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Conversation with Assistant Professor Simon Olling Rebsdorf on Background, Work, Philosophy, and High-IQ Societies: Assistant Professor, VIA University College (1)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2021/05/15


Professor Simon Olling Rebsdorf is an Assistant Professor at VIA University College and a prominent member of the high-IQ communities. He discusses: growing up; a sense of an extended self; the family background; experience with peers and schoolmates; purpose of intelligence tests; high intelligence; the extreme reactions to and treatment of geniuses; the greatest geniuses in history; a genius from a profoundly intelligent person; some work experiences and educational certifications; more important aspects of the idea of the gifted and geniuses; the God concept; science; tests taken and scores earned (with standard deviations); the range of the scores; and ethical philosophy.

Keywords: background, culture, family, IQ, physics, Simon Olling Rebsdorf, society.

Conversation with Assistant Professor Simon Olling Rebsdorf on Background, Work, Philosophy, and High-IQ Societies: Assistant Professor, VIA University College (1)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: When you were growing up, what were some of the prominent family stories being told over time?

Dr. Simon Olling Rebsdorf[1],[2]*: [My private weblog is here:]

The midwife dragged me into this worldly place in the city of Odense, Denmark, in 1971. Looking back from this halfway vantage point, I still wonder whether retrospective selection of milestones or turning points in our consciously remembered life story do in fact contribute to changing our own self-images into a narrative of someone we would rather like to be, instead of who we are. However, this is a risk as well as a cerebral human condition.

When my parents got divorced, I was five and my big brother nine years old. The divorce took a lot of energy, especially when my age was around 10 and 14. In this period, my parents had quarrels, legal cases about custody rights. Thinking about my grandparents is more comforting. My grandfather was a creative man full of ideas. He was a craftsman working at a lathe, in his own shop business in the attic in central Copenhagen. Very ingenious and skilled. During the Second World War, he decided to hang a hand grenade on the back of the front door to the shop, just in case German Nazi SS troops would enter the courtyard. Illegally, he crafted little pieces for weapons of the Danish Resistance Movement. He was never caught. This is probably the most prominent family story, which was told many times.

Jacobsen: Have these stores helped provide a sense of an extended self or a sense of the family legacy?

Rebsdorf: In some sense, yes. Resistance against authority and a critical mind has been heralded as the norm and a necessary attribute of family members.

Jacobsen: What was the family background, e.g., geography, culture, language, and religion or lack thereof?

Rebsdorf: Danish. My father was born in 1930 in the southern part of Jutland, the Danish peninsula, in a city called Ødis, close to Kolding. My late father’s brother was concerned with genealogy and made a family tree dating back to the 1600 hundreds. During World War 2, my father’s family hosted a young boy, who was a member of Hitler Jugend -the nazi boy scouts – but the boy’s parents had managed to escape Germany and in Denmark, they had found my father’s family to host the boy for some time. I remember my immediate shock when my father told me that had he been raised in Germany instead of Denmark, he might as well have been a conscientious Hitler Jugend boy. His point was a cultural relativist one, and I understood this immediately after some explanation. My father is now 90 years old. He has always played classical music and jazz – he plays the violin, and he is the reason, I have learned to appreciate and play music myself from the age of 5, when he forced me to tale violin lessons.

My father, went to Copenhagen aged 17 to study pharmacy. He ended up becoming a fresh water researcher, even publishing in Nature once. I found out about this in 2018. Without him ever letting me or my family know! How typically humble of him, not mentioning it. In 1999 he co-authored a paper on “Regional Trends in Aquatic Recovery from Acidification in North America and Europe,” Volume 401 Number 6753 pp513-622, (it’s on page 575, name: A. Rebsdorf). On behalf of the National Environmental Research Institute in Denmark.

My mother was born in 1945 and grew up in the island Zealand, close to the Danish capital. Copenhagen, in a city called Hillerød. Her father, my granddad who owned a lathe shop, was extremely protective of his youngest daughter, and was known to hire a private eye to follow her on dates. My dad lived across the street from them and they fell in love. The had two children, Morten, my big brother, in 1967, and I, in 1971. In 1976, they god a divorce and have had several other girlfriends/boyfriends since. My mother studied to work in a kindergarten and has done so all her life. She is now retired. My mother has always been the more creative kind, having us dress up, play, dance, draw and just live out ourselves and our curiosity.

