?

I read a lot and seek out unusual movies, so my list would be practically endless. As far as really deep influences, I’d have to say, in this order: my parents (both had sick senses of humor), the Warner Brothers cartoons, The Three Stooges, Popeye cartoons (the Fleischer ones), monster movies in general but especially those by Ray Harryhausen, underground comics in general, The Firesign Theater, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, H.P. Lovecraft, the writer Colin Wilson, Robert Anton Wilson/ Robert Shea for their novel ILLUMINATUS, Federico Fellini, Hunter Thompson and Tom Wolfe, The Merry Pranksters, and many friends including Philo Drummond, G. Gordon Gordon, Puzzling Evidence, Paul Mavrides, a bunch of guys in Little Rock once called Doktorz 4 “Bob,” the late Chas Smith, Lonesome Cowboy Dave, Dr. Hal Robins, “Nenslo,” Rev. Susie the Floozie, Dr. K’taden Legume — that list could go on and on too.

13. Where do you see the Church of the SubGenius and other groups going in the near, and far, future?  Do you have a precise itinerary?

The world ends at 7 a.m. on July 5, 1998, and that’s honestly all we know regarding the future. I’m slowly fiddling with a screenplay and/or radio play.

14. Besides your own organization, what others can you recommend?

The Onion.

15. What major fear, worry, or concern do you have about the Church of the SubGenius in the future?

My biggest worry is that after Philo and I are dead, some asshole will be able to convince gullible chumps that it was all REAL — that is, supernatural. I have gone to great lengths to insure that hard physical proof exists in many places of exactly how this whole nutty mess developed. It was the work of many wiseacres, just having fun.

Bibliography

  1. [Ivan Stang] (2011, April 26). The Making of MTV-SubGenius. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cBHaSmH58s&list=UU5cnVpuDQcMCSNHx8_FtQMQ.
  2. [Scott Beale] (2007, December 9). Ivan Stang Explains The Church of the SubGenius. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1Byf9KbWbo.
  3. [Ivan Stang] (2006, November 3). SubGenius Commercial. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qt9MP70ODNw&list=UU5cnVpuDQcMCSNHx8_FtQMQ&index=77.
  4. Twitter (n.d.). Ivan Stang: @IvanStang. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/IvanStang.
  5. [General Public] (2012, April 10). Ivan Stang at Baltimore SubGenius Devival 2007. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrCN51x0pwg&feature=player_embedded.
  6. [niza310] (2007, December 9). Robert Anton Wilson Discusses Discordianism, “Bob” & Freemasons With Rev. Ivan Stang. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qn1kilKVIw.
  7. [PuzzlingEvidenceTV] (2011, May 17). SubGenius at Burning Man 2000. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQfkmBBSdUA.
  8. [PuzzlingEvidenceTV] (2012, May 30). SubGenius Panel: Future of “Bob” Nov 1981. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNm-YPRjZuo.
  9. [PuzzlingEvidenceTV] (2010, September 10). The Rant of Ivan Stang Nov 9 1985. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e59J6LzTmOM.

License

In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Wendy A. Suzuki: Professor, Neural Science and Psychology; Center for Neural Science, New York University

Dr. Wendy A. Suzuki

ABSTRACT

An in-depth interview with Dr. Wendy A. Suzuki, New York University, of the Center for Neural Science, Professor in the department of neural science and psychology.  She discusses the following: educational background and major positions; seminal youth experience influencing career trajectory, freshman experience at University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Maryanne Diamond, GoogleUniversity; ‘clicking’ with a teacher; original dream in her life; major areas of past and present research; hypothetical research; various paces of exercise for memory enhancement; controversial research topics; relation to some other health research such as research on life-extension with Rhodiola Rosea, and caloric restriction; philosophical foundations; robust short-term changes in neural architecture for long-term benefits, Susanne M. Jaeggi et al from 2008, 2009, and 2012 based on a ‘dual n’ back’ task, and the Raven’s Progressive Matrices (RPM, Non-verbal intelligence test); advice for young psychologists; and the responsibility of scientists to society.

Keywords:  Controversial, David Amaral, Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, Dr. Mahtab Jafari, Dr. Maryanne Diamond, Dr. Wendy Suzuki, Eric Kandel, exercise, GoogleUniversity, Hippocampus, Larry Squire, Long-Term Memory, Los Angeles, National Institutes of Health, Neural Science, neurogenesis, neuroplasticity, Neuroscience, New York, New York University, psychology, Raven’s Progressive Matrices, Rhodiola Rosea, Scientists, Society, Stuart Zola, Susanne M. Jaeggi, University of California.

1. What is your current position? What major positions have you held in your academic career?

I am a professor of neuroscience and psychology at New York University (NYU).  This is my first and only academic position that I got, which was after my Post-Doc.

2. Can you name a seminal experience in your youth that most influenced your career direction?

The most seminal experience was a class, which I took as a freshman at University of California, Berkeley.  It was a freshman seminar.  A small number of freshman with an expert in her field.  She was a neuroanatomist.  Dr. Maryanne Diamond, her speciality was on neuroplasticity and the experience of an enriched environment on brain plasticity.  That made me want to become a neuroscientist, and I became a neuroscientist.  At present, she is emeritus there.  Her presentations on GoogleUniversity are number 1 or 2.  She teaches biology.  She has an amazing gift to make, even boring subjects such as gross human anatomy, which is a lot of memorization of different structures and she made it fascinating.

3. That’s a common experience. Once a student ‘clicks’ with a professor, especially in terms of teaching style, they tend to keep going to them.

Yes, exactly!

4. Where did you acquire your education?

I got a BA at University California, Los Angeles, Ph.D. at University California, San Diego, a Post-Doc at National Institutes of Health, and my current faculty position at NYU.

5. What was your original dream?

I wanted to do something in science.  I did not know exactly what, but I wanted to get tenure as a neuroscientist to design my own experiments and run my own research lab. That was my original dream.

6. What have been your major areas of research?

My major areas of research are parts of the brain that are important for long-term memory formation such as the hippocampus and related structures.  I began this research at the start of my career in graduate school.  However, I have branched off recently to study humans because all of the work in long-term memory systems have been with animal model systems.  More recently, I have begun a new area of my research lab dealing with the effects of aerobic exercise in and examining, in particular, humans.

7. Does this mean short, fast or long, slow exercise?

We look at both.  We look at the effects of acute exercise by going to the gym for an hour.  What can that do to your cognition?  How long does that last?  Mainly, I am interested in the long-term effects of the changes in fitness to your long-term cognitive abilities.  How does long-term exercise change your cognitive abilities?  I want to see the way this can be incorporated into a university of school program.

I have two newest areas of research: one of exercise (last four or five years) and how time is represented in your memory.

This happens before the consolidation process.  I focus on the following: during encoding of an episode, how is time represented in these areas that are important for memory?  Consolidation is after you encode it, including all of the temporal stuff, how do you retain it?

8. If you had unlimited funding and unrestricted freedom, what research would you conduct?

I am fascinated by exercise.  I would find a way to combine my experimental work in long-term memory systems with my human work in the effects of exercise on long-term memory.  I would want to leverage my understanding of long-term memory systems to make it better.  Exercise enhances neurogenesis in the hippocampus, a structure critical to long-term memory formation.  I want to understand: how does that happen? How much exercise you need to happen best?  What kind of tasks are more effective at it?  And what does that mean in your everyday life? If I had unlimited funding, I would throw all of my funding at that.  Plus, I would get it implemented into schools or in patient populations where it could be helpful, which is what I am doing now.  But I do not have the funding!  That is the goal.

9. Much research exists on caloric restriction providing benefits to many signs of aging related to preliminary non-human animal models of life-extension research. In particular, Dr. Mahtab Jafari, she worked with Rhodiola Rosea in terms of extending the general lifespan of Drosophila.   However, this comes from many fronts, which includes mental health by slowing cognitive aging in other ways such as exercise.

Absolutely, that is one of the goals.  What kind of exercise is the most effective?  In that, is it running, kickboxing, weight training, and so on?  What in that form of exercise?  And how much of it?  In turn, what is improved?  Is it a frontal lobe attention-focusing task?  There is probably a large proportion of studies on humans showing the improvement in the ability to focus your attention.  There have been some good research on positive long-term improvement of memory.  I want to improve memory.  I want to improve my own memory.  What are the optimal practical implications of exercise on memory?  It is related to attention because you cannot attain better memory without attention.  So if you can attain better attention along with memory, I want that too.

10. What is your philosophical foundation? How did it change over time to the present?

I think, if you can call it a philosophy, I am a firm believer in the idea that brain is very flexible and plastic.  Lots of things can influence it.  Both for the good and for the bad.  My whole scientific career has been based on trying to understand that principle.  I do not know if this is necessarily a principle or a philosophy.  I think there is a lot of potential for change and to grow.  The brain has an enormous amount of potential to change and to grow.  I want to explore those possibilities and the way to harness it for the betterment of mankind.

11. Lots of recent research, which you probably know better than me, about robust short-term changes in neural architecture for long-term benefits.

Yes, it is pretty amazing.

12. Three papers, which turned some findings on their head, came from Susanne M. Jaeggi et al from 2008, 2009, and subsequently in 2012 based on a ‘dual n’ back’ task. People were given the Raven’s Progressive Matrices (RPM, Non-verbal intelligence test), trained them for up to 19 days on the ‘dual n’ back’ task at increasing difficulty, and then gave them the RPM. They found an increase in fluid intelligence in a short amount of time, which lasted for at least a couple months after the training.

That’s fascinating.  I am interested in plasticity.

13. What do you consider the controversial topics in your field? How do you examine the controversial topics?

(Laughs) What are the non-controversial topics?  There are many, many controversial topics in memory including the things talked about: consolidation.  There are many difference theories about consolidation.  What is it?  How does it work?  There is a huge controversy in the boundary between memory and perception, and how you define it.  What is the appropriate way to define a perceptual function versus a memory function?  You would think this would be very straightforward, but when you get into difficult perceptual tasks.  There are so many elements that you have to compare.  You need a good working memory.  We are arguing over: is it pure perception?  Is it memory?  Or is it both?  There is big debate over that.  Those are the ones that I deal with the most.  How do you deal with them?  You need to do a lot of reading and try to keep an open mind, and try not to get into one camp.  I never had the urge to write an opinion piece before about five years ago, when I got tired of this perception versus memory debate.  I went to a journal editor and said, “Why don’t I write a memory piece?”  She said, “Why don’t we do a point-counterpoint?”  I said, “No, I do not want to do that, just let me write the piece.” (Laughs) No, I didn’t actually say that.  I said, “I’d love to do point-counterpoint.” (Laughs) I ended up doing it with someone I got along with, and it was a really informative and educational process to try and address a controversy fairly from one side knowing someone else is doing another side.  Then, we did a wrap-it-up piece together.  Obviously, we had to get along and have enough respect for each other’s views to be able to get through that project.  Now, we are working together on some projects, not this, but other ones.  The funny thing is, the editor was interested in doing a point-counterpoint because she had tried to do a great point-counterpoint, but people found it too emotionally charged.  I think that is probably the cause of the duration of these controversies: stubbornness on these scientists.  If they were more interested in engaging through point-counterpoint in the general public, within the form of scientific journals, rather than doing my first reaction such as ‘let me just write my piece’.

