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mazingerz88's avatar

Is genius God's gift or genetic?

Asked by mazingerz88 (28887points) March 28th, 2011
32 responses
“Great Question” (0points)

It’s common to hear people explain genius as a gift which I assume to mean God’s gift. What is your take?

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crisw's avatar

No religion necessary. Genius is a product of genetic predisposition modified and enhanced by environmental and societal factors.

marinelife's avatar

Genetics mostly aided and abetted by upbringing and the luck of opportunity.

cazzie's avatar

Genius is mostly genetic and then aided by environment. I’m lucky enough to live in/with it every day, as challenging as it is.

There is no such thing as ‘god’ so that is a mute point.

trickface's avatar

@Cazzie how can you define yourself as a genius? do you not feel totally big-headed saying this?

My answer to the OP is that genius is something that can not be identified at any age exclusively, you may not be called a genius at age 10, 20 or 30 but then hailed as a genius at age 40 or later. It’s not god’s gift. It’s hard-working OR strong upbringing OR ‘luck of opportunity’ or all these things combined I suppose. I’m not religious so God having any part is absurd to me.

cazzie's avatar

@trickface I NEVER at any point said it was me. (based on IQ points.. then perhaps I qualify… but I would never refer to myself as one because I don’t feel very smart or useful most of the time… my husband and my son and my father in law are a different matter.)

trickface's avatar

@Cazzie sorry then, just don’t understand your post :P do you mean you live with genius people in your family?

EDIT : Ah okay, I’ve always been told I’m in some sort of madness/genius gene from my dad’s side. He’s the genius!

robmandu's avatar

@cazzie, well you wouldn’t qualify based on a vocabulary test. It’s moot point. :-P

Nullo's avatar


JLeslie's avatar

Well, if you believe in God, everything is God’s gift. God created the universe and everything in it, and so all things are gifts from God. Unless you define God in a Different way.

If we leave God out of it, genius is a mix of genes and environment. I think people are born with a genetic ability for a certain range of genius, and then depending on their environment they reach their full potential. So, if we look at IQ for instance, a person might have the genetics for an IQ of 130–150. With a great environment they aquire the 150, with a not so great environment down at 130, but that person is not going to wind up only having an IQ of 80 even in a really crappy environment in my opinion. That is kind of a simplified explanatuon of how I see it.

JLeslie's avatar

Oh, and even if we leave God in it the genes and environment applies.

everephebe's avatar

If genius the mental construct was God’s gift, why wouldn’t he give it to everyone?

Genius is a word we attribute to people who are “creative” &/or “intelligent” in significant ways, significant to us at least. It’s not actually agreed upon what genius is, which indicates the definition is currently subjective. That a genius is personally perceived, an is not truly quantifiable.

Genetics, epigenetics, and environmental factors are the most likely factors to bias the belief of genius in a person. Not random or fate oriented benevolence from an invisible being. I think if you offer quality education to any child, there is a good chance for someone to call them a genius. I think we are all “geniuses” at something, at least to one degree or another. It’s arbitrary, for example some people think Thomas Edison was a genius, I just think he was a jerk. Nikola Tesla however was a genius. See how one’s opinion defines the parameters? It’s hard to quantify the unquantifiable.

Genius is different than being a wunderkind, child prodigy, being precocious or “gifted.” So it does appear to be something that anyone can achieve through learning, experience or practice.

@trickface, @cazzie seemed to imply she lives in the environment the fosters genius, unless I misread.

[edit] I was going to point out that @cazzie speaks/type english as a second language… so spelling something “wrong”/ phonetically is something you really pick on. Because I’m sure you @robmandu are fluent in her language and never make any spelling mistakes! :p

cazzie's avatar

@robmandu sorry for the English error.. I speak it as a second language these days. (Did correcting me make you feel smart?)

JLeslie's avatar

@everephebe But, there are people who can never achieve genius no matter how good their environment, or how much they try. I am not saying these people are valued less, or don’t have something to contribute. Certainly, almost everyone has some sort of specialized knowledge.

everephebe's avatar

@JLeslie Yes I rather tend to agree with that. I see that my language was a bit unclear. When I used the word any or anyone, I didn’t mean to imply that everyone had an equal chance or that any one had a chance. I should have used more guarded language.

[Edit] “I think if you offer quality education to [almost] any child, there is a good chance for someone to call them a genius.” & “So it does appear to be something that [almost] anyone [could] achieve through learning, experience or practice.”

Indeed, it is difficult to expect a mentally handicapped person to learn, experience or practice their way out of their condition. I didn’t mean to imply was it was just hard work and dedication to become a learned scholar, rather I meant to imply that any where on the planet, (likely) throughout the entire gene pool there is a chance for greatness. And that almost any one can have a brilliant mind, in one capacity or another. But I’m the type to say, “Wow, that Chef’s a genius.”

