June 04, 2005
On The Evolution Of Ashkenazi Jewish Intelligence

Ashkenazi Jews pose two mysteries for biological science. First, why do they have so many genetic diseases that fall into just a few categories of metabolic function such as the sphingolipid storage diseases Tay-Sachs, Gaucher, Niemann-Pick, and mucolipidosis type IV? The rates of such diseases are so high that their incidence must be the result of either a recent genetic bottleneck where the Ashkenazi population was very small or natural selective pressures aimed at some other phenotype(s) selected for these genotypes due to advantages that those genotypes offer for other functionality. The second mystery is why are Jews so smart? Granted, a lot of Jews want to argue that they are just studious due to their culture. Also, lots of ideologues - particularly on the political Left - stand ready to attack anyone who argues that ethnic and racial groups differ in average intelligence. But the higher average level of Ashkenazi Jewish intelligence is so glaringly obvious that I figure anyone who tries to argue otherwise is either engaged in intellectual con artistry or is ignorant or foolish. So again, why are Jews so smart?

Well, three researchers at the University of Utah, anthropologist Henry Harpending, Gregory Cochran (a Ph.D. physicist turned genetic theorist), and Jason Hardy put forth a hypothesis that seeks to explain both mysteries simultaneously. Nicholas Wade of the New York Times has written one of the two news stories about it to date. The proposed hypothesis holds that Jews developed their genetic diseases as a side effect of strong selective pressures for higher intelligence during the Middle Ages as they were forced to work mainly in occupations that required greater cognitive ability. (same article here)

A team of scientists at the University of Utah has proposed that the unusual pattern of genetic diseases seen among Jews of central or northern European origin, or Ashkenazim, is the result of natural selection for enhanced intellectual ability.

The selective force was the restriction of Ashkenazim in medieval Europe to occupations that required more than usual mental agility, the researchers say in a paper that has been accepted by the Journal of Biosocial Science, published by Cambridge University Press in England.

The Economist has the other article about this research paper. The distribution of the Jewish genetic diseases is clustered too much into a few areas of genetic functionality This concentration of mutations argues for selective pressures as the logical explanation for rate of occurrence of these mutations in Ashkenazi Jews.

What can, however, be shown from the historical records is that European Jews at the top of their professions in the Middle Ages raised more children to adulthood than those at the bottom. Of course, that was true of successful gentiles as well. But in the Middle Ages, success in Christian society tended to be violently aristocratic (warfare and land), rather than peacefully meritocratic (banking and trade).

Put these two things together—a correlation of intelligence and success, and a correlation of success and fecundity—and you have circumstances that favour the spread of genes that enhance intelligence. The questions are, do such genes exist, and what are they if they do? Dr Cochran thinks they do exist, and that they are exactly the genes that cause the inherited diseases which afflict Ashkenazi society.

That small, reproductively isolated groups of people are susceptible to genetic disease is well known. Constant mating with even distant relatives reduces genetic diversity, and some disease genes will thus, randomly, become more common. But the very randomness of this process means there should be no discernible pattern about which disease genes increase in frequency. In the case of Ashkenazim, Dr Cochran argues, this is not the case. Most of the dozen or so disease genes that are common in them belong to one of two types: they are involved either in the storage in nerve cells of special fats called sphingolipids, which form part of the insulating outer sheaths that allow nerve cells to transmit electrical signals, or in DNA repair. The former genes cause neurological diseases, such as Tay-Sachs, Gaucher's and Niemann-Pick. The latter cause cancer.

That does not look random. And what is even less random is that in several cases the genes for particular diseases come in different varieties, each the result of an independent original mutation. This really does suggest the mutated genes are being preserved by natural selection. But it does not answer the question of how evolution can favour genetic diseases. However, in certain circumstances, evolution can.

Greg has referred to this hypothesis as "overclocking". The analogy is to overclocking computer processors (computer processing units or CPUs). Some hobbyists turn up the clocks on their desktop PCs to them run faster than they were designed to run. This can cause system instability and other problems. In the case of the Ashkenazis in Europe the hypothesis proposes that selective pressures for higher Ashkenazi intelligence were so high that it caused the propagation of mutations that pushed their intelligence up so quickly (evolutionarily speaking) that the selective pressure overrode the reduction in reproductive fitness caused by the deleterious side effects on some of those who received those mutations. The problem with overclocking is that "Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don't."

But I'll hazard a guess: the change accelerates some brain system tied to cognitive functioning - nearly redlines it, leaves it vulnerable to common insults in a way that can cause spectacular trouble. You might compare to overclocking a chip. Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don't.

More generally, if this is what I think it is, all these Ashkenazi neurological diseases are hints of ways in which one could supercharge intelligence. One, by increasing dendrite growth: two, by fooling with myelin: three, something else, whatever is happening in torsion dystonia. In some cases the difference is probably an aspect of development, not something you can turn on and off. In other cases, the effect might exist when the chemical influence is acting and disappear when the influence does. In either case, it seems likely that we could - if we wanted to - developed pharmaceutical agents that had similar effects. The first kind, those affecting development, would be something that might have to be administered early in life, maybe before birth. while the second kind would be 'smart pills' that one could pop as desired or as needed. Of course, we have to hope that we can find ways of improving safety. Would you take a pill that increased your IQ by 10 or 15 points that also had a 10% chance of putting you in a wheel chair?

Looked at from this perspective many Jews have paid and continue to pay a high price from the effects of mutations that "overclock" their brains.

This hypothesis cries out to be tested because if it is proven then, as Greg points out, these mutations point in directions for research aimed at raising human intelligence. Drugs or gene therapies that raise intelligence would have enormous economic value and one can even put a price tag on the value of higher intelligence. However, such calculations understate the economic value of higher intelligence because most of the value of scientific and technological knowledge produced by high IQ people flows to lower IQ people.

The paper is downloadable as a 40 page PDF (on big PDFs I get better results downloading to a file and then opening rather than running Acrobat Reader from within a browser).

This paper elaborates the hypothesis that the unique demography and sociology of Ashkenazim in medieval Europe selected for intelligence. Ashkenazi literacy, economic specialization, and closure to inward gene flow led to a social environment in which there was high fitness payoff to intelligence, specifically verbal and mathematical intelligence but not spatial ability. As with any regime of strong directional selection on a quantitative trait, genetic variants that were otherwise fitness reducing rose in frequency. In particular we propose that the well-known clusters of Ashkenazi genetic diseases, the sphingolipid cluster and the DNA repair cluster in particular, increase intelligence in heterozygotes. Other Ashkenazi disorders are known to increase intelligence. Although these disorders have been attributed to a bottleneck in Ashkenazi history and consequent genetic drift, there is no evidence of any bottleneck. Gene frequencies at a large number of autosomal loci show that if there was a bottleneck then subsequent gene flow from Europeans must have been very large, obliterating the effects of any bottleneck. The clustering of the disorders in only a few pathways and the presence at elevated frequency of more than one deleterious allele at many of them could not have been produced by drift. Instead these are signatures of strong and recent natural selection.

Their argument against a population bottleneck is key to their larger argument. Dismissal of the bottleneck argument leads inevitably to the argument that the frequency of these mutations that cause genetic diseases must be the result of selective pressure. If they are the result of selective pressure then the next obvious question is what was being selected for? Cochran, Harpending, and Hardy claim higher intelligence increased reproductive fitness for Jews in medieval Europe who were legally prevented from performing in occupations that had lower need for intelligence. Simultaneously Jews were allowed to work in more cognitively demanding occupations involving money handling even as the Catholic Church banned Christians from many of those same occupations.

They take their argument all the way down to the molecular level and argue that the sphingolipid mutations in some of the Jewish genetic diseases boost glucosylceramide which in turn boosts neural axon growth.

The sphingolipid storage mutations were probably favored and became common because of natural selection, yet we don’t see them in adjacent populations. We suggest that this is because the social niche favoring intelligence was key, rather than geographic location. It is unlikely that these mutations led to disease resistance in heterozygotes for two reasons. First, there is no real evidence for any disease resistance in heterozygotes (claims of TB resistance are unsupported) and most of the candidate serious diseases (smallpox, TB, bubonic plague, diarrheal diseases) affected the neighboring populations, that is people living literally across the street, as well as the Ashkenazim. Second and most important, the sphingolipid mutations look like IQ boosters. The key datum is the effect of increased levels of the storage compounds. Glucosylceramide, the Gaucher storage compound, promotes axonal growth and branching (Schwartz et al., 1995). In vitro, decreased glucosylceramide results in stunted neurons with short axons while an increase over normal levels (caused by chemically inhibiting glucocerebrosidase) increases axon length and branching. There is a similar effect in Tay-Sachs (Walkley et al., 2000; Walkley, 2003): decreased levels of GM2 ganglioside inhibit dendrite growth, while an increase over normal levels causes a marked increase in dendritogenesis. This increased dendritogenesis also occurs in Niemann-Pick type A cells, and in animal models of Tay- Sachs and Niemann-Pick.

Figure 1, from Schwartz et al. (1995) shows the effect of glucosylceramide, the sphingolipid that accumulates in Gaucher disease. These camera lucida drawings of cultured rat hippocampal neurons show the effect of fumonisin, which inhibits glucosylceramide synthesis, and of conduritol B-epoxide (CBE) which inhibits lysosomal glycocerebrosidase and leads to the accumulation of glucosylceramide, thus mimicking Gaucher disease. Decreased levels of glucosylceramide stunt neural growth, while increased levels caused increased axonal growth and branching.

Dendritogenesis appears to be a necessary step in learning. Associative learning in mice significantly increases hippocampal dendritic spine density (Leuner et al., 2003), while enriched environments are also known to increase dendrite density (Holloway, 1966). It is likely that a tendency to increased dendritogenesis (in Tay-Sachs and Niemann-Pick heterozygotes) or to increased axonal growth and branching (in Gaucher heterozygotes) facilitates learning.

Heterozygotes have half the normal amount of the lysosomal hydrolases and should show modest elevations of the sphingolipid storage compounds. A prediction is that Gaucher, Tay-Sachs, and Niemann-Pick heterozygotes will have higher tested IQ than control groups, probably on the order of 5 points.

We do have strong but indirect evidence that one of these, Gaucher disease, does indeed increase IQ. Professor Ari Zimran, who heads the Gaucher Clinic at the Shaare Zedek Medical Centre in Jerusalem, furnished us a list of occupations of 302 Gaucher patients. Because of the Israeli medical care system, these are essentially all the Gaucher patients in the country. Of the 255 patients who are not retired and not students, 81 are in occupations that ordinarily average IQ’s greater than 120. There are 13 academics, 23 engineers, 14 scientists, and 31 in other high IQ occupations like accountants, physicians, or lawyers. The government of Israel states that 1.35% of Israeli’s working age population are engineers or scientists, while in the Gaucher patient sample 37/255 or 15% are engineers or scientists. Since Ashkenazim make up 60% of the workforce in Israel, a conservative base rate for engineers and scientists among Ashkenazim is 2.25% assuming that all engineers and scientists are Ashkenazim. With this rate, we expect 6 in our sample and we observe 37. The probability of 37 or more scientists and engineers in oursample, given a base rate of 2.25%, is approximately 4 x 10-19 . There are 5 physicists in the sample, while there is an equal number, 5, of unskilled workers. In the United States the fraction of people with undergraduate or higher degrees in physics is about one in one thousand. If this fraction applies even approximately to Israel the expected number of physicists in our sample is 0.25 while we observe 5. Gaucher patients are clearly a very high IQ subsample of the general population.

Are there Ashkenazi mutations other than these sphingolipid storage disorders that likely became common because of strong selection for IQ? There are several candidates.

Ever since torsion dystonia among the Ashkenazim was first recognized, observers have commented on the unusual intelligence of patients. Flatau and Sterling (Eldridge, 1976) describe their first patient as showing “an intellectual development far exceeding his age”, and their second patient as showing “extraordinary mental development for his age.” At least ten other reports in the literature have made similar comments. Eldridge (1970, 1976) studied 14 Jewish torison dystonia patients: he found that their average IQ before the onset of symptoms was 121, compared to an averge score of 111 in a control group of 14 unrelated Jewish children matched for age, sex, and school district. Riklan and colleagues found that 15 Jewish patients with no family history of dystonia (typical of DYT1 dystonia) had an average verbal IQ of 117 (Eldridge, 1979; Riklan et al., 1976).

Raising Intelligence Looks Problematic

If this hypothesis is correct (and I believe it is) then it is problematic for efforts to raise human intelligence. How many of the intelligence raising genetic variants bring undesirable side effects? Some scientists speculate that assortive mating of high IQ people is contributing to a rising incidence of autism and Asperger's Syndrome. As smart people become more likely to breed with other smart people the odds increase that pairs of autosomal recessives or other problematic combinations of intelligence boosting genes will be inherited by offspring.

Has human intelligence been selected for so rapidly in the last couple of thousand years that a large portion of all intelligence boosting mutations have undesirable side effects? When a selective pressure is strong early adaptations will have side effects. Henry Harpending explained in the gnxp.com thread on this subject:

Re mechanism: The argument (well known to breeders where there is no argument) goes like this:
In a drastic new environment there is big fitness payoff to IQ. In this new environment there is a payoff to "turning down" BRCA1 to free up early CNS development but at the cost of higher cancer rates later in life. Eventually, especially in a big population, a BRCA1 variant with the optimum activity will show up. Meanwhile carriers of one normal and one broken BRCA1 gene have a big fitness advantage because they have, say, 90% of normal suppression of early CNS development. So the broken BRCA1 allele is favored by selection even though homozygotes for it die. After a long time it would be replaced by the optimum allele but it takes a long time for that optimum allele to show up.

Exactly this argument applies to myostatin in several European breeds of beef cattle: it causes muscle hypertrophy and obstetric difficulties. The muscle hypertrophy is good but the obstetric difficulties require veterinarians and in the wild would have been lethal.