14. What do some in opposition to you argue? How do you respond?

It depends on the format.  In written word or a talk-situation – kind of a debate, I think one of the things that differentiates the different views is how much credit, or weight, you give different pieces of evidence.  All controversies have a whole bunch of studies that are more or less related to it.  Lots of people have different opinions on how they buy into certain findings over other findings.  I think my response is to try and explain both my theoretical and the strongest evidence – that I think – is there to back it up.  Whether experimental design or the results were significant.  For example, something well-designed enough to not make another possible interpretation for this experiment the best one.  I guess, the underlying hypothesis in my mind and the rank-order of the data, and, of course, I need to explain why data they might bring up is not that relevant.

15. What advice do you have for young psychologists?

I would say, “Make sure you are truly fascinated with psychology and that can be a driving force for many years of hard work, which you will have to do.”  To any young scientist, “be curious, be bold in jumping in conversations and debates.”  They are good experiences.  Do not be sitting there with the ‘big whigs’ figuring things out.  Become good at expressing your own views in some form, e.g. through talks or the written word.  I think the thing I see in my most successful colleagues is this innate fascination.  You need to make sure this a driver for you because it is hard to work for the funding.  The competition in science is strong.  It could become overwhelming.  It does become overwhelming for many students unless they are so fascinated with the topic.  Only they can decide that.

16. Whom do you consider your biggest influences? Could you recommend any seminal or important books/articles by them?

My major influences are my three dissertation advisors.  One of them was Larry Squire.  He and Eric Kandel have a really good book for neuroscientists and non-neuroscientists called Memory: From Minds to Molecules.  It was a Scientific American publication.  It lays out the whole range of the field of memory very nicely.  Stuart Zola, who was also one of my thesis advisors, a fantastic psychologist, scientist, and neuroscientist.  As well as David Amaral, a neuro-anatomist, who taught me great anatomical techniques and let me feel like an artist in a way.  I felt like an art critic while looking into a microscope and working with these various brain areas in monkeys during my thesis studying.  I will always be grateful for that.  People that influence you formative times of your career.  Those influences are long-lasting.  I would say those three teachers.  They were my greatest influences.

17. In an interview with Dr. Elizabeth Loftus from In-Sight Issue 2.A, I quote an acceptance speech for an award from the AAAS for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility. In it, she said, “We live in perilous times for science…and in order for scientists to preserve their freedoms they have a responsibility…to bring our science to the public arena and to speak out as forcefully as we can against even the most cherished beliefs that reflect unsubstantiated myths.” How important do you see criticizing ‘unsubstantiated myths’ in ‘perilous times’ for science?

“Criticizing ‘unsubstantiated myths’”, I would say, I agree with the statement to the point about scientists needing to speak out into the public.  Whether they battle myths or simply educate, in fact, I consider that more important to get to the general public out there.  So they know what a scientist does, even if it is the most esoteric things about something in fly brains because they get funding – if they are lucky enough to get funding.  To hone that message in a very, very clear way to let the public understand the importance of our work.  I think battling unsubstantiated myths is a subset of that, but I consider the most important part of that is the reason I am so fascinated with memory.  What happens if you lose your memory? How might my research help you?  How might devastating might that be to you?  Some people, and scientists included, do not always understand the importance of the work that we do.  More important is the public’s ability to know this and ultimately support the scientific effort with knowledge, full knowledge.

Bibliography

  1. [nyusuns] (2014, March 8). SUNS Interview with Dr. Wendy Suzuki. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzoXQsv7vF4.
  2. [UVAGTTP] (2012, October 10). Wendy Suzuki Inspiration. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_85RwFGkX0.
  3. TEDx [Tedx talks] (2011, December 1). TEDxOrlando – Wendy Suzuki – Exercise and the Brain. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdDnPYr6R0o&list=RDLdDnPYr6R0o#t=2.
  4. TEDx [Tedx talks] (2014, March 2014). Wendy Suzuki at TEdxNYU 2013. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sy22cOejMow.
  5. Buckmaster CA, Eichenbaum H, Amaral DG, Suzuki WA, Rapp PR (2004) “Entorhinal cortex lesions disrupt the relational organization of memory in monkeys,” J Neurosci 24, 9811– 9825
  6. Czanner G, Eden UT, Wirth S, Yanike M, Suzuki WA, Brown EN (2008) “Analysis of between and within-trial neural spiking dynamics,” J Neurophys 99, 2672–2693
  7. Hargreaves EL, Mattfeld AT, Stark CE, Suzuki WA (2012) “Conserved fMRI and LFP signals during new associative learning in the human and macaque monkey medial temporal lobe,” Neuron 74: 743–752
  8. Jaeggi, S. M., Buschkuehl, M., Jonides, J., & Perrig, W. J. (2008). Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105(19), 6829-6833.
  9. Jaeggi, S. M., Berman, M. G., & Jonides, J. (2009). Training attentional processes. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(5), 191-192.
  10. Lavenex P, Suzuki WA, Amaral DG (2004) “Intrinsic perirhinal and parahippocampal cortices of the macaque monkey: Intrinsic projections and interconnections,” J Comp Neurol 472, 371–394
  11. Lavenex P, Suzuki WA, Amaral DG (2002) “Perirhinal and parahippocampal cortices of the macaque monkey: Projections to the neocortex,” J Comp Neurol 447, 394–420
  12. Law JR, Flanery MA, Wirth S, Yanike M, Smith AC, Frank LM, Suzuki WA, Brown EN, Stark CEL (2005) “fMRI activity during the gradual acquisition and expression of paired associate memory,” J Neurosci 25, 5720–5729
  13. Lee YSC, Ashman T, Shang A, Suzuki WA (2014) “Brief report: Effects of exercise and self-affirmation intervention after traumatic brain injury,” Neurorehab, In press
  14. Loosli, S. V., Buschkuehl, M., Perrig, W. J., & Jaeggi, S. M. (2012). Working memory training improves reading processes in typically developing children. Child Neuropsychology, 18(1), 62-78
  15. Naya Y, Suzuki WA (2011) “Integrating what and when across the primate medial temporal lobe,” Science 333(6043): 773–776
  16. Paxton R, Basile BM, Adachi I, Suzuki WA, Wilson ME, Hampton RR (2010) “Rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) rapidly learn to select dominant individuals in videos of artificial social interactions between unfamiliar conspecifics,” J Comp Psychol 124: 395–401
  17. Prerau MJ, Smith AC, Eden UT, Yanike M, Suzuki WA, Brown EN (2008) “A mixed filter algorithm for cognitive state estimation from simultaneously recorded continuous and binary measures of performance,” Biol Cybernetics 99:1–14
  18. Prerau MJ, Smith AC, Eden UT, Kubota Y, Yanike M, Suzuki WA, Graybiel AM, Brown EN (2009) “Characterizing learning by simultaneous analysis of continuous and binary measures of performance,” J Neurophysiol 102, 3060–3072
  19. Smith AC, Frank LM, Wirth S, Yanike M, Hu D, Kubota,Y, Graybiel AM, Suzuki WA, Brown EN (2004) “Dynamic analysis of learning in behavioral experiments,” J Neurosci 24, 447–461
  20. Smith AC, Scalon JD, Wirth S, Yanike M, Suzuki WA, Brown EN (2010) “State space algorithms for estimating spike rate functions,” Computational Intelligence and Neuroscience 2010, 1–14
  21. Smith AC, Wirth S, Suzuki WA, Brown EN (2007) “Baysian analysis of interleaved learning and response bias in behavioral experiments,” J Neurophys 97, 2516–2524
  22. Suzuki, WA (2010) “Untangling memory from perception in the medial temporal lobe,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 14:195–200
  23. Suzuki, WA (2009) “Perception and the medial temporal lobe: Evaluating the current evidence,” Neuron 61, 657–666
  24. Suzuki, WA, Amaral DG (2003) “The perirhinal and parahippocampal cortices of the macaque monkey: Cytoarchitectonic and chemoarchitectonic organization,” J Comp Neurol 463, 67–91
  25. Suzuki WA, Baxter MG (2009) “Memory, perception and the medial temporal lobe: A synthesis of opinions,” Neuron. 61, 678–679
  26. Suzuki WA, Miller EK, Desimone R (1997) “Object and place memory in the macaque entorhinal cortex,” J Neurophys 78, 1062–1081
  27. Suzuki WA, Porteros A (2002) “Distribution of calbindin D-28k in the entorhinal, perirhinal and parahippocampal cortices of the macaque monkey,” J Comp Neurol 451, 392–412
  28. The Science Network (n.d.). Wendy Suzuki: New York University. Retrieved from http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/the-science-studio/wendy-suzuki.
  29. Wirth S, Avsar E, Chiu CC, Sharma V, Smith AC, Brown EN, Suzuki WA (2009) “Trial outcome and associative learning signals in the monkey hippocampus,” Neuron. 61, 930–940
  30. Wirth S, Yanike M., Frank LM, Smith AC, Brown EN, Suzuki WA (2003) “Single neurons in the monkey hippocampus and learning of new associations,” Science 300, 1578–1581
  31. Yanike M, Wirth S, Smith AC, Brown EN, Suzuki WA (2009) “Comparison of associative learning-related signals in the macaque perirhinal cortex and hippocampus,” Cerebral Cortex 19, 1064–1078
  32. Yanike M, Wirth S, Suzuki WA (2004) “Representation of well-learned information in the monkey hippocampus,,” Neuron 42, 477–487

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In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Jonathan Wai: Research Scientist, Talent Identification Program, Duke University & Case Western Reserve University (Part Three)

Dr. Jonathan Wai

(Link to Part One)

(Link to Part Two)

ABSTRACT

Part three of a three-part in-depth, broad interview with Research Scientist, Dr. Jonathan Wai, of the Talent Identification Program, Duke University, and Case Western Reserve University.  He discusses the following subject-matter: talent, productivity, Who’s Smarter? Republicans and Democrats in Congress (2013); success and underchallenged high-talent workers at the highest levels of ability; Is America “On The Wrong Side of History”? (2012), America as an unsustainable superpower, and educational declines in America as measured by PISA; interview with Enrico Moretti, globally competitive world while continuing to attract talent at home; concept of ‘intelligence’, measure of IQ tests, Richard Feynman, Discussions on Genius and Intelligence: Mega Foundation Interview with Arthur Jensen (2002), and Steve Hsu’s comments on Richard Feynman; societal worry about decline in STEM and educational competitiveness in a globalized world, international setting of so-called ‘soft power’, i.e. cultural influence, and ‘hard power’ advocates; additional pieces for reading; future projects; influences and inspiration; and final thoughts with a quote from Wagner.