Throughout my life, I’ve had a general feeling that my free choices were ok, no matter what they were. Later in life I’ve realized the importance of this and the role this general outlook has had on my life and life choices.

Going to lower elementary school in the hamlet Bryrup in the middle of the Danish peninsula Jutland, I had a great time until control was lost due to the separation of my parents. Looking back, mathematics, English, natural sciences, music and the Danish language seemed quite easy and all-interesting, but they were not trivial topics to me.

Music was the exception. Playing instruments and singing was effortlessly intuitive to me. I played everything by ear and frowned inside when the other kids could not play the right rhythm or worse, couldn’t remember what we played last week. This was a walk in the park for me. I learned the music notations system three times in my life – and forgot it three times. I never really made use of musical scores. The music has always been kept safely in my mind’s ear and my head is always full of music and sounds.

My dad forced me to play the violin from age five, and later I turned to piano, then electric bass, drums and guitar, now upright bass and piano. Today I am grateful to his stubborn demands of weekly rehearsals in my room. Music has always been my thing. However, whenever I have been good at something, I have kept this experience to myself. []

The Nordic Law of Jante completely imbued my upbringing and schooling: A pattern of group behavior that negatively portrays and criticizes individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate, is what usually made me keep my successes to myself. But it also made me try to do better. I never told anyone when I was good at something. Never. I didn’t want to appear as the archetypical, annoying smart-guy.

Regarding religion: My upbringing has had a clear lack of religion. It is a mystery to me why I was baptized at all. More about this ecumenical topic below.

Jacobsen: How was the experience with peers and schoolmates as a child and an adolescent?

Rebsdorf: I didn’t perceive of myself at all as the brainy child who could read prematurely or solve math problems years ahead of the norm. And if I was, I would never have known, let alone been told. I was just a pretty happy little brother with a creative pre-school teacher mum, and an academic dad researching fresh water resources. I loved being left on my own to discover the universe. Philosophizing, as I learned later, was my favorite activity and my mind was a lively place, an inner world not accessible to others. It was my own world. It provided a sense of control. And nobody ever entered it.

I whole-heartedly believed that everybody else in kindergarten and elementary school were likely to have similar individual inner worlds just like mine, filled with colored numbers, friendly creatures of music, physical sensations of huge, imaginary bubbles of tension when pressing together my middle and index finger, as well as inner dialogues and discussions with imaginary people. This was my world, a warm place of structure, texture, and ethereal, rhythmic sounds and shapes. Later in life, I learned that perhaps my assumption wasn’t true for all the people around me, and this was perhaps one reason why my peers sometimes talked about boredom – a mental state completely uncharted by me.

Five years after my parents’ separation, an important milestone unearthed. A bipolar ‘Barbarossa’ artist befriended my mum and they became lovers. With his long red beard and spiky hair, this manic-depressive, psychopathically-bent artist painter completely took over my mum, deprived her of all her self-esteem to his own personal, economical gain by spending all her money on his art production. Emotionally, this became a very dark period of four years, then a happy kid full of inner life from the outset. But at the same time, intellectually, it became four vital years of research and tremendous learning for me. Despite Barbarossa’s bad characteristics and ill temper, he cracked the physical universe more open for me. Perhaps he embodied a provocative counter-movement against the Law of Jante, which ultimately educated me. A ten-year-old, I flipped through his subscription issues of the Scientific American, and I mimicked transmission gears from technical manuals using LEGO technic. He taught me Goethe’s theory of colors, how to play card games, how to draw human faces using charcoal, and he introduced me to the artist M.C. Escher, promptly turning the Dutch mathematician and painter into my favorite artist, owing to his impossible geometrical works, which I copied and developed further. As a result, mathematical topology became a burning interest of mine, but I just didn’t know the technical term at the time. It all took place on a completely intuitive level by way of paper origami and drawings, e.g. of the three-dimensional shadows of the tesseract, a mathematical four-dimensional cube, or attempts to draw the four-dimensional one-surfaced manifold known as the Klein bottle.