Re the implications of our model for eugenics, yes, big time, eugenics is IMHO a route to disaster. Well understood engineered gene introductions could be fine but eugenics would be almost certain to bring all kinds of nightmares.

But keep in mind that the human race already has many genetic variations to choose from that contribute to determining cognitive ability. A massive comparison of DNA sequence information between hundreds of thousands of people combined with IQ testing and collection of a lot of life history and medical history information could demonstrate many of the positive and negative effects of each genetic variation which affects cognitive function. Likely some will be better optimized to provide a cognitive boost without much downside.

Advances in biotechnology will provide ways to avoid some of the harmful side effects of these "overclocking" mutations. One way to accomplish this would be to discover regulatory regions in the genome that could be harnessed to selectively turn on the mutated genes only in the nervous system and turn on normal versions of these genes only in cells outside of the nervous system.

But Smart People Having More Babies Will Raise Average IQs

I've got to state the obvious because the obvious is politically incorrect: If smart people have more babies than dumb people the average IQ will rise. If dumb people have more babies than smart people then the average IQ will drop. I'm guessing the latter is currently happening. Bummer dudes.

Testing Of The Hypothesis Should Be An Urgent Priority

Proof of this hypothesis would point scientists in the direction of genes to look at for intelligence enhancement. For example, if the mutation for Gaucher's disease causes an IQ boost then drugs that increase the level of glucosylceramide in neurons might accelerate learning by increasing the rate of axon growth to connect neurons to each other.

The hypothesis could be tested fairly rapidly. Recruit some thousands of Ashkenazi Jews to take IQ tests and to have a few dozen genes tested for assorted genetic variations. Compare the IQ test results to the genetic tests and see if all the known genetic variations in sphingolipid storage metabolism, DNA repair, and several other categories account for a large proportion of Ashkenazi Jewish genetic variations.

We also need to find out whether these various potential intelligence boosting mutations have differing effects from each other on other aspects of cognition. Anyone recruited into testing the hypothesis should also have information collected on their mental health, personality, preferences, values, educational history, occupation, income, criminal record, and anything else that might provide clues as the effects of these mutations on cognitive function. For example, do some IQ-boosting mutations favor a career in law whereas others favor a career in medicine or science or math?

The Future Of Jewish Breeding Practices

Jewish efforts to avoid passing along genes that have harmful effects might be lowering average Jewish intelligence. Some of the genetic variants (e.g. the genes underlying Tay-Sachs, Gaucher, and Niemann-Pick diseases) are autosomal recessive and therefore cause diseases only when a person has two copies of them. If having single copies of these genetic variations boosts intelligence but Jewish couples engage in practices that reduce the number of copies they pass along in general (e.g. by using pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to choose an embryo that has 0 copies of a mutation) then that will reduce the number of Jewish babies born with single copies and therefore if the hypothesis is correct then the resulting babies will be less bright than the average Ashkenazi Jew.

Should the hypothesis be proven then Jewish breeding practices could be adjusted to maximize the benefit of intelligence boosting genetic variations while avoiding the harmful effects. Ideally each child should get one and only one copy of each genetic variation that is autosomal recessive for diseases. Get the intelligence boosting benefit of a single copy while avoiding the diseases that come from having two copies. To execute this strategy a Jewish person would need to get genetically tested and then look for a mate who has complementary mutations for higher intelligence.

If each member of a couple has one copy of an autosomal recessive mutation then, on average, 2 out of 4 pregnancies they start will have the exact 1 desired recessive mutation. But 1 of the other 4 pregnancies will have 2 copies and hence would result in genetic disease. The other 1 of the 4 pregnancies would not have the IQ boosting genetic mutation and hence would not be as smart. If the couple each have the same 3 different autosomal recessives mutations that each boost IQ then the odds of getting a baby that has exactly 1 copy of each of the 3 mutations is only 1 in 8.

The low odds of getting all the desired mutations with the optimal number of copies of each mutation poses a big problem to aspiring eugenicists whether Jewish or non-Jewish. One biotechnological approach to solving this problem would use microfluidics devices to separate and identify each chromosome from a cell to get just exactly the set of chromosomes from each parent chosen for an optimal trade-off of cognitive ability and other qualities. Then somehow insert all those chromosomes back into a cell and kick it into an embryonic state. But we are probably 10 or 20 years away from having such a capability.

For Those Offended By The Idea Of Eugenics

Every time a man or woman chooses someone to mate with they are making choices based on the appearances, status, demonstrated intelligence, and other qualities of that person. Women attracted to rock stars, movie stars, and sports stars are driven by genetically caused eugenic desires.

Use of genetic tests to choose a mate is already done to avoid passing on harmful mutations to offspring. This practice will become much more widespread as the significance of more genetic variations becomes known. The negative connotations associated with the term eugenics are already wearing off. As more people can derive benefits from the use of genetic information to guide reproductive decisions eugenic practices will become very widespread. When that happens the term eugenics may be replaced by a different term that effectively means the same thing. But regardless of what it gets called eugenics will become widely accepted and practiced.

Did Medieval Usury Bans Lead To Israeli Power?

Step back and look at Jewish and European history from the context of this hypothesis. A few things come to mind. First off, Middle Ages bans on Christian money lending created an environmental niche in which high IQ was selected for in Jews. This led to a few important historical consequences. First off, it led to financial and reproductive success of urban Jews and hence resentment against them by both elites and masses in Europe. This resentment of course led to pogroms and Hitler's "Final Solution". There's an old Japanese saying that comes to mind: "The nail that sticks up gets hammered down". Well, smart Jews stood out and the response of jealousy and resentment against the more successful "other" is a recurring theme in human history.

But here's the twist: Catholic usury restrictions, by creating an environmental niche that selected for higher Ashkenazi IQs, therefore made possible the eventual return of Jews to Israel. An ethnic group of much lower intelligence never would have been able to pull off the creation and defense of a state in that location against such hostile neighbors.

On The Persecution Of Market Dominant Minorities

The persecutions of Jews can also be seen in the context of successful minorities around the world. Yale law professor Amy Chua wrote a book about persecution of economically successful minorities entitled World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability where she describes attacks in a number of countries (e.g. Indonesia) against Chinese and other groups that are minorities that are economically more successful than the majorities in countries where they live.

Suppose the successful minorities who are persecuted are successful as a result of genetically caused higher intelligence or perhaps due to other genetically controlled cognitive qualities. When this becomes proven scientifically and becomes widely known will the knowledge lead to more or less persecution of cognitively more able and more successful ethnic groups? For example, will Malaysians or Indonesians resent Chinese people even more if genetically caused higher intelligence in Chinese becomes the accepted explanation for greater Chinese economic success in Malaysia and Indonesia? Or will lower class people become more willing to accept their lots in life if group average differences in genetic endowments for cognitive ability are shown to be responsible for the bulk of inter-group differences in incomes, wealth, achievement, and status?

If you are interested in the evolution of human intelligence, the methods by which evolution has changed the human brain to make it smarter, or how changes in human societies can cause changes in natural selective pressure on human evolution then read this paper. If you are interested in the prospects for future intelligence enhancement then, again, read it. If you are interested in the causes interracial conflict or if you are interested in how religious and cultural practices can exert selective pressures on human populations then read it. If you want to dispute the hypothesis then read the full paper and examine their evidence before trying to disagree.

Also see the Gene Expression post on this story and in particular the discussion thread for that post which includes comments by both Greg Cochran and Henry Harpending.

Updates

Update I:Steve Sailer covers the Cochran-Harpending paper.

The savage persecutions suffered by Jews suggest that high intelligence can generate resentment among the masses. No doubt there will be some who will suggest that the Cochran-Harpending paper should have been suppressed to prevent awareness of the secret of Ashkenazi intelligence from seeping out.

But you have to be a true-blue intellectual to assume that the only way anybody would ever notice anything as obvious as Jewish brainpower is if it gets mentioned in the New York Times. Political correctness doesn't keep facts from being talked about—just from being written about in an intelligent, constructive manner.

Yes, everyone thinks Jews are smarter, even many people who publically deny they believe this. Persecutions of smart minorities happen already. An honest accurate discussion of the causes of resentment smarter and more successful groups would, in my view, make it easier to ameliorate the causes of resentment between ethnic groups. I think people would be less prone to ascribe Jewish successes to conspiracies if Jews were accepted as being smarter for genetic reasons. High IQ genes cause higher intelligence. Higher intelligence increases productivity when learning and working. Hence greater wealth. That's a lot less reason for resentment than the idea that some group is no more productive but engages in conspiracies to take from others.

Steve thinks the Parsis have managed to achieve great success while generating less resentment from other groups.

On the other hand, the happier experience of another ethnic minority that may also have evolved stronger intellectual capacities under similar urban conditions—the prosperous Parsis of Bombay—may offer clues to mitigating envy.

I wonder if the Parsis were able to do this simply because India was broken up into so many castes that the Parsis had a hard time being noticed by the average Indian.

In any case, the Cochran-Harpending paper offers a fairly new but crucial perspective on the old nature and nurture question. The researchers have demonstrated that it's quite possible for nurture to change nature. Culture can drive heredity. Economics and social customs alter gene frequencies.

This is an incredibly important point. Currently genetic variations for higher intelligence are being selected against in industrialised societies. We've probably changed selective pressures in other ways. But at this point I can only guess as to those chances. Are introverts or extroverts more or less likely to reproduce relative to each other than in the past? I don't know. Are genes for height being selected for? My guess is yes. The genes for obesity might be getting selected for in modern societies. I would have expected heavier weight people to have a harder time finding mates and hence be less likely to reproduce. But perhaps obese people are willing to settle for less desirable mates due to their own perceived lower attractiveness and hence they spend less time searching for for the ideal mate and hence start reproducing sooner and in greater numbers.

Humanity has not escaped from natural selection. The genes that code for the brain are not immune to the pressures of natural selection. Anyone remember the tune "Elvis is everywhere"? Well, "Darwin is everywhere".

Update II: Patri Friedman points out that people genetically engineered to have single copies of all the autosomal recessive IQ boosters could not mate with each other naturally.

Given that modern genetic technology will soon make it easy to ensure that a child has exactly one copy of such a gene, it seems like this sort of thing is a “low-hanging fruit” for genetic engineering. If such a gene is common, then having one copy is probably an evolutionary advantage - otherwise it would be (mildly) selected against. The main disadvantage is the chance that your kids might end up with two copies of the recessive, so if technology can prevent that, now you just have upside. I wouldn’t be suprised if it soon becomes common to give your offspring many such genes - which would have the side effect of making it impossible for them to reproduce with similarly endowed partners without using genetic engineering.

The problem is if you have a lot of recessives boost intelligence when you have a single copy and your mate has them too then the odds would be very low that your offspring would not get two copies of at least one of the genes. Given that these genes cause diseases when you get two copies that would make natural reproduction very risky for offspring.

The obvious solution to this problem is to adjust these genes with additional regulatory mechanisms to make them no longer cause diseases when two copies are present. But development of such regulatory mechanisms requires additional and difficult genetic engineering work.

March 2009 Update: This work has since become part of the basis of an excellent book by Cochran and Harpending entitled The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2005 June 04 11:38 AM  Brain Evolution


Comments
James Bowery said at June 5, 2005 7:49 AM:

Kevin MacDonald documents eugenic strategies within Judaism selecting for debating skill and business success. These alone may explain the observed neurological changes. The arrow of causality between Jewish occupations and Jewish eugenic practices is of course at issue. I don't think it is as open and shut as Harpending et al claim.

What I think people are failing to discuss, including MacDonald, is the evolutionary pressure on a group that is mobile hence multi-national.

I've described this pressure in two short essays, "The Evolutionary Structure of Hypocrisy" and "The Evolution of Antisemitism". These are two sides of the same coin in many ways and they -- too -- predict the sort of neurological changes discussed by Harpending et al. In other words, if does not posit "antisemitism" as an ultimate cause (as is politically correct to do) but rather _mobility_ as an ultimate cause, you get a different set of predictions -- predictions that overlap with the known data and require fewer assumptions to explain the unique character of "market dominant minorities".

James Bowery said at June 5, 2005 8:35 AM:

On the general topic of intelligence enhancement:

There is an interesting essay titled "Why Machines Will Become Hyperintelligent Before Humans Do" by Peter Voss that makes the argument that enhancing human intelligence has severe fundamental limitations that are unlikely to be overcome before artificial intelligence technologies create hyperintelligence in machines.

Relatedly, I've recently gotten an article voted to front page on a collaborative weblog. The article titled "AI Breakthrough or Mismeasure of Machine" discusses a computer program that recently matched the performance of college bound humans on the SAT verbal analogies test, and the significance of this as 'g' or general intelligence is most strongly predicted by verbal analogies tests such as Miller's.

Jonas Cord said at June 5, 2005 9:32 AM:

Fascinating study, but I'm baffled by your statement here:

I've got to state the obvious because the obvious is politically incorrect: If smart people have more babies than dumb people the average IQ will rise. If dumb people have more babies than smart people then the average IQ will drop. I'm guessing the latter is current happening. Bummer dudes.

I believe it has been true for quite some time that higher IQ was correlated with less offspring. In spite of that, I was under the impression that IQs have been rising strongly for the last fifty years or so at least.

My guess is that regardless of genetic predispositions towards high IQ that most peoples intelligence, even in our universal education world, are still insufficiently cultivated that there is still much room for IQ growth.

Randall Parker said at June 5, 2005 9:48 AM:

Jonas,

You are referring to the Flynn Effect. Flynn himself does not think he discovered real increases in intelligence. As he sees it if intelligence really was increasing we'd be living in an amazing Renaissance period. You'd expect to see much larger portions of the population coming up with inventions, scientific discoveries, and producing other great intellectual accomplishments.