Keywords: Dirac, Dr. Arthur Jensen, Enrico Moretti, Einstein, Gifted, Hard Power, James Watson, Mark Zuckerberg, Mega Foundation Press, PISA, Richard Feynman, Society, Soft Power, STEM, Steve Case, Steve Hsu, Talented, Vivek Wahwa, Wagner.

21. If we take the highest level of talent in a discipline, something like the top 5% of the ability spectrum tend to have the highest productivity and impact in their discipline.  We could provide a concrete estimate for the amount of talent falling through the cracks of society. Did anyone provide a calculable estimate?  For example, we could estimate the productivity and talent through measuring the current level of productivity and impact in a field through papers published and total citations – even per paper – for the top 5% of the ability spectrum through your estimates based on competitive undergraduate and graduate programs (Who’s Smarter? Republicans and Democrats in Congress, 2013), using the statistical estimates of the occurrence for the top 5% out of the general population, subtract the two of them, and have a relative estimate of lost/under-utilized talent out of the general population.  None of this seems out of the realm of possibility to me regarding the potential of creating a standardized measure for reference when measuring the improvement of utilization of the gifted and talented at the top 5% (or any other percent for that matter).  What do you think?  What other means could provide an accurate picture of the societal plight of underutilized talent?

This is an interesting idea.  Probably some of the strongest international evidence that the U.S. is not developing its talented students is from international comparison tests such as the PISA.

22. What do you make of the great divide between the maximum level of ability required for the most cognitively complex fields such as pure mathematics, medicine, and science, and the under-challenged gifted population with ability in excess of the mean level of ability requisite for those disciplines? In other words, for example, their field requires 1.5 or 2 SD, but they feel unchallenged because of having ability at 3 SD.

When someone has an ability level well beyond their peers they are likely to be quite successful.  Yet they also may not be as challenged as they could have been had they chosen a discipline with people as smart as, or much smarter than them.

23. You note the immigration of more talent in Is America “On The Wrong Side of History”? (2012), where China sees the US as an unsustainable superpower. However, this seems unreasonable.  International settings and competition, and global integration of political, economic, technological, cultural, and informational systems in the 21st century will disallow the viability of long-term immigration of the most talented, gifted, and appropriately skilled and motivated.  It seems to me nations will continue to compete for the talent worldwide at an increasing rate.  Of course, the US will stay attractive to the talented.  Even so, this will not last, especially in light of the educational declines occurring for some time now in the US as measured by such rankings as the PISA.  What do you think?  Why?  How might the US and Canada remedy such decline?

The solution is logical, but is not so simple to implement due to political barriers: encourage talented people to live and work in the U.S. or Canada or whatever your home country is.  There is always going to be a limited supply of talented people and because they can come from anywhere the competition will be worldwide.

24. Furthermore, the interview with Enrico Moretti tells of the desire for allowing more foreign-born talent to enter into the US by such business luminaries as Vivek Wahwa, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Case, and others, which does assist the competitive streak of the nation. However, this seems more temporary, a short-term fix, with tremendous implications for the long-term if the investment in fields having higher economic return-of-investment (ROI), e.g. STEM disciplines, for the individuals and societies involved do not having adequate funding.  At some point, you cannot immigrate talent in a globally competitive world if the world integrates to a sufficient level of transport, exchange of information, trade, and so forth.  In an integrated global economy, it seems implausible for an indefinite period of time, and therefore I ask, what would you do for the long-term at the individual level?  How can the US appear more attractive to talented Americans to stay in their country of birth?

The solution, as I have outlined in my writings, is to both develop homegrown talent as well as encourage foreign talent to come and stay. Probably the driving principle that has attracted talent from the around the world is the freedom to innovate.

25. Do you ever question the operational definition of the concept ‘intelligence’ and subsequent measurement through IQ tests? For instance, Richard Feynman claimed to have an IQ of 125.  However, some replies do arise from an interview with Dr. Arthur Jensen from the ebook published by Mega Foundation Press entitled Discussions on Genius and Intelligence: Mega Foundation Interview with Arthur Jensen (2002).   In particular, the late Dr. Jensen stated in the book-length interview:

I don’t take anecdotal reports of the IQs of famous persons at all seriously. They are often fictitious and are used to make a point – typically a put-down of IQ test and the whole idea that individual differences in intelligence can be ranked or measured. James Watson once claimed an IQ of 115; the daughter of another very famous Nobelist claimed that her father would absolutely “flunk” any IQ test. It’s all ridiculous. Furthermore, the outstanding feature of any famous and accomplished person, especially a reputed genius, such as Feynman, is never their level of g (or their IQ), but some special talent and some other traits (e.g., zeal, persistence).  Outstanding achievement(s) depend on these other qualities besides high intelligence. (Langan et al, 2002)

As you have noted repeatedly in your writing with wit, “…The plural of anecdote is not data.” What do you think of this topic?  How might others with differing ideas than you argue?

Leaving aside the label “intelligence,” I think when it comes to psychometric measurement just about every mental standardized test will measure the g factor or general mental ability to a large degree.  On Feynman’s IQ, I will quote the physicist Steve Hsu, whose views I share on this topic (see my interview with him on Psychology Today):

Is it true Feynman’s IQ score was only 125?

“Feynman was universally regarded as one of the fastest thinking and most creative theorists in his generation. Yet it has been reported-including by Feynman himself-that he only obtained a score of 125 on a school IQ test. I suspect that this test emphasized verbal, as opposed to mathematical, ability. Feynman received the highest score in the country by a large margin on the notoriously difficult Putnam mathematics competition exam, although he joined the MIT team on short notice and did not prepare for the test. He also reportedly had the highest scores on record on the math/physics graduate admission exams at Princeton. It seems quite possible to me that Feynman’s cognitive abilities might have been a bit lopsided-his vocabulary and verbal ability were well above average, but perhaps not as great as his mathematical abilities. I recall looking at excerpts from a notebook Feynman kept while an undergraduate. While the notes covered very advanced topics for an undergraduate-including general relativity and the Dirac equation-it also contained a number of misspellings and grammatical errors. I doubt Feynman cared very much about such things.”

26. Oftentimes, the societal worry about the great decline in STEM and educational competitiveness in a globalized world seems too high. However, the pragmatic implementation of practice appears limited to me.  Regardless, much of this misses some of the major areas of great influence from a nation, which tends to have the greatest level of dissemination within an international setting of so-called ‘soft power’, i.e. cultural influence.  Of course, the worry about STEM arises out of global competitiveness.  In other words, this seems to me to give primacy to GDP over citizenry having adequate education, but with additional benefits to citizen education.  Soft power provides a foundation for similar influence in the world other than technology.  Although, using the technological platforms invented or improved upon by the STEM graduates.  In that, STEM graduates can assist the economic and political aims of ‘hard power’ advocates, but the platforms of technology emerging from the technological innovations of them allow the soft power influence to proliferate.  Where do you see more importance – STEM or arts disciplines/hard or soft power?  Or both? 

It would be reasonable to think it would be both.

27. Of those pieces which I appreciate most for further reflection: Lee Smolin Encourages Graduate Student to Stay in Science, Will We Ever Find the Next Einstein?How Do You Make An Intellectual Dream Team?, If You Are Creative, Are You Also Intelligent?, Is Spatial Intelligence Essential for Innovation and Can We Increase It Through Training?, Could We Create Another Einstein?, Is America “on the Wrong Side of History”?, How Do We Get Kids to Want to Be Einstein?, Intelligence: New Finds And Theoretical Insights (a very good interview with Dr. Diane F. Halpern), The Educational World Is Flat, Studying Too Much? This Government Will Stop You, Steve Jobs Leveraged His Intelligence To More Effectively Create, How Brainy Is Your Major, Are Elite Athletes Marrying Elite Athletes? (a great read for discussion on individual differences), How to Think Like a Scientist (good tips for general curiosity and critical thinking too), The Art of Communicating Science, Do Journalists And Academics Live In The “Real World”?, Teaching Without Words, Finding The Next Carl SaganDo Smart People Rule The World?, and How Science Writing Can Save Lives.  Do you have any recommended reading?

Thank you!  I recommend that everyone should read what they are most interested in.

28. What projects do you have in the coming years?

I am currently involved in many different research and writing projects which surround the role of talent and its impact on society.

29. Who most influenced you? Who inspires you?

The list of people who have influenced me are written on the numerous books and articles I have read so far in my lifetime.

30. To close with a quote of Wagner from your article Could We Create Another Einstein?, “Parents, teachers, mentors, and employers—we all have urgent work to do.” Do you have any final thoughts?

I don’t.  Thank you for these very thoughtful questions.