One vital problem was that it all happened in a state of complete loneliness. Emotionally, I closed myself down for self-protection, as Barbarossa took advantage of my mother, so I was left to myself a lot. I philosophized in a great cherry tree, looking down on passing cyclists, often falling asleep between two thick, supporting branches. I craved sacrosanct places for myself, making caves in the woods and hugging my impartial, natural friends, the trees. I had too many feelings everywhere around me, so I reduced the emotional complexity by creating my own quiet spaces and letting curiosity lead the way.

Only last year, by the help of a cognitive psychologist, I have discovered former obsessive tendencies, which I had completely forgotten. The loss of control by proxy of my run-down mother turned into obsessive activities to provide some feeling of control. I counted everything countable around me, I pressed my fingers together to feel myself, I had obsessive thoughts of fate, constantly, yet quietly, I was beating complicated rhythms with my fingers and toes – and then came a horrid fear of darkness.

In addition, I also became a proficient liar. Children of divorce are perfectly loyal to both their parents, and to me this simply meant lying to them – but then I also began lying to my teachers and classmates. I made up immense scaffolds of lies taking up a lot of mental energy. I took my lying to the next level when my parents fought over the legal custody of me and my big brother. In the 80’s, in Denmark, the mother usually won such legal custody disputes, despite any father’s stubborn fight against it. My own father fought persistently, which I only got to know later in life. Sadly, the dispute also turned my father from an academic into an alcoholic academic.

I was so good at lying and setting up facades that none of my teachers believed what I had gone through. But finally, and luckily, my mother left the inspirational yet unhealthy crackpot artist. Today, I believe that the four emotionally dark years also provided me with an intellectual strength and mental capacity that I would never have been without. Perhaps I should thank my mother for her emotional dispositions towards the infamous Barbarossa, even if I have become a skilled liar and professional coward as a bi-product of that period.

Thomas – an odd one out in my class – and me, became friends throughout the last two years of elementary school. And we formed a closed sphere not very open for others. I managed to play cowboys and Indians with my classmates, but with Thomas, there was an opening into a common discovery of the universe by creating and drawing comic magazines, practicing British dialects, dressing up as detectives, role playing, producing soundscapes with a ghetto-blaster and cassette tapes, or creating neologisms for fun. Soon we decided to sit ourselves on the front row in physics/chemistry classes, just to break with the present anti-scientific culture in the class. It worked. Quickly I got better at the hard sciences, and I remember my great preparations for the exam – and my utter disappointment that my friend Thomas didn’t invest the appropriate energy into the topics.

High school was not favorable for my self-worth. I couldn’t decode the system of reproducing facts from the blackboard. What got me through high school was the seven hours of music lessons and playing in numerous bands on the side. Also in high school, I teamed up with the odd one out, Martin, and in this way, I found my investigative companion. Together, we found our own motivation outside our classes. We made up a system of linguistic babble creation that turned into a smash-hit at our high school parties. On stage, we read aloud a new text sounding like normal sentences, yet made no sense whatsoever. Our brief success was likely due to the deliberate incorrectness of the prose as compared to all the rational orderliness crafted by the teachers. Socially, I managed to hang out with the popular people due to my merits as the most proficient bass-player – and a ‘world famous’ babble creator. In retrospect, I regard my high school years as a sort of social compensation for an energetic period of research and investigation prior to high school. If only high school could manage to embrace curiosity and out of the box thinking. My sacred inner world from lower elementary school had been partly sacrificed during high school, and it took me years to gain access again.

