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Duckbilled Platypus, plate 34 of Wild Life of the World: A Descriptive Survey of the Geographical Distribution of Animals Volume III, by Richard Lydekker (London; F. Warne and co., 1916) via the Biodiversity Heritage Library [Public Domain]. The question of how the duckbilled platypus got from Brisbane to Baghdad and back without leaving any traces of its journey is still utterly puzzling to this day.

What Was Adam’s IQ?

Adam’s IQ was 1500! How do I know? I read it in a pamphlet I found at the Institute for Creation Science. Why does Adam’s IQ concern creationists? Because Adam named all of the animals.

Leave aside the interesting question of how the duckbilled platypus got from Brisbane to Baghdad and back without leaving any traces of its journey. Let us not ask when the plants got their names. Let us not worry about insects. Let us accept the creationists’ view that Adam did not have to name all 30 million scientifically defined species but only the 30,000 Biblical kinds of animals. Even this number is too large. Few of us count 30,000 words in our vocabularies, and I doubt that many of us could name 300 animals. There are only 900 different types of animals in the San Diego Zoo!

According to the creationist pamphlet, Adam was able to name all of the animals because before The Fall he was able to use all of his brain. Evidently, we are to believe, Adam’s brain was similar to that of a present day genius with an IQ of 150. As everyone knows, we only use 10% of our brains. Since Adam used all of his brain, his IQ must have been 1500. Q.E.D.

Some of you may not accept the creationists’ reasoning. You will point out that in Genesis Chapter 2, God created Adam, the first human. By definition, a person of average intelligence has an IQ of 100. If there was only one man, his IQ had to be 100. Later God removed Adam’s rib and fashioned Eve. God’s surgery probably did not change Adam’s intelligence, and Eve was clearly smarter than Adam. After all, she outwitted him about the apple.

Other readers will point to Genesis Chapter 1. In this version of creation, God created man and woman together. Only in Lake Woebegone is it possible for all members of a group to be above average, so Adam’s IQ must have been below 100.

Where did the idea come from that we only use10% of our brains? Some people are so certain of this fact that they angrily quote a beloved teacher, Little League coach, or inspirational minister to contradict me. Even Gracie Allen told George Burns, “Why I’ve got brains I haven’t even used yet!” Historians of psychology tell me that this idea derives from William James, the distinguished American psychologist. In Jimmy, the abridged version of James, his important two volume heavyweight The Principles of Psychology, he supposedly said that we do not know what 90% of the brain does. I have been unable to confirm this because publishers consider the relevant chapter so out of date that they do not include it in modern editions. Of course, not knowing what something does is a far cry from knowing that it does nothing. Logic, however, never stops a New Ager from proclaiming a truth.

To do the New York Times crossword puzzle I learned that a three letter word for a ship-shaped clock is nef. I cannot think of any word that I forgot to make room for this otherwise useless word.

We all have capacities that we have never used. It is my ambition to learn to surf before I am 50. I have lived in California for nearly 20 years, and Swami State Beach, one of California’s famous surfing beaches, beckons just down the road from my house. I will bet that those surfing cells in my head have been just idling along. It is time to put them to work. In a renowned scene from Plato, Socrates showed that an uneducated servant already knew a geometry theorem. In this view, education is nothing but remembering what is already within us. Some psychologists advocate this view today. Just as the immune system produces antibodies to chemicals it has never met, so the brain produces calculus and The Marriage of Figaro by calling upon what is already within. This is the Michaelangelo method of sculpture—see the work within the crude block of marble and cut away the rest. This must be true in some way, but it seems unhelpful.

Most psychologists would say that I have no neurons passing time in my head waiting for me to learn Russian. Paradoxically, they do not think that learning Russian would use up neurons that had been doing something else. To do the New York Times crossword puzzle I learned that a three letter word for a ship-shaped clock is nef. I cannot think of any word that I forgot to make room for this otherwise useless word.

Neurons are complex electrical and chemical cells. Dendrites, the output ends of other neurons, nearly touch the cell body or some of its input arms. The upstream cells emit tiny dollops of neurotransmitters, specialized chemicals that increase or decrease the likelihood that a neuron will fire. Will a neuron fire? That depends on a complex interaction between its properties and history and all of the excitations and inhibitions from its upstream neurons. When a neuron does fire, the news travels across the cell body and along the axon, an electrochemical transmission line, and out to the ends of dozens or hundreds of branches. These branches influence their downstream cells, increasing or decreasing the likelihood that they will fire. It is easy to imagine that a particular neuron could be part of many paths and circuits, just as we are children, parents, citizens, basketball players, drivers, couch potatoes and many other things. This is the metaphor of the holographic mind—any part of a hologram contains the complete image. The network of memories, skills, associations, and feelings that form our minds are in some way everywhere at once.

