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An Interview with Mhedi Banafshei on Background, Religion, Geniuses, and Intelligence Tests (Part One)

July 1, 2020

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 23.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Nineteen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: July 1, 2020

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2020

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 3,233

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

Mhedi Banafshei is a Member of the World Genius Directory. He discusses: family background; the emphasis on the political nature; religion in Iran and in the UK; values of “education, secularism, and ambition”; a sense of an extended self or a sense of the family legacy; sociology; religion; professional lives of brothers; the juxtaposition of religiosity and secularism for mom and dad; particular denomination of religion; the long-term future of religion in the 21st century; the experience with peers and schoolmates as a child and an adolescent; an agreeable disposition; homosexuality; purpose of intelligence tests; high intelligence; peers who were around the same intellectual level; the ways in which the geniuses of have either been mocked, vilified, and condemned if not killed, or praised, flattered, platformed, and revered; the greatest geniuses in history; great living geniuses; the profoundly gifted; differentiation of a genius from a profoundly intelligent person; talent gone to the garbage heap; some work experiences and educational certifications; business adventure; some of the more important aspects of the idea of the gifted and geniuses; some social and political views; more on social and political perspectives; the God concept or gods idea and philosophy, theology, and religion; science; tests taken and scores earned (with standard deviations); and ethical philosophy.

Keywords: background, geniuses, IQ, Islam, Mhedi Banafshei, religion, Shia Islam.

An Interview with Mhedi Banafshei on Background, Religion, Geniuses, and Intelligence Tests (Part One)[1],[2]*

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What was family background, e.g., geography, culture, language, and religion or lack thereof?

Mhedi Banafshei: Both of my parents are native Iranians, and I’m the oldest of three brothers born in the UK. My parents, particularly my father, have always been quite strictly religious despite embracing the secularism of society. My father attained a master’s degree in sociology, which made him an interesting man of combined education and religiosity. Overall, I believe being a product of both British and traditional Iranian culture of religious conservatism has been valuable in terms of gaining a broader understanding of various human cultures and concepts. Having to sometimes deal with the contrasting elements of the aforementioned has made it easier for me to develop the ability to see the different sides of issues. 

2. Jacobsen: Why the emphasis on the political nature?

Banafshei: My father was a supporter of the government of Shah and was quite displeased about the Islamic revolution as he considers the successive regime to be a force of injustice and violent oppression. In terms of the UK, he has often communicated historical anxieties in terms of feeling uncertain about his place in the country and his belief that he has struggled to get an appropriate position in his field due to institutional discrimination of ethnicity and religion.  Growing up, I remember being told that in order to avoid problems of a similar nature, I should be a leading example of correctness within all educational, social and professional structures I participate in, lest I risk being unsuccessful for being perceived as an imperfect example of some social fringe. 

3. Jacobsen: What was religion in Iran and in the UK for your parents?

Banafshei: Like most Iranians, both of my parents were raised in families of Shia Islam. They have remained firmly dedicated to their religious heritage throughout their lives.

4. Jacobsen: Who do the values of “education, secularism, and ambition” mean to you?

Banafshei: My philosophy of life is that knowing things, being productive and being an ethically advanced person is likely to lead to better outcomes for myself and others. I’ve had some processes of trial and error in relation to these things which have aided me on my path to this determined position. 

5. Jacobsen: Have these stores helped provide a sense of an extended self or a sense of the family legacy?

Banafshei: I guess they made sense. The role models we have when growing up are undoubtedly important, and I feel grateful to know mine have been relatively positive ones.     

6. Jacobsen: Why did your father pursue a degree in sociology at the graduate level?
Banafshei: I think one important factor has been that he’s apparently a man who is predisposed to being more interested in dealing with the theoretical aspects of things. It’s something I have always found reasonably understandable as a thinker myself, even if I have very often tended to see things quite differently to him.  

7. Jacobsen: What is religion to him (your dad)

Banafshei: It’s the system that gives his life meaning. Without an eternal purpose, life has no meaning, he has told me. He reminds me of his belief that without the guidance religion can provide, people are likely to fall for any ideological evil and become the victims of any pitfall of life. I guess being cognizant of the immense importance of religion for him while not being religious myself is something that has in part caused me to become inspired to learn about the range of the ideas of our species.

8. Jacobsen: What are some of the professional lives of your brothers?

Banafshei:  My youngest brother is still of school-age. My other brother is not in employment as he has special needs. As an older brother, I do my best to be a supportive figure of hopefully some value in terms of helping him face some of the challenges he has to deal with. I feel that I’ve developed good sensitivity and awareness of some of the things many people have to deal with in the course of their lives as a result of my efforts to make what has sometimes felt like a vital difference.

9. Jacobsen: What is the juxtaposition of religiosity and secularism for mom and dad, and you?

Banafshei: Their view has been that secularism requires public acceptance and private separation of opposing ideals. No system is perfect, and I believe things can, and do, generally function a little better than that. Of course, ultimately only time and further social development will reveal more clearly how a society should, or could, be arranged in terms of the seemingly opposing structures.