Another milestone was a library book on astronomy – and sheer luck. I have never had a plan. Curiosity and immediate lust has been my life-guide and I have always been at a completely loss of direction or ambition in life. An important value transferred from my poor grandparents via my mother and then to me is this: money don’t matter. I still believe this to be very true. At least when you are a Scandinavian kid built into an expensive tax system, world class health care safety, great job opportunities and very low crime rates. My high school result was poor, below average. I had somehow lost my academic grip from elementary school. I sucked. And a downward spiral resulted in low self-esteem and lack of trust in the future. All seemed dark and pointless. I worked in odd jobs and sensed my father’s silent frustration of missing future avenues. After high school, when working as an unskilled painter of some locker room walls at the local gym, I secretly read a large book on astronomy from the municipal library. At nights, I drew the night sky constellations and studied stellar creation. I have eaten all sorts of popular science books since age nine. I devoured the astronomy book in the restrooms of the gym as well as during passionate reading marathons in my rented abode. Completely alone. Whenever the gym manager came to check up on me, I managed to hide the book and lie to him about some technical difficulties hampering my painting progression. I just couldn’t believe that the gym manager believed my lies. But I was a pro, so it worked.

And the astronomy monograph had a momentous impact. The necessary passing grade averages were low for many natural sciences studies at university, such as astronomy. This was my luck. I enrolled at the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Copenhagen. And moving to a college in the capitol was my fresh start.

I felt very alone while in Copenhagen, and I seriously though about just killing myself. But I didn’t have what it takes, luckily. And then came the intelligence test. Much of my bad luggage and suicidal tendencies due to loneliness and academic failure were swiftly wiped away after passing the Mensa test. Indeed, even love life became a reality a few years after practicing the art of flirting. And then I met my wonderful congenial, my wife Charlotte.

My ensuing authorship and research highlights include a six-months research visit at the Astronomy and Astrophysics Department, University of Chicago, including a stay at the Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin, but also an affiliation with the Morris Fishbein Institute of social sciences. In 2009 I published a 500-page monograph on the history of modern astrophysics in the US and in Denmark entitled The Father, the Son, and the Stars. In addition, I published two PhD-based peer-reviewed research papers in the Cambridge periodical Journal for the History of Astronomy, co-authored two master thesis-based peer-reviewed research papers in the renowned Oxford periodical Studies in the History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, and a peer reviewed article in the international history of science periodical Centaurus. Another rich experience was the co-authoring of a textbook on creative idea development for the teaching of bachelor students of innovation management at the Aarhus School of Business. But my hot dream remains the completion of a literary fiction novel as well as having some of my short stories published. One day, I left academia and have tried many sorts of positions since then. After heading the European Space Agency’s Danish education resource office in Denmark and working as project manager and fundraiser at the House of Natural Sciences, I have been appointed assistant professor at VIA University College teaching and researching higher science education. This seems to be the right spot for now. Our kids are 8 and 10, and it’s like life cannot cease to keep educating me.

Jacobsen: What is the purpose of intelligence tests to you?

I never managed to find the very good response to this question. Having always been rather ambivalent about IQ tests, I have tried to live with this inner dilemma. This means that I tend to think, still, that the urge to belong to a high intelligence society is just a Freudian mechanism in order for the insecure snowflake to find some force and energy from like-minded poor things like myself. But at the same time, I tend to feel that like-mindedness rather strongly, and this feeling cannot be ignored either. The clear over-representation of megalomaniac super narcissists within many esoteric high IQ circles and societies tell their own story of the Freudian mechanisms at work. I have never met so many arrogant brain-bragging and apparently self-contained people as I have met in high IQ societies. At the same time, I have made some deep and rare friendships that I would never be without. Perhaps the sea of brain-braggers is the costs of finding congenial soul gems out there.

The history of intelligence tests is dubious and not only very flattering. However, the idea is interesting and the value of a measured intelligence in some ways or another cannot be ignored. The issue of cultural bias (and many other biases) is very important to constantly articulate. History tells us sad stories of some of the apparent pitfalls hidden in the process of defining intelligence.

High mental capacity is there, though. Its existence is indisputable. It is a great responsibility to host high mental capacity “under the helmet,” and I am full of gratitude and humility. Sometimes it fells like a straitjacket to constantly remind myself that time is of the essence and that action is needed in the real world.