Oh and sorry to Thomas Edison fans, he is/was a genius but what a mistake with Telsa huh? They would have been great partners, it’s too bad they couldn’t really work together longer.

JLeslie's avatar

@everephebe I see. So you use the word genius rather loosely. I think of genius being more akin to IQ, and then other specialized knowledge or creativity as a different thing.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I have just written a question about a modern day genius. He comes from a modest home. He was born this way.

IMHO, genius is a gift from God that needs to be nurtured and developed.

cloudvertigo's avatar

Get where you need to be early. Eat balanced and regular diet – and like they say: breakfast is the most important meal of the day; it’s true. Carrots, Cheerios, and Coconut milk all seem to be foods which make me feel a little sharper.

Part of it is inheritance but part of it what that inheritance entails – ie environmental factors that would allow a kid to know the potential of math or different circumstances that would keep him focused on riding a bike or skateboarding to escape an awful home situation.

everephebe's avatar

@JLeslie I don’t think you have to be a member of Mensa to be a genius, or that being in Mensa makes you one. I’m not much of a fan of trying to measure intelligence. I really am uncomfortable about it. I don’t think we are smart enough or know enough yet, to really measure properly. The idea that we have an Intelligence Quotient, is frankly silly if not stupid, in my opinion… At least so far as we have one fixed IQ. To me, genius is inspiration or being inspired to create or do something significant with mastery… If that’s a motorcycle, or a wine, the person still can be “a genius” at what they do. It doesn’t have to be physics. Now being a polymath, prodigy, renaissance woman/man or a savant is different, those take other qualifications.

People do say, “Oh General Grenadetoss was a military genius,” or “Chef Knifeforkspoon is a culinary genius,” or “It’s all due to Ms. Periodpiece-Scriptwriter’s genius,” I think this illustrates that there are many types of genius.

However, there are those special few who are simply called genius, and are called such by just about everyone… I think that’s “true genius.” Genius is mastery, lifelong mastery. I don’t think I use the term genius that loosely. Genius is an ephemeral thing for most. They say, “It’s a work of genius,” not, “It’s a work of a genius,” for a reason.

What’s Einstein’s IQ? Or Da Vinci’s? Picasso’s IQ? Mozart’s? Bach’s? Or Telsa’s? Who do you think are geniuses? Hawking and Einstein can’t be the only ones. Personally I prefer to use the term “brilliant” for these folks, over genius, it’s less daunting. The word genius is bandied about too much, and I know I have been one of those bandying it about too.

roundsquare's avatar

“which I assume to mean God’s gift.”

What? I think most people mean that geniuses are lucky to be so smart.

That aside, genius is genetic. The real question is: “is genetic’s something god created?”

JLeslie's avatar

@everephebe I was only explaining how I typically think of the word genius. I have no idea what the OP meant, which is the real question. Was he referring to high intellect, or all types of genius?

ratboy's avatar

Understood in this sense (taken from OED entry “genius”), genius is not something that can be attained by study or practice:

5 (Only in sing.) Native intellectual power of an exalted type, such as is attributed to those who are esteemed greatest in any department of art, speculation, or practice; instinctive and extraordinary capacity for imaginative creation, original thought, invention, or discovery. Often contrasted with talent.

This sense, which belongs also to F. génie, Ger. genie, appears to have been developed in the 18th c. (It is not recognized in Johnson’s Dictionary.) In sense 4 the word had come to be applied with especial frequency to the kind of intellectual power manifested by poets and artists; and when in this application ‘genius’, as native endowment, came to be contrasted with the aptitudes that can be acquired by study, the approach to the modern sense was often very close. The further development of meaning was prob. influenced by association with senses 1 and 2, which suggested that the word had an especial fitness to denote that particular kind of intellectual power which has the appearance of proceeding from a supernatural inspiration or possession, and which seems to arrive at its results in an inexplicable and miraculous manner. This use, which app. originated in England, came into great prominence in Germany, and gave the designation of Genieperiode to the epoch in German literature otherwise known as the ‘Sturm und Drang’ period. Owing to the influence of Ger. literature in the present century, this is now the most familiar sense of the Eng. word, and usually colours the other senses. It was by the Ger. writers of the 18th c. that the distinction between ‘genius’ and ‘talent’, which had some foundation in Fr. usage, was sharpened into the strong antithesis which is now universally current, so that the one term is hardly ever defined without reference to the other. The difference between genius and talent has been formulated very variously by different writers, but there is general agreement in regarding the former as the higher of the two, as ‘creative’ and ‘original’, and as achieving its results by instinctive perception and spontaneous activity, rather than by processes which admit of being distinctly analyzed.”

ratboy's avatar


What’s Einstein’s IQ? 160*
Da Vinci’s? 180*
Picasso’s IQ? ?
Mozart’s? 153*
Bach’s? 165*
Or Telsa’s? ?
Hawking 160

*The Massive List of Genius.