Although cognitive scientists jokingly refer to the grandmother cell—a neuron that fires when we think of our grandmother— no one really believes that there is one. Knowledge and capacities reside as part of higher level arrangements within our heads. Not only do neurons participate in many paths and circuits, the individual paths and circuits themselves form groups of paths and circuits. Somewhere along this ascending ladder of circuits of circuits, was Proust’s famous madeleine whose aroma triggered the chain of memories and associations that form his masterpiece.

Skeptic magazine 4.2

This article appeared in Skeptic magazine 4.2 (1996)

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When The Shaq finally learns to shoot a free throw something within the marvelous interconnected network in his head will change. Will it be an adjustment in the excitation or inhibition threshold between some groups of circuits? Will it be a permanent chemical change? Will it be a change in the chemical soup that bathes his brain? Will it be a stable loop of cells perpetually firing each other in sequence? No one knows. Some groups of cells do specific things and if we lose them we lose specific capacities. Readers of Oliver Sacks’ books will remember his damaged patients—some could not recognize a face, but could identify any other object; others lost all common nouns; some lost the idea of rightness. (Not truth and justice, but the direction!)

All of us have unrealized capacities, but this is not because we are using only a part of our brains nor because we are failing to do the best we can. Most of us, of course, could benefit from expanding our lives, seeking new experiences, thinking new ideas, and having new adventures. To do this, we can do no better than to follow the immortal Hercule Poirot’s advice. “Hastings,” he said, “to solve zis case, ve must use all of zee little grrrey cells.” END

About the Author

Dr. Bernard Leikind is a Senior Editor of Skeptic magazine and a plasma physicist familiar to skeptics for his pioneering work in explaining the physics of firewalking, as well as his personal participation in dozens of firewalks. Dr. Leikind has also lectured for skeptics on “strange and unusual atmospheric phenomena,” as well as on the physics of sports, dance, and ballet. He has taught physics and researched at the University of Maryland, UCLA, the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, and General Atomics. He may be the only sensible firewalker, although some consider this an oxymoron.

This article was published on August 24, 2016.


30 responses to “What Was Adam’s IQ?”

  1. JMDuPre says:

    Ancient IT joke: “people only use 10% of their brains for thinking; the rest is operating system overhead”.
    Anyone who has needed to purchase more and more powerful computers over the years, to perform essentially the same task they have been performing for years will understand the overheads of complex operating systems.

  2. John Muir says:

    God created Adam, but Adam was lonely. He said to God: “Could you make me a woman?” God thought about it, and said: ‘Yes, I can make you a woman. She will be kind and loving and never have a headache. She will look after you and never require you to launder the fig leaves and she will be happy for you to watch as much football as you like.” Adam said: “Great”, but God said: “I should warn you, it’s going to be expensive. It will cost you an arm and a leg.”

    Adam thought for a while and then said: “What can I get for a rib?”

  3. steve says:

    One day Eve decided to go for a swim.
    GOD said “now i’ll never get that smell out of the fish “.

  4. Bob Pease says:

    all the animals were dehydrated for the Arc with magic powder that Noah got from the flying saucers.

    then rehydrated with dehydrated water powder from the fountains of the deep.

    Dr. S.

    • J Dan Vignau says:

      Scientologists later used this shrinking power to pour into Earth’s not-yet-formed volcanoes and we arose when the volcanoes erupted.

  5. Craig Gosling says:

    The duckbill illustration is innacurate, platypuses have longer and broader bills. Good try though. It would take millions of miracles to gather, house and disburse all the ark animals. Take it from an old zoo worker who shoveled a lot of shit. If a miracle is required, something is not true. Simply because there is no such thing as a miracle.

  6. Stephen says:

    Not for me the whether Adam named the animals etc. I’m fascinated with the context. “All” the animals were bought to Adam to see if any would be a suitable “helper”. Presumably, after they had been tried out he named them and when that process was over THEN the almighty made a woman.

  7. Dalegtr says:

    It takes little intelligence to make up names and words. Infants do it all the time and let’s not forget about TV evangelists “speaking in tongues”! Any of us could put nonsensical sounds together (can you say glossolalia?). The brain power is necessary to remember them all and nothing in Genesis says that Adam had to remember the names he made!

    • Bob Pease says:

      Speaking in tongues is just jazz with nonstandard scat rules. Anyone thinking they have a spiritual pipeline are deluded

      Folks who claim they couldn’t do it are the same folks who wouldn’t sing scat either.
      Find me a Presbyterian or a Unitarian scat/tongues person.

      Dr. S.