I have been Mensa member many times – and then I’ve terminated my membership again. I stopped as member of Mensa recently once again. I fail to see that the society does good in the world outside this club. It is too closed – but I am fully aware that this legitimizes its existence to many members. In turn, I am very ambiguous about Mensa and also about many other high IQ societies. Disillusion is perhaps what is my issue with them. The intention seems to always be the same – good ambitions and hopes for lively activity to change the world to a better place. The question is, what ends it really serves. In a broader perspective, do all these digital (and somewhat physical) societies provide us all a better world in any way? Hardly.

And how does an exclusive club manage to do anything inclusively to – or for – the world? If we really want to make a change, and not just share funny pictures and anecdotes (and make fun of all the low IQ idiots making our lives miserable, as some members seem to believe) how do we organize in order to take steps in this direction? This bugs me these days.

To what extent are the high range (and medium range) IQ societies representations of real life, and to what extent are they esoteric circles of narcissistic megalomaniacs with low self-esteem in which they can feel better than the idiotic low-IQ world. This outlook is somewhat harsh, I know. But this kind of sentiment is exactly what I felt in some of these clubs I have frequented.

On the other hand, of course, are the many interesting discussions that can be had with like-minded people and clearly this serves ourselves very nicely. Self-service is just not enough for me anymore. We need a bigger perspective. Supporting members to get out of their safe esoteric circles and act in the real world might be worth considering.

Another problem: The idea of genius. If the concept of genius is to be taken seriously, we don’t need a list of current “geniuses” whose only achievement that counts is a formal intelligence test. As a PhD in science studies and the history of science and technology, this is not how genius should be defined. This is not the kind of extraordinariness the world needs, in my view. Genius has its linguistic origin from the latin verb, which means “I breed.” So, from a linguistic perspective, a genius displays unique creative power. There is no necessary connection to a high IQ, although there could probably be a common quantity of creative persons within high IQ circles. But it seems clear that you’d also find a common quantity of people displaying creative power from other parts of society, and hence also from non-high IQ circles. The role on creative power played by nature, nurture acquired skills, hard work and experience is of course unknown. Investigations of rare creative composers indicate that many years of practice is a prerequisite for the creation of masterpieces. A high IQ would clearly not be sufficient, and probably completely irrelevant. I fear that some members of many high IQ societies tend to exaggerate the role of mental capacity with relation to the concept of genius. And remembering that the mark of a genius often goes hand in hand with deepfelt admiration, some insecure and non-creative people with impressive high IQ raw scores may elevate themselves to pedestals that they/we clearly didn’t disserve.

My name figures on the World Genius Directory (160 SD15), but I fail to see why, exactly. There seem to be a set formal IQ limit of 145 SD15. By this somewhat empty definition, I am a genius… But society should be the judge, not a formal IQ test. what is my standing unique gift to mankind? What is my creative power, in comparison to the great masters? I may have displayed some creative power – see e.g. my “Creating Stuff” webpage, but apart from two lovely children, my creations are not to be heralded by future generations as something magnificent. My PhD dissertation is probably the most important (scientific) contribution, which also has some creative power built in, but more importantly, this is the result of hard work and not genius. Earning a PhD is by no means unique anymore.

So, High IQ should not stand alone, clearly. It needs to be combined with other traits such as creativity or high skill performance, talent, and hard work. IQ and skill are not at all necessarily correlated. High IQ might even induce laziness on the poor soul getting a high raw score. Humility works better, I think.

Jacobsen: When was high intelligence discovered for you?

Rebsdorf: A key turning point in my life was passing a Mensa test in 1993 at my first year as an astronomy and physics student at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen. Passing the test transformed me from a low-achieving, near-suicidal, rather lonely and insecure young man into a higher-achieving, self-confident student with an increasing amount of self-respect.

I left the Mensa-club same year, though, and I distanced myself from the esoteric society by presenting my experience at social meetings as a botched taboo event not worth taking seriously. The Danish Mensa society was rather small at the time, and I even made fun of the people in the club and, immaturely, I called them losers. This judgement was perhaps partly due to my cultural background in terms of the infamous Law of Jante, but ultimately, the blame is clearly on me. As Seneca have allegedly and wisely stated, “When you judge, investigate.”