Bibliography

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  15. Wai, J. (2014, August 17). 6 Lessons for Life and Love.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201408/6-lessons-love-and-life.
  16. Wai, J. (2014, May 26). 7 Time-Tested Steps to Achieving Excellence.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201405/7-time-tested-steps-achieving-excellence.
  17. Wai, J. (2014, March 1). 8 Simple Strategies to Improve Your Innovation.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201403/8-simple-strategies-improve-your-innovation.
  18. Wai, J. (2011, December 26). A Polymath Physicist On Richard Feynman’s “Low” IQ And Finding Another Einstein.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201112/polymath-physicist-richard-feynmans-low-iq-and-finding-another.
  19. Wai, J. (2011, March 15). America’s Got Talent.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201103/americas-got-talent.
  20. Wai, J. (2013, August 13). Anatomy Of A Dissertation Defense.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201308/anatomy-dissertation-defense.
  21. Wai, J. (2013, September 3). Are Elite Athletes Marrying Elite Athletes?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201309/are-elite-athletes-marrying-elite-athletes.
  22. Wai, J. (2013, May 10). Are Female-Male Math Ratios Increasing?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201305/are-male-female-math-ratios-increasing.
  23. Wai, J. (2014, January 20). Are Wealthier Congress Members Also Smarter?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201401/are-wealthier-congress-members-also-smarter.
  24. Wai, J. (2012 November 26). Are You An Exception To The Rule?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201211/are-you-exception-the-rule.
  25. Wai, J. (2014, June 9). Are You An Invisible in a World of Visibles?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201406/are-you-invisible-in-world-visibles.
  26. Wai, J. (2011, May 23). Are You Culturally Literate?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201105/are-you-culturally-literate.
  27. Wai, J. (2013, October 22). Attractiveness and IQ of College Disciplines.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201310/attractiveness-and-the-iq-levels-college-disciplines.
  28. Wai, J. (2013, September 23). Being Around Smart People Makes Us Innovative.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201309/being-around-smart-people-makes-us-more-innovative.
  29. Wai, J. (2012, June 10). Can Psychology Be Considered A Science?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201206/can-psychology-be-considered-science.
  30. Wai, J. (2011, June 6). Can The Magic Of Great Literature Take You Around The World?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201106/can-the-magic-great-literature-take-you-around-the-world.
  31. Wai, J. (2012, July 8). Chess Concepts Peter Thiel Used To Become A Billionaire.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201207/chess-concepts-peter-thiel-used-become-billionaire.
  32. Wai, J. (2013, December 11). Collective Intelligence: Help the World Create an IQ Test.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201312/collective-intelligence-help-the-world-create-iq-test.
  33. Wai, J. (2012, February 25). Could Brain Imaging Replace the SAT?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201202/could-brain-imaging-replace-the-sat.
  34. Wai, J. (2012, April 29). Could We Create Another Einstein?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201204/could-we-create-another-einstein.
  35. Wai, J. (2011, April 16). Do Gifted Adolescents Drink As Much As Their Peers?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201104/do-gifted-adolescents-drink-often-their-peers.
  36. Wai, J. (2013, February 4). Do Gifted Students Want to Be A Scientific Genius Today?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201302/do-gifted-kids-want-be-scientific-genius-today.
  37. Wai, J. (2013, February 25). Do Journalists And Academics Live In The “Real World”?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201302/do-journalists-and-academics-live-in-the-real-world.
  38. Wai, J. (2011, August 16). Do Smart People Rule The World?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201108/do-smart-people-rule-the-world.
  39. Wai, J. (2014, July 7). Do Standardized Tests Matter?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201407/do-standardized-tests-matter.
  40. Wai, J. (2014, April 27). Do We Have Trouble Taking Objective Feedback?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201404/do-we-have-trouble-taking-objective-feedback.
  41. Wai, J. (2013, November 24). Does Technology Make You Smarter Than You Think?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201311/does-technology-make-you-smarter-you-think.
  42. Wai, J. (2013, April 8). O. Wilson, Scientists Definitely Need High Math Ability.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201304/e-o-wilson-scientists-definitely-need-high-math-ability.
  43. Wai, J. (2014, January 4). Even as a child, Jeff Bezos was a data-obsessed, workaholic genius.Quartz.  Retrieved from http://qz.com/163262/even-as-a-child-jeff-bezos-was-a-data-obsessed-workaholic-genius/.
  44. Wai, J. (2014, March 23). Even Nerds Need to be Appropriately Challenged.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201403/even-nerds-need-be-appropriately-challenged.
  45. Wai, J. (in press).Experts are born, then made: Combining prospective and retrospective longitudinal data shows that cognitive ability matters. [For special issue, Acquiring expertise: Ability, practice, and other influences].
  46. Wai, J. (2012, August 13). Finding The Next Carl Sagan.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201208/finding-the-next-carl-sagan.
  47. Wai, J. (2013, March 17). Finding The Next Sheryl Sandberg.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201303/finding-the-next-sheryl-sandberg.
  48. Wai, J. (2012, December 9). Five Lessons From Salman Khan For Education.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201212/five-lessons-salman-khan-the-future-education.
  49. Wai, J. (2012, January 31). Game The College Rankings?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201201/gaming-the-college-rankings.
  50. Wai, J. (2013, April 1). Games Psychologists Play.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201304/games-psychologists-play.
  51. Wai, J. (2011, August 1). How Brainy Is Your Major?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201108/how-brainy-is-your-major.
  52. Wai, J. (2013, March 29). How Do You Make An Intellectual Dream Team?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201103/how-do-you-make-intellectual-dream-team.
  53. Wai, J. (2011, June 18). How Do You Measure An Intellectual Giant?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201106/how-do-you-measure-intellectual-giant.
  54. Wai, J. (2012, February 12). How Do We Get Kids To Want To Be Einstein?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201202/how-do-we-get-kids-want-be-einstein.
  55. Wai, J. (2012, December 31). How Khan Academy Will Help Find The Next Einstein.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201212/how-khan-academy-will-help-find-the-next-einstein.
  56. Wai, J. (2014, March 17). How Much Do Parents Influence Their Children’s Success?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201403/how-much-do-parents-determine-their-children-s-success.
  57. Wai, J. (2012, June 25). How Science Writing Can Save Lives.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201206/how-science-writing-can-save-lives.
  58. Wai, J. (2011, September 11). How To Control Your Creativity.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201109/how-control-your-creativity.
  59. Wai, J. (2012, January 22). How To Spot A Verbal Virtuoso.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201201/how-spot-verbal-virtuoso.
  60. Wai, J. (2013, July 22). How To Think Like A Scientist.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201307/how-think-scientist.
  61. Wai, J. (2011, April 12). If You Are Creative, Are You Also Intelligent?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201104/if-you-are-creative-are-you-also-intelligent.
  62. Wai, J. (2012, February 13). In The Ages of Big Data: That’s Why Math Counts!.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201202/its-the-age-big-data-thats-why-math-counts.
  63. Wai, J. (2012, January 11). Intelligence: New Finds And Theoretical Insights.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201201/intelligence-new-findings-and-theoretical-developments.
  64. Wai, J. (2013).Investigating America’s elite: Cognitive ability, education, and sex differences. Intelligence, 41, 203-211.
  65. Wai, J. (2012, April 2). Is America “On The Wrong Side Of History”?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201204/is-america-the-wrong-side-history.
  66. Wai, J. (2011, July 4). Is Community The Third Dimension Of Life?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201107/is-community-the-third-dimension-life.
  67. Wai, J. (2011, May 10). Is Spatial Intelligence Essential for Innovation and Can We Increase It Through Training?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201105/is-spatial-intelligence-essential-innovation-and-can-we-increa.
  68. Wai, J. (2011, August 28). Is This How To Fix Our Math Education?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201108/is-how-fix-our-math-education.
  69. Wai, J. (2013, February 26). Jack Andraka Is Not An Ordinary Kid.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201302/jack-andraka-is-not-ordinary-kid.
  70. Wai, J. (2012, April 16). Jonah Lehrer: The Literary Magician.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201204/jonah-lehrer-the-literary-magician.
  71. Wai, J. (2013, September 11). Lee Smolin Encourages Graduate Student To Stay in Science.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201309/lee-smolin-encourages-graduate-student-stay-in-science.
  72. Wai, J. (2014, April 28). More Gifted Students: Harder to Get Into the Ivies?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201404/more-gifted-students-harder-get-the-ivies.
  73. Wai, J. (2012, December 16). Nikhil Goyal: Future US Secretary of Education?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201212/nikhil-goyal-future-us-secretary-education.
  74. Wai, J. (2013, November 24). Nine Ways to Become Smarter Than You Think.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201311/nine-ways-become-smarter-you-think.
  75. Wai, J. (2014, March 27). One Size Does Not Fit All: The Need For Variety In Learning.MindShift.  Retrieved from http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/03/one-size-does-not-fit-all-the-need-for-variety-in-learning/.
  76. Wai, J. (2013, June 24). Project Scientist: Inspiring The Next Generation Of Females.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201306/project-scientist-inspiring-the-next-generation-females.
  77. Wai, J. (2014, June 16). Reinventing The Boundaries of Science Journalism.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201406/reinventing-the-boundaries-science-journalism.
  78. Wai, J. (2013, January 22). Rick Hess On Why Academics Should Engage The Public.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201301/rick-hess-why-academics-should-engage-the-public.
  79. Wai, J. (2014, July 18). Shakespeare, Vermeer, and the “Secrets” of Genius.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201407/shakespeare-vermeer-and-the-secrets-genius.
  80. Wai, J. (2011, November 26). Sorry, Talented: Striving Matters.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201111/sorry-talented-striving-matters.
  81. Wai, J. (2014, June 17). Sorry Jay Matthews, Gifted Education Matters.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201406/sorry-jay-mathews-gifted-education-matters.
  82. Wai, J. (2011, October 22). Steve Jobs Leveraged His Intelligence To More Effectively Create.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201110/steve-jobs-leveraged-his-intelligence-more-effectively-create.
  83. Wai, J. (2011, December 11). Studying Too Much? This Government Will Stop You. Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201112/studying-too-much-government-will-stop-you.
  84. Wai, J. (2012, September 7). Teach Students What They Don’t But Are Ready To Learn.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201209/teach-students-what-they-dont-know-are-ready-learn.
  85. Wai, J. (2012, October 15). Teaching Without Words.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201210/teaching-without-words.
  86. Wai, J. (2013, June 3). The Art Of Communicating Science.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201306/the-art-communicating-science.
  87. Wai, J. (2011, December 20). The benefits of Being Gifted.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201112/the-benefits-being-gifted.
  88. Wai, J. (2012, January 8). The Educational World Is Flat.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201201/the-educational-world-is-flat.
  89. Wai, J. (2012, November 12). The Growing Complexity of Everyday Life.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201211/the-growing-complexity-everyday-life.
  90. Wai, J. (2014, February 10). The Olympics: 5 Things You Can Learn About Talent & Practice.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201402/the-olympics-5-things-you-can-learn-about-talent-practice.
  91. Wai, J. (2012, October 2). The Paris Hilton Effect.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201210/the-paris-hilton-effect.
  92. Wai, J. (2011, October 3). The Real Slumdog Millionaire.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201110/the-real-slumdog-millionaire.
  93. Wai, J. (2014, June 2). The Right Way To Treat Child Geniuses.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201406/the-right-way-treat-child-geniuses.
  94. Wai, J. (2012, October 29). The Role Of Talent In Education and Business.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201210/the-role-talent-in-education-and-business.
  95. Wai, J. (2012, May 13). This 8th Grader Wants to Measure Your Cat’s IQ. Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201205/8th-grader-wants-measure-your-cats-iq.
  96. Wai, J. (2012, July 29). The SAT Is Too Easy.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201207/the-sat-is-too-easy.
  97. Wai, J. (2012, August 8). The Spatial Thinkers That Get Left Outside Higher Education’s Gates.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201208/the-spatial-thinkers-get-left-outside-higher-educations-gates.
  98. Wai, J. (2012, November 19). Three Reasons Why Americans Ignore Gifted Children.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201209/three-reasons-why-americans-ignore-gifted-children.
  99. Wai, J. (2012, August 26). Three Reasons Why Schools Neglect Spatial Intelligence.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201208/three-reasons-why-schools-neglect-spatial-intelligence.
  100. Wai, J. (2014, September 2). Three Ways We Can All Become Better Teachers.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201409/three-ways-we-can-all-become-better-teachers.
  101. Wai, J. (2014, March 20). Training Your Brain with a Simple New Game.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201403/train-your-brain-simple-new-game-three-words.
  102. Wai, J. (2011, July 18). Wanna Be A Billionaire So Freakin’ Bad?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201107/wanna-be-billionaire-so-freakin-bad.
  103. Wai, J. (2013, January 7). Want to Be More Productive? Make Decisions Use “The Meter”.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201301/want-be-more-productive-make-decisions-using-the-meter.
  104. Wai, J. (2014, January 13). Want to Get Smarter? Read Something on This List. Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201401/want-get-smarter-read-something-list.
  105. Wai, J. (2011, November 20). Was Steve Jobs On The Same Level As Einstein Or Ghandi?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201111/was-steve-jobs-the-same-level-einstein-or-gandhi.
  106. Wai, J. (2011, November 7). Was Steve Jobs Smart? Heck Yes!. Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201111/was-steve-jobs-smart-heck-yes.
  107. Wai, J. (2013, December 27). We Are Not Smart As We Think.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201312/we-are-not-smart-we-think.
  108. Wai, J. (2013, November 13). We Have Entered the Gold Age of Visual Storytelling.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201311/we-have-entered-the-golden-age-visual-storytelling.
  109. Wai, J. (2013, April 29). We Have the Grammar Police, Why Not The Math Police?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201304/we-have-the-grammar-police-why-not-the-math-police.
  110. Wai, J. (2014, April 13). We need to Value Spatial Creativity.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201404/we-need-value-spatial-creativity.
  111. Wai, J. (2011, March 18). What Can Happen When The Majority Becomes The Minority?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201103/what-can-happen-when-the-majority-becomes-the-minority.
  112. Wai, J. (in press).What does it mean to be an expert? [For special issue, Acquiring expertise: Ability, practice, and other influences].
  113. Wai, J. (2012, August 13). What If Steve Jobs Had Lived Over 100 Years?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201207/what-if-steve-jobs-had-lived-over-100-years.
  114. Wai, J. (2014, September 9). What Your Social Media Use Says About You.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201409/what-your-social-media-use-says-about-you.
  115. Wai, J. (2013, December 3). What’s the Smartest Country In the World?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201312/whats-the-smartest-country-in-the-world.
  116. Wai, J. (2014, May 12). When Can You Trust the Experts?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201405/when-can-you-trust-the-experts.
  117. Wai, J. (2014, February 3). Where Can Smart People Have the Greatest Impact?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201402/where-can-smart-people-have-the-greatest-impactt.
  118. Wai, J. (2012, May 27). Who Is The Mental Equivalent of Usain Bolt?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201205/who-is-the-mental-equivalent-usain-bolt.
  119. Wai, J. (2013, November 4). Who’s Smarter? Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201311/who-s-smarter-republicans-and-democrats-in-congress.
  120. Wai, J. (2012, April 18). Why Are The Children of Immigrants Becoming Immigrants?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201204/why-are-the-children-immigrants-becoming-immigrants.
  121. Wai, J. (2011, July 1). Why Are There Not More STEM Majors?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201307/why-are-there-not-more-stem-majors.
  122. Wai, J. (2012, May 6). Why Are We so Obsessed With Improving IQ?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201205/why-are-we-so-obsessed-improving-iq.
  123. Wai, J. (2012, July 3). Why Brains Are More Important Than Billions.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201207/why-brains-are-more-important-billions.
  124. Wai, J. (2012, March 11). Why Don’t We Value Spatial Intelligence?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201203/why-dont-we-value-spatial-intelligence.
  125. Wai, J. (2012, April 2). Why Is It Socially Acceptable To Be Bad At Math?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201203/why-is-it-socially-acceptable-be-bad-math.
  126. Wai, J. (2013, October 8). Why Life Is Really the Ultimate IQ Test.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201310/why-life-is-really-the-ultimate-iq-test.
  127. Wai, J. (2014, March 7). Why the SAT Needs to Be Harder.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201403/why-the-sat-needs-be-harder.
  128. Wai, J. (2011, March 1). Will We Ever Find The Next Einstein?.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201103/will-we-ever-find-the-next-einstein.
  129. Wai, J. (2012, September 2). Why What You Post On Facebook Is Not Who You Really Are.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201209/why-what-you-post-facebook-is-not-really-who-you-are.
  130. Wai, J. (2012, February 27). Your Smartphone Might Be Making You Smarter.Psychology Today: Finding the Next Einstein.  Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201202/your-smartphone-might-be-making-you-smarter.
  131. Wai, J., Cacchio, M., Putallaz, M., & Makel, M. C. (2010). Sex differences in the right tail of cognitive abilities: A 30-year examination. Intelligence, 38, 412-423.
  132. Wai, J., Lubinski, D., & Benbow, C. P. (2005). Creativity and occupational accomplishments among intellectually precocious youths: An age 13 to age 33 longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97, 484-492.
  133. Wai, J., Lubinski, D., & Benbow, C. P. (2009). Spatial ability for STEM domains: Aligning over fifty years of cumulative psychological knowledge solidifies its importance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101, 817-835.
  134. Wai, J., Lubinski, D., Benbow, C. P., & Steiger, J. H. (2010). Accomplishment in science technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and its relation to STEM educational dose: A 25-year longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102, 860-871.
  135. Wai, J. & Nisen, M. (2013, October 23). The 25 Countries With The Most Brainpower.Business Insider.  Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/countries-with-the-most-brainpower-2013-10.
  136. Wai, J. & Nisel, M. (2014, January 23). The Best Business Schools Based On GMAT Scores.   Retrieved from http://qz.com/169771/the-best-business-schools-based-on-gmat-scores/.
  137. Wai, J., & Putallaz, M. (in press). The Flynn effect puzzle: A 30-year examination from the right tail of the ability distribution provides some missing pieces. Intelligence.
  138. Wai, J., Putallaz, M., & Makel, M. C. (2012). Studying intellectual outliers: Are there sex differences, and are the smart getting smarter?Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 382-390