Just why IQ tests have to be renormalized is unclear. One argument is that people become more practiced at taking multiple choice tests. Another argument is that urbanization stimulated brains with challenges that fit the kinds of problems seen on the tests. Another argument I've read is that improved environment (better nutrition, higher rates of schooling, etc) has done more to boost scores of the lower half of the Bell Curve distribution than of the top have and that this has raised the average while not increasing the number who are really bright.

In any case, by some indicators the Flynn Effect has stopped in at least some countries.

Jonas Cord said at June 5, 2005 10:27 AM:

Randall, thanks for your thoughtful response.

Another argument I've read is that improved environment (better nutrition, higher rates of schooling, etc) has done more to boost scores of the lower half of the Bell Curve distribution than of the top have and that this has raised the average while not increasing the number who are really bright.

That would be the argument I'm most sympathetic to.

As he sees it if intelligence really was increasing we'd be living in an amazing Renaissance period.

It's not hard to get the impression we are living in such a period from this blog, you know...

Marvin said at June 5, 2005 11:43 AM:

In North America, Jews are interbreeding with non-Jews to the point that the Jewish population is dropping (also factoring in emigration to Israel and low birthrates among Jews). If Jews were to interbreed with East Asians, the pro-IQ alleles having different evolutionary origins might very well complement each other, perhaps without the same danger of genetic disease.

Taking lead out of gasoline, paint, and other consumer products may have helped the Flynn effect. Public health measures, including vaccinations that have reduced meningitis rates, can also help.

I vote to promote both a general eugenic attitude toward human breeding, along with an intelligent molecular genetics approach to enhancing brain development. Not one or the other. In some sub-cultures, the most desireable father for a young woman's child is not the rock star, sports star, or legitimate business success. It is the successful pimp, drug dealer, or gang leader. The "hands-off" approach to such dysgenic attitudes has predictable and very sad consequences.

Randall Parker said at June 5, 2005 12:23 PM:

Jonas,

But one point about environment is important to consider: To the extent that enivronment becomes optimized it contributes less to differences in abiliy and therefore genetics contributes more.

In the United States my guess is we have already gotten most of the gain we can get from better environment. Most of the environmental gain that we could still get is hard to achieve. For example, we could get gain from a reduction in damage from alcohol and drugs. But that would require preventing drug addicts and alcoholics from becoming pregnant. Now, personally I'd support that. I don't think people have a right to damage future humans with drugs and alcohol. But the New York Times and the liberal pack want to fantasize that welfare programs and increased spending on education could fix the environmental problems. I think they are deluded.

Better nutrition would help some lower class people. I'd love to see all the low nutrient density food removed from grade schools. But the worst part of the the malnutrition problem has to be when the brain is growing most rapidly the during pregnancy and before kids even enter school.

Renaissance period: We have great tools for automating intellectual work and communication. So a fairly small fraction of the population is accelerating scientific and technological advances. But what I do not see is the average person doing great intellectual work. If the Flynn Effect was due to real gains in cognitive ability we'd see a much larger fraction of the population mastering the most cognitively demanding tasks.

Dardardar said at June 5, 2005 3:20 PM:

It is interesting that no one ever makes the following observation: Jews were not successful at home. They were more successful among foreigners and in foreign societies from which they depended. I don't think this plays in their favor. Also, it has been observed that children who learn two or more languages tend to do better on IQ tests. And jews do learn more languages because they are a minority with a non european language. A third observation is that Hitler eliminated many of the poor jews who could not pay their way out. 6 milion back then means 10 milion today to keep up with european population expansion. those poor jews would have lowered the average IQ. Besides, if I rememeber correctly, their IQ is higher only in the verbal logic area, that correlates with the two or more language idea and with the extremely high rate of reproduction of the more fanatically religious rabbis. We all know what problems these fanatics have caused Israel with their extremism.
Would jews be so successful if they had lived alone in their own country for centuries without US aid? Despite the "we have to defend ourselves from arabs" excuse US aid is absolutely huge for such a small country such as Israel. Not to mention the aid they get from jews abroad. Most rich and poor countries could solve thier debt problems in no time if they obtained a proportional amount of aid instead of having to try to make ends meet year after year. They might have a genetic advantage, but I think there are many more non genetic, opportunistic explations.

Kurt said at June 5, 2005 6:55 PM:

I do not think that the Chinese in Malaysia will be persecuted any more as a result of the widespread acceptance of the genetic origins of IQ. Most Malay people readily accept that the Chinese are more intelligent than the other races. They talk about this alot, even though it is illegal to talk about this stuff publically.

Mahatier wrote a book about this in the early 70's. In his book, he states that the Chinese became more intelligent because of selective breeding due to the harsh weather and natural disasters over the centuries in China (as compared to the tropical paradise that the Malays lived in). This is similar to Gregory Cockran's theory, although much less qualitative.

Indonesia is different. They have had (and continue to have) anti-Chinese pogroms in Indonesia, particularly Java. However, the Indonesians are kind of an "earthy" people, as any Malaysian will tell you. Malaysia has the problem of illegal Indonesian immigrants, complete with Indonesian slums, as the U.S. does with Mexican illegals. The problem is compounded by the fact that Indonesia's population is 10 times that of Malaysia. It would be like the U.S. being next to a Mexico of a billion people.

Malaysia has recently passed a bill making it easy for Chinese (mainland) businessmen to get long-term visa to live in and do business in Malaysia. Malaysia a pursuing a pro-China policy similar to that of their "look-east" policy in the 80's under Mahatier, when they sought good commercial relations with Japan.

It is actually quite easy for U.S. people (like me) to get long-term business visa to do business in Malaysia.

I do not think that we will see hyperintelligent machines for a long time to come. There are specific architectural differences between computers and human brains that make it unlikely that we will develop machine sentience. Computers will, of course, continue to improve until we get to the molecular-level electronics (in about 20 years) and will have many times the computational capacity of the human brain. However, they will be extensions of ourselves and our brains, rather than as replacements.

Tdean said at June 5, 2005 9:35 PM:

Dardardar,

"Jews were not successful at home." The Jews were unable to establish a large empire like their neighbors since they originated in a desert without major rivers for irrigation and became boxed in by neighbors who didn't suffer these deficits. But they were the most successful in that particular environment, which itself was challenging enough to select for intelligence.

The Diaspora of the Jews to Europe created both strong selective pressure for intelligence and narrow genetic bottlenecks. It was more the ban on the Jewish ownership of land that forced them into urban areas and commercial livelihoods. Then repetitive pogroms wiped out substantial percentages of Jews throughout medieval Europe, culminating in the Nazi Holocaust. Extremely strong and effective taboos against marrying outside the faith created very tight bottlenecks and a homogenization of genomes. It can hardly be a surprise that there is both a tendency toward higher intelligence, selected for in an environment of bloodthirsty, religiously fanatic Europeans, and a higher incidence of genetic disease due to their highly insular marriage practices and isolated populations. But I think it is more likely that intelligence and genetic disease is coincidental than causal. Looking for genetic markers for intelligence is a reasonable thing to do, in any case.

James Bowery said at June 5, 2005 9:44 PM:

There are specific architectural differences between computers and human brains that make it unlikely that we will develop machine sentience.

What is it about the human brain's architecture that makes general intelligence its sole province?

Regulus said at June 6, 2005 4:05 AM:

James, the human brain evolved over hundreds of millions of years to be a general intelligence machine. Given the same time scale, creation of a machine with general intelligence might be possible. Generate and test. Trial and error. Over and over again. MI (machine intelligence) researchers should start simple and work up. Insect brains, slug brains, amphibian brains. The Doug Lenat approach won't work until the right machine substrate is invented.

Randall Parker said at June 6, 2005 6:28 AM:

Kurt,

What makes Indonesia so different from Malaysia is that Chinese are a much lower percentage of the population in Indonesia. So they have less electoral influence and less ability to defend themselves as a group. Also, Malaysia still is under control of the same guy whereas when the dictatorship fell in Indonesia the Chinese there lost their protector.

I know at least one Malaysian Chinese who has emigrated along with his family from Malaysia because they see the long term trend there is not favorable to Chinese people.

Randall Parker said at June 6, 2005 6:34 AM:

Regulus,

How many millions of years did it take for the evolution of birds? Well, lots of airplanes are flying around and it didn't take Orville and Wilbur Wright all that long to get the first airplane off the ground. About a century later we even have unmanned airplanes and unmanned spacecraft flying around.

Nature via evolution by natural selection takes longer to do things because it is constrained to produce something reproductively adaptive at each step of a series separate of design changes. Whereas humans can design things from scratch that big leaps with many design changes at once. Also, humans can simulate design ideas and iterate through many designs that never even get built. So I expect humans to be able to develop machine intelligence much more rapidly than nature developed intelligence.

I also expect humans to be able to apply these same techniques to the development of enhanced biological intelligence.

Charlie Evett said at June 6, 2005 9:01 AM:

I think many of the comments here are a load of racist bullshit masquerading as scientific inquiry and debate. Still, the original article should be commended for taking on an interesting subject and trying to think scientifically about it. It is an interesting hypothesis, though many elements of it seem inherently unprovable. Employment in the banking trades selecting for intelligence? Sounds fishy to me. Maybe Jewish girls just like men who can make them laugh.

I believe that understandings of intelligence based on standardized tests are basically a pseudo-science and have no business in serious policy discussions. IQ tests are a seductive curiosity that usually do not lead to anything useful. Really "smart" people can hold on to really stupid ideas. What we really need is a real understanding of the brain and how to improve its health and functioning. As we learn this, drugs and therapies will become available to make you "smarter" and people will probably use them. We have these already available in a limited form -- stimulants are currently widely used to produce "over-clocking", which is probably helpful in combative situations such as wars and final exams, but may not boost the average much over time, as you have to pay for your high with down-time.

As for the Flynn Effect, I would say its probably real enough. We ARE living in an incredible intellectual renaissance, it just doesn't feel like it because it has become nearly impossible to stand out from the huge shouting mass. Every town is loaded with amazing artists, writers, scientists, musicians, and athletes. Too bad we don't appreciate them more. The main reason we don't I think, is that we are constrained by our notion of "fame". Our brilliant neighbors couldn't really be so great because they aren't famous around the world. But the problem is that there isn't enough mass attention to go around, not that we don't have lots of brilliant people.

The Renaissance came about because of the end of a really dumb model of intelligence, the medieval notion that an idea's worth is determined by who in the hierarchy holds it. "The Pope is Infallible" is the ultimate expression of this bogus model. This revolution of the model of thinking creating an amazing change in the creative output of the European world, without changing the average IQ much. Modern variations on the medieval way of thinking are that someone with a high IQ must be right, or someone with a lot of money.

We should shun elitist thinking and deal with ideas on their own merits. Their own consistency and evidence. We should rejoice in our diversity of intellectual talents and modes of thought.

Finally, on the question of machine intelligence, I think we are a long way off. I'm going to guess that we won't have usefully intelligent machines for 500 years. I agree with the earlier comment that classic computer architectures are just the wrong way to build an intelligent machine.

If only I had that pill I could have said that better. What I need is a good Jewish writer...

Antinomy said at June 6, 2005 9:21 AM:

Why would computer designers necessarily be limited to classic computer architectures?

Braddock said at June 6, 2005 9:55 AM:

Good point about computer architecture. The brain is a highly modular mixed analog/digital device. It is impossible for conventional digital designs to emulate human brain function in anything close to a meaningful time frame (too slow). The human brain is also a massively parallel multi-processor system. Most approaches to neural nets can't do justice to brain architecture.

Referring to Cochran's paper and speculations on mechanism of intelligence increase in heterozygous persons, there are currently drugs on the market which have been reported to increase dendritic connections in lab rodents. These drugs have been used for over thirty years to treat dementia patients. Anecdotal reports from normal people, many of them health professionals, indicate at least a temporary increase in alertness and memory recall while taking the drugs. They are derivatives of ergot alkaloids. The general class of "smart drugs" is referred to as nootropics.

James Bowery said at June 6, 2005 12:49 PM:

http://www.geocities.com/jim_bowery/cprize.html

The C-Prize

The most crucial technology prize of all.

By Jim Bowery
Copyright May 2005
The author grants the right to copy and distribute without modification.

Since all technology prize awards are geared toward solving crucial problems, the most crucial technology prize award of them all would be one that solves the rest of them:

The C-Prize -- A prize that solves the artificial intelligence problem.

The C-Prize award criterion is as follows:

Let anyone submit a program that produces, with no inputs, one of the major natural language corpuses as output.

S = size of uncompressed corpus
P = size of program outputting the uncompressed corpus
R = S/P (the compression ratio).

Award monies in a manner similar to the M-Prize:

Previous record ratio: R0
New record ratio: R1=R0+X
Fund contains: $Z at noon GMT on day of new record
Winner receives: $Z * (X/(R0+X))

Compression program and decompression program are made open source.

Explanation

A very severe meta-problem with artificial intelligence is the question of how one can define the quality of an artificial intelligence.

Fortunately there is an objective technique for ranking the quality of artificial intelligence:

Kolmogorov Complexity

Kolmogorov Complexity is a mathematically precise formulation of Ockham's Razor, which basically just says "Don't over-simplify or over-complicate things." More formally, the Kolmogorov Complexity of a given bit string is the minimum size of a Turing machine program required to output, with no inputs, the given bit string.

Any set of programs which purport to be the standards of artificial intelligence can be compared by simply comparing their Artificial Intelligence Quality. Their AIQs can be precisely measured as follows:

Take an arbitrarily large corpus of writings sampled from the world wide web. This corpus will establish the equivalent of an IQ test. Give the AIs the task of compressing this corpus into the smallest representation. This representation must be a program that, taking no outside inputs, produces the exact sample it compressed. The AIQ of an AI is simply the ratio of the size of the uncompressed writings to the size of the program that, when executed, produces the uncompressed writings.

