Comments on East Coast "Noesis" #139

Kevin Langdon

"Together, these three principles--the `3 M's'--imply that space and time are self-resolving paradoxiform generalizations of information and cognition respectively. Specifically, they imply that space is distributed cognitive potential with respect to parallel relations, and that time is the cognitive evolution parameter of such relations."
--Chris Langan

Chris Langan continues to misrepresent his unofficial newsletter as "Noesis, the Journal of the Mega Society." This is a matter of concern to the officers of the Mega Society, as prospective members may be confused and/or disappointed with what they find when they think they're joining "the Mega Society." Chris' remarks on page 19 would seem to indicate that this is already happening. Chris should make up his own name instead of misappropriating ours. I suggest "The Handbasket Society."

Chris mentioned the work by a group headed by Robert Plomin of the London Institute of Psychiatry which found a gene on chromosome 6 that appears to be responsible for a variation of about 4 points of I.Q. I had intended to include a note about this work in the present issue of Noesis. Although this is a small fraction of the total variance in I.Q., the gene identified by Plomin and his colleagues is only the first to be found; other genes affecting intelligence are sure to be located within the next few years.

Chris has finally responded to repeated calls for an elementary introduction to his CTMU, but what he calls a "CTMU Primer" is nothing of the kind. A primer presents the basics of a subject, assuming that the reader knows nothing and developing everything from first principles. Chris makes a number of statements about the CTMU and its principal components, including the incomprehensible quotation at the top of this page, but the mathematical reasoning of which the theory itself consists is absent. Show us the math, Chris. (And if you do, I will certainly be willing to bear witness to the fact that what you wrote was published in Noesis, or in "Noesis," on a certain date. It would, of course, be up to you to establish the relevance of such publication to someone else's claim to authorship of particular ideas.)

Chris exhibited a letter from Dr. Arthur Jensen to Paul Maxim in which Dr. Jensen disclaimed knowledge of my I.Q. tests. I did, in fact, give Dr. Jensen a copy of the LAIT a number of years ago and discuss it with him. Either he didn't remember or he didn't want to be drawn into whatever Mr. Maxim was up to.

Dr. Jensen did send the press release for his book, The g Factor, to the editors of the journals of the various high-I.Q.-society journals through me and he sent me a copy of the book, with the following inscription:

"To Kevin Langdon, Explorer in the higher realms of g. With best wishes, Art Jensen 3.27.98"

Chris included a letter from Paul Maxim in this issue in which Mr. Maxim made several false and actionable statements about me. This was unwise. As I have replied to Mr. Maxim's misrepresentations elsewhere, I will not give them fresh exposure here.

Chris wrote: "Kevin did not invent g; others did." I have never claimed otherwise. Although I had a sense of the importance of general intelligence from an early age, I was astounded by the concept of g when I first heard of it; I'd expected that the various special factors would be more important than the general factor.

In a classic example of projection, Chris objected that my observation that recent events have made him look more like a splatter than a bouncer was "bully language." What I objected to most strongly in his remarks was a threatening undertone which is repeated here in the following passage:

"You look like a splatter!" is, of course, bully language. We all heard plenty of it on the playgrounds as children; some of us later heard it in the streets. And now, not very surprisingly, we hear it from Kevin Langdon. Why on earth would a supposedly intelligent person like Kevin use this ugly kind of language?
To answer this question, it will suffice to recount a disturbing rumor that's been going around since the 1980's. When a certain nameless person, expertly imitating a world-class deadbeat, was in the process of stiffing hundreds of people on prepaid score reports for a (similarly nameless) high-ceiling "IQ test," one intrepid test-taker had the temerity to ask for his money back . . . all of $5.00 or less. The stiffy, true to character, naturally played dead. So the poor little guy had to go to small claims court to get a compensatory judgment in the amount of five whole dollars. But when he showed up at a party attended by the defendant with the idea of collecting his lawful damages, said defendant is alleged to have snarled viciously and hurled an ashtray at him with all the force and fury of a wine-crazed, discus-flinging Hercules!
Chances are that I'll never have a face-to-face meeting with Kevin, whose own story is in some respects similar to that just given. Nevertheless, accidents happen. Knowing that I've been in the professional tough-guy business for 20 years may help Kevin avoid the terrible consequences of venting any unseemly hostility in my direction. Because if a hard object were to be flung in anger at me, I'm afraid that . . . but why stoop to threats? Suffice it to say that there are many ways, intellectual and otherwise, to be swatted like a gnat, and that Kevin Langdon's education may not yet be complete in this regard.
On the other hand, if Kevin were to behave civilly--as he carefully does towards potentially advantageous acquaintances like Arthur Jensen and even Chris Cole--then he would be treated civilly in return. In fact, if Kevin is even a fraction as smart as he pretends he is, then he will belatedly learn to wear a friendly face with everyone he meets . . . lest some day he unwittingly run afoul of one who thinks it better to kick ass than to kiss it, and more blessed to give hostility with his hands than to receive it out of Kevin's volcanic mouth.

My language was clown language. (Maybe Jojo can explain that to Chris.) It makes the bullies uncomfortable, as it unmasks them, if only temporarily. I played the role of clown a lot in my youth; I wasn't big, strong, or tough enough to play the bully, even if I'd been so inclined. Chris' deliberate use of real "bully language" is unfortunate and lowers, still further than his previous publications, the tone of his ongoing diatribe against those of us who don't buy his act.

