|Home town||Bozeman, Montana|
Christopher Michael Langan (born c. 1952) is an American autodidact with an IQ reported to be between 195 and 210. He has been described as "the smartest man in America" by the media. Langan has developed a "theory of the relationship between mind and reality" which he calls the "Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe (CTMU)".
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. He began talking at six months, taught himself to read before he was four, and was repeatedly skipped ahead in school. Growing up in poverty, he stated that he was beaten by his stepfather from when he was almost six to when he was about fourteen. 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.
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". He earned a perfect score on the SAT despite taking a nap during the test. 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.
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.
In a 1999 interview broadcast on the TV show 20/20, neuropsychologist Robert Novelly described Langan's IQ as "the highest individual that I have ever measured in 25 years." Langan has been featured in magazines and newspapers such as Esquire Popular Science, The Times, Newsday, and Muscle & Fitness. He appeared on BBC Radio and the TV show First Person and has written question-and-answer columns for New York Newsday, The Improper Hamptonian, and Men's Fitness magazine.
In 1999 Langan and others formed a non-profit corporation called the "Mega Foundation" to "create and implement programs that aid in the development of gifted individuals and their ideas." 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. 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" and that his CTMU "explains the connection between mind and reality, therefore the presence of cognition and universe in the same phrase". 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." In conjunction with his ideas, Langan has claimed that "you can prove the existence of God, the soul and an afterlife, using mathematics."
In 2004, Langan moved with his wife Gina (née LoSasso), a clinical neuropsychologist, to northern Missouri, where he owned and operated a horse ranch. On January 25, 2008, Langan was a contestant on NBC's 1 vs. 100, where he won $250,000.
He was profiled in Malcolm Gladwell's 2008 book Outliers: The Story of Success, 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". 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.
Langan is a fellow of the International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design (ISCID), a professional society which promotes intelligent design, and has published a paper on his CTMU in the society's online journal Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design in 2002. Later that year, he presented a lecture on his CTMU at ISCID's Research and Progress in Intelligent Design (RAPID) conference. 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.
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.
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.
Langan has said 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." He calls himself "a respecter of all faiths, among peoples everywhere."
- For the figure of 195, see Sager 1999, McFadden 1999, Fowler 2000, Wigmore 2000, O'Connell 2001, Brabham 2001, and Quain 2001. In Morris 2001, Langan relates that he took what was billed as "the world's most difficult IQ test" in Omni magazine, and gives his IQ as "somewhere between 190 and 210."
- For the phrase "the smartest man in America," see Sager 1999, Fowler 2000, Wigmore 2000, and Brabham 2001. O'Connell 2001 (in the standfirst) uses "the smartest man in the world," and Quain 2001 (on the cover) uses "the Smartest Man Alive."
- "CTMU Q & A – What is the CTMU?". Megafoundation.org. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
- Preston, Ray (November 15, 2006).
- Sager 1999; Brabham 2001.
- McFadden, Cynthia. (December 9, 1999). "The Smart Guy". 20/20.
- Wigmore, Barry. (February 7, 2000). "Einstein's brain, King Kong's body". The Times.
- Sager, Mike (November 1999). "The Smartest Man in America". Esquire. Archived from the original on 2001-04-21.
- Quain, John R. (October 14, 2001). "Wise Guy" (Interview with Christopher Langan and Science Works in Mysterious Ways). Popular Science.
- Brabham, Dennis. (August 21, 2001). "The Smart Guy". Newsday.
- O'Connell, Jeff. (May 2001). "Mister Universe". Muscle & Fitness.
- Fowler, Damien. (January 2000). Interview with Mega Foundation members. Outlook. BBC Radio.
- Morris, Errol. (August 14, 2001). "The Smartest Man in the World". First Person.
- Langan, Christopher M. (September 2001). Chris Langan answers your questions. New York Newsday. Melville, NY.
- Langan, Christopher M. (2000-2001). HiQ. The Improper Hamptonian. Westhampton Beach, NY.
- O'Connell, Jeff, Ed. (2004). World of knowledge: we harness the expertise of the brawny, the brainy, and the bearded to solve your most pressing dilemmas. Men's Fitness.
- "Mega Foundation Mission page". Megafoundation.org. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
- "ABCNEWS.com Chat Transcript". ABC News. December 10, 1999. Archived from the original on 2000-08-16. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
- Preston, Ray (November 15, 2006). "Meet the Smartest Man in America".
- Gladwell, Malcolm (2008). Outliers: The Story of Success. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-01792-3.
- Gladwell 2008, p. 95.
- "Book Review". Nytimes.com. 2008-11-18. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
- "ISCID fellows". Iscid.org. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
- "Intelligent Design and Peer Review". American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved 2007-03-28. "[T]he International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design (ISCID), which promotes intelligent design..."
- Langan, Christopher M. (2002). The Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe: A New Kind of Reality Theory. Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design 1.2-1.3
- "RAPID conference schedule". Iscid.org. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
- Langan, Christopher M. (2004). Cheating the Millennium: The Mounting Explanatory Debts of Scientific Naturalism. In Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing, Wm. Dembski, Ed., Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
- "Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe". Ctmu.org. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
- Errol Morris’ First Person (Interview with Chris Langan)
- Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe website
- SuperScholar Interview with Christopher Langan