Christopher Michael Langan (born March 25, 1952) is an American horse rancher. In 1999, as part of an interview Langan conducted with ABC's 20/20, a neuropsychologist administered an IQ test and remarked that Langan had the highest IQ score he'd encountered in 25 years. Langan's IQ has been estimated by various sources to be between 195 and 210, and he has been described as "the smartest man in America" as well as "the smartest man in the world" by some journalists.
Langan has developed what he calls a "theory of the relationship between mind and reality" which he calls the "Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe" (CTMU).
Christopher Michael Langan was born in 1952 in San Francisco, California but spent most of his childhood in Montana. His mother, Mary Langan-Hansen (née Chappelle, 1932 – 2014), was the daughter of a wealthy shipping executive but was cut off from her family. His biological father, Melvin Letman, died or disappeared before he was born. Owing to a combination of severed family ties and an absent father figure for her children, Mary was often pressured to adopt an economically itinerant lifestyle on behalf of her four children. This meant frequently living on violent Indian reservations in conditions of extreme poverty.
During elementary school, Langan repeatedly skipped ahead and was tormented by his peers. Langan claims he was brutally beaten by his stepfather, Jack Langan, who denied this claim. At the age of twelve years, Langan began weight training, and forcibly ended the abuse by throwing his stepfather out of the house when he was fourteen, and telling him never to return.
Langan attended high school but claimed that he found himself spending his last years engaged mostly in independent study, due to the relative indifference of his teachers in accommodating his pleas concerning his increasing need and capacity to absorb more advanced material. While left to his own studies, he started teaching himself "advanced math, physics, philosophy, Latin, and Greek". He has claimed that he earned a perfect score on the SAT (pre-1995 scale) despite taking a nap during the test.
Langan attended Reed College and later on Montana State University. Faced with severe financial and transportation problems, however, and believing that he could teach his professors more than they could teach him, he dropped out.
Langan took a string of labor-intensive jobs for some time, and by his mid-40s had been a construction worker, cowboy, Forest Service Ranger, farmhand, and, for over twenty years, a bouncer on Long Island.
Langan was also approached and contracted by Disney Research and he previously worked for Virtual Logistix, a technology company. Langan said he developed a "double-life strategy": doing his job and exchanging pleasantries during the day, then coming home to develop his Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe (CTMU).
In 1999, Langan and others formed a non-profit corporation named the Mega Foundation to "create and implement programs that aid in the development of severely gifted individuals and their ideas" (the organization's designation for those with IQs of 164 or above).
Langan told Muscle & Fitness magazine 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 the 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: "You can prove the existence of God, the soul and an afterlife, using mathematics."
When reviewing Langan's work on the CTMU, Ben Goertzel remarked the ideas were well worth reading but have gone unnoticed by academic critics. One online critique from a mathematician attacks Langan's use of neologisms (or redefined terms) and obscure exposition. Langan has espoused the virtues of eugenics and some of his views were characterized as racist by journalist Justin Ward in The Baffler.
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.
In 2004, Langan moved with his wife Gina (née LoSasso), a clinical neuropsychologist, to northern Missouri, where he owns and operates a horse ranch and undertakes activities for his Foundation.
Although he believes in God and the afterlife, Langan 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".
- In December 2012, Langan was a guest in the Coast to Coast AM radio show Mind & Reality/ Open Lines.
- Langan's personal history was included in the 2008 nonfiction book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.
- Langan appeared on ABC News in 2000.
- Langan was featured in Errol Morris' First Person.
- On January 25, 2008, Langan was a contestant on NBC's 1 vs. 100, where he won $250,000.
- Langan appeared on BBC's Make Me Smart, with Michael Mosley in 2012.
- Sager, Mike (November 1999). "The Smartest Man in America". Esquire. Archived from the original on 2001-04-21.
- 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.
- Larsson, Mats (January 12, 2000) "Smartest i verden" Dagbladet (Norway)