Consider the following passage from Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman (New York: Bantam, 1995):

Not all angry children are bullies; some are withdrawn social outcasts who overreact to being teased or to what they perceive as slights or unfairness. But the one perceptual flaw that unites such children is that they perceive slights where none were intended, imagining their peers to be more hostile toward them than they actually are. This leads them to misperceive neutral acts as threatening ones--an innocent bump is seen as a vendetta--and to attack in return. That, of course, leads other children to shun them, isolating them further. Such angry, isolated children are highly sensitive to injustices and being treated unfarily. They typically see themselves as victims and can recite a list of instances when, say, teachers blamed them for doing something when in fact they were innocent. Another trait of such children is that once they are in the heat of anger they can think of only one way to react: by lashing out.
These perceptual biases can be seen at work in an experiment in which bullies are paired with a more peaceable child to watch videos. In one video, a boy drops his books when another knocks into him, and children standing nearby laugh; the boy who dropped the books gets angry and tries to hit one of those who laughed. When the boys who watched the video talk about it afterward, the bully always sees the boy who struck out as justified. Even more telling, when they have to rate how aggressive the boys were during their discussion of the video, the bullies see the boy who knocked into the other as more combative, and the anger of the boy who struck out as justified.
The jump to judgment testifies to a deep perceptual bias in people who are unusually aggressive; they act on the basis of the assumption of hostility or threat, paying too little attention to what is actually going on. Once they assume threat, they leapfrog to action. For instance, if an aggressive boy is playing checkers with another who moves a piece out of turn, he'll interpret the move as "cheating" without pausing to find out if it had been an innocent mistake. His presumption is of malevolence rather than innocence; his reaction is automatic hostility. Along with the knee-jerk perception of a hostile act is entwined an equally automatic aggression; instead of, say, pointing out to the other boy that he made a mistake, he will jump to accusation, yelling, hitting. And the more such children do this, the more automatic aggression becomes for them, and the more the repertoire of alternatives--politeness, joking--shrinks. (p. 235)

According to Chris Langan, Chris Cole and I are warlords who have commandeered the Mega Society--but he wouldn't even release the results of his bogus "election," so his claim to have any sort of mandate is absurd.

Of course, no sensible editor publishes unverified rumors. Here is what really happened between the person Chris referred to, Bill Bavin, and me:

The beginning of the story is more or less true. Mr. Bavin was among many hundreds of people who were kept waiting for many months for score reports during one of the technical breakdowns that have plagued my computer systems (and after having paid $5 for scoring, too). Poor little Bill Bavin bragged of being a member of a network of survivalists ready to help one another play dirty tricks on anybody who crossed one of them (one of Mr. Bavin's buddies actually tried to pull a very expensive trick on me, but I caught on before he could reel me in). Mr. Bavin killed himself and another Mensa member in a failed attempt at stunt flying, after which his wife discovered that he had arranged their financial affairs to leave her completely out in the cold; she didn't get a dime from the pig's estate. This is, of course, much worse than anything Mr. Bavin did to me.

Although he knew about my technical problems and he knew or should have known that the court lacked jurisdiction over a mail-order business in California, Mr. Bavin filed suit in a small claims court in Arizona, where he lived, asking not just for his $5 but for other items of made-up damages. I offered Mr. Bavin his money back, but he would take nothing less than this inflated amount, so I told him to go to hell.

Mr. Bavin then proceeded to execute an elaborate ruse in order to serve me with the papers for his bogus lawsuit. He impersonated a Scottish publisher and said that he was going to be in San Francisco for a publishers' conference. He asked me to drive to Union Square in San Francisco (about 30 miles from my home at the time) to meet with him about a book that he was working on the high-I.Q. societies. Realizing that people with as much background as myself in this relatively-obscure area are rare, I agreed to help him with his research.

When I arrived at the designated meeting spot, a man outside whom I had never seen before thrust the papers for Mr. Bavin's lawsuit into my hands. But this wasn't the end of the deception. I entered the meeting place and was greeted by a woman who claimed to be the secretary of the "publisher" I was to meet. She explained to me that something had come up and he wouldn't be able to meet with me. She feigned ignorance of the process server and refused to tell me where this "publisher" was (I wanted to confront him about the appearance of the process server at a place where only he knew I'd be).

When she refused to provide any further information, I became quite angry and dumped an ashtray full of (extinguished) cigarette butts into her lap. I got up to leave--only to be met at the door by poor little beefy Bill Bavin, who introduced himself and made dire threats of bodily harm, accompanied by a recitation of his war record in the Marines. Admittedly, dumping the ashtray into the lap of the "secretary" (who, it turned out, was the unfortunate wife mentioned above) was probably not the most mature thing I've ever done, but I didn't like being conned--and she was a party to it, though it turned out later that she, too, was among Mr. Bavin's victims.

Mr. Bavin did not obtain a judgment. My attorney brought the jurisdictional issue to the attention of the court and the matter was dismissed.

The bottom line: Chris Langan is a smart guy, but if he had anywhere near the depth of understanding he claims he wouldn't be so defensive and he wouldn't need to stoop to making thinly-veiled threats.

Chris Harding and Ron Hoeflin: please stop lending Chris' ersatz "Noesis" credibility by sending him material. And all of you folks out there, please don't encourage Chris by sending him money or written contributions.