One Part Illuminati, Two Parts Dating Game


The Financial Times has published an amusing article on the declining fortunes of Mensa, the social club for people with IQs of over 148. Only at the end, though, does the paper pose the question that I've always wanted to ask a Mensan: "What is the point of a bunch of people with high IQ's getting together?" If the FT's account is to be trusted, the answer involves organs of somewhat lower intelligence.

NEXT: Pot Luck

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  1. Well, I am a member of Mensa so I might be able to answer a few questions.

    I gather Mensa started out as some sort of save the world organization. After WWII, a few people got the idea that if really intelligent people got together, they could solve problems that, for example, drove the world to war. After they got a number of high IQ people together, they discovered that high IQ people tended to have disagreements on all sorts of things. Being reasonably bright, they actually dropped the save the world stuff, recognizing the initial idea as wrong. Would that other groups (e.g., Communists, Fascists, religious fanatics) had shown anywhere near that wisdom and maturity.

    Anyway, after that false start, Mensa became a social group with an odd membership requirement — evidence of a high IQ. That’s it.

    Mensans, contrary to outside views, tend to have reasonable social skills (with, of course, a few exceptions). They also tend to do reasonably well in life.

    Mensa is prone to the same kinds of phenomena as other groups. You can get cliques, love affairs, conflict, life long friendships, marriage, etc.

    I joined because a friend at work (already a member) told me I’d get a kick out of it. I had some free time, so I did join — and made friends and had a good time.

    Yes, there are other ways to meet intelligent people. Mensa isn’t my only social group by far. But it is a way to meet people that you might not ordinarily meet. Some friends in small towns tell me it’s probably more important for them than I — small towns tend to have more limited social opportunities.

    If you’re eligible, I’d recommend contacting Mensa and seeing if you can attend a local group’s events. Metro Washington Mensa holds a monthly new and prospective members party, usually on the last Sunday. Other local groups have different policies, but all welcome the curious.

    Oh, Mensa does do more than simply serve as a dating service. In the U.S., Mensa does various to promote and assist gifted and talented education in the schools. It’s something we do know something about and can help with.

  2. I can’t read it, darn.

  3. Know how you can tell an extroverted Mensan?

    They look at your shoes when they talk to you


  4. Mensa has always seemed kind of silly to me because the entrance requirements aren’t all that high. If you took the SAT between 1974 and 1994 you only need a 1250 to join. That’s not very exclusive.

  5. Xavier: Is that true? I thought they wanted an IQ of 150 or better. Heck, I got a 1320 and I was still drunk from the night before!

  6. It’s great for parents of gifted children who need support when their kids encounter the school system (which is why I joined). And if you move to a new place where you don’t know anyone, it’s an instant social circle full of interesting people doing interesting things, and who are delighted to have you along.

    The FT article didn’t make clear that the decline it was discussing is largely peculiar to British Mensa. American Mensa is doing pretty well, as are many other national groups, some of them quite new.

  7. Here’s some information on the Mensa test score requirements. It’s not very impressive.

    I wouldn’t want to join an organization of people who think they’re geniuses because they scored a 1250 on the SAT.

  8. They changed the SAT. A 1970s 1250=a 1350 score today.

  9. I joined Mensa on the basis of my Navy GCT test. The requirement is to pass a test recognized by Mensa with a ranking of 98% or better. That is two out of 100 or one out of fifty who could qualify. If you are looking for a more exclusive organization you might consider the Triple Nine Society, where a ranking of 99.9% or better is required.

    I enjoy Mensa activities. There are a lot of good and interesting people to talk to. Conversation is quick and arguments can be spirited. I would suggest that you try us out.

  10. I will not join any club that would have me as a member.

  11. I got in with a 730 GRE. Try it!

  12. In a world of pop-culture that glorifies low class,low-intelligent criminals (i.e hip-hop music, gangsta-rap, atheletes who cheat on their wives then play the victim) what’s wrong with associating with and glorifying highly intelligent people who can put more than two words together without using “shizzle” or “hizzle” in their sentences? I am pretty much sick of the way most people talk, then they wonder why they don’t get good jobs or even get taken seriously by an employer. Bill Gates has a 160 I.Q and he’s worth around 50-60 BILLION dollars. How much money do these hip-hop, gang bangers have? Or how much money do these over-paid athletes make(presuming they still have any money left after a few years of their “THUG-LIFE”, or even if they live past 30?)Most people with high-intelligence actually try to give something back to the world and not contribute to the deterioration of the human race as a whole. Besides, those who trash groups like MENSA probably couldn’t make it in anyway, so they have nothing left to do but trash it. Just my thoughts, thanks.

  13. I’ve been a member of Mensa for over ten years, but I really don’t advertise it. I don’t need the approbation of others to be based on the ability to think like the test designer, which is really what many standardized tests actually measure. Seldom have I seen much constructive value in bolstering self-respect through the denigration of others, whether it be based on test scores, music and art preferences, fashion and fad fortitude, or the ambiguous practice of class-stratification. I think the real richness lies in the differences between people, and despite the commonality of exemplary scores seen amongst the ranks of its members, you would find that most Mensans cover the gamut of lifestyle, vocation, and personality, as evidenced by other postings presented here.

    I actually prefer the company of those who live free of pretension and overwhelming concern of how they look or what others think of them. It’s so much more liberating to enjoy the pursuit of inspiration rather than having a perpetual comparison to the lives of others as the determinant of our level of happiness. I think a common characteristic of many Mensans is to think with an open mind, of possibilities and interpretations, rather than the presumption of having all the answers, though it’s by no means a universal enlightenment among the membership. The membership requirement is merely a commonality in an otherwise bountiful sea of human variety. I’ll never be a four-minute miler, yet I have little fear than those speedsters are looking down their noses at slothful sluggards like myself who are potentially diluting the gene pool of pedestrian alacrity. It’s really just a number after all….

  14. Ethics might not necessarily be the handmaiden of theology, but properly applied, genuine theology begets noble ethics. And, if you shift one letter two places in “theology”, you get “ethology”.

  15. Oh, and per the topic of this thread, I scored 1420 on my SAT in the Fall of 1980, and such-like.

  16. EMAIL:
    DATE: 05/20/2004 04:51:41
    Ethics is not necessarily the handmaiden of theology.

  17. The scores accepted to get into Mensa are meant to represent the top 2% of IQ scores for a number of standardized intelligence tests. See
    Over time, some tests have been disqualified because the margin of error could result in someone with less than the top 2% of the population getting in… In any case, it is certainly not “easy” for 98% of the population to qualify for Mensa, but it would be easy for a small percentage to qualify. That’s the whole point.

    Also, Mensans that I know have absolutely nothing in common. They come from all political persuations, socio-economic groups, races, ages, careers, interests, fettishes… you name it.

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