I still fail to remember what made me take the life-changing Mensa test back in 1993. For long, this has been a conundrum to me, as I didn’t regard myself to be neither intelligent, nor high-achieving or in any way particularly mentally capable at that time. For years after the test result, I kept telling myself that I had just rehearsed to becoming skilled at passing the test. I thought that I had simply managed to ‘cheat’ the test. But knowingly, I somehow unconsciously forgot the tremendous impact it had had on all my future performances in natural sciences, and an ensuing career of many different interesting employments with the guiding principle of increasing the scientific literacy in society.

Jacobsen: When you think of the ways in which the geniuses of the past have either been mocked, vilified, and condemned if not killed, or praised, flattered, platformed, and revered, what seems like the reason for the extreme reactions to and treatment of geniuses? Many alive today seem camera shy – many, not all.

Rebsdorf: Their views have conflicted with

  • common zeitgeist (original composers like Arnold Schönberg or Karlheinz Stockhausen)
  • religious dogma (examples are legion, sadly, e.g. Giordiano Bruno and the Catholic Church, Galileo Galilei,… or e.g. the 1277 Condemnation of Aristotelianism), or
  • social/cultural norms (artists like painter Picasso, composer John Cage).

In addition, within scientific circles, of course breaking with scientific standard models/normal science have oftentimes resulted in expelling researchers from the scientific community, until a theory had proven strong enough to survive as a new paradigm.

Some examples of self-proclaimed new scientific paradigms are to be found in High IQ circles. One example is the so-called TDVP theory hailed by its own authors as a new paradigm. I have co-written a highly critical article about this – it is to be found at my research publication overview at ResearchGate. In this article, my cowriter and I discuss central aspects of “Triadic Dimensional-Distinction Vortical Paradigm” (TDVP) by Vernon Neppe and Edward Close. In my opinion, the scientific discipline of physics is the most important part of the study of reality (ontology), almost by definition. It appears that some of the most important premises in TDVP are incorrect. It follows that if the basic premises are wrong or meaningless, the whole “paradigm” must be considered to be wrong and meaningless. I question whether or not this proclaimed paradigm-changing framework, in fact, represents a scientific theory, whether the theory is meaningful and substantiated, or whether it is something else.

This is one example, I think, of the display of the lack of humility and perhaps even disrespect of the scientific profession within High IQ circles. The authors behind TDVP should not be the ones to claim the theory to be neither ground-breaking nor paradigmatic. This job is saved for the scientific community, the test of nature, and history. My, and others’, critical claims opposing their theory have been completely rejected by the authors, which is another clear display of their lack of understanding of the negotiation element of the scientific process. Enough about this. Just an example.

Jacobsen: Who seem like the greatest geniuses in history to you?

Rebsdorf: The canon of the greatest geniuses is easily googled. Figures like Goethe, Da Vinci, Galilei, Newton, Descartes, Kant, Einstein, Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Donald Trump (pun intended) often heralded with a bit of envy by many aspiring intellectuals as the embodiment of their wettest dream: to make huge profit by means of mental capacity. Some other names:

– Georges Lemaître, cosmologist and priest, consciously embracing religion and rationality without mutually confusing of mixing the two incommensurables

– Jens Martin Knudsen, late Danish physicist and life-on-Mars-enthusiast

– Nicole Oresme, late French medieval natural philosopher, of whom I’ve written an article

– Ole Rømer, Danish discoverer of the speed of light, which should have been named after him

– Niels Bohr, for his creation of a creative research environment in the 1920’s leading to the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics

– Steward Brand, for his early premonition that we need to think on the long term

– Fjodor Dostojevskij, for his fictitious creativity and introspection and clear display of the human condition

– Thom Yorke: Iconoclastic and uniquely creative band leader with a faint singing voice yet rare composing ability

– Avishai Cohen: The most brilliant double bass virtuosi and composer of the present: Exceptional creative ability

– Donald Trump: A political genius. But only if you ask himself. In other words, who has got the right to define genius?

