Illusory Superiority and IQ

According to Derb’s own homepage, the prolific writer, autodidact, polymath, programmer and mathematician ‘only’ has an IQ of 135, which came as surprise to me. I’m sure if you asked others to guess Derb’s IQ they would shoot off numbers like 150 or 160, as would I. But perhaps his test had a low ceiling, but because he doesn’t tell us the type of IQ test he took, I guess we’ll never know. But, according to numerous studies, what we do know is that modern IQ tests have very high ceilings and that people with profound intelligence (160+) tend to exhibit vastly superior ability in adolescence than those who are merely very intelligent.

Perhaps there is a tendency among those in the HBD ‘community’ to downplay the ability of varying levels of intelligence such that a person of an IQ of 100 is only smart enough to be cognizant and 120 is the minimum to be educated when, in fact, about 25-40% of individuals with IQs between 90-110 do complete college and would be considered ‘educated’. Only 115-125 is needed to complete graduate school and even earn a PHD. Again, we’re not talking super-genius levels of intelligence. There is a cognitive bias called illusory superiority which means that individuals of above average intelligence may overestimate their own intelligence and the intelligence of their peers while also underestimating the intelligence of those on the left of the bell curve as well as underestimating the intelligence of those on the very far right. For example, Gary Ridgway, America’s most prolific serial killer, only has an IQ of 82 but, by fastidious attention to detail, was able to evade capture by the well-funded FBI for two decades. Although to someone with an IQ of 120, 80 may seem barely functional, it actually isn’t.

Now, let’s look to the very far right (>160) of the bell curve. A couple weeks ago on a debate on, I steadfastly maintained that celebrated physicist, Richard Feynman, only had an IQ between 125-140 instead of the >190 figure purported by others. No one agreed, and even Ron Unz, editor of who seldom interferes with the dalliances of regular commentators, had to intercede and rebut my point not just once, but twice because Richard Feynman is supposed to be among the smartest men who ever lived and to question this immutable fact is blasphemy and high treason. As mentioned in the Feynman’s IQ essay, the cognitive differences between individuals with an IQ between 120-140 (above average to genius) and those with an IQ > 160 are substantial, and this is documented in numerous studies. Richard Feynman was learning college level math in his early teens, but prodigies do the same and often go to college early, skipping high school altogether. Hell, even I was reading college level math books in 9th grade, and I’m not that smart. Read the biography of Feynman’s formative years and compare it to that of Terrance Tao, Edward Witten, Jacob Barnet and Jacob Lurie (all of whom have IQs above 160) and you’ll see a stark difference. Witten, for example, was able to acquire most Feynman’s repertoire of knowledge while studying history and economics, only to switch and obtain a PHD in physics. Those with the highest of IQs possess a superhuman ability to gain and synthesize knowledge and at such an early age that even Richard Feynman, as brilliant as he was, couldn’t match. That doesn’t detract from Feynman’s legacy – but we’re taking about IQ, which is not the same as mastery of a subject, whether it be math, chess or writing books.