In other words, the AIQ is the compression ratio achieved by the AI on the AIQ test.

The reason this works as an AI quality test is that compression requires predictive modeling. If you can predict what someone is going to say, you have modeled their mental processes and by inference have a superset of their mental faculties.

Mechanics

The C-Prize is to be modeled after the Methusela Mouse Prize or M-Prize where people make pledges of money to the prize fund. If you would like to help with the set up and/or administration of this prize award similar to the M-Prize let me know by email.

Kurt said at June 6, 2005 1:11 PM:

Randall,

Mahatier is no longer the PM of Malaysia. Badawi is the new PM and he seems to be doing a good job. He has certainly reduced the power in influence of PAS (the islamic party) such that it lost the state of Terrengennu in recent elections. PAS still has Kelanten state, which is the most conservative and "Malay" part of Malaysia.

I also have Chinese friends in Malaysia and, as far as I know, they are planning to stay put.

Indonesians are an "earthy" people (which is putting it in a positive way) and the Malaysians (both Chinese and Malay) do not like them. Except, of course, if you like Indonesian girls. Many of them were hired on contract to work in the semiconductor back-end plants (as operators), then sent back to Indonesia at the end of their contract (usually 2 years). Since much of the semiconductor back-end plants have relocated from Malaysia to Mainland China, there is much less work in this industry now. This has hit Penang rather hard.

If China's economy implodes or they have political instability, much of this business will come back to Malaysia.

Those of you who are fans of bio-diversity would love Malaysia. I highly recommend it. The contrast between the Chinese, Indians, and Malay is more striking than that between the whites and blacks in the U.S. The contrast is endlessly facenating. The Chinese are like yuppies and the Malays are like, well, traditional Malays. The Indians are something in between.

I don't think that Malaysia will go through a Bosnia-like meltdown. They do not have a 700 year history of slaughtering each other. However, we talk about stuff (when I am there) like who Malaysia would be as developed as Singapore if it were all Chinese and how it would be like Indonesia if it were all Malay (in private conversation, of course). These are the things that go unmentioned in polite company.

About AI: Certainly machine intelligence is possible and will one day be achieved. It a question of when and what form it will take. What limited knowledge I have on the subject is this: As far as we know, the human consciousness is based on the dendritic connections between neurons. These connections are dynamic in that they are constantly being deleted and regrown (usually during sleep). These connections also vary as to chemical type, there being different kinds of connections. Also, the neurons themselves are analogous to CPUs.

So, to have a sentient AI, you would need a zillion CPUs, all interconnected, where the interconnects are constantly changing. All of this done using molecular-level components.

No computer architecture that I know of is based on this kind of system. All memory chips have fixed connections between the different logic elements. There are some computer systems with multiple CPUs, parallel processing, but still use fixed interconnects between the CPUs. Assuming that a self-assembly chemistry process is developed to make such a nano-electronic system, that system would have to be such that the interconnections are dynamically reconfigurable. Such a system, based on its molecular structure, is really not that much different from biology. Trying to design and build such as system necessitates making it very biological. This is called "wet-nanotechnology" which is really a fancy buzz-word for synthetic biology.

In the end, you get a "biological" system that is not very different from the human brain. Think of it as a synthetic human. Any bets on this being possible in the next 30 years or so? In the long run, yes. But not in the next 30-50 years.

The other issue about machine sentience is: what for? Computers are made to do specific tasks, like process information and do modeling. If a system becomes sentient, does not the maintanence of sentience require a certain amount of computational resources that could otherwise be used to do whatever task you make computers to do? Presummably, sentience requires the maintanence of a sense of "self". This requires computational resources. In terms of economic utility, this is a cost, not a benefit.

This kind of reasoning on my part makes me believe that machine sentience is a long ways off. Far enough in the future that it does not factor into any kind of social-economic planning over the next 30-50 years.

James Bowery said at June 6, 2005 1:37 PM:

Kurt,

Interestingly, back in 1989 I developed the first multi-spectral neural network image segmentation system based on digital video finite impulse response filter parallel processors. I was able to achieve tens of billions of connections per second with a system costing under $35,000 at that time (DataCube VME bus system). It could pull off classifications from training sets that analytic algorithms designed by professional image processing experts could not and do it in a small fraction of the time of existing systems -- beating even Cray systems.

I think you're wrong about AI.

The entire field of AI has been barking up the wrong tree for the last 40 years -- totally ignoring the fundamental problem of Kolmogorov complexity as metric for AI quality.

There have been several breakthroughs recently, not the least of which is inductive logic programming and the corpus-based technique used by Turney for his human-level SAT score with verbal analogies.

These approaches are an intermediate approach to AI that rather than restricting itself to simply a neural-net/Bayesian approach throws all the power of statistical science at the problem of extracting key features of knowledge and compressing the resulting base. The fact of the matter is there have been mappings between propositional logic and neural networks for some time but no one has gotten freed from the false dilemma between "symbolist" vs "connectionist" approaches and just focused on the phenomenology of compression. We're now over that hump. Things are going to get very interesting very rapidly -- particularly if some serious money gets behind the C-Prize I proposed.

Braddock said at June 7, 2005 5:04 AM:

Kurt makes a lot of sense, and I agree that 50 years is the minimum development time for a true "sentient" MI.

JB states:
The reason this works as an AI quality test is that compression requires predictive modeling. If you can predict what someone is going to say, you have modeled their mental processes and by inference have a superset of their mental faculties.

This is very tenuous reasoning. Compression does not imply possession of a superset of mental facilities. Compression only implies a working compression algorithm. The better the algorithm the more likely to win a competition. It is fascinating to go back to the 1950s and 1960s and read the arguments of the old AI researchers. Very similar to JB. They predicted "true" AI within ten years. . . . . .

Our host, RP, also used a false analogy when he compared the development of the airplane with the evolution of birds. Airplanes do not fly themselves. It is the highly evolved human brain that flies the airplane. Airplanes do not feed themselves. Humans feed airplanes. Airplanes do not reproduce themselves. Humans manufacture airplanes. And so on.

James Bowery said at June 7, 2005 6:35 AM:

Braddock,

You said: Compression does not imply possession of a superset of mental facilities. Compression only implies a working compression algorithm.

You should read Matthew Mahoney's paper "Text Compression as a Test for Artificial Intelligence", 1999 AAAI Proceedings.
http://www.cs.fit.edu/~mmahoney/poster.ps.Z

It is fascinating to go back to the 1950s and 1960s and read the arguments of the old AI researchers. Very similar to JB.

Who was talking about compression as the touchstone of AI in the 1950s? Everyone was using the Turing Test so far as I know. Again, see Mahoney's paper.

Although Solomonov and Kolmogorov et al did their work on algorithmic complexity in the 1960s, do you have any evidence that people pursued this as a dominant line of work in AI compared to the infamous "connectionist" vs "symbolist" competition?

James Bowery said at June 7, 2005 7:08 AM:

Perhaps a more accessible format (html) and equally lucid description for many people is Mahoney's dissertation page:

http://www.cs.fit.edu/~mmahoney/dissertation

Essentially the argument is this: Shannon, the founder of information theory, used humans to estimate the information content of natural language (bits per character) by having human subjects attempt to predict the next character in a sequence of natural language. Humans can draw on real world knowledge as well as statistical inference/imputation (of missing data) to predict the probability distribution of next-characters. Shannon found that the actual information content of natural language is between .5 and 1.3 bits per character. This is a level of performance still out of the reach of compression algorithms for the simple reason that they can't avail themselves of the human level of real world knowledge and statistical inference.

James Bowery said at June 7, 2005 12:53 PM:

I've blogged the IQ article as "Ignoring the 800lb Polygynous Askenazi Gorilla":

http://jimbowery.blogspot.com/2005/06/ignoring-800lb-polygynous-ashkenazi.html

Tom said at June 7, 2005 5:40 PM:

I doubt it was as much a matter of selective pressure, as much as simple inbreeding. An ethnic group that can't or won't interbreed, if kept at a low enough population density, will end up with a high number of genetic mutations. If those mutations don't greatly hurt the ability to produce, some of them will persist by chance. That the genetic mutations might be related in effect (in this case, neurological disease) wouldn't be suprising. Diseases might require several deviations from that "standard" human DNA (if there is such a thing), and many of these diseases might share many of these deviations. The lack of interbreeding increases the likelyhood that this could occur. It is well known that many cancers often don't occur without multiple mutations, so that cancer would be more common in an interbred group than an outbred culture.

Randall Parker said at June 7, 2005 6:10 PM:

Tom,

The in-breeding possibility is dismissed by this research paper because the mutations are all clustered into a fairly small number of metabolic pathways. Also, the many known genetic markers in Ashkenazi do not show patterns consistent with excessive in-breeding.

You really ought to read the full paper. They address the alternative theories and explain why their simulations show those theories couldn't be true.

Philip Stewart said at June 8, 2005 8:32 AM:

A fairly small number of metabolic pathways? The paper cites "sphingolipid storage diseases, glycogen storage diseases, clotting disorders, disorders of adrenal steroid biosynthesis, and disorders of DNA repair." And these represent only the genetic disorders he chooses to talk about...it's not like Ashkenazic jews are subject ONLY to these types of inherited disorders.

I find the examples of increased intelligence in those suffering from these inherited conditions unconvincing. Gaucher disease causes bone pain, frequent fractures, and easy bruising. People suffering from this sort of thing would be necessarily excluded from many physical activities, encouraging them to concentrate on more intellectual pursuits. The same could be said for torsion dystonia. Also, the cited study for torsion dystonia suffers from rather low numbers...with 14 members in each sample group, a 10 point difference in IQ is probably only marginally significant statistically. And that's assuming the IQ test is valid. Also throw in the fact that the disease is caused by a low-penetrance dominant: this means A) there are without a doubt other genes effecting the expression of the disease symptoms, and the effects of these might be the partial cause of observed changes in IQ, and B) members of the non-TD control group might have the dominant gene but fail to express it. I don't intend to spend all day looking up the cited works (I'm not in this field area of genetics) but I would wager that Eldridge's studies were likely conducted in the U.S., where access to health care is an issue. Given the heritable nature of intelligence, kids with high IQs are more likely to have parents with high IQs, who in turn are more likely to have better jobs and health insurance, which would make them more likely to get their kids diagnosed and treated when they start suffering odd physical complaints.

Merriam Webster said at June 8, 2005 8:41 AM:

It's "connotations."

Randall Parker said at June 8, 2005 9:23 AM:

Philip Stewart,

Yes, that is a fairly small number of metabolic pathways. Do you know how many different metabolic pathways there are in the body? Orders of magnitude more. As I said in my post, read the full paper. They explain how they calculated the odds are improbable that so many mutations would be concentrated in so many pathways.

You say:

it's not like Ashkenazic jews are subject ONLY to these types of inherited disorders.

Rather than simply make that assertion why don't you drag out some data on other inherited disorders which are rarely seen outside the Ashkenazim which the Ashkenazim get in significant numbers. Yes, they get other genetic disorders. But name some that they get more than other groups do.

Oh wait, you don't want to look up cited work. It isn't your field. You don't know what you are talking about. You are just making it up. But you are happy to make unfounded assertions in response to an argument that is backed up by a 7 page reference list.

No, being physically disabled does not always make kids smarter. You won't hear doctors saying "Oh, those muscular dystrophy kids are all so very smart". The bright minds of the torsion dystonia kids make these kids stand out to doctors versus other kids.

Do you think that kids with disabling muscle spasms that leave them bed ridden or wheelchair ridden are going undiagnosed if their parents are not smart?

mrvica said at June 8, 2005 10:48 AM:

one thing that has not been discussed here is the possibility of linkage, Gene clusters tend to travel together when the chromasomes seperate and that is why you have genetic markers for diseases (these are essentially areas of code near the disease gene that travels with the gene with high frequency and is easier to test for than the gene itself). Anyway the genes for intelligence could just as likely be linked to genes for disease as the disease genes themselves. I would like to say I find all of the evidence corellative and almost no convincing causative evidence at all, but part of me likes this idea of selection for intelligence and the link to devastating diseases, there is something poetic about it.

as for the stuff on AI, yes there is a lot of exciting stuff happening and many projects ot there show great promise but AI researchers have been perenially near a breakthrough and we are still waiting. I think we are a good way off from developing "sentient computers" but part of me asks why in the world we would want that anyway? I do not think that sentience is neccesary for intelligence, they are correlative in humans but that does not mean that they are interdependent in any way. Sentient computers make for much more ethical issues than merely intelligent computers.

We are living in a renaissance people, the computer/internet revolution will rank among the most significant advances in human history! The explosion of thought and science today is staggering, and not everyone was doing amazing things in the renaisannce, in fact most people lived very similarly to those in the dark ages, only a relatively small number of people made significant accomplishments but they were the right kind and at the right time that it was enough to change the course of human history.

Phil said at June 8, 2005 11:56 AM:

Wow, a little hostile, aren't we?

Did you look up each of the seven pages of references? I'm not claiming to be an expert in this field, I'm just saying this looks suspect to me, and pointing out the reasons why. And don't think I have something against Ashkenazic Jews--I'm married to one.

Torsion dystonia can appear in adolescence, so at some point, kids must pass a threshold between normal and symptomatic which is significant enough to warrant medical attention. Families with higher education level and/or health insurance are more likely to get them that attention sooner, resulting in a greater proportion diagnosed at a given age. And while you may not have seen it, I have seen plenty of kids with pretty horrible symptoms of various thing not getting to doctors because their parents were too afraid of what it would cost.