  8. SkeleTony says:

    Off topic a bit but just watched those “Closer to Truth” interviews and, aside from Shermer and A.C. Grayling these are some enormously dense people (and by “Dense” I mean stupid.). They not only parrot the same crappy theistic arguments that the ‘New Atheists’ have refuted for decades now, such as the ‘Well sure religious people have done bad things but look what happened when Stalin came to power!’. One theist even mentions Hitler AS (if he were)AN ATHEIST. They ignore actual atheist arguments while beating down common straw men.

    Why were all three of them included in the interviews?!

  9. aqk (Tony King) says:

    Not only was Eve smarter than Adam, she was also the world’s first carpenter!
    She apparently made Adam’s banana stand.

    I was informed of this astonishing fact in elementary school, obviously by a much more knowledgeable fellow student.

  10. Bob Pease says:

    several generations ago one of the UFO
    pop fad craze Wrote a tract on “How we got the alphabet.”

    Started out something like


    When Adam named the animals the first animal he saw was an Aardvark and so the first letter of the alphabet was called “A”

    the Second animal he saw was an Bear and so the second letter of the alphabet was called “B”

    the Third animal he saw was an Camel and so the third letter of the alphabet was called “C”

    the Fourth animal he saw was an donkey and so the fourth letter of the alphabet was called “D”


    many folks took this seriously


  11. Helen says:

    I trained as a zoologist many decades ago, but moved into other areas. Now I’m getting older, I often forget people’s names and sometimes I have trouble locating common nouns. But I can still recite a list of the scientific names of all the kangaroo species, and when I see many other animals and plants, or pictures of them, the scientific names just appear in my mind.

    Naming the animals or places in the landscape is part of many creation stories. A really nice example from Aboriginal Australia is THE TWO RAINBOW SERPENTS TRAVELLING: Mura track narratives from the ‘Corner Country’ Jeremy Beckett and Luise Hercus. You can download this for free as an ebook from ANU Press ( Here two rainbow serpents (a male and female) travel through the landscape chatting to each other as they name places, explaining why they are choosing the names (often after the animals and plants they observe, but also some other perhaps unexpected sources). They are cleverer than Adam, in that they change languages when they get to a boundary between ‘countries’. (No parallel to the Tower of Babel here!)

  12. h g lea says:

    “and Man made God in his own image”

  13. Steve says:

    Adam and Eve are naming the animals, who walk by in file. Adam intones, “horse, dog, cat (all in English, of course!), hippopotamus.” Hippopotamus?! queries the credulous Eve. Well, it looks more like a hippopotamus than all those other things, Adam responds in supreme confidence.

  14. Mick says:

    Wouldn’t Adam’s IQ be 100 by definition? If 100 is the average IQ and there was only one IQ number available, it would have to be 100.

  15. Chrysippo says:

    “I cannot think of any word that I forgot to make room for this otherwise useless word.”

    Perhaps because you had forgotten it! Unless you meant to say you deny you forgot to make room for any word when chancing on ‘nef’.

  16. Charles O. Slavens says:

    There have even been silly movies based on the wrong assumption that we only use 10% of our brain. Don’t worry, your brain is working at full capacity, 100% of the time. However, 90% of the real decision-making is taking place in your subconscious. For further info try Leonard Mlodinow’s book; “How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior”. Or… just google the issue.

  17. Terry Wall says:

    Re your maths:

    If Adam had an IQ of just 150 while he had the super-brain he needed to name all the birds and beasts, but after the “Fall” could only use the standard 10%, would his IQ have then been just 15?

    I cannot imagine what it would be like for 100% of my brain cells to be active simultaneously, but I am sure I would not enjoy it. I’ll be happy if no more than ten per cent are operating while I am writing this, and maybe a different but overlapping ten per cent when I’m playing golf. Maybe that way they will all eventually get used!

    • J Dan Vignau says:

      I like to believe that my experiences with the non-hallucinogens (“Licit and Illicit Drugs”, by Consumer Reports) like LSD, Peyote and South Florida mushrooms activated more brain cells than were usually turned on or tuned in. But that is just me.
      Remember kiddies, according to the all-knowing god of the Bible, when horses and big cats without stripes and spots had babies next to trees that had been marked with such, we got zebras and leopards.
      Ahhh, that Bible. It is so full of information written by 150 IQ geniuses.

  18. edwardtbabinski says:

    If an all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving Father failed to teach his “super-brained” kids to keep their paws off a piece of fruit, what chance do ordinary parents have to teach their kids right from wrong?

    • Marvin Doolin says:

      There’s also all-knowing. Someone please explain the difference between creating a being you know will misbehave and creating one TO misbehave.

  19. edwardtbabinski says:

    When Adam “named all the birds of the air and beasts of the field,” how thorough was he? Not every species can be distinguished by a casual glance. Maybe he only came up with a dozen or so names to cover every species on earth, or maybe only two? “Bird” and “Beast?”