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In-sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Jonathan Wai: Research Scientist, Talent Identification Program, Duke University & Case Western Reserve University (Part Two)

Dr. Jonathan Wai

(Link to Part One)

(Link to Part Three)

ABSTRACT

Part two of a three-part in-depth, broad interview with Research Scientist, Dr. Jonathan Wai, of the Talent Identification Program, Duke University, and Case Western Reserve University.  He discusses the following subject-matter: Tom Vander Ark in The Educational World Is Flat (2012), an interview between Marilyn vos Savant and Harold Channer in 1986, and specialists and generalists; Salman Khan and the Khan Academy, Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions (1960), and universality of English; risks of rote learning with Khan Academy, asian educational systems, and Bill Gates; flourishing of the gifted population with focus on the young; myths of the gifted population; responsibilities of the gifted population to society and culture; near and far future of the gifted population; The SAT Is Too Easy (2012) and a higher SAT ceiling; Karl Bates, The Art Of Communicating Science (2013), and C.P. Snow; and Project Scientist: Inspiring The Next Generation Of Females (2013), women in STEM, business, and leadership, and the example of Japan.

Keywords: Bill Gates, C.P. Snow, Canada, Einstein, English, Flynn, Gifted Population, Google, Harold Channer, Japan, Karl Bates, Khan Academy, Marilyn vos Savant, Salman Khan, STEM, Talented Youth, Tom Vander Ark, U.S.

11. One of the items most striking to me came from an interview with Tom Vander Ark entitled The Educational World Is Flat (2012), “In America we appear to have a strong emphasis on being well rounded. Einstein was someone who focused on subjects that he was interested in and tended to ignore subjects that he didn’t care much about.”  It reminded me of an interview by Harold Channer with Marilyn vos Savant (1986).  In it, she says, “…What I call a misguided effort to be well-rounded.  Why not let one person go and become another Einstein in his or her field? It doesn’t have to be something as impressive as physics.  There are all kinds of things.  But in this effort to make a well-rounded individual, we sort of turn them all off to everything, give them things too early.”  It seems further reason to consider catering to the most talented.  What do you think of specialists and generalists?  How might the US alter the educational streams for the gifted to allow to more specialization in an area of sole interest?

Today there is so much knowledge that specialization is almost a necessity.  I think, at least in the U.S., the value of being well rounded comes from parents who want their children to be happy in every sense.  Parents want their kids to fit in and be accepted by society.  Not being well rounded means you are more of an outlier, and especially if you are a social outlier, you have less chance of being accepted.  But this is always an issue for people who go on to become great.  Oftentimes the path to greatness is quite lonely because you are going where nobody else has gone before.  I think a general education is necessary, for example being familiar with history as Flynn pointed out earlier.  But if a student knows what they want to do at an early age and wishes to specialize, I think we should let them do that and not hold them back.

12. You have had interviews and articles on the use of modern technology such as computers and software to design, and upgrade, education. Even though, Salman Khan in one interview with you discusses the changes brought on through a decent online educational system called Khan Academy, which, of course, he founded and operates.  However, I see the foundational change to much of the educational world for the 21st century arising from one area, even though mathematics counts as a universal language.  The international language seems quite strongly English.  Relevant, to me at any rate, I remember reading the opening piece of Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions (1960), which I found once more for this, and he says, “As late as the seventeenth century the savants and artists of all Europe were so closely united by the bond of a common ideal that cooperation between them was scarcely affected by political events.  This unity was further strengthened by the general use of the Latin language.” [Italics added] The increasing universality of the English language, in my opinion, will likely improve the educational level of the world.  In this sense, organizations such as Khan Academy appear to be ‘piggybacking’ on the phenomenon of increased universality of a common working-language, namely: English – partially eliminating our literal, global ‘Tower of Babel’. What do you think?

This is an interesting idea, and perhaps a uniform language is helpful for learning everywhere.  I think what online learning has done is provided educational access to anyone anywhere in the world who has a computer, an internet connection, and the freedom to find the information they want.  Without question this should allow talented students from around the world have the opportunity to interact with one another and innovate together.