Maybe the torsion dystonia kids are all really bright. As I conceded, I'm not that familiar with the disorder, and if the doctors who deal with it think they're incredibly smart, I'm willing to defer to their experience (that said, though interesting, I still don't think an IQ study with 14 child sample groups showing a 10 point difference is much more than anecdotal evidence). And there's still the issue of the low penetrance, which makes the whole issue a little difficult to draw real conclusions from. Regardless, Risch suggestion the founding mutation for torsion dystonia occurred only 350 years, ago, which would make the supposed selection during the Middle Ages irrelevant.

I'm not saying that that being physically disabled makes a person smart. I'm saying given that physical activities are less of an option, these kids will tend towards activities which do not require that. All things being equal that would lead, on average, towards better performance on IQ tests and selection of certain occupations over others. This is all about averages.

The reconstruction of the historical patterns of a human subpopulation is very tricky thing, and I the simulations they do here don't really mean very much. Given the number of assumptions made, one could probably make this data demonstrate almost anything.

I'm not categorically against the idea of a racial or ethnic link with intelligence...clearly there is a certain degree of intelligence which is genetic, and since these groups are defined in part by genetics there's no reason to believe it's not possible, but so far no credible study has shown any evidence of it. Their idea may in fact be correct, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and I just don't think this rises to that level.


Randall Parker said at June 8, 2005 12:41 PM:

Phil,

One's feelings toward the Ashkenazi Jews are irrelevant to a scientific argument. I don't expect a rational argument for or against this hypothesis are any sort of indicator of one's feelings about a group.

Hostile on my part? Look, my response to lazy arguments is to point out just how lazy the arguments are. If someone wants to raise questions then I have no problem with that. But if you don't want to bother to read the paper and you don't want to do the work that would be required to check your assertions then more often than not I'm going to call you on it.

Prabuddha said at June 8, 2005 12:49 PM:

This is an interesting article. This also brings to mind that something very similar might be happening in the United States today. Go into any Graduate Science or Engineering department and you will find very few American born students. Its not that there are not any bright native americans but the fact that its much more profitable for them to become Doctors and Lawyers in todays America then to become Scientists and Engineers. In a way this is selecting for Indians, Chinese and Koreans to have greater genetic tendency for Engineering and Science. Another factor contributing to this is that people coming to this country from other countries can start working immediately if they belong to the Engineering and Science professions. They can then later on go back to school for their Graduate Engineering and Science education. However for Doctors and Lawyers there is a kind of tariff protection in that foreign law and medical degrees are not recognized so very few foreign undergrads can come to the US for doing graduate work in Medicine and Law. This of course leads to increasing the market value of Doctors and Lawyers while reducing that of Engineers and in turn leads to smart native born Americans choosing these professions over others. Ways to ameliorate this problem would be to recognize foreign medical degrees. (law degrees will be difficult to recognize as law is different in every country but the human body is the same everywhere just like structures built by engineers are) A related and nice side effect would be to reduce the cost of health care coverage as the market value of Doctors decreases

White Crystal Wizard said at June 8, 2005 1:53 PM:

Higher IQs have been linked to depression, and insanity.
Ignorance is bliss. Be careful what you wish for, or you
might just get it.

Phil said at June 8, 2005 1:56 PM:

So basically what you're saying is that to discuss this paper I have to write a paper of my own? I've read the paper. I've read several of the papers it cites. I've read several relevant papers it does not cite. I made what I think are valid criticisms of it, made what would seem to be common sense arguments against some of what they cite as evidence. Your response is to call them lazy and not respond to them. That itself is a rather lazy response. If you aren't interested in debating the scientific merit of this, why post this here and pretend to encourage debate?

Look--it's an interesting idea. I don't think it's been disproven, and I don't necessarily belive it will be. But neither do I believe they have offered believable proofs that it is in fact the case.
By the way--to say that "one's feelings towards the Ashkenazi Jews is irrelevant to a scientific argument" on the same page that you make statements like "Yes, everyone thinks Jews are smarter", suggests to me that YOUR feelings on the subject are not irrelevant to this particular argument.

But regardless of the reason, it's clear you aren't interest in debating the science of this. Which is to bad, because its a fascinating subject, one I've been enjoying talk to my lab-mates about all afternoon. So anyway, I'm done here. Have fun.

Randall Parker said at June 8, 2005 3:35 PM:

Phil,

But you aren't debating the argument scientifically. To do that you have to summon up evidence. Or you have to, for example, explain why their simulations to model the bottlenecks and generations are not realistic. You are just making uninformed assertions.

Yes, I want a scientific debate. No, I do not want a debate of uninformed assertions. I pointed out specific areas where you could collect information that would support your position. e.g. find some disease-causing mutations specific to Ashkenazi populations that they have ignored that contradict their thesis. But I doubt you could find such mutations. Of course, to even search around for reports of them requires work.

I figure Greg was diligent when he spent a couple of years digging up literature on Ashkenazi mutations and Ashkenazi population genetics. I recognized many of the mutations he mentioned and did some Googling around on Jewish mutations an didn't find any omissions. You simply assert he wasn't. That's not science.

seaclyr said at June 9, 2005 12:25 PM:

Dardardar wrote:
It is interesting that no one ever makes the following observation: Jews were not successful at home. They were more successful among foreigners and in foreign societies from which they depended.

I believe Amy Chua makes a similar observation about the Chinese in "World On Fire." It's my gut sense that the earlier comment by James Bowery about "mobility" being a major factor is right on.

Kurt said at June 9, 2005 3:34 PM:

To James Bowery:

You may be right about AI and your approach could well work. My previous comments were in the context of making something like human conscious in a machine and that, since neuro-structure was so different from any currently designed or planned computer architecture, that I think that this is a long ways off. I tend to know more about neuro-physiology than I do AI. I agree with you that the AI research community has been barking up the wrong tree for the past 40 years. I would have no idea of what would be the right tree. I will have a look at some of your links here.

However, if your suggested approach does work, you are likely to get AI sentience that will be fundamentally different than that of us. The thoughts and motives of such an AI cannot be predicted at this time (since it IS sentient), which does brings up the other relevent question. Do we really want to create something that will become our competitor? I know that all of the economic principles such as that of comparative advantage say that this is no big deal. However, I am not quite sure that this is something we want to do.

Kurt said at June 9, 2005 4:04 PM:

One of the reasons why AI research may not have been fruitful in the past but could change radically in the future is because of cost. In the 60's and 70's, electronic systems were very expensive (million dollar range). In the 80's, it was in the hundred thousands range. Lately, it is droping to the ten thousands and thousand dollar range. The hardware has become progreesive cheaper over the decades, thus giving researchers with limited budgets easier access to state of the art tools. Certainly this should help in any kind of AI research.

If someone develops a method of producing molecular-electronic chips using solution-phase chemistry (thus by-passing the need for all of that expensive vacuum process equipment), progress could be quite rapid indeed.

The economics suggests that AI research should be more fruitful in the next 30 years than it was in the past 30 years.

Karl the Idiot said at June 11, 2005 4:57 PM:

Oh for Christ's sake. These people don't know a damn thing about the Middle Ages, and neither, apparently, does anyone here. Here are some responses to this argument I wrote over at Daily Kos.

Speaking as a medievalist among whose particular interests is Jews, all this nonsence about the so-called Jewish professions is based on a faulty understanding on Medieval economic history. A lot of people who know a little think the Church outlawed usury. Well, that's true, but only partially. Depending on when we're talking about, what happened was that either the moneylenders just ignored this interdiction or they disguised what they were doing as something other than usury. Or the Church just called it by a different name, just as they called fish 'not meat' so it would be good for Lent and monks.

The Jewish "monopoly" on moneylending only lasted so long as the Jews weren't kicked out of whereever they were living. Generally speaking, though, the Jewish 'monopoly' on moneylending is an ideological construction, which is nowhere better illustrated than Bernard of Clairvaux's use of the Latin neologism 'judizare' (to be Jew-like) to describe Christian moneylenders. The Jews were not dominant in moneylending, thinking in terms of all of Western Europe, until maybe the 11th century. Between, say, the 8th-11th century, they reached a degree of assimilation into the general population that would not met again until the 19th century. Before the 11th century, Jews weren't involved heavily in moneylending because Europe was an economy without monetary investment. The Jewish domination of moneylending, when it did come, didn't last long, and wouldn't seem to have lasted long enough to have altered the supposedly hermetic gene pool of the European Jews.

As for England, to speak of a particular example, these moneylenders took off only after Henry II bankrupted one of the richest men in England, a Christian loanshark named William Cade. These 5,000 Jews became, considered en masse, the richest Jews in Europe. How long did that last? About 3 generations, and this isn't counting the repeated massacres (most terribly in 1189-1190, which were hardly useful for passing on genetic material, at least not from the people most successful in moneylending, who would have been high-value targets for the pogroms, in particular, the York pogrom of 1190), and then the Jews were kicked out of England in 1290. After that, Christians moved back into the large-scale moneylending business.

But, in actuality, even during these three generations, the vast majority of Jewish moneylenders were small-time operators, running what were in effect run-of-the-mill pawnshops: not exactly high finance. And these operators also had something else in common.

They were virtually all men. Now, with these professions, as with the barmitvah, remember we're dealing with only about 1.2 the population. I'm not a biologist, but I think, given that additional limitation, we can dismiss these Utahn scientists' suppositions handily.

And, well, the non-Jews in Europe have had now many more centuries of involvement in 'cognitive-heavy' professions, which would suggest that the population as a whole would be getting smarter. I doubt that. What with mass production and office drone work, I would suppose we're all of us -- including the Jews -- getting stupider.

At any rate, the category, of cognitive-heavy professions is a category that itself merits questioning, mainly since it seems weighed unconsciously towards literacy. Yes, finance is difficult, but it's also difficult to know how to farm properly: I wouldn't imagine that the needs of brain power exercised in each profession is any different, and I can only imagine that farming, without the benefit of being able to write things down, could be even more difficult than finance.

I might suggest that the difference is, rather, between a culture that values abstract thinking, philosophy, and literacy, and one that largely values hitting things. This doesn't have much to do with brain power, but it does have a lot to do with certain kinds of success.

And, as for literacy, the literacy required by the barmitvah in what was largely, until the last century, a dead language, I would think the same pressures would apply to Muslim boys -- not a 'ethnicity' by any stretch -- who have been expected (I might be wrong here?) to know how to read the Koran, also written in an antiquated dialect, too. But I don't see C. Murray or his allies standing up for them.

Randall Parker said at June 11, 2005 6:12 PM:

Karl The Idiot,

Your argument isn't half as strong as you apparently believe it to be. You state:

The Jewish "monopoly" on moneylending only lasted so long as the Jews weren't kicked out of whereever they were living.

The relevance of this statement is what exactly? Yes, Jews who aren't living somewhere at all are not experiencing any selective pressure for higher intelligence where they do not exist. But they were always living somewhere and what they could and could not do and what Christians could and could not do in those places are what are at issue here. Their moving in and out of England is really besides the point.

And, well, the non-Jews in Europe have had now many more centuries of involvement in 'cognitive-heavy' professions, which would suggest that the population as a whole would be getting smarter. I doubt that. What with mass production and office drone work, I would suppose we're all of us -- including the Jews -- getting stupider.

But a much smaller proportion of the Christians were doing the more cognitively demanding professions. The vast bulk of them were farming.

Yes, finance is difficult, but it's also difficult to know how to farm properly: I wouldn't imagine that the needs of brain power exercised in each profession is any different, and I can only imagine that farming, without the benefit of being able to write things down, could be even more difficult than finance.

You can imagine your way to rejecting the hypothesis and supporting arguments of Cochran and Harpending. That much is obvious. But that is all you are doing, imagining. Why not stick with reasoning instead? Yes, the cognitive demands of different occupations are radically different. Farmers faced stronger selective pressure for physical strength and physical endurance and personalities able to stand the tedium of manual labor. No, deciding that it was time to turn the oxen aroun and plow in the other direction is not as hard as caculating rates of interes or evaluating the ability of a businessman to pay back his loan. Have you ever plowed? I can tell you it is boring and most of the time does not require heavy lifting sorts of thinking. Ditto for feeding chickens or collecting the eggs or milking cows.

To the extent that some requirements exert selective pressure there is less selective pressure for other abilities or qualities. Someone who had a bigger brain with more gray matter for more intelligence than needed for a job was burning calories in his brain that were better used for other purposes.

Jews who did physically undemanding work who happened to carry genes for greater smarts were going to get selected for even if they didn't have manual labor endurance and they'd get selected for over other Jews who had the ability to work at manual labor who had less intelligence.

I might suggest that the difference is, rather, between a culture that values abstract thinking, philosophy, and literacy, and one that largely values hitting things. This doesn't have much to do with brain power, but it does have a lot to do with certain kinds of success.

Ah, the "we are more successful because our culture is superior" argument. That is obviously a comforting argument for Jews. But if Harpending and Cochran are right then Jews are more successful today because, given their genes which selective pressures gave them, it is much easier for them to succeed in the occupations that earn the big bucks. Not so comforting. Not so appealing. You got genetically lucky because of the economic niches your ancestors were forced into for a long period in European history.

But the ability to understand abstract thinking and complex concepts does have everything to do with brain power. Most people can not do advanced math or advanced physics. Even calculus is beyond the mental ability of at least half the population to understand. Trying to argue that everyone can rise to Ashkenazi Jewish levels of accomplishment is cruel if it is false. All these people who can't even master high school level material are being told it is their fault or the fault of their culture. In reality most of them are just not that smart.

I would think the same pressures would apply to Muslim boys -- not a 'ethnicity' by any stretch -- who have been expected (I might be wrong here?) to know how to read the Koran, also written in an antiquated dialect, too. But I don't see C. Murray or his allies standing up for them.

You might be wrong here? You most certainly are wrong here. Illiteracy rates are very high in Arab countries even today in the era of cheap books. Don't you know that? If Islam placed a high value on literacy and if the Arabs were as smart as Ashkenazi Jews then we wouldn't expect that result. Charles Murray, Henry and Greg are all smart and knowledge enough to know that the vast bulk of Muslims for most of history were illiterate and their religious leaders were not telling them they all had to become literate.