10. Jacobsen: What seems like the long-term future of religion in the 21st century with the onslaughts on science with some of the persistent supernaturals and assertions of faith texts and practices?

Banafshei: Religion will decline further as scientific advances reveal more about the various natures of our existences. It will always be around as it seems to fulfil some human spiritual need, but as we develop more tools of human welfare such systems will become redundant for more people.  

11. Jacobsen: How was the experience with peers and schoolmates as a child and an adolescent?

Banafshei: I think I was always a relatively agreeable kid who tried to be approachable and friendly with peers. My personal development of such has related to learning that it’s not always wrong to be relatively selective in terms of social association. If we define the term intelligent colloquially, then I can assert that I’ve often felt socially incompatible with the non-intelligent. 

12. Jacobsen: Is an agreeable disposition helpful for the gifted and talented?

Banafshei: I’m not sure I could provide any general advice for the gifted in terms of this. There is a range of gifted people and different things will work for different gifted people. And of course that’s not even to suggest that the social disposition of a person is necessarily more important somehow if they happen to be gifted.

13. Jacobsen: “Contrasting,” how so, in more precise terms?

Banafshei: Homosexuality and the mild sexual imagery of media representations were often the subject of serious criticism at home. I felt uncomfortable with any normalization of such things at school as child, but as I grew up it wasn’t difficult to accept some of the contradictions of the two cultures of my developmental periods.

14. Jacobsen: What is the purpose of intelligence tests to you?

Banafshei: At first it was to simply ascertain my IQ. And since I now have some idea of that, I like to occasionally look at them for purposes of seeking enjoyable intellectual challenges. 

15. Jacobsen: When was high intelligence discovered for you?

Banafshei: I guess I started to think about the possibility of this when I started to attain good exam results on some secondary school tests I didn’t care about and didn’t study for. The confidence I gained from that resulted in IQ testing not too long after. 

16. Jacobsen: Any peers who were around the same intellectual level for you?

Banafshei: I had one friend in secondary school who had good grades, a relatively impressive store of general knowledge, and seemed obviously of above-average intelligence. Sadly, I soon got the chance to learn that he was also arrogant, had antisocial attitudes and believed some races of people are inferior. It was then that I realized being intelligent doesn’t make you better than anyone else. Intelligence is only one aspect of an individual’s constitution, and I’m concerned with much more than just that.

17. Jacobsen: When you think of the ways in which the geniuses of have either been mocked, vilified, and condemned if not killed, or praised, flattered, platformed, and revered, what seems like the reason for the extreme reactions to and treatment of geniuses? Many alive today seem camera shy – many, not all.

Banafshei: The better something is understood, the less likely it is to be vilified or glorified. And in relation to this, one can never be truly praised or condemned for reflecting the conceptual systems of another back to them, which by definition is not the role the genius has to play.

18. Jacobsen: Who seem like the greatest geniuses in history to you?

Banafshei: I would mention Aristotle and Leonardo da Vinci. They were not only prominent historical geniuses of great contribution but also ones who had the vision to do great work in many areas of study. The true geniuses achieved what they did because they refused to be conservative in their estimations of what they could have achieved.  

19. Jacobsen: Who seem like great living geniuses to you?

Banafshei: I consider the greatest geniuses to be those who can be clearly connected to the most significant changes of the world. This would currently include bill gates, warren buffet, Elias James Corey, and James Watson among others.

20. Jacobsen: What is normally considered conservative in this context to delimit the full range of possibilities of the profoundly gifted to become achievers while not geniuses?

Banafshei: Most observers of any accomplishment of note will have quite limited expectations of what is possible as a result of what they’ve seen materialize, which is something they’ll often make obvious for others to see. Geniuses are rarely, if ever, those who internalize the suggestions of people who urge others to be ‘realistic’ and have limited perspectives of what they can achieve.

21. Jacobsen: What differentiates a genius from a profoundly intelligent person?

Banafshei: I think one reasonable definition of genius could be that of people who live up to their potential. Few people, myself included currently, get close to achieving the best that they could in any area of their natural capability. The difference between possibility and reality is often the difference between smart people and geniuses. 

22. Jacobsen: How much talent has gone to the garbage heap due to racist and sexist ideologies, wars, famine, societal and cultural values against individual enterprise, political constraints on radical transformation of societal ideals and norms, etc.?

Banafshei: It would certainly be interesting to know. This question resonates with me as a person who conforms to very few stereotypes of intelligence. I have not tended to be what’s regarded as nerdy, I have no university qualifications, I’m a product and member of the working-class, and I have had considerable experiences of being overlooked as a member of minority groups which seem to be gladly associated with various forms of propaganda by growing numbers of people these days.  As a result of this, I have often felt like I’ve been treated in a way that is consistent with what many expect of me in terms of these things rather than anything observable of me in actuality, which has often felt strange and alienating. I think the result of my life experiences has been that I’ve become determined to correct what’s wrong and clarify what’s true. Being written off many times in life has motivated me to try to be a positive representation of who I truly am and to inspire others to be similarly appropriate beings. Those who face difficulties relating to your question have a responsibility to overcome the obstacles they face to create a better world not only for themselves but also those who’ll be just like them.

