Many have seen the paper by academics (from Utah!) attempting to explain the observation of empirical intelligence in Ashkenazi Jews. [Cochran, Hardy, Harpending 2005].

Synopsis: Jews of eastern Europe were excluded from mainstream society and gathered in Shtetls. In these villages, exceptionally intelligent boys studied Torah — and the most talented were skilled at debating meaning between themselves and with the elders. The most intelligent grew up to become religious scholars, who in these societies became wealthy — and the most desirable for marriage to village nubiles.

Unlike many Christian religions, young Jewish religious scholars were expected to reproduce in quantity. Thus conserving and proliferating genes for memory and reasoning, and possibly explaining disproportionate representation among pre-political Nobelists.

It is also possible that the successful among the tribes in Pogromal Russia also favored reproductive survival for the wily in coping with an oppressive state bureaucracy.

One could posit that such selection pressure could explain a measure of Jewish affinity for the heavy-handed state, including an instinct that this environment is rich with opportunities for equivocating, lawyering, and fertile profit.

Mick Tierney writes: 

 I'm somewhat familiar with the study you refer to, Kim, as well as similar conclusions reached by Charles Murray. But what interested me most about your post was this: "…young Jewish religious scholars were expected to reproduce in quantity." It caught my attention because of a battle that flared up back in June between "Commentary" and "Forward" - both, apparently, Jewish journals with significant influence. Their dispute turns on issues with which various Christian sects are familiar.

The below excerpts (and the entire article) seems to suggest that there might, in fact, be an "affinity for the heavy-handed state" among some of the faithful, but certainly not all. (I understand that there while there're differences between the Ashkenazi and the Haredim, both groups place a heavy emphasis on education.):

"In a city like New York where 74 percent of all Jewish school-age children are Orthodox, there is little question the traditional dominance of secular and liberal Jews is not likely to persist in the long run.

"That this would upset liberals is understandable. But that ought not to excuse the willingness of the editorial page of the Forward when discussing the Orthodox community to engage in the sort of language it would never excuse were such words directed at non-Jews."

"And that is what has apparently goaded the Forward into publishing a rant whose only real purpose is to stigmatize Orthodox Jews as an expanding horde of lazy welfare cheats who ought to be denied assistance as they out-reproduce more responsible liberal Jews."

"…it is one thing to express concerns about the future of that community, it is quite another to write in a manner that speaks of the rising Orthodox birth rate as if we would all be better off if those children were never born.

"…when a critique of the welfare state crosses over into prejudice against specific groups or language that resonates with bias that sounds more like eugenics than political analysis, a line has been crossed."

If it is true that being fruitful has been a successful mechanism for maintaining intellectual superiority (and it's hard to argue with the current "facts on the table") then the current NY contentions could have serious long-term consequences.





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1 Comment so far

  1. Ed on November 6, 2012 4:35 pm

    I do think the Jewish culture has some eugenic qualities that have benefited average intelligence of European Jews.

    The celibacy rule for Catholic Priests, on the other hand, was perhaps one of histories most unfortunate, disgenic cultural rules. Who can calculate how much Genetic inheritance was lost? Keep in mind Priests were for a long period the most intelligent and scholarly part of the general Christian population.


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