Genius in our midst

Two groups of people among us are certifiable geniuses. They make incredible deductions; have stunning insights and mind boggling leaps of intuition.

These gifted ones expand their learning and ours by formulating hypotheses, performing experiments, synthesizing data, and communicating their findings to average people.

The first group are researchers discovering, analyzing and corroborating information from the world and even the universe. The second group are toddlers examining the nooks, crannies, drawers, and toy boxes in their realm of research. In their pursuit of knowledge, the two groups have more in common than you might suppose. Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, reported in the journal “Science” a recent study she and others conducted. She said, “Even babies and very young children learn about the world in many of the ways that scientists do. Only when children do experiments we say ’they’re getting into everything!’”

Scientists formulate hypotheses and test them using investigative instruments including microscopes, test tubes and computers. The toddlers use eyes, fingers, and often tongue, and taste buds. Each makes judgments about the value or usefulness of the discovery, and whether or not it is worth his or her continuing interest and acts accordingly.

Each group borrows from the other’s repertory of skills. The child gradually learns the more sophisticated techniques of the adult world. The best adult researchers remember to keep the open mindedness and excitement in discovery they had as a child.

A little childhood curiosity and wonder can go a long way in a creative, intelligent adult mind. Albert Einstein pondered what the universe would look like if he were riding on a light beam. His answer overturned the world of physics, and now helps guide rocket ships to distant planets. That incredible skill of abstract thinking is shared by children. Babies learn that certain sounds identify objects. Grade school children learn that squiggles of lead or ink on a page can carry messages over distance and preserve them through time. Older children and adults learn to program mathematical formulas and algorithms into computer languages that can paint pictures, record motion pictures, and link the world together in the internet.

In human relationships, children’s moral compass seems naturally set at an early age. If they perceive an ethical disconnect, they are quick to say, “That’s not fair.” Adults deliver the same judgments but usually in more words. In the United States Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson and others proclaimed it to be “self evident that all men are created equal.”  They added that power should flow not from the ruler to the people, but just the opposite. People are “…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” The people then grant such rights as they choose to their government. The result of that “fair” line of thinking is the favored land we are privileged to live in.

Thank heaven for the truly brilliant minds among us—the old and the young. Average folks like me who are neither brilliant researchers nor children can learn much from both of them.