Jacobsen: What differentiates a genius from a profoundly intelligent person?

Rebsdorf: We need an unambiguous definition of the term genius first. Utilizing a thesaurus definition of genius, i.e. “exceptional intellectual or creative power of other natural ability,” the difference either stands out as pretty clear, or the opposite. It depends on your use of the logic “or” in the definition. So, having e.g. tested to be highly intelligent potentially puts a person in the pool of geniuses. Yet it might not be enough. Also, some display of unique creative power of other natural ability is required for the person to qualify. Unless you take the “or” literally. And then you can form a long list of geniuses by simply collecting the names of people with rare IQ test results. This has been done already and can be found on the website “World Genius Directory.” Once fascinated by this possibility, I also ended up on that list with a result of 160 SD15. Yet it is of course likely that my range is somewhere else. Perhaps below, perhaps above. No one knows for sure. And nobody really cares. So, in my view, a high IQ raw score is clearly not enough to qualify as a genius. You need some special super power, creative or other rare ability. Otherwise, how does e.g. great professional skill make a genius, like genius jazz players or classical music composers? Some cases might be found in the intersection between profound intelligence and rare creative ability. Mozart of Bach is a likely example, although we will never know their mental ability or intelligence quotient, will we?

More interestingly, a genius might just be a “truly great person.” My wife would be one of the best examples.

Jacobsen: What have been some work experiences and educational certifications for you?

Rebsdorf: Do you mean passed formal exams and work experience? That’s all listed here:


2020 –            Assistant Professor | VIA University College, Denmark

2017 – 20       Head of ESERO Denmark & Project Manager | House of Natural Sciences, Denmark

2017 – 20       Danish delegate representative | European Space Agency Advisory Committee on Education

2010 –            External University Examiner | Science & Technology Faculty, Aarhus University (AU)
– Philosophy and History of Science, Higher Science Education & Science Communication

2015-2017     Publishing Editor| Aarhus University Press, Aarhus, Denmark

2013-15         CCO (Chief Communications Officer) & Project Manager| House of Natural Sciences

2012-13         Communications Consultant| Regional Hospital Central Jutland

201011         Writing Consultant | Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen

2008-12         Information Officer | International Centre for Research in Organic Food Systems,
Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark
– Research communication and research coordination
– Secretary of ICROFS’ National Programme Committee in the period 2008-2010.

2007-08         High School Physics Teacher| Eux, Viborg, Denmark

2004-06         Postdoc| Centre for Science Education, Aarhus University

2001-04         PhD Graduate| Centre for Science Studies, Aarhus University

2000-01         Creative Idea Developer | Danish Technological Institute, Denmark
– Facilitating idea development, project management, advising inventors, negotiating with companies and inventors on intellectual property rights.


2018              International Business Academy – IBA Kolding | Fundraising Manager
Academic Education in Communication and Dissemination: Fundraising & lobbying, strategic fundraising and partnerships, financing opportunities, financing, 10 ECTS, grade: A.

2014                NGO-Project Management | Project Management, Leadership, Coaching and Strategy
Practicing project management: Resource management, team management, conflict management, personal management, 10 ECTS, grade: A.

2008                Higher National Diploma in Journalism | Danish School of Media and Journalism
Media studies, press law and ethics, language in the media, journalistic idea development and research, journalistic dissemination, presentation techniques.

2004                Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Natural Sciences (Science Studies) | Science & Technology,

2001-2004     PhD Graduate| Centre for Science Studies, AU, Aarhus University

– The PhD project (Amazon) was a study of the development of astrophysics in the 20th
Century. Focusing on the Danish professor of astronomy Bengt Strömgren (1908-1987), in
the USA formerly known as “The Great Dane” amongst scientists, the dissertation is a
biographical study, investigating Strömgren’s life in science and the development of
astronomical and related fields. The project includes institutional and technological
developments and the international astronomical networks of scientists and science-
politicians. At the same time, it is a comparative study of two local contexts, the Danish and
American observatories and the scientific networks of the field of astrophysics.