23. Jacobsen: What have been some work experiences and educational certifications for you?

Banafshei: I have passed a basic business course in college when I was nineteen and have since worked in a variety of roles ranging from those of administration to those in the hospitality sector, I have worked as a chef for a longer period of time than I have in other roles. My current aspirations include the idea of starting my own business in the near future.  

24. Jacobsen: What kind of business adventure?

Banafshei: Without giving everything away, I can say that I intend on starting a business, or business, that’ll be inclusive of the things I care about which relate to giftedness, psychology, research, community building, and various forms of media to name a few.

25. Jacobsen: What are some of the more important aspects of the idea of the gifted and geniuses? Those myths that pervade the cultures of the world. What are those myths? What truths dispel them?

Banafshei: In relation to the above, one of the myths I’m aware of is the idea that only one in a billion of us can be an Einstein and that the rest of humanity ought to realize that they can’t be ‘geniuses’ or contribute anything of much value. The fact is there are many, many more people out there with great innovative potential than what seems to be popularly estimated. Great potential seems to be much rarer than it really is to people when they fail to grasp that the achievement of a person is not necessarily only limited by what they are capable of. Success is better evidence of intelligence than failure is of stupidity. The myths of intelligence will be dispelled by efforts of using it.

26. Jacobsen: What are some social and political views for you? Why hold them?

Banafshei: I don’t have any fixed social or political view. There are different ways of societal functioning, and different people are suited to different systems. 

27. Jacobsen: Where have you sat before? Where do you sit now? I am speaking socially and politically.

Banafshei: For most of my life, my views haven’t been dissimilar to what’s seen as the prevailing ones of British society. I believe what’s right is simply a matter of context. If we want to implement the correct social/political systems, then we ought to be dedicated to being knowledgeable about things first. People who currently have loud political voices are often not very intelligent or knowledgeable. And too many people tend to be socio-politically disinterested apparently due to pessimism of change and a lack of appreciation of the important issues.

28. Jacobsen: Any thoughts on the God concept or gods idea and philosophy, theology, and religion?

Banafshei: As a non-religious person, my interest in religion is based on a desire to try to understand it’s connection to historical human culture, spirituality and philosophy. Everything is connected and for those of us who have relatively vast interests of learning, it makes sense to explore this significant aspect of human social evolution. 

29. Jacobsen: How much does science play into the worldview for you?

Banafshei: If I had to quantify it, I’d say a lot. If reasoning of a scientific nature, or scientific possibility at least, cannot be provided for something philosophical, then it is meaningless.

30. Jacobsen: What have been some of the tests taken and scores earned (with standard deviations) for you?

Banafshei: I’ve taken triplex light by Ivan Ivec as well as GENE Verbal II and GIFT Verbal I by Iakovos Koukas. I achieved scores of 161, 180 and 170 sd15 on those tests respectively.

31. Jacobsen: What ethical philosophy makes some sense, even the most workable sense to you?

Banafshei: Currently, it seems the golden rule works well enough in most circumstances. The associated imperfections of it can be overcome by simply getting to know one another better, of course.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Member, World Genius Directory.

[2] Individual Publication Date: July 1, 2020: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/banafshei-one; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2020: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

*High range testing (HRT) should be taken with honest skepticism grounded in the limited empirical development of the field at present, even in spite of honest and sincere efforts. If a higher general intelligence score, then the greater the variability in, and margin of error in, the general intelligence scores because of the greater rarity in the population.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Mhedi Banafshei on Background, Religion, Geniuses, and Intelligence Tests (Part One) [Online].July 2020; 23(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/banafshei-one.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2020, July 1). An Interview with Mhedi Banafshei on Background, Religion, Geniuses, and Intelligence Tests (Part One)Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/banafshei-one.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Mhedi Banafshei on Background, Religion, Geniuses, and Intelligence Tests (Part One). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 23.A, July. 2020. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/banafshei-one>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2020. “An Interview with Mhedi Banafshei on Background, Religion, Geniuses, and Intelligence Tests (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 23.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/banafshei-one.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Mhedi Banafshei on Background, Religion, Geniuses, and Intelligence Tests (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 23.A (July 2020). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/banafshei-one.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2020, ‘An Interview with Mhedi Banafshei on Background, Religion, Geniuses, and Intelligence Tests (Part One)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 23.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/banafshei-one>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2020, ‘An Interview with Mhedi Banafshei on Background, Religion, Geniuses, and Intelligence Tests (Part One)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 23.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/banafshei-one.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Mhedi Banafshei on Background, Religion, Geniuses, and Intelligence Tests (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 23.A (2020):July. 2020. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/banafshei-one>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Mhedi Banafshei on Background, Religion, Geniuses, and Intelligence Tests (Part One) [Internet]. (2020, June 23(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/banafshei-one.

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