    Eve (upon seeing a cow): Adam, what’s that?

    Adam: That’s a beast.

    Eve (points to the sky): And what is that thing with feathers?

    Adam: Some say it’s “hope,” but it is actually a “bird.”

    Eve (now looking at the hippo): And that thing is…?

    Adam: That’s a beast.

    Eve: Didn’t it have spots before?

    Adam: They change. A lot. Sometimes they change dozens of times, beasts can even sprout horns and antlers. But not while you’re looking at them. They go away, change, and come back looking different. Same beast though. And the beasts taught this trick to the birds.

    Eve (shakes her head slowly in disbelief): Here, Adam, eat this… (hands him the Apple)… we’ll talk more, later…

    Wes “Duke of Doubt” Anderson

  20. edwardtbabinski says:

    If Adam had enough knowledge to intelligently name all the animals, either he had already eaten of the fruit of knowledge, or God didn’t need to forbid him the fruit.

    Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, entry under “Genesis”

  21. edwardtbabinski says:

    According to Genesis 2:20, Adam “named all the birds of the air and beasts of the field.” The Institute for Creation Research (Impact article #265, July 1995) interprets this to mean that Adam had a “super brain,” because there are more different kinds of birds and beasts in the world than any ordinary man could “name” and remember.

    Hmmm, according to my “less than super brain,” there is no mention in Genesis of Adam naming the “fish” or “creeping things,” just “the birds, and beasts of the field,” in other words, the largest most obvious creatures he came into contact with. Not much “super brain power” needed there. Furthermore, the number of different animals mentioned by “name” throughout the Bible itself is small; sometimes whole categories of animals are lumped together under a single “name.” Not much “super brain power” needed there either. And what if the author of Genesis, like everyone else in his day, did not have a clue as to how many different “birds and beasts of the field” there really were in the world? He probably assumed the number was a lot smaller, just the animals in his vicinity, and a few others he had heard about from visitors from nearby lands. So maybe he was not nearly as concerned as the Institute for Creation Research with trying to show how “super” Adam’s brain was?

    The author of Genesis was probably far more concerned with getting across the simple concept that man “dominated” the animals. So he pictured the first man “taking dominion” over “birds and beasts” by “naming” them. Back then, the ability to “name” something implied you had gained control over it. That is why Adam was depicted doing such a thing. It had nothing to do with Adam having had a “super brain.”

    But if Adam indeed had a “super brain,” wouldn’t the brains of chimpanzees in Eden have been functioning at “super high” levels too, since human and chimp DNA is so similar? And what about extinct species of apes in the fossil record that had larger brains than any living species of apes? Those creatures must have provided a challenge for Adam, especially if their brains were “suped-up” like Adam’s. He probably beat them at chess, but what about poker? “Damn it Eve, I could have sworn those apes were bluffing. So I bet the garden… and lost. Pack your fig leaf–we have to be out by noon.”

    Too bad Adam couldn’t keep focused in his “super brain” the one thing worth remembering according to the Bible fable, which was, “Do not eat of the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge.” But how could a “super brain” resist the temptation to ingest more “knowledge?” Sounds like a sting operation to me.

    • Susan Kaspar says:

      Edward (if I may address you so informally):

      You seem to have forgotten something.
      You refer to “the author of Genesis”.
      Everyone knows that God was the author of the Bible.
      At the very least God “inspired” the unnamed/nominal writers of said Book.
      Seems to me that makes it impossible for Him to “not have a clue how many”.

      Enjoyed your comments very much.

      • Jim Stovall says:

        Genesis was written, in part, by the J (Yehweh) writer. And in part by the P writer (Priestly–as in Chapter 1). In part by the E (Elohim) writer and, in part, by the late editors of the text between 586 and 60 B.C.E. Communal writing was used especially by the Hebrews/Jews as expressions of corporate identity. Moreover, so many of these writers had skills in literature, and used it well. These skills are not known by modern readers who tend to read the Bible as if it were today’s newspaper; so full of facts (not so in online news reports.) Reading scripture is a vast undertaking often undertaken by half vast people. I’m not talking people commenting here, which would be rude.

  22. edwardtbabinski says:

    Adam’s I.Q.? According to the book of Genesis, the first book in the Bible:

    The Lord God took the [first] man [Adam], and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and to keep it.
    – Genesis 2:15

    So, Adam was God’s gardener. Maybe when God created man all He was thinking was, “I want to create a beautiful garden, but it’s going to need a gardener, a creature with nimble fingers and opposable green thumbs. I have an idea! I’ll monkey around with a few of those chimps I created earlier, fiddle with a bit of their DNA, and teach them to prune.”

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