2000                MSc in Physics | Science & Technology, AU
– Teaching skills of high school physics

1998    BSc in Physics | The Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen

Jacobsen: What are some of the more important aspects of the idea of the gifted and geniuses? Those myths that pervade the cultures of the world. What are those myths? What truths dispel them?

Rebsdorf: I have already embarked on this question above.

Jacobsen: Any thoughts on the God concept or gods idea and philosophy, theology, and religion?

Rebsdorf: I belong to the agnostic and atheist branch, but certainly NOT anti-theist. The world need no more missionaries, religious or anti-religious. E.g. Richard Dawkins’ choir of non-believers is not productive. Mocking religious people is futile. Science and religion are incommensurable in the sense that a rational argument is given little weight by the faithful, and the religious narrative is given little weight by the rationalist. What we need is mutual respect – and the freedom to believe and think what we want, as long as it is not illegal, and as long as we can keep it to ourselves (or at least away from educational institutions) and stop brainwashing our offspring and the young generations.

I hope that my own children, now aged 8 and 10, will choose not to be baptized (most likely there is just one realistic alternative to choose from: the Christian Lutheran), but it is completely their own choice. I have shown them the world map of religions just to present the clear display of hefty cultural-geographical bias – and we have discussions about the roots and apparent needs of religion, the idea of god and the concept of creation ex nihilo, the humanly biased need for a primus motor and our dislike for infinity before and after the ever-flowing present moment. Kids love these kinds of subjects, if we hear them out.

Jacobsen: How much does science play into the worldview for you?

Rebsdorf: Very much. Working for increasing the scientific literacy as well as the interest and motivation for science and technology has been a guiding principle and the core of my professional working life since 2000. It is important and meaningful to me. And science leads the ways when it comes to training critical thinking, a commodity in general decline. We need a new enlightenment.

Jacobsen: What have been some of the tests taken and scores earned (with standard deviations) for you?

Rebsdorf: Life-time member of a number of intellectual societies (links given) – a crazy collecting hobby of mine, mostly involving puzzle solving but also some (digital) socializing on online platforms. Below you have it all. So, long and not very interesting list:

≥ 160, SD 15:

[150; 160], SD 15:

[140;150], SD 15:

[132; 140], SD 15:

< 132, SD 15:

Numericore test result.

Jacobsen: What is the range of the scores for you? The scores earned on alternative intelligence tests tend to produce a wide smattering of data points rather than clusters, typically.

Rebsdorf: See above. In short: 132 < X < 161 (SD 15)

Jacobsen: What ethical philosophy makes some sense, even the most workable sense to you?

Rebsdorf: I am not sure how to interpret this question.

If you mean which established (or home-spun) moral philosophies that I tend to cling to, then perhaps – and somewhat surprisingly to many – a selection of the fundamental tenets formulated in modern satanism (Yes, but in an iconoclastic version completely devoid of the ridiculous biblical embodiment of evil named Satan) combined with Kant’s moral philosophy are good picks. Philosophical ethical ideas could thus be turned into human virtuous practice by including the message of the following inspiring moral principles:

  • Deontology and Virtue: The rightness or wrongness of actions does not depend on their consequences but on whether they fulfill our duty, the categorical imperative
  • Benificense, Least Harm (what is right and good): One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason. Not only existing creatures, but also past and future, unborn creatures (the lack of action on a basis of empathy for unborn generations is one of the greatest challenges of our time, technologically as well as ethically, I believe)
  • Nature: As completely dependent – and intricate parts of – Nature all humans should strive to act accordingly with respect and humility
  • Justice: The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions. Still, we need to abide to the law, national and international
  • Respect for Autonomy: The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend (and take the consequences). To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own. Respect different views of virtue.
  • Human Knowledge Morality: One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one’s beliefs
  • Human Fallibility: People are fallible. Of one makes a mistake, one should do one’s best to rectify it and resolve any harm that might have been caused.

Some very important virtues and imperatives are also found in many religions, but in my view that to some extent include messages comparable to the above practical working tenets.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Assistant Professor, VIA University College.

[2] Individual Publication Date: May 15, 2021:; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2021:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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