Standing up for? What are you referring to? Who are they standing up for? I think they are describing reality with a high degree of competency and a high degree of desire to show the truth regardless of what it might turn out to be.

Karl the Idiot said at June 11, 2005 6:52 PM:

Mr. Parker:

I just read the article in question here. The guy doesn't know anything about the Middle Ages. He cites virtually no scholarship on the period, and what he cites is not specialist or current. He takes medieval historiography at face value, which is a terrible error. Look, if he had just talked to a medievalist before he published the paper -- surely there's one on staff at his university -- he wouldn't have made the fundamental mistakes he did. As it is, he's building a castle on a foundation of air. Or error.

As for this:

But they were always living somewhere and what they could and could not do and what Christians could and could not do in those places are what are at issue here.

I'm telling you that this is a red herring based on a half-assed knowledge of the period. Once we knock this down, the whole thesis needs to be rethought. Jews monopolized moneylending in Europe, regardless of where they were, only for a few centuries, if even that. Moreover, their monopoly was barely that and really is a monopoly only if we ignore what Christians were doing at the same time. Christians engaged in moneylending (read the Richardson, Stacey, and Jordan listed below). They engaged in moneylending everywhere, although it wasn't always called usury since that was, of course, a sin. Nevertheless, they did it, beginning, of course, in the 11th or 12th centuries. The monks were the great lenders for the First Crusade, remember. I know Western Europe well enough, but I would imagine the patterns I'm seeing for the areas and periods I know would hold true once the European Jews were kicked into Poland. We're not talking about long periods here. We're talking about, at most, a few centuries.

Look, here's some Bib. that I sent to the Prof. himself:

Without at least the work of H. G. Richardson (outdated, but a good place to start) and Robert Stacey, these assertions can't be made: with them, they can't be made either, but there you go. That's the problem here. Bernard Blumenkranz would be a good person to start with for some of the French material, although L.Rabinowitz's equally dated The Social Life of Jews of Northern France in the XII-XIV Centuries is also fine, for a start. Norman Golb is probably better and William Chester Jordan is utterly essential.

--

We're talking about IQ tests, yeah? These are weighed towards certain kinds of thinking: being able to farm probably isn't rewarded on such tests. Yes, plowing can be boring. I've never plowed, but I've certainly done manual labor. Even if I hadn't, that's be beside the point. Plowing itself could be simple, but knowing when to plow is hardly a simple matter. The medieval farming classes had to make those decisions, and decisions like that, all the time. I could give you some Bib. on medieval farming if you'd like. Adding up numbers. Easy. I've done it. Doesn't take a lot of brains. Totally boring. Knowing the weather, knowing your seed, knowing your soil. Difficult. Farming requires a great deal more than brute strength. Brute strength is what the animals were for.

And, frankly, I don't see what's so difficult about running a pawn-shop. This is what the vast majority of Jewish moneylenders -- who were virtually all men, by the way -- were doing. This wasn't high finance, and those that were doing high-finance were probably the ones getting killed more often. That was certainly the case in York in 1190 and certainly the case in England under Henry III and Edward I.

Look, I just don't see what we're arguing about here. Harpending and Cochran's history is just plain wrong. These absolute barriers they imagine exist because they don't know the history weren't absolute by any means. I don't know what else can follow if that history is wrong. Sure, they may have described a phenomenon, one that C. Murray already purported to observe in his piece of work. But without the explanation for that phenom., which just doesn't work, because the history is wrong, we're back at square one.

Randall Parker said at June 11, 2005 8:48 PM:

Karl

Medieval farmers didn't have to know that much because there was not that much to know. Look, it was not like there were hundreds of scientifically characterized strains of wheat or rye to choose from. They just didn't have that much information or that many choices to make. Choose different kinds of fertilizer? Uh uh. Didn't have many choices to make about that and had little knowledge overall. Most of what they "knew" was superstition. Look at their treatments for illnesses. A small fraction of folk remedies have been shown to be beneficial in rigorous double blinded studies. Most of the remedies are bunk. Same was true of much of their other areas of knowledge. Few were literate. How could they compare records going back decades to look for patterns?

Farming requires a great deal more than brute strength. Brute strength is what the animals were for.

I have wielded an old-fashioned scythe and was surprised by how heavy it is. Not sure what Medieval farmers used to cut down wheat. But they couldn't get the cows or pigs to do it for them. But it wasn't just muscle size. They had to have physiologies that could support doing field work from sunrise to sunset.

Also, you are wrong about the oxen and the plow. It requires continuing physical effort for the guy behind the plow to keep the plow blade below ground as the oxen pulls it along.

How hard it is for you to add up numbers tells us nothing about how hard it is for most people. Are you an Ashkenazi? I know people who can bench press a couple hundred pounds without working out to build up muscles. They are genetically coded to have big muscles. So muscle work is easy for them and I have met people who claim that anyone who doesn't have big muscles is just lazy. Sorry, some people are geneticaly coded to have small muscles. Some are genetically coded to have a hard time doing math. I just had someone asking me last week to help add a bunch of numbers. Seemed easy to me. Wasn't to him. He's in middle age and still isn't too good at it.

Moreover, their monopoly was barely that and really is a monopoly only if we ignore what Christians were doing at the same time.

Again, relative portions matter. What fraction of the Jews in Europe in the 10th century worked in towns and cities? What fraction of Christians did? What fraction of the Jews in the 10th century worked in financial occupations such as trade between cities and money lending? What fraction of the Christians did? What fraction of Christians worked as farmers? What fraction of Jews worked as farmers in the 10th century?

No, a perfect monopoly was not necessary for selective pressure to be exerted. The "perfect monopoly" rejection is itself a red herring.

And, frankly, I don't see what's so difficult about running a pawn-shop.

You had to know what things were worth. You had to be able to spot fake gold and other frauds. Pawn shop owners were traders.

This is what the vast majority of Jewish moneylenders -- who were virtually all men, by the way -- were doing. This wasn't high finance, and those that were doing high-finance were probably the ones getting killed more often. That was certainly the case in York in 1190 and certainly the case in England under Henry III and Edward I.

You keep repeating that they were all men as if there is some relevance to this fact. Yes, they were all men. What of it?

Getting killed in pogroms: If a pogrom started and you had money you were more likely to own excellent horses and a carriage. You were more likely to have employees you could organize as guards. You had perhaps rich relatives elsewhere or friends in the nobility. Look at Jews in Europe as the Nazis came to power. The wealthier ones had more resources and more knowlege and were better able to get away. The wealthiest traders and financiers in the Middle Ages, like the wealthier Jews in Europe, maintained contacts and relationships over much longer distances than did the lower level workers. So they had places to flee to and credit relationships to help finance flight as well as gold and other valuables of their own to finance their flight. They might have had better intelligence that there was even a pogrom coming. Just one friendship with the right nobleman in the Middle Ages might have given some of them the info they needed to make better decisions to who to bribe or when and where to flee.

Michael said at February 19, 2006 11:50 AM:

On The Evolution of Ashkenazi Jewish Intelligence

I find this study interesting not for the theory but more for the hidden anti-Semitic messages.
This researcher whose other study was a Theory linking homosexuality to a virus, has shown
anti-Semitism dressed up as science.
While Nazi scientists tried to reveal Jews as an inferior race due to their Genetic mixing,
here we find an opposite view but with the same implications and theories.

Attributing intelligence to "Jewish diseases", from which so many Jewish children have died from, is offered as a "Good thing" towards becoming more intelligent.
It is designed just as the GAY disease theory, to separate and Isolate Jews from gentiles, and in this case, from other Jews of the world.

It is interesting that just as Nazis had targeted the Ashkenazim as the most dangerous of Jews because "they pass for white"
Gregory Cochran repeats this by targeting Ashkenazim, when in the world of Jewry they are a minority among oriental and Sephardim Jews. (over 65 percent of Israels Jews are Sephardic)

Sephardim or (Spanish Jews) intelligence in his study would have surpassed the Ashkenazim.
From charting Columbus Journey to mystical Kabbalah studies.
Sephardim Jews had excelled in the Sciences, mathematics, business, arts and diplomacy. Advisors to Kings, they married into Royalty and half of Spain's economy came from these Jews. Many Sephardim lived in Castles in Valencia. Ashkenazim never achieved the same level of prosperity or position then or now.
This definitely demonstrates high intelligence to reach this pinnacle but Cochran's theory does not include Sephardim or Oriental Jews. Why?
What of Middle Eastern Jews, Indian and African Jews. They prospered in their Countries and survived Pograms against them in impossible survival scenarios.
Does this not indicate high intelligence?
Since half of Jewish marriages in America are between Jews and gentiles, what becomes of his theory of intelligence? Does this indicate a drop in Jewish Intelligence because of these marriages?
Lastly, Judaism has no race today. It is indeed a group that sings of its connection to almost every race worldwide.
Indian Jews look Indian, French Jews look French and so on.
Being Jewish is not a race. It is so much more and wondrous than that.
Ethiopian Jews, who were isolated in Africa, had said that they thought all Jews were Black.
Lastly, the Anti-Semitic groups seem to be overjoyed by these studies.
Quoting one group who says "Of course they're smart, They're mixed with our blood"!.
It confirms their theory that Jews are "different" from other human beings.
I don't believe that human beings should refer to each other as "Genetic Mutations".
This brings me to quote from the Script of the movie "Reversal of Fortune"
Jeremy Irons in the role of Klaus von Bulow, upon meeting Dershowitz his lawyer,
he offers what admiration he has of the Jewish people and their pursuit of Education".
Although said in a condescending way, it reveals the true reason for Jewish Intelligence.

DHale said at November 19, 2006 6:26 AM:

How refined and moderne the discoursing of Ashkenazi, overclocking, etal! Corporate, ethnic, cultural, historical human mentalities, behaviors, personalities worldwide. Heavyweight. I might smile at such lofty education and opining, but for the lacking practical experience. Have you lived with impoverished farmers having genius IQs? Have you lived with peoples whose signature trademark is their hardworking (genius IQ) diligence, despite simplistic, even spartan, by-choice lifestyle? Have you discoursed with or lived with peoples age 80-110 (how many times your age?) whose health far exceeds your own? Not of this illustriously conversant group, yet not minorities among humankind. How indulgent this blog's diagnoses of humanity! Get off your brains, get your feet in the mud and muck of life, then unentrench yourself and assess the intactness of your own dignity, tensile strength, poise? The untapped and unresearched information base excluded from this blog is blatant. Thick academia and scientifics here sheerly cloak the underpinnings. Who are you justifying? What resolve do you insist as valid - more, insist humankind preside over, manipulate, and manage? Science and academia again sheerly cloaking the superiority-objective laden underpinnings here. Basic control issues - again? Good grief. Science can't heal insecurity. Dissecting Jews, slamming Mexicans, Middle Ages - bosh. "A fool is always right." "Where there is much talking ..." "A man's spirit will uphold him in his infirmity, but a broken spirit who can mend?" For example, what is it that keeps the Jews going? And a peoples despised and homeless for how many generations? What do suspect this site's blogger average age, economy, lifestyle, belief system to be? I read here not a few broken (unmaintainenced and in disrepair) human lives. Lots of cerebral tap-dancing looks good on paper. Sorry, no cigars--but lots of empathy for obvious deeper need. Why do I get the feeling that, off screen, your eyes roll heavenward as your reach for a snifter (or long-neck) relegating disagreeable posts to the likes of Mensa. There's a lot of appetite flowing here, but not much hunger.

Gilad Sabo said at February 24, 2007 11:39 AM:

first of all, sephardic jews are not the majority of the Jewish people and they are not 65% of the israeli jewish population...
acctually,as some one who live in israel and know the statistics,there are 52% of ashkenazi jews in israel...where did you came from with the idea that 65% are sephardic????????

more,before the holocaust,90% of the Jewish population were ashkenazi and now its about 70-80% ,depents on who you ask....

this research is far from giving answers for questions about the Jewise intellect and Jews were very very smart,much before the diaspora and before beeing exile from their own land.if my english was better , i would get into deatils.

by the way, i just read apaper made by the shady racist movement "jewwatch" which calims that Israeli jews avarge IQ is about 90...this is so far from the true... the israeli sephardic avarge is 100 (their avarge is highr outside Israel for sociological-historical reasons), and the ashkenazi is+15 points .Israel population is assmbeld of 20% arabs+10% russian gentiles ,so by puting them into the calaculation , you decrece the Israeli IQ....

manzhivago said at February 28, 2007 8:12 AM:

Some information about IQ and Ethnic groups you can find at http://statisticsoftheworld.page.tl

aubrey sandman said at April 9, 2007 12:00 PM:

From:-11 Sharpleshall Street, London, NW1 8YN. 020 7586 1032. aubreymax_s@hotmail.com

9th April 2007

Now some years ago the former Professor of Psychology at London University, the late Professor Eysenck published a book which enabled you to find out your own IQ.

Mine is 120.

Now there are lots of non Jewish people around with much higher IQs who would like to obtain my, to quote a member of the Royal Academy of Engineering, "amazing" results in the reduction of amplifier distortion but cannot. I have reduced distortion by a million times, if the circuit is refined sufficiently. But my colleagues cannot do this.

The reason has nothing to do with my non existent high IQ but everything to do with my attitude to my work. This positive attitude is what counts, not some mysterious gene or other.

Of course I am not arguing that genes are not important. What I am arguing is that many non Jews do not exploit their potential.

Aubrey Sandman (Dr)
M.Phil., PhD., M.I.E.E.

Efox said at May 23, 2007 1:12 PM:

An Orthodox Jewish Man has traditionally been expected to study the Torah and accompanying Scriptures for Seven Hours each day. This was the case well before moneylending and continues to this day, in complete separation from the secular or Jewish Secular World.