13. In the articles How Khan Academy Can Help Find The Next Einstein (2012) and Five Lessons From Salman Khan For Education (2012), you discuss concerns about how Khan Academy may be “enabling rote learning.”  This is a common criticism of Asian educational systems.  Yet in academic international comparisons, those Asian nations are outperforming America, particularly in math and science.  Bill Gates has said, as you quote in If You Are Creative, Are You Also Intelligent? (2011), “You need to understand things in order to invent beyond them.”  Do you have thoughts on this criticism?  How about ways to increase understanding and inventiveness?

I think Gates said it well already.  You have to have something in your brain before you can innovate.  Oftentimes rote learning just means you repeat it enough times until you have a concept always ready at your mind’s fingertips.  Today we have Google, which means every bit of information is available online.  However, innovation often comes from the synthesis or reorganization of existing knowledge in a novel or creative pattern or extension, and so to have many things memorized can be quite important, depending upon the context.

14. You share a concern of mine. In particular, the sincere desire to assist the gifted population in flourishing, especially the young.  Now, many organizations provide for the needs of the moderately gifted ability sectors of the general population, most often adults and sometimes children.  However, few provide for the needs of children (and adults) in the high, profound, exceptional, or ‘unmeasurable’ ability sectors of the general population.  Some organizations and societies provide forums, retreats, journals, intelligence tests, literature, or outlets for the highest ability sub-populations.  What can individuals, organizations, and societies do to provide for the gifted population?  What argument most convinces you of the need to provide for this sector of society?

There are two main reasons to invest in talented people.  The first is that by investing in them we help them fulfill their potential and live rewarding and meaningful lives.  The second is that by investing in them we are actually investing in our own future—that is, talented people invent a disproportionate share of things that benefit all of us.  The first reason should be enough, but today in the U.S. it is not.

15. Of the gifted population, there exist many myths.   What do you consider the greatest of these?  What truths dispel them?

Actually, one of the largest myths I encounter is that talented people tend to have a lot of problems (e.g. social).  However, longitudinal studies on talented students, such as the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth, have shown that talented kids end up as well adjusted and quite successful adults who have families and friends just like everyone else.  Perhaps the stereotype of the nerd as being socially inept is comforting to many people, for whatever reason.

16. In turn, what responsibilities do the gifted population have towards society and culture? Why do you think this?

I believe that each person should have the freedom to choose what they want in life and be responsible for themselves and their actions.  They should try to be at least a net zero and preferably a net positive on society.  However, talented people in general have been given a head start in life, and therefore my hope is that they would fully recognize this, be responsible with their decisions that impact many others, and be wise stewards of their talents.  For their personal well-being, I would hope they would not waste the head start they have been given in life.

17. Where do you see the future of the gifted population in relation to society? What about the near and far future of the gifted population in general?

Talented people have always been and will always be important in society.  In the book Human Accomplishment (2003), we see the many amazing things that have been created largely by the gifted population.  I hope that society would place value on talented people, not for being talented, but for using their talent and working hard to create something that is helpful or beneficial to all of us.

18. You note one large, and mostly unstated, problem directly with the article The SAT Is Too Easy (2012). For instance, you raise the issue of the current SAT’s lack of ability to distinguish among the top candidates in the US.  Why not coordinate with high-ceiling test constructors to measure 4.5 and 5 SD above the norm with the SAT?

As I mentioned earlier, the better solution is either to use the SAT as it exists at an earlier age, or actually bring out the original SAT, which had a much higher ceiling.  Basically the idea would be to use an existing test with established reliability and validity.

19. Of the articles and interviews published, I consider the interview with Karl Bates, entitled The Art Of Communicating Science (2013), the single most important article from your blog posts. You cut to the heart of the issue of culture and the split described by C.P. Snow with the sciences on the one side and the humanities on the other – and never the twain shall meet.  We can talk about science.  We can talk about intelligence and creativity.  Regardless, without attention to understanding the separate streams of English language used in each major side, as set out by C.P. Snow, the other stuff seems secondary, even tertiary, to me.  Most cutting about the interview, I find, is the concision and pragmatic nature of the responses by both of you at the end of the publication.  Do you have any expansions on the topics discussed therein?

Thank you.  I think scientists and journalists don’t communicate as often as they should, probably in part because these groups have very different incentive and reward structures.  However, the problem to a large extent lies with academics who don’t understand that the rest of the world operates similarly to the journalistic world.  It is the academic world which is very much in an ivory tower.  A lot of different fields or disciplines, if they actually took the time to meaningfully interact, would come away with not only a greater appreciation for other disciplines, but also could improve upon their own craft.

20. In your article Project Scientist: Inspiring The Next Generation Of Females (2013), I felt thrilled reading it. More have begun to discuss these issues.  If we exclude one half of the talent pool, North America loses out. Provided the possibility of easier international travel, talented women with interest in STEM, business, and leadership fields in general will, in my opinion, likely travel to other areas with the opportunities.  For instance, this appears in Japan, where many of the talented, wealthy, and highly-educated Japanese women have begun to work against cultural and institutional structures to provide more fair opportunities for themselves.  Especially the increased possibilities of self-empowerment of these women, they choose to do it.  At least from my vantage, from the cost-benefit analysis of a talented and well-educated Japanese woman, travelling to a new place with better possibilities of equal opportunity compared to having to change a well-entrenched cultural and institutional foundation in Japanese society seems like a far better and more immediate solution.  Looking at our own societies, how can we empower women here-and-now in the US and Canada?

I agree that we need to empower women all around the world.  More importantly, I think we need to empower both women and men in various disciplines where they are typically underrepresented.  I also think we need to focus on helping empower the individual regardless of their color or their gender.  In the end, it is not about what people look like, but about who they are as an individual.  We need to respect individual differences.

**********************Bibliography at end of part three***********************

License

In-sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Jonathan Wai: Research Scientist, Talent Identification Program, Duke University & Case Western Reserve University (Part One)

Dr. Jonathan Wai

(Link to Part Two)

(Link to Part Three)

ABSTRACT

Part one of a three-part in-depth, broad interview with Research Scientist, Dr. Jonathan Wai, of the Talent Identification Program, Duke University, and Case Western Reserve University.  He discusses the following subject-matter: family background regarding culture, geography, and language; development; universalizing intelligence testing with non-verbal tests; commentary on new global increases in flourishing with a focus on India and Mainland China, and an example of Mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan; Finding The Next EinsteinWho’s Smarter? Republicans and Democrats in Congress (2013), and the top 1% of the ability spectrum based on extremely high standardized test scores for admissions to highly selective undergraduate and graduate institutions; Why the SAT Needs to Be Harder (2014)’Could We Create Another Einstein? (2012), and serving those with intellectual and creative talent; Even Nerds Need to be Appropriately Challenged (2014), and focus on average and below-average students with consequential neglect on the talented sector of the young; interview with Dr. James Flynn called Can The Magic of Great Literature Take You Around The World? (2011), and problem with a-historicity of incoming students.

Keywords: ‘g’, Arthur Jensen, Bellingham, Case Western Reserve University,communists, Dr. James Flynn, Dr. Jonathan Wai, Duke University,engineering, G. H. Hardy, Hong Kong, IQ Tests, Mathematician, Mega Test, physics, Robert Kanigel, Shanghai, Srinivasa Ramanujan,Talent Identification Program, Titan Test, Washington.

1. In terms of geography, culture, and language, where does your family background reside?  How do you find this influencing your development?

My father was born in Hong Kong.  My mother was born in Shanghai.  They met as graduate students in the U.S.  They were educated in engineering and physics, respectively, so they valued these disciplines, and education, quite highly.  My mother would often tell me the story of her father, who was wealthy before the communists came, took away everything, and sent him to jail for being a capitalist.  My grandfather, at age 50, would start over again in Hong Kong with next to nothing, and become a successful entrepreneur all over again.  The idea that someone with brains and hard work can rise from anywhere is something I heard of often when growing up, because it was my grandfather’s story.  It was also my parent’s story.

2. How did you find developing from childhood through adolescence into young adulthood?

I was born and raised in Bellingham, Washington and enjoyed both academics as well as sports.  I played just about every sport growing up, focusing on soccer and tennis at a competitive level.  Probably one academic activity I have always enjoyed is reading.  I remember going every week to the public library to check out piles of books as a kid.  Today, I am fortunate that as a researcher and writer reading is a part of my job.  I get up every day and have the opportunity to read, think, and create.  I have never stopped reading.

3. In terms of universalizing the testing of intelligence, what do you see in the future for high-range non-verbal tests?  How will this change general intelligence testing and the identification of gifted individuals?

In college, I spent some time solving puzzles, which I have always enjoyed.  Exploring puzzles online led me to what one might call “high-range tests” or basically extremely difficult puzzles that you could take as much time as you wanted to solve.  I spent some time solving these puzzles, which were designed to be IQ tests with greater headroom, and met a lot of interesting people from around the world who also enjoyed creating and solving such puzzles.  I don’t know if this will ever be standard practice for intelligence testing, because most people don’t have the free time to take an extremely difficult untimed puzzle solving challenge than can span weeks, months, or even longer.  I don’t know what the future of intelligence testing will hold, but see Arthur Jensen’s Clocking The Mind for a vision of intelligence testing that is based on reaction time, nearly the opposite of an untimed puzzle test.

4. For those having the talent, but lacking the opportunity – especially in India and Mainland China, what of those hundreds of millions of people having increasing standards of living and the educational opportunities to take advantage of natural talent for further flourishing? On the one hand, the increased access for personal and global gain of utilizing the best human talent in international contexts.  On the other hand, the allowance – based on technological innovations and increased standards of living – of presenting the real possibility for human flourishing at all levels, i.e. the potential for a global renaissance of the human spirit in, at a minimum, intellectual terms. How do you see identification in the long-term for the high-end (4/5/6 standard deviations, or SD, above the norm)?  What of ‘g’ tests for those ranges above the relatively high ceiling of the Ravens Advanced Progressive Matrices (RAPM)?

One of the greatest stories of talent from a poor background was that of the Indian Mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, which I first read about in the great science writer Robert Kanigel’s The Man Who Knew Infinity.  However, in Ramanujan’s case, he was still “discovered” by G. H. Hardy, yet there are likely a number of people with similar potential who did not end up flourishing.  One of the most systematic and cost effective ways to identify talent is to make sure that all students are first given an opportunity for a good education, but also that they are tested.  Although testing is viewed as favoring wealthy students, in fact testing is entirely objective in the sense that the test does not know or care what you look like, how much money you or your parents have, and will measure with high reliability and validity your degree of competence and what you are ready for educationally.

5. While reading through all of your Finding The Next Einstein and academic work to date, I noticed the common themes of creativity, intelligence – naturally, and critiques of the gifted world – especially regarding assistance to the gifted. Why did you begin writing this series of articles?  Where did your interest in the topic originate?