Although I believe this information to be meaningless, I can’t vouch for it’s correctness.

everephebe's avatar

@ratboy Completely meaningless data. :D None of those folks took the test except maybe Hawking, and I’m not so sure about him. From Stephen Hawking’s wikiquotes page:
“I have no idea. People who boast about their IQ are losers.” -Response upon being questioned as to his IQ, in interview with Deborah Solomon “The Science of Second-Guessing”, The New York Times (12 December 2004)

I have a friend who scored 178 on his IQ test, and he’s a dj, who keeps chickens and loves to listen to noise. Don’t get me wrong he’s absolutely brilliant but, calling him a genius isn’t going to help him out any. He wasn’t the one to tell me, his wife did, and if he knew I knew, he would be very embarrassed about it. Strangely enough another one of my “genius level” IQ friends moved into that guy’s house when he left the country. He keeps chickens too. ☺

I guess my point is genius level IQ means nothing unless you do something with it. (Other than keep chickens. :p And that takes work of some sort. I recognize these fellows genius, but the world doesn’t. I think I have gifted &/or genius level relatives, IQ wise, but it doesn’t make them geniuses to the world does it? Heck sometimes I don’t even realize it. I have family members smart as whips, but I don’t think I would fair that well on an IQ test. Genetic is only one part of it. It has to be applied. “Native intellectual power,” does not make one a genius at least in the sense that @JLeslie would use. Genius has to show something for it to be recognized. And to have mastery, even seemingly effortless mastery, one does have to work at it. Mozart was a natural, but you better believe he worked his ass off. Yes, his sister wasn’t the same, even though she was highly gifted too, and worked her ass off. I think that means true genius is “Native intellectual power”+motive & opportunity+ and results. And much, much more.

I can’t pretend to understand genius, I don’t understand. I think no one does, yet. But we can have ideas about it, opinions about it. We’re probably all wrong, of course. :D I don’t know, it’s certainly fascinating.

It would be great to hear more from the OP @mazingerz88, on their take.
I’ll certainly try and shut up now. :P

cazzie's avatar

@everephebe I completely understand what you mean. IQ simply means you have the tools in your head to solve puzzles and follow a line of logic that elude most people. Is that genius, or is it a case of ‘genius is as genius does?’

I rather think that a person can have this ability and they are ‘genius’ and I don’t think it’s up to other people to judge what they should be doing with it.

JLeslie's avatar

@everephebe I agree with Cazzie that a person might be a genius if we define it as having the intellectual ability, but he might not apply his “God given talent.” Einstein was able to come up with mathmatical equations to predict the movement of celestial bodies, but as you said, he did this by working very hard. The genius who works hard cultivates his gift and has his genius recognized. The genius who does not apply himself winds up with little to show for his incredible brain. The person with average intelligence, but works very hard can be much more accomplished and successful than the genius who didn’t do much. But the average intelligence guy probably never could come up with the theory of relativity no matter how hard he tried, I think that is the difference.

I googled the word genius and it seems I am using it as described in the first set of definitions. Higher math, being able to develop theories of how things work, how something occurs in nature and using a scientific method to prove it. Utilizing logic in a multitude of situations, not just mathmatical, where the person does not always need to be told an answer and learn it, but can deduce answers by other information stored in his brain, drawing on analogous information and past learning to come up with new solutuons and ideas, that is IQ to me; genius. The person who simply learns his craft very very well, but is not inventive, simply has strong knowledge of a particular topic, but is not genius. That person is doing things by rote. His knowledge has value; again, I am not saying being a genius is better than having strong knowledge, not at all. I would guess Einstein lacked knowledge on many many topics.

mazingerz88's avatar

If one of the ways being a genius would mean being very advanced at Math, naturally occurring since the early age of 3, then this is that young dude…

mattbrowne's avatar

It’s nature and nurture. Nurture involves conditions in the womb and upbringing as a child. Nutrition of the mother and later the child seems to have some influence.

Part of being a genius or an idiot seems to reside on the Y chromosome, with no second Y chromosome to compensation. Therefore the intelligence bell curve is slightly more flat for boys than girls (i.e. more at both extremes).

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

Genius is genetic. It is the moral equivalent of being born pretty.

Achievement is applied superiority. It comes, sadly, from a need for validation.

Most of the people we think of as ‘Geniuses’ are people who have genius who had bad childhoods or who were deeply insecure.

nikkiduq's avatar

Well that primarily depends on people’s belief/disbelief. Rational people will blame it on genetics, neurology, psychology, etc. Superstitious people will of course say it came from a God.

I’m a skeptic, so…

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

nikkiduq, you are correct of course.

Let me put it this way: I do not think genius is a gift from God to an individual. I think the application of talent in circumstances that improve people’s lives may sometimes subtly be guided and aided along by a God.

Thank you for helping me to clarify.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Depends on if you believe in God. I would say most likely genetics, but could also just be the luck of the draw.

nikkiduq's avatar

Some random brain mutation…

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