Hebrew is not a dead language, but is one of the oldest surviving living languages and is only used by a very small portion of the world's population, meaning most Jewish People are at least somewhat multilingual and even the scriptures suggest that this is in fact, polite. Abraham traveled to Canaan and it is written, spoke to the Canaanites in their own language. This can be taken as a suggestion that a stranger in a foreign land, is right to learn the local language, this is their burden as a guest and not as an invader.

Jewish accomplishments in Israel are actually quite impressive. Some of the earliest fish farming, the first cultivated plants were apparently figs there, impressive economic systems for the time and for a place that is otherwise barren, it became very important to every following conquerer as a source of whatever tithes they collected. Most importantly, the religions that have conquered much of the world, were invented there.

Jewish Culture, creates criteria for a selection process where less intelligent people, people who can not literally be their own Priest, have to find a new religion and are therefore no longer Jewish. This is true whether facing the constant attacks and persecutions in foreign lands, or Free in Israel. Of course, the persecution certainly raises the bar of selectivity. It is then ironic that by persecuting the Jewish People, others have in some ways strengthened The Jewish People.

The genetic bottleneck hypothesis can be verified through mitochondrial DNA which tracks maternal lineage through subtle but fairly regular mutations. We can verify from this a set of five maternal ancestors located around Kazakhstan from which most Ashkenazim descend.

There is also through the Cohanime which actually record Paternal Lineage, verifiable through the Y chromosome. We know for a fact that all Cohanime have the characteristic Y Chromosome. We can test it and prove that they are all paternally descended from a single man.

This is of course, in addition to the other adaptive requirements imposed from within and from outside upon, the Jewish people.

Some Quarter of all Nobel Prizes have been earned by Jewish People and most of those were verifiable Science, Medicine or Engineering. Compare to Islam, where a good fifth of the human population has Nine Nobel Prizes, five of which are basically mass murderers who were for some odd reason given Peace Prizes.

Arabic is of course anything but a dead or obsolete language. This is the official language of a dozen or so countries, though a considerable portion of these populations are illiterate. For centuries learning to read was seen as a corrupting influence and most men considered it non-masculine. The only writing you find from certain periods came from Eunuch Slaves, Women in Harems and Religious Leaders. Rulers or Successful Merchants, hired slaves to do their reading and writing for them. This was a major problem for the Soviets who had to teach these people how to use the weapons they provided in their wars against fledgling Israel.

As for Computer Architecture and Machine Intelligence. These are interesting. Neural Networks seem most promising but hit major speed limitations. It seems almost like matching the human brain in terms of flexibility, inevitably fails to improve on it in terms of scale or speed. We can already handle more data than the human brain computationally, but that versatility is lost, still there is always progress and it is far faster than natural evolution.

What is even more interesting? Jewish people Designed the Architecture used in all modern computers, the core of Modern Windows, as opposed to old Windows 9X/Me, was written in Israel and the many Intel Processors were designed there and so was Motorola's first cell phone and the guy who designed America's first Nuclear Submarines is now a Professor at The Technion and who redesigned American Anti-Missile technology so it would actually work and who was using Automated Drone Aircraft in the 1970s and is actually selling America drones to use on the Southern Border? Ah, so tiny Israel of Six Million People is really contributing a lot to America and the world.

There is surely a cause responsible for such an effect, even if Israel does have a Million Moslems living within its borders. Those Moslems with have an average IQ testing, according the American Average, in the mid 60s. Remember that 100 is an average based on a select group. Some in that group score higher, some score lower and when testing others from radically different groups, the average from that group frequently will score higher or lower. There are Natives in South America who can not be taught to draw a straight line but they seem in no way retarded. Many Illiterate American IQ tests had questions like, identifying what was missing in a picture of a house. Hispanics would immediately think to add a crucifix to the wall and were penalized for this, because the correct answer was a Chimney, as if people in Mexico had Chimneys. So of course there is also a cultural bias in such efforts to quantify intelligence.

Steve said at October 25, 2007 12:39 PM:

Please explain why, if Jews are superior in intelligence,
virtually all known geniuses have been non-Jewish. One would
expect that the group of superior intelligence would dominate
the "genius" category -- but aside from Einstein and perhaps
Freud one is hard-put to come up with a Jewish name in the
past 2500 years, though there are scores of names like
Aristotle, DaVinci, Gallileo, Kant, Newton, Shakespeare,
etc. etc.

Another point: why has not Israel dominated science and
technology and the arts? Why have there been so few
Nobel laureates from the country that contains half the
world's superior-intelligence ethnic group?

Jews have much to be proud of in their history and in their
accomplishments -- but the "superior intelligence" moniker is
a dubious one that merely feeds anti-semitism.

Could it be that IQ tests are an imperfect measure of what
they purport to measure?

raffaele said at November 13, 2007 7:59 AM:

you underestimate the role of education when consider intelligence level

in jewish society education since the beginning years plays a foundamental role

the sooner you start a formal education, the better will be the results

that is the real key, genetic selection plays a very small role compared to cultural baggage

cultural heritage and with it education plays a foundamental role much bigger than any genetic selection

Marisa Landau said at December 14, 2007 7:53 PM:

Paul Johnson (a Christian) in his excellent "A history of the Jews" names some important factors for Jewish intelligence:
1- Among the Jews the most intelligent people have always been very valued and sought after as husbands, so they procreate and spread their good genes. In contrast, among the Catholic the most intelligent boys went into the Church to become celibate priests. Their good genes were lost and only the dumb masses procreated.

2- Among Jews there has always been a custom of providing a full pension - sometimes for 10 years - for a bright son-in-law, so he could devote himself entirely to studying. This is a family version of money sponsoring brains that predates our modern institutional grants to bright students, with obviously good results.

So here you have a healthy mix of good genetic selection + high value placed on education + languages learned in an early age, which is certainly a good exercise for the brain.

- Being in a persecuted minority helps you see things with a more critical eye.

Other points I'd like to add:

- Jews often learn not only Hebrew to read the bible but modern languages since an early age - since Jews are spread all over the world we often have relatives and interests in many countries and are raised in a multilingual environment.

- We are stimulated to travel and see the world and become more cosmopolitan and sophisticated in our views.

- Of course doing intellectual work, even owning a pawn shop, is much more mentally demanding than farming. I have worked in the fields (in a kibbutz) and my conclusion is that even a mentally retarded person can do work like harvesting fruit from the trees or rooting out weeds.

- Jewish women also learn to read and write since an early age - in stark contrast with other ancient peoples. It is forbidden by the Jewish religion to keep a child illiterate. Let's remember that universal education, especially for girls, is a pretty recent thing, and even now not widespread globally at all.

To the poster who asked where are the Jewish geniuses: besides Einstein, many or most in the group of distinguished physicists that fled Germany in the 1930's and settled in the U.S., contributing to the Manhattan Project; both discoverers of the polio vaccine, Dr. Salk and Dr. Sabin, who rid the world of this terrible disease; a large part of Nobel prizes, as has already been mentioned - totally out of proportion with the tiny number of Jews in the world; in medicine, literature, cinema, arts in general, Jews have excelled far beyond their proportion in the population - think of Steven Spielberg, Bob Dylan, Johann Strauss (baptized as a Christian), Philip Glass; many of the most distinguished classical musicians like Menuhin, Perlman, Oistrak, Bernstein, Baremboim, Rubinstein, Horowitz --the list goes on. Not to mention half of Hollywood with christianized names (Fred Astaire, Harrison Ford...) And let me finish with Disraeli,Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Allbright - you may not like their policies but dumb they are not.

We will now see the rise of Asian talent, also a mix of genetic selection + education, while many Americans fall behind, becoming lobotomized couch potatoes drowning in beer and fat.


Marisa Landau said at December 14, 2007 8:03 PM:

Paul Johnson (a Christian) in his excellent "A history of the Jews" names some important factors for Jewish intelligence:
1- Among the Jews the most intelligent people have always been very valued and sought after as husbands, so they procreate and spread their good genes. In contrast, among the Catholic the most intelligent boys went into the Church to become celibate priests. Their good genes were lost and only the dumb masses procreated.

2- Among Jews there has always been a custom of providing a full pension - sometimes for 10 years - for a bright son-in-law, so he could devote himself entirely to studying. This is a family version of money sponsoring brains that predates our modern institutional grants to bright students, with obviously good results.

So here you have a healthy mix of good genetic selection + high value placed on education + languages learned in an early age, which is certainly a good exercise for the brain.

- Being in a persecuted minority helps you see things with a more critical eye.

Other points I'd like to add:

- Jews often learn not only Hebrew to read the bible but modern languages since an early age - since Jews are spread all over the world we often have relatives and interests in many countries and are raised in a multilingual environment.

- We are stimulated to travel and see the world and become more cosmopolitan and sophisticated in our views.

- Of course doing intellectual work, even owning a pawn shop, is much more mentally demanding than farming. I have worked in the fields (in a kibbutz) and my conclusion is that even a mentally retarded person can do work like harvesting fruit from the trees or rooting out weeds.

- Jewish women also learn to read and write since an early age - in stark contrast with other ancient peoples. It is forbidden by the Jewish religion to keep a child illiterate. Let's remember that universal education, especially for girls, is a pretty recent thing, and even now not widespread globally at all.

To the poster who asked where are the Jewish geniuses: besides Einstein, many or most in the group of distinguished physicists that fled Germany in the 1930's and settled in the U.S., contributing to the Manhattan Project; both discoverers of the polio vaccine, Dr. Salk and Dr. Sabin, who rid the world of this terrible disease; a large part of Nobel prizes, as has already been mentioned - totally out of proportion with the tiny number of Jews in the world; in medicine, literature, cinema, arts in general, Jews have excelled far beyond their proportion in the population - think of Steven Spielberg, Bob Dylan, Johann Strauss (baptized as a Christian), Philip Glass; many of the most distinguished classical musicians like Menuhin, Perlman, Oistrak, Bernstein, Baremboim, Rubinstein, Horowitz --the list goes on. Not to mention half of Hollywood with christianized names (Fred Astaire, Harrison Ford...) And let me finish with Disraeli,Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Allbright - you may not like their policies but dumb they are not.

We will now see the rise of Asian talent, also a mix of genetic selection + education, while many Americans fall behind, becoming lobotomized couch potatoes drowning in beer and fat.


HAHA said at January 19, 2008 10:56 PM:

"Why have there been so few
Nobel laureates from the country that contains half the
world's superior-intelligence ethnic group?"

This is a super-duper LOL worthy quote.

BAM
"During the 20th century, they[Ashkenazi jews] made up about 3 percent of the U.S. population but won 27 percent of the U.S. Nobel science prizes and 25 percent of the ACM Turing awards. They account for more than half of world chess champions."

How's them apples? Is that enough geniuses for ya?

LukeC said at April 19, 2008 5:55 AM:

I don't understand the competitiveness of some of the pro-jews here. Why hate other people? If we're all a product of genes and we never CHOSE who we are, I can't see ANY reason to hate another race.

I can't even hate the person who said "We will now see the rise of Asian talent, also a mix of genetic selection + education, while many Americans fall behind, becoming lobotomized couch potatoes drowning in beer and fat."

It simply makes me sad that someone who is probably intelligent herself holds such feelings. I mean, if you DO come from a successful culture or race, GREAT! But why waste even a little bit of your talent on enmity to other people?

Aubrey Sandman said at May 25, 2008 7:15 AM:

The problem is readily solved if the necessary large amount of work in put into it!

What is needed is a survey of children who share a Jewish mother but one of which has a non Jewish father and the other a Jewish father. (Of course the genders can be exchanged).

Now if the Jewish intelligence is genetic it will show up with on average the 100% Jewish children being more intelligent than the half Jewish ones. (So far in my family the half Jewish ones are brighter than the Jewish ones!)

Enough waffle get down to measurement.

Aubrey Sandman (Dr)
M.Phil., PhD., M.I.E.T. (Jewish! 100%)

Daniel Allen said at June 3, 2008 12:22 AM:

I hope what I write doesn't come across as rascist but being a nonJewish white person I am interested in the prospects for myself and my offspring and would like some feedback on my concerns. I would describe myself as fairly obsessed with the Jewish people due to their history of incredible success and terrible tragedy. Along with this comes the angst felt by every group throughout history that is or feels like it is living with a minority that has a higher IQ than they. I understand that this has met with terrible results at times but being honest about it is the place to start. I believe (and in discussions with my children have said) that the reason for the success of the Jewish people is both cultural and genetic. It, I believe, goes back to their unique place in ancient history where they created a monotheistic religion and concurrently placed a high value on the written word in their Torah instead of an idol. Also probably because they rarely were allowed to settle down they did not become calcified like the Egyptians and the others with great power. It was alive to them. The Jewish people showed a spark and were unique even before the Azkenazians. They feel unique to themselves due to their unbroken line of settlement on a piece of property and their observance of a certain faith. Sort of like Texans.

What I would like to discuss a little as pertaining to this article but from a different angle is the few moments of great success in nonJewish white history and the possible genetic reasons for it. One is England around the time of Shakespeare. There's Queen Elizabeth, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Ben Johnson, John Milton and Isaac Newton and more all within a 100 to 150 year period. Is there anything anomalous about this? If a little island can produce such men can any group of people do it? (you know the guy who made my computer is Jewish, Michael DELL, so how come I have about 3 buttons sticking? Maybe it's the donuts I eat on it) Also there's the entire Renaissance. I am an Engineering major and we have to learn many names of men who discovered the things we have to learn. These are never mentioned in the list of greats during the Renaissance like Da Vince and Michaelangelo so just add about 15 names to the list, all during the Renaissance. I will probably learn that some of these men are Jewish but I Wikipediad them and there was no mention. Scary, huh? Don't worry, my wife keeps me in line. She's Hispanic.