I am a nerd.  I have a soft spot for nerds.  I have also always recognized that there is wide variation in brainpower, creativity, and problem solving ability.  I always enjoyed reading biographies of great people because I tried to learn how they solved problems and overcame difficulties, both personal and professional.  How did these people become successful?  Although there are many factors at work, including many years of hard work, the role of creative brainpower intrigued me.  I also enjoy the craft of writing, and decided I would start trying to educate the public about my areas of expertise and maybe even help some talented kids.

6. Of particular note in your article Who’s Smarter? Republicans and Democrats in Congress (2013), though a small point from a relatively short piece, you provide a bar graph of those in various fields sufficing to qualify for the top 1% of the ability spectrum based on requiring extremely high standardized test scores for admissions to highly selective, and ‘elite’, undergraduate and graduate institutions.  What did you find?

This bar graph was taken from my research article Investigating America’s Elite.  Basically I found that among Fortune 500 CEOs, billionaires, federal judges, Senators, and House members, a larger portion of each of these groups were in the top 1% of cognitive ability.  This shows that the U.S. elite are largely drawn from the cognitive elite.  Also, a lot of really smart and motivated people end up attending the very top schools in the U.S.

7. You wrote an article on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) entitled Why the SAT Needs to Be Harder (2014). In short, it does not discriminate the highest levels of ability well-enough.  There exist many tests with 4+ standard deviation (SD) ceilings within many societies, e.g. the Mega Society’s (one-in-a-million cutoff) Titan Test or Mega Test.  What about coordinating with those involved in the construction of tests at the high-range to develop SAT-style questions to probe the ultra-high range of 4 and 5 sigma?  Or to the prior point, what about constructing a non-verbal/’culture fair’ test with high ceiling at 4.5 or 5 SD?

This is an intriguing idea.  Although I enjoy high range tests and puzzles, I’m not entirely sure what constructs they measure.  One solution to the problem you describe is to use a test such as the SAT designed for the average 17-year-old on a talented student at a much younger age.  This provides sufficient headroom for the talented student and also gives the benefit of reliability and validity in a timed setting.

8. You close the excellent article, Could We Create Another Einstein? (2012), with “Overall, Creating Innovators is an important book because it emphasizes developing the talent of students who are essential to the future of America and profiles some extremely bright minds and their parents, teachers, and mentors to provide some insights into ways to develop intellectual and creative talent.” How can we best serve those of exceptional intellectual and creative talent?

The key, really, is to make sure that all students are intellectually stimulated each day and are learning something new.  Another way I think we can serve talented students is to help them become challenged early and in many areas so they might develop a sense of humility and understand what it means to fail.  Many of these students end up in leadership positions in society where they make decisions that impact people of various levels of ability, including people who are very different from them.  So they need to be wise and humble in addition to being smart.

9. I felt struck by a statement in Even Nerds Need to be Appropriately Challenged (2014), “A majority of Americans believe in equity rather than excellence.” It seems to argue for a pervasive cultural value of mediocrity based on disadvantaging the talented for the sake of equity with the average and below-average.  What do you think?  Would you change this cultural value?  If so, how would you restructure the educational funding based on the changes to the cultural value?

For whatever reason, in the U.S. today the culture places a primary value on helping below average and average students.  I think we should definitely help these students, but also not forget about challenging talented students.

10. You conducted an interview with Dr. James Flynn called Can The Magic of Great Literature Take You Around The World? (2011). In it, he states, “Anyone who is a-historical lacks autonomy.  They live in the bubble of the present that is defined for them by their government and the media.  They have no accumulated knowledge that allows them to criticize what they are told.”  How would you remedy this problem with the incoming generations of students?

There is tendency in each new generation to want to create something new, to distinguish itself from past generations.  And it is true that the young often will find new ways of innovating that will bring us ideas and things that we never dreamed of.  However, an understanding and appreciation of the past is important especially for students who end up rising to positions of leadership in society, because there are many patterns in history that can teach new generations about what has already been done so that they don’t repeat those patterns, or at least understand the patterns they see around them in society, which seem to arise often.  The solution is that students should have a deep appreciation for and education in history, but also not be constrained by that history in a way that prevents them from innovating in an entirely different manner.

**********************Bibliography at end of part three***********************

License

In-sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

In-Sight Issue 5.A, Idea – Outliers and Outsiders (Part One)

Dear Readers,

I appreciate the continued support and encouragement.  In-Sight Issue 5.A, Idea: Outliers and Outsiders (Part One) comes from the collected interviews of the summer.  As a series, Outliers and Outsiders continues forward into the ‘Winter’, September 1 to January 1.  You may view the complete issue in PDF, along with the older issues, in the archives or below:

In-Sight Issue 5.A, Idea: Outliers and Outsiders (Part One)

Respectfully yours,

Scott D. Jacobsen

Dr. & Fr. George V. Coyne, S.J.: McDevitt Chair of Religious Philosophy, Le Moyne College

Fr. Robert V. Coyne

ABSTRACT

In this thorough and broad interview with Dr. & Fr. George V. Coyne, S.J., he discusses the following: youth, upbringing, and pivotal moments in his life; attraction to the Roman Catholic Faith from a young age; broad educational background in theology and science; thoughts on the Jesuits and the merger of scientific and theology knowledge; comments on the 1997 essay by the late Dr. Stephen Jay Gould, Non-Overlapping Magisteria; the purpose of science and theology, and the responsibility of scientists and theologians to contributing to society and culture; desired hypothetical research; falsehoods and truths surrounding the Catholic faith; and the future of the Roman Catholic faith in the middle and latter portions of this century.

Keywords: Catholic, Catholicism, culture, Dr. & Fr. George V. Coyne, Dr. Stephen Jay Gould, Jesuits, non-overlapping magisteria, Science, scientist, society, theologian, Theology.

1. How was your youth? How did you come to this point? What do you consider the earliest pivotal moment in your life-trajectory?

I had a very happy youth as the third oldest of 8 siblings growing up in a traditional and devout Catholic family. I attended Catholic elementary schools and a Jesuit High School, Loyola High School (LHS) Blakefield (Baltimore, MD). A religious nun who taught me in the 7th and 8th years of elementary school insisted that I take the entrance exam to LHS and she prepared me to do that by instructing me every Saturday afternoon for two months. No Saturday afternoon baseball or basketball for me! She happened to have the entrance exams for the past twenty years and they were the basis for my instruction. Needless to say, since there are only so many new questions one can ask, my drill master taught me to answer questions even before I was asked. Through dint of memory – and not intelligence – I won a full scholarship and my attendance at LHS proved to be a defining experience for my whole life.

Iwas taught by many young Jesuits at LHS and grew to admire their lives, especially two aspects: their total dedication to working for others and their obvious happiness at living together in a religious community. The common expression for a Jesuit is “Men for Others.” At graduation from high school, I entered the Jesuit seminary. During my first year of studies in Latin and Greek literature, after two years of novitiate, I had the good fortune of being instructed by a Jesuit priest who, in addition to having a PhD in the classical languages, also had a MS in mathematics and an educated interest in astronomy. He noted my interest in astronomy and encouraged me to nurture that interest. His dedicated and passionate tutoring determined all of my future professional life.

2. Early in your life, what attracted you to the Roman Catholic Church and Faith?

I never had any serious doubts about my faith. I consider that faith has been a gift of God to me through my family and later on through my associates.

3. You joined the ‘Jesuits in 1951, earned a B.S. in Mathematics and your licentiate in philosophy from Fordham University in 1958, a Ph.D. in astronomy in 1962 from Georgetown University, and finally the licentiate in sacred theology from Woodstock College in 1965 upon ordination as a Roman Catholic Priest.’ How have you found this scientific and theological background of value?

Through all of that alternation among philosophy, theology and science I found it to be a joyful experience to seek to integrate my growing knowledge of all of them while not yielding to the temptation to confuse one for the other. Let me explain by this excerpt of what I have written elsewhere:

The general background to the topic I wish to address is to what extent religious thought can make a contribution to our scientific understanding of the origins and evolution of life in the universe derived from astrophysics and cosmology. And, on the other hand, to what extent can what we know from science about life influence our religious attitudes. This twofold question poses the serious risk of transgressing upon the epistemological independence of the various disciplines: theology, philosophy, astrophysics and cosmology, and creating, thereby, more confusion than understanding. As the discussion proceeds we must maintain a consistent posture of preserving the integrity of each of the disciplines.

Too often discussions of the relationship between science and religion are carried out in very general terms. Such discourse can be quite unfruitful for two reasons: (1) As compared to the natural sciences religion contains a larger measure of the subjective, of human experiences not totally verifiable by objective reasons. Such subjective experiences are not, of course, limited to religion. They are present in many areas of our lives. Nor need these experiences, religious or otherwise, necessarily conflict with reason. They simply are not limited to rational explanation. They go beyond what can be rationally justified. (2) While for the natural sciences we have a rather acceptable idea of what we mean by science, the very notion of religion is ill-defined. Does it mean worship? Does it mean being a “good person”? Does it mean accepting certain moral dictates that go beyond what is commonly accepted as good and bad? Does it mean accepting those dictates out of personal conviction or out of loyalty to a certain tradition? Does it mean believing in certain doctrines? Does it mean accepting a certain authoritative and hierarchical structure, i.e. being affiliated with a certain Church? To most of us religion would imply more of an affirmative than a negative answer to all of the above. And yet the situation is further complicated by the multiplicity of religions which differ among themselves, have even warred among themselves, over the responses given to such questions as the above. Even today, if we look at some of the main religious traditions: Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, etc., we see not only vast differences among them, but enormous divisions within any one of the traditions.

The only way, therefore, that dialogue as a rational experience can take place is that, on the part of religion, the dialogue be limited to the rational foundations for religious belief. Even then, the only way that any such dialogue could have universal significance is that we could assume that there existed common rational foundations across all religious traditions and that is simply not the case. It seems, therefore, that any fruitful dialogue requires that the rational basis for certain specific religious beliefs in certain specific religious traditions be confronted with what is known from the natural sciences. The natural sciences, in particular, have made great advances by adhering rigidly to canons of what is scientifically true. In fact, in recent years the norms for judging the scientific truth of a given theory of life’s origins and evolution have been extended, it appears to me, in the direction of inviting dialogue with philosophy and theology. (Destiny of Life and Religious Attitudes, G.V. Coyne, in Life as We Know It, ed. J. Seckbach (Dordrecht: Springer Science 2005) 521-535, page 521 Introduction.

4. You stand amid the rare and rarefied class of Roman Catholic figures entitled ‘Cleric-Scientists’. What role do your fellows throughout Roman Catholic history play in the development of the definitions and integration of science and faith? In particular, the merger of both Catholic theology and scientific knowledge? 

