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08 July 2012

Christopher Langan

Christopher Michael Langan (born c. 1952) is an American autodidact whose IQ was reported by 20/20 and other media sources to have been measured at between 195 and 210.[1] Billed by some media sources as "the smartest man in America",[2] he rose to prominence in 1999 while working as a bouncer on Long Island. Langan has developed his own "theory of the relationship between mind and reality" which he calls the "Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe (CTMU)".[3][4]

Biography

Langan was born in San Francisco, California, and spent most of his early life in Montana. His mother was the daughter of a wealthy shipping executive but was cut off from her family; his father died or disappeared before he was born.[5] He began talking at six months, taught himself to read before he was four, and was repeatedly skipped ahead in school. But he grew up in poverty and says he was beaten by his stepfather from when he was almost six to when he was about fourteen.[6] By then Langan had begun weight training, and forcibly ended the abuse, throwing his stepfather out of the house and telling him never to return.[7]
Langan says he spent the last years of high school mostly in independent study, teaching himself "advanced math, physics, philosophy, Latin and Greek, all that".[8] After earning a perfect score on the SAT[6] (despite falling asleep) Langan attended Reed College and later Montana State University, but faced with financial and transportation problems, and believing that he could teach his professors more than they could teach him, he dropped out.[8]
He took a string of labor-intensive jobs, and by his mid-40s had been a construction worker, cowboy, forest service firefighter, farmhand, and, for over twenty years, a bouncer on Long Island. He says he developed a "double-life strategy": on one side a regular guy, doing his job and exchanging pleasantries, and on the other side coming home to perform equations in his head, working in isolation on his Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe.[8]
Wider attention came in 1999, when Esquire magazine published a profile of Langan and other members of the high-IQ community.[8] Billing Langan as "the smartest man in America", Mike Sager's account of the weight-lifting bouncer and his CTMU "Theory of Everything" sparked a flurry of media interest. Board-certified neuropsychologist Dr. Robert Novelly tested Langan's IQ for 20/20, which reported that Langan broke the ceiling of the test. Novelly was said to be astounded, saying: "Chris is the highest individual that I have ever measured in 25 years of doing this."[6]
Articles and interviews highlighting Langan appeared in Popular Science,[9] The Times,[7] Newsday,[10] Muscle & Fitness (which reported that he could bench press 500 pounds),[11] and elsewhere. Langan was featured on 20/20,[6] interviewed on BBC Radio[12] and on Errol Morris's First Person,[13] and participated in an online chat at ABCNEWS.com.[14] He has written question-and-answer columns for New York Newsday,[15] The Improper Hamptonian,[16] and Men's Fitness.[17]
In 2004, Langan moved with his wife Gina (née LoSasso), a clinical neuropsychologist, to northern Missouri, where he owns and operates a horse ranch.[18] On January 25, 2008, Langan was a contestant on NBC's 1 vs. 100, where he won $250,000.
In 1999 Langan and his wife, Gina LoSasso, formed a non-profit corporation called the "Mega Foundation" to "create and implement programs that aid in the development of extremely gifted individuals and their ideas."[19] In addition to his writings at the Foundation, Langan's media exposure at the end of the 1990s invariably included some discussion of his "Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe" (often referred to by Langan as "CTMU"), and he was reported by Popular Science in 2001 to be writing a book about his work called Design for a Universe.[9] He has been quoted as saying that "you cannot describe the universe completely with any accuracy unless you're willing to admit that it's both physical and mental in nature"[11] and that his CTMU "explains the connection between mind and reality, therefore the presence of cognition and universe in the same phrase".[14] He calls his proposal "a true 'Theory of Everything', a cross between John Archibald Wheeler's 'Participatory Universe' and Stephen Hawking's 'Imaginary Time' theory of cosmology."[8] In conjunction with his ideas, Langan has claimed that "you can prove the existence of God, the soul and an afterlife, using mathematics."[6]
Langan is a fellow of the International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design (ISCID),[20] a professional society which promotes intelligent design,[21] and has published a paper on his CTMU in the society's online journal Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design in 2002.[22] Later that year, he presented a lecture on his CTMU at ISCID's Research and Progress in Intelligent Design (RAPID) conference.[23] In 2004, Langan contributed a chapter to Uncommon Dissent, a collection of essays that question evolution and promote intelligent design, edited by ISCID cofounder and leading intelligent design proponent William Dembski.[24]
Asked about creationism, Langan has said:
I believe in the theory of evolution, but I believe as well in the allegorical truth of creation theory. In other words, I believe that evolution, including the principle of natural selection, is one of the tools used by God to create mankind. Mankind is then a participant in the creation of the universe itself, so that we have a closed loop. I believe that there is a level on which science and religious metaphor are mutually compatible.[14]
Langan explains on his website that he believes "since Biblical accounts of the genesis of our world and species are true but metaphorical, our task is to correctly decipher the metaphor in light of scientific evidence also given to us by God". He explains
In explaining this relationship, the CTMU shows that reality possesses a complex property akin to self-awareness. That is, just as the mind is real, reality is in some respects like a mind. But when we attempt to answer the obvious question "whose mind?", the answer turns out to be a mathematical and scientific definition of God. This implies that we all exist in what can be called "the Mind of God", and that our individual minds are parts of God's Mind. They are not as powerful as God's Mind, for they are only parts thereof; yet, they are directly connected to the greatest source of knowledge and power that exists. This connection of our minds to the Mind of God, which is like the connection of parts to a whole, is what we sometimes call the soul or spirit, and it is the most crucial and essential part of being human.[25]
Langan has argued elsewhere that he does not belong to any religious denomination, explaining that he "can't afford to let [his] logical approach to theology be prejudiced by religious dogma."[14] He calls himself "a respecter of all faiths, among peoples everywhere."[14]
He was profiled in Malcolm Gladwell's 2008 book Outliers: The Story of Success,[26] where Gladwell looks at the reasons behind why Langan was unable to flourish in a university environment. Gladwell writes that although Langan "read deeply in philosophy, mathematics, and physics" as he worked on the CTMU, "without academic credentials, he despairs of ever getting published in a scholarly journal".[27] Gladwell's profile of Langan mainly portrayed him as an example of an individual who failed to realize his potential in part because of poor social skills resulting from, in Gladwell's speculation, being raised in poverty.[28]
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