You know what I also like. Dinosaurs. They're big and fast and fierce and ancient. Nobody calls me names for that. But if you're interested in a group of people who make up 3%, THAT'S 3%, of the population of the United States but have won 30% of its Nobel prizes then you're an antisemite. Maybe it is the lie I tell myself to cover by racism but you know what, the things that I think about are the same as the things Jewish people think about. In the few snatches of honest discussion the I've overheard amongst themselves they are incredibly curious people who delve into EVERYTHING. They know that if they were on the other side of the fence they'd be doing it even more that us. There's curiosity, fear and the evil monster that lurks in every man's heart is there too I will admit. But it is human nature. The greatest intellecutuals of the gentile stripe have often been antisemitic i.e. T S Eliot and Dostoyevsky. This is not an excuse but a little hint at what a Jewish person would do if he/she were on the other side.

I know I'm off the subject but I crave discussion in this area and look forward to anyone with a great IQ to talk to.

Francesca said at November 26, 2008 11:11 PM:

Uh, inbreeding limits intelligence.

hello said at January 4, 2009 3:04 PM:

Intelligence. Hmm. Ever hold a baby who looked up at you and began talking in complete sentences at the age of six months? National Merit Scholar UC Regents Scholar 17 years later? Home schooled? Dream on it was born there. When this child was two years old, I wanted to go buy a soda. So as I left my apartment, I went to my change pile and told them what I was planning. This two year old counted out 51 cents, reached out and wrote 381C on a little piece of paper they dropped back on top of the rest of the change which was stored in a little cast iron stove replica complete with frying pan (you might have seen one. Other college students kept their change in 5 gallon bottles, I kept mine in the toy cast iron stove because I had less of it, spent too much of it to ever keep.) I was aware my child gave me 51 cents for the soda and was still empowered without loosing too much change. Years later I realized my child was not just counting forward, they were doing subtraction and keeping a record when I watched a first grade class attempting "math facts" under the number ten.) I left to stroll out and buy a soda. I thought then other people did not give their children enough freedom or communication, nor duration with the family's change. I thought these limitations disempowered them. Not only that, I wondered about how other people spoke with their kids.
Looking back, I wonder, could this incur a cumulative lack of vocabulary or a cognitive deficit? Only years later was I made aware that other two year olds were not considered eligible to do subtraction or use writing implements and made records. No one asked them to do it, I don't know if they could. No one assumes they can. I guess they are thinking they will eat all the change?

in grad school I let this child be tested Wpsy R 165 =/- 3 or 5 around age 4. National Merit scholars have even perfect scores in SAT testing. Where this child is different is that the rest of have perfect verbal SAT, and GRE analysis, scores within our family. This one had also the perfect math scores concurrently. What was the difference in the etching? the glass itself, the kiln or fire of the environment, the cooling of the glass after the fire in the emotional ecosphere within and around the family, or was it the an internal dialog with the environment within the glass in a choice. What I am asking is people in this discussion have been talking about the glass (generated as a genetic factor) and some environment (as a historical, not a present factor)- what of the internal dialog for growth or experience making some child with similar or same genes excell and others just relax?

Further what is the impact of stress factors generating peformance, not inhibiting it? It maybe not just genetic in the born package, it may be enzyme or neurological survival factor.
for the record my genetic impact on my child is without a national origin or ethnic marker (as I was adopted with such indicators)

about dreams to increase cognitive capacity & hopeful parents gene engineering /hiring gene engineered services pre utereo- complicates the family system?

Have you ever met teenagers who were basically self parenting because of limitations of their so called "parental units" ? Where they were so limited in English their teens could lie and say they were translating anything? or LOL and you think teen agers are annoying now? or that teens think their parents are "so stupid"? Well if you haven't heard it yourself, perhaps on an episode on tv "You don't know anything about it! you are so stupid" would take on monumental reality if one purchased genetic engineering for their baby trying to improve the next generation. Might it not be posited that said next generation would be running the house? or might not be raised without outside help? It's not a very smart choice. Genetically engineering a basically 50+ IQ over you baby is not a very smart decision. But that's what we were talking about. Not very samart people.

John Moshi said at April 12, 2009 4:09 AM:

Hi
It's quite an interesting debate. First of all it is a fact that the Jews for their small numbers have performed extremely well in many areas of knowledge. There could be many reasons for that, but to give usury and banking in the medieval age as the reason is laughable: these two areas do not require much intelligence to operate. It only requires greed and promptness in collecting the debt. It's also an intelligent observation that the Jews in Israel have not contributed as much as the Jews in Europe or America. This is very similar to the performance of Indian and Chinese students' performance. At home they are average, but in western universities they excel. So, it's not the 'super intelligence' of Jews, but the academic infrastructure and opportunities created by the general non-Jewish westerners and the scientific temperament fostered by them that should get the credit. These facilities have been made good use of by this tiny number of Ashkanizis, or Indian or Chinese emigrants. This talk of 'dumb Americans' and ' smart Jews' ring hollow. The Europeans have contributed more to the development of science and technology, arts and entertainment than Jews can ever think of. Having 10 Indians or Chinese in the top 50 richest people in the world in Forbes list does not make the Indians and the Chinese as the wealthiest group in the world. So much so...you know what I mean.

A.R. said at May 19, 2009 10:50 PM:

John Moshi is obviously ignorant of the Israeli capacity for invention.

Those Jews "at-home" as you call it, have the most bio-tech companies per capita, start-ups per capita, developed the most advanced flight security technology, the cell phone, windows NT, voice mail, and AOL instant messenger.

I suggest he do his research before espousing personal opinion.

Herb said at November 16, 2009 4:04 AM:

In a recent Channel 4 TV programme with Rageh Omaah an explanation given for East Asians' success in gaining a relatively high proportion of places at Berekely was that they came from a Confusian culture that valued education and learning.
The same sorts of arguments are being made on this page-to the effect that it was and remains the Jews' traditional belief in study and advancement through learning that at least partly accounts for their high levels of verbal intelligence.

I think that this type of argument misses the point : societies have cultures that value education and learning because the people in the societies are more intelligent : they value what they have found helps them to have better lives.

In other words, valuing study is an intelligent attitude, an expression of intelligence, rather than the simple cause of intelligence.

M. Simon said at December 31, 2009 1:31 AM:

Drug taking is a form of self medication (mostly for PTSD). And long term PTSD is about 50% genetic and 50% environmental. The environmental part is IMO trauma.

The incidence of the genes in the population is about 20%. The incidence of long term PTSD is about 10%. Except that during the peak of violence in the Iraq War roughly 20% of the fighting military was getting long term PTSD. i.e. nearly 100% conversion vs the "normal" 50% from random variations in the environment.

n said at January 21, 2010 1:33 AM:

"Employment in the banking trades selecting for intelligence? Sounds fishy to me. Maybe Jewish girls just like men who can make them laugh."

That was all that needs to be said... ;P

morris Wise said at July 6, 2010 5:53 PM:

Many Jews have always been small business owners, it required a lot of intelligence to be successful at it. Those businessmen were responsible for impregnating many of their Jewish admirers, that solves the riddle of Ashkenazi brilliance.

morris wise said at July 23, 2010 6:58 PM:

Imagine 200 thousand Ashkenazi Jews with IQs over 140 driving themselves at a furious pace, is it any wonder why they are successful in every field? Ashkenazi Jews comprise 20% of the one million Americans with an IQ over 140, they are sought after by elite corporations and employed in fields that require high analytic reasoning and the ability to solve complex problems at lightning speed. What makes the gifted Ashkenazi jew unique is that they are under tremendous pressure to become wealthy enough to feel insulated against a sea of anti-Jewish feelings. They are joyful for not being born a less intelligent Jew who has to live in fear and rarely come out after dark.

Amy Tillem said at November 21, 2010 2:20 AM:

As I approached 50 a few years ago my father saw fit give me an explanation for all the illness that has devastated and/or killed my immediate family. Seems my mother's parents were uncle and niece. They were married in Rhode Island and went on to have 7 children, all of whom turned out healthy and brilliant, save one -- the 'younger' of the one set of twins they had, my mother who was dead by multiple sclerosis by 60. She had 3 kids. Her first was diagnosed w/Crohn's by age 12, her second w/MS by 18 and dead by 44 and her third, me, after 8 years of trying to have a third mutant after no less than 2 miscarriages. She apparently coined the word 'clueless'. I woke one day w/diaharhea that never stopped as a young teen and had a bag by the time I was 25 -- Crohn's.

I've been a raging borderline all my life, from what I've heard and remember along the same lines as my late mother. My sister on the other hand, is a high paid software designer w/a degree in math from Reed College.

Maybe my point of view is uh, skewed but I've come to the conclusion that the edict handed down by almighty D-g himself in the torah and codified in the Talmud (I've done a lot of research and talked to a coven of rabbis) that it's a mitzvah for a man to marry his niece, was done so to ensure a brilliant -- if sickly -- population.

I don't think it's a coincidence that people from certain parts of India where uncle/niece marriage is practiced and celebrated also display a relatively high percentage of brilliance.

I've been a committed anti-racist all my life but there are times when the only 'place' I find solace is stormfront.

Did I mention I'm Jewish?

Roberto Autran Nunes said at June 20, 2011 3:47 AM:

My IQ is 190. I am from Brazil.

Roberto Autran Nunes said at June 20, 2011 4:21 AM:

My IQ is 190. I am from Brazil/CE/Fortaleza.

Dis Gusted said at August 2, 2011 10:40 AM:

Where should I start...

The imagined superior intelligence of Ashkenazi Jews is without merit. It may very well be supported through various tests, but those too are without merit. One can skew any test they desire to show the results they prefer to show. It's all quite meaningless.

There is an abyss that exists between INTELLIGENCE and WISDOM.


Intelligence is comprised of knowledge.
Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge.


While i will not argue the fine points of Ashkenazi intelligence, I seriously question and doubt their wisdom.
Just look at the myriad of problems the rest of the world deal with because the Ashkenazi believe they are superior to other people in the world. That's right: Once any ethnic group believes themselves to be more intelligent, it will not take them long to believe they are superior in every way.

This is why the world struggles under the 'us against them' divisions (including but not limited to) politics, religion, finances.


Jerehiah 3 verses 11-12: "And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah. Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever."


Revelation 3 verse 9: "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee."


Jim Geraghty said at October 15, 2011 6:32 AM:

How interesting. Made me wonder about Middle Ages breeding "success". Obviously it's better for your genetic line to have four children instead of two. However even the two children of the impoverished family tend to be smaller, more sickly, and have malnourished brain development. They would be far more susceptible to environmental diseases and would be very unlikely to be chosen as mates by the wealthier families. Thus even in one or two generations a slight advantage in social status driven by intellect could have profound effects.

Bruce said at August 23, 2012 1:45 PM:

An increase in jewish intelligence does go back to the middle ages but I think for a different reason. In the middle ages the smartest Jews went on to become Rabbis and had larger families, thus if there was any component of intelligence to be inherited it went to a lot of children. The church went the opposite direction. The smartest Catholics became Priests and Monks and had no kids so any inherited component of intelligence had no next generation.

Kelly said at April 29, 2014 5:20 AM:

Ashkenazi Jews have been part of an accidental experiment in eugenics. It has brought them some advantages. But, like the deliberate eugenics experiments of the 20th century, it has also exacted a terrible price.

TD said at December 14, 2014 12:33 AM:

I know I'm super late to this party, but you seemed to have missed something kind of important here. You spoke about how higher IQ may have driven persecution of the Jews, but if I may, another hypothesis:

What if persecution increased the average intelligence of the Jews?

A stupid Jew would presumably be more likely to cause offense to his neighbors or be caught out in a bad situation or be unable to talk himself out of a dangerous situation than a smart Jew would. Thus, by living under constant threat, smarter Jews may have been more likely to survive and reproduce than less intelligent Jews because they were better at avoiding the situations which caused them to get murdered.

The inverse may well have happened amongst American slaves as well, something I thought about after I read about how African immigrants have higher educational attainment than other immigrants do. Intelligent people don't like to be put in chains. An intelligent slave thusly might be more likely to try and make his or her escape than a less intelligent slave. Thus we would expect slaves who escaped from slavery successfully to likely be of above-average intelligence - but slaves who tried to escape or rebel and who were killed as a result would have been removed from the population altogether. Iterate that repeatedly over 150 years and you might negatively impact the average intelligence of slaves in the US - you've got the people who got away or convinced their masters to free them, but you don't have any of the slaves who got killed for being uppity, and then you've got all the slaves who were okay with their lot in life.

Don't know if it is true or not - after all, it is a pretty tenuous and unproven theory - but it is possible. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if there is a large enough population of blacks who are descendants of blacks who were free at the time of the Civil War (and not other blacks) to test that theory.

Another possibility for testing it would be to look at West Africans and compare their IQ to that of black Americans, but unfortunately the Flynn Effect (and the general poverty of West Africa) adds far too many factors for that to be possible.

It would be pretty dark if slave owners bred against intelligence in their slaves, but if intelligence and rebelliousness correlate, it wouldn't be surprising.

Incidentally, there is also one major caveat to extremely high Jewish intelligence: it seems to be fading far more rapidly than we would expect. They make up a lot of people at the Ivies, but that appears to be an artifact of the legacy system; they don't appear to make up nearly as overwhelming numbers of applicants at purely merit-based institutions anymore. Caltech is now only 5.5% Jewish - whatever advantage the Jews have, it appears to be being overwhelmed by the Asian advantage, and Asians lack all of the negative side-effects.

Another possibility for the seemingly higher IQ of Jews was that they underwent the Flynn Effect before the rest of the population did. If that was the case, then they would appear to be much smarter than the population in general, but it wouldn't be for genetic reasons. I think it is important to re-examine this data in modern times rather than using older data - now that whites as a whole have apparently reached the end of the Flynn Effect, we can compare end-points.

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