Christopher Michael Langan
Christopher Michael Langan (born c. 1952) is the author of the Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe. Langan has been billed as "the smartest man in America",, with an IQ reported by 20/20 and other media sources to have been measured at around 195. He created the CTMU in the mid-1980s while working as a nightclub bouncer on Long Island.
Langan was born in San Francisco 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. But he grew up in poverty and says 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". His brother recalls that "when Christopher was fourteen or fifteen, he would draw things just as a joke, and it would be like a photograph. When he was fifteen, he could match Jimi Hendrix lick for lick on a guitar." After earning a perfect score on the SAT Langan attended Reed College and later Montana State University, but faced with finance and transportation problems, and believing that he "could literally teach [his professors] more than they could teach [him]", 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, New York. 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.
Wider attention came in 1999, when Esquire magazine published a profile of Langan and other members of the high-IQ community. Billing Langan as "the smartest man in America", the article's account of the weight-lifting bouncer and his CTMU "Theory of Everything" sparked a flurry of media interest. Board-certified neuropsychologist Dr. Robert Novelly tested Langan's IQ for 20/20, which reported that Langan broke the ceiling of the test. Novelly was said to be astounded, saying: "Chris is the highest individual that I have ever measured in 25 years of doing this."
Articles and interviews highlighting Langan appeared in Popular Science, The Times, Newsday, Muscle & Fitness (which reported that he could bench press 500 pounds), and elsewhere. Langan was featured on 20/20, interviewed on BBC Radio and on Errol Morris's First Person, and participated in an online chat at ABCNEWS.com. He has written question-and-answer columns for New York Newsday, The Improper Hamptonian, and Men's Fitness.
In 2004, Langan moved with his wife Gina (née LoSasso), a clinical neuropsychologist, to northern Missouri, where he owns and operates a horse ranch.
On January 25, 2008, Langan was a contestant on NBC's game show 1 vs. 100, where he won $250,000.
He has recently been profiled in Malcolm Gladwell's latest book Outliers: The Story of Success, where Gladwell looks at the reasons behind why Langan was unable to flourish in a university environment.
Publications and affiliations
Langan's first published paper on the CTMU, "The Resolution of Newcomb's Paradox", appeared in the December 1989–January 1990 issue of Noesis, the journal of the Noetic Society, a high-IQ society to which Langan belonged. Over the next decade Langan refined his work, continuing to publish and discuss it in high-IQ journals.
In 1999 Langan and his wife formed the Mega Foundation, a non-profit corporation whose mission is to "create and implement programs that aid in the development of extremely gifted individuals and their ideas." Among the foundation's programs is the Ultranet, an online high-IQ group designed to serve as a mutual support system and forum for exchange of information and development of novel ideas, with a focus on creative actualization and meaningful production.
In 2002, Langan published through the Mega Foundation The Art of Knowing, a collection of essays about free will and other philosophical topics. He has reportedly written an unpublished book about the CTMU called Design for a Universe, and has posted articles about the CTMU on his Web site and debated his theory on Internet discussion boards.
Langan was a fellow of the (now-defunct) International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design (ISCID), a professional society founded by intelligent-design proponent William Dembski. In September 2002, Langan published in the society's online journal a 56-page paper, "The Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe: A New Kind of Reality Theory". Langan's paper "Cheating the Millennium: The Mounting Explanatory Debts of Scientific Naturalism", relating the CTMU to existing theories of causality, appeared in the 2004 anthology Uncommon Dissent, edited by Dembski.
Langan has said 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."
- Brabham, Dennis. (August 21, 2001). "The Smart Guy". Newsday.
- Fowler, Damien. (January 2000). Interview with Mega Foundation members. Outlook. BBC Radio.
- Gladwell, Malcolm. (2008). Outliers: The Story of Success. Little, Brown and Company.
- McFadden, Cynthia. (December 9, 1999). "The Smart Guy". 20/20.
- Morris, Errol. (August 14, 2001). "The Smartest Man in the World". First Person.
- O'Connell, Jeff. (May 2001). "Mister Universe". Muscle & Fitness.
- Quain, John R. (October 14, 2001). "Wise Guy" (Interview with Christopher Langan and Science Works in Mysterious Ways). Popular Science.
- Sager, Mike. (November 1999). "The Smartest Man in America". Esquire.
- Wigmore, Barry. (February 7, 2000). "Einstein's brain, King Kong's body". The Times.
- 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".
- 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."
- Sager 1999.
- Brabham 2001.
- McFadden 1999.
- Wigmore 2000.
- Gladwell 2008, p. 71.
- Quain 2001.
- O'Connell 2001.
- Fowler 2000.
- Morris 2001.
- ABCNEWS.com Chat Transcript
- 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.
- Preston, Ray (November 15, 2006). "Meet the Smartest Man in America".
- Gladwell 2008, pp. 69-73, 290.
- Gladwell 2008.
- Langan, Christopher M. (2002). The Art of Knowing. Mega Press.
- 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.
- Langan, Christopher M. (2004). "Cheating the Millennium: The Mounting Explanatory Debts of Scientific Naturalism". In Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing, edited by William Dembski. ISI Books.