I must limit myself to speaking of the Jesuits (Society of Jesus) so as to make a manageable response. Here are a few reflections from some of my unpublished writings:

The presence of Jesuits in different fields of the natural sciences is an interesting phenomenon that has attracted academic and general attention and can be found in the literature. Jesuits are popularly known as religious persons who are involved in scientific work and they appear as such in some science fiction novels. A few years after its founding in 1540 by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the Society of Jesus undertook its educational endeavor as the key instrument of its apostolic work. From the beginning, as a novelty for the time, a special attention was given in the first colleges to the teaching of mathematics and astronomy. This coincided with the origins of modern science and Jesuit professors were in contact with many of its key figures, such as Galileo, Kepler, Huygens and Newton. Jesuit missionaries introduced European mathematics and astronomy to China and India, made the first maps of the unknown regions of America, Asia and Africa, and brought to Europe the first news about the geography, animals and plants of those lands.

The presence of Jesuits in science has continued throughout their long history. In addition to a very pragmatic motivation, the basic foundation for such work is to be found in Ignatian spirituality. The core of this spirituality lies in the emphasis on finding God in all things, the union of prayer and work, the search for what leads to the greater glory of God, and the preference for work “on the frontiers”. This has often involved Jesuits in unconventional activities and situations, including scientific research. Jesuit scientists, who have reflected on their work, acknowledge this special affinity between the scientific vocation and their spirituality and are aware of the difficulty in combining this vocation with that of a Jesuit, of being at the same time priests and scientists. To conclude, the Jesuit scientific tradition, in spite of all the problems encountered during its long history, is still alive and serves as a special characteristic in the Catholic Church.

A view of the evolutionary universe and of our place in it, as the sciences see it, and of God’s role in the universe, derived from the reflections of a religious believer upon that same science, may help us in a further understanding of Jesuit mission. We, in a special way, share in the creativity which God desired the universe to have. We are co-creators in God’s continuous creation of the universe. The Jesuit identity expressed by St. Ignatius’ vision of Jesuits as contemplatives in action is reinforced by our reflections on the nature of the universe. Co-creators in the universe can only realize their mission if they are constantly united to God, the source of all creativity. Jesuit identity is much more than what Jesuits and their partners do. It is bound intimately to the very nature of the universe which drives us as co-creators to the serve others in union with the Creator.

Ignatian mission is a participation in the intrinsically missionary nature of the Church, the concrete presence of the Creator among his co-creators. God is continually encountering the world in new and creative ways because the world he created is responsive to his continual encounter. Ignatius sent his men into that world and sought to free them of any encumbrance to a free and total commitment to the world in whatever way their talents would best serve the Church. And their mission was to evolve just as the universe itself is in evolution. But for any individual Jesuit, Jesuit partner or Jesuit institution the evolution of mission must be in consort with the intrinsically missionary Church. The wisdom of God in emptying himself to create a world which shares in his creativity requires that, since God is the one God of all creation, such participation in his creativity must be universal. It cannot favor any particular social, cultural, religious movement. While to function any given mission must be limited, it cannot be exclusive.

5. In a 1997 essay Non-Overlapping Magisteria by the late Dr. Stephen Jay Gould, he re-defined the standard notion of tension between science and theology as not having any real area of conflict. Dr. Richard Dawkins critiqued Dr. Gould’s synthesizing view based on arguments against the ability of the separation of religious and scientific matters. How do you view these matters?  What do you consider the appropriate stance towards scientific and theological knowledge? 

There is always a serious risk of transgressing upon the epistemological independence of the various disciplines: theology, philosophy, astrophysics, biology and cosmology, and creating, thereby, more confusion than understanding. It is, therefore, necessary to maintain a consistent posture of preserving the integrity of each of the disciplines, especially that between the natural sciences and theology. As compared to the natural sciences religion contains a larger measure of the subjective, of human experiences not totally verifiable by objective reasons. Such subjective experiences are not, of course, limited to religion. They are present in many areas of our lives. Nor need these experiences, religious or otherwise, necessarily conflict with reason. They simply are not limited to rational explanation. They go beyond what can be rationally justified.

In the natural sciences there are a number of criteria whereby an explanation is judged to be best. (See the response to number 6 below.) I suggest that one of those criteria is unifying explanatory power; i.e. not only are the observations at hand explained scientifically but the attempt to understand  is also in harmony with all else that we know, even with that which we know outside of the natural sciences.

This last criterion is significant, since it appears to extend the semantics of the natural sciences towards the realm of other disciplines, especially to theology and Christian faith. Put in very simple terms this criterion is nothing else than a call for the unification of our knowledge. One could hardly be opposed to that. The problem arises with the application of this criterion. When is the unification not truly unifying but rather an adulteration of knowledge obtained by one discipline with the presuppositions inherent in another discipline. History is full of examples of such adulterations. It is for this reason that scientists have always hesitated to make use of this criterion. And yet, if applied cautiously, it could be a very creative one for the advancement of our knowledge and, therefore, of our faith.

The supposition is that there is a universal basis for our understanding and, since that basis cannot be self-contradictory, the understanding we have from one discipline should complement that which we have from all other disciplines. One is most faithful to one’s own discipline, be it the natural sciences, the social sciences, philosophy, literature, theology, etc., if one accepts this universal basis. This means in practice that, while remaining faithful to the strict truth criteria of one’s own discipline, we are open to accept the truth value of the conclusions of other disciplines. And this acceptance must not only be passive, in the sense that we do not deny those conclusions, but also active, in the sense that we integrate those conclusions into the conclusions derived from one’s own proper discipline. This, of course, does not mean that there will be no conflict, even contradictions, between conclusions reached by various disciplines. But if one truly accepts the universal basis I have spoken of above, then those conflicts and contradictions must be seen as temporary and apparent. They themselves can serve as a spur to further knowledge, since the attempt to resolve the differences will undoubtedly bring us to a richer unified understanding.

6. What do you consider the purpose of theology? What do you consider the purpose of science? More importantly, what role do theologians and scientists play in shaping, defining, and contributing to society and culture through working in their fields?

Theology is the search for a rational understanding of religious faith. It is, therefore, a science, but not a natural science. The classical definition of theology is “fides quaerens intellectum” (faith in search of understanding). However, religion, the very object of theology’s search, is ill-defined. Does it mean worship? Does it mean being a “good person”? Does it mean accepting certain moral dictates that go beyond what is commonly accepted as good and bad? Does it mean accepting those dictates out of personal conviction or out of loyalty to a certain tradition? Does it mean believing in certain doctrines? Does it mean accepting a certain authoritative and hierarchical structure, i.e. being affiliated with a certain Church? To most of us religion would imply more of an affirmative than a negative answer to all of the above. And yet the situation is further complicated by the multiplicity of religions which differ among themselves, have even warred among themselves, over the responses given to such questions as the above. Even today, if we look at some of the main religious traditions: Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, etc., we see not only vast differences among them, but enormous divisions within any one of the traditions.

The only way, therefore, that dialogue as a rational experience can take place is that, on the part of religion, the dialogue be limited to the rational foundations for religious belief. Even then, the only way that any such dialogue could have universal significance is that we could assume that there existed common rational foundations across all religious traditions and that is simply not the case. It seems, therefore, that any fruitful dialogue requires that the rational basis for certain specific religious beliefs in certain specific religious traditions be confronted with what is known from the natural sciences.

As to the natural sciences, skeptics, dubious of ever being able to find a widely accepted definition of science, say that science is what scientists do. The element of truth in this statement is that science is not a univocal concept. It varies from one discipline to another, even, for instance, among the so-called hard sciences. But there is also sufficient commonality among them that the name “science” can be legitimately given to each analogically. Scientists begin with controlled data, that is, data which any other trained professional could independently verify. The observed data is used to develop a model which best explains the data. The movement from observations to models is a continuously reciprocal process. The best model is used to determine what further observations must be made. The model is then revised with the new observations, etc. There is a constant going back and forth from observations to the model to the observations. It is important to note that in the very nature of this process of reciprocity there is an implicit acknowledgement that we do not possess the truth. The expectation is, however, is that we are continually approaching the truth.

How do we judge what is the best scientific model? There are a number of criteria whereby an explanation is judged to be best.  A list of the principal criteria would include the following: (1) verifiability, i.e., there is, at least in principle, a way of judging whether the explanation fits the data; (2) predictability, i.e., from data on past or present events it is possible to predict future events and then observe to see that the future events actually occur; (3) simplicity or economy, i.e., the least assumptions are made to get the greatest explanatory power; (4) beauty, i.e., the explanation has an aesthetic quality about it; although, especially for the natural sciences, this may appear to be a very subjective criterion, almost all great scientific discoveries have benefited from its application; (5) unifying explanatory power; i.e. not only are the observations at hand explained  but the attempt to understand  is also in harmony with all else that we know, even with that which we know outside of the natural sciences. (See the response to number 5 above.)

7. If you could have one question answered through a massive research project, what would you want answered? 

The nature of dark matter and of dark energy.

8. One common mischaracterization, as you have noted, about the Catholic Church comes from viewing it as a monolith, especially in theological, intellectual, and scriptural thought. Regarding falsehoods about the Catholic Church, what few stand atop the list of those falsehoods? What truths dispel them?

By many the Catholic Church is seen as primarily hierarchical, an organizational structure: Pope, Vatican Congregations, Diocesan bishops, national conferences of bishops. The Church is clearly that but not primarily that. The Church is God’s people on pilgrimage. The popular phrase is: “We are the Church.” The hierarchical structure is at the service of God’s people, as Pope Francis continues to emphasize and as, based on a solid Scriptural tradition, was so declared in very clear terms by Vatican Council II.

One is judged as a “good” Catholic by one’s adherence to doctrinal and moral statements of the hierarchy and putting them into practice. Again, that is quite important but not primary. Primary is accepting God’s love for us, received in a community, and spreading that love as far as we can, beginning here and now.

9. Regarding the foundational claims of the Catholic Church such as the existence of God, the attributes of God, the moral structure of the universe, the revelations contained within the Old and New testaments, and so on, what do you consider the strongest arguments for their soundness?

Their coherence with all of human experience. See responses to numbers 5 and 6.

10. Where do you see the world of faith and science during middle and latter portions of this century? What brings you most worry for them? What brings you most hope?

Most worrisome are the divisions among the world’s Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity, not just on their beliefs but on their way of dealing among themselves.

Another worry concerns the growth of fundamentalism as most experienced by me within Christianity. We cannot, it seems, accept the richness of the Holy Scriptures for what they are.

To put it most generally, there is nothing like love and knowledge combined to sooth the troubled waters.

Bibliography

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In-sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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