August 17, 2007

Peter Frost's explanation for high average Ashkenazi Jewish IQs

Attempts to come up with a Darwinian explanation for the high average IQ of European Jews go back at least to Norbert Weiner's 1953 autobiography, in which he argued that arranged marriages between the shetl's brightest young rabbi and the richest merchant's daughter would lead to large numbers of smart children having enough money to survive. In 2005, Greg Cochran, Henry Harpending, and Jason Hardy put forward a sophisticated theory pointing to selection for the mental demands of traditional Ashkenazi occupations such as moneylender. In Commentary, Charles Murray recently suggested the Babylonian Captivity could have played a role.

For a number of years, anthropologist Peter Frost has been privately advocating a fourth theory. Frost is the author of the 2005 book Fair Women, Dark Men: The Forgotten Roots of Color Prejudice, which I reviewed in VDARE.com.
On Wednesday, Frost posted in the comments to Mahalanobis' item on economist Greg Clark's new book showing that the prosperous had many more surviving children than the poor in medieval and early modern England. The comment summarizes Frost's theory of the evolution of Ashkenazi intelligence:


The same process was going on in other European nations, but to varying extents. I commented on this point in the following letter to Commentary (which was never published):

In "Jewish Genius" [April] Charles Murray states that selection for intelligence has historically been stronger in some occupations than in others, being notably stronger in sales, finance, and trade than in farming. Insofar as he is right, the reason lies not in the occupation itself but in its relations of production.

In the Middle Ages and earlier, farmers had little scope for economic achievement—and just as little for the intelligence that contributes to achievement. Most farmers were peasants who produced enough for themselves, plus a surplus for the landowner. A peasant could produce a larger surplus, but what then? Sell it on the local market? The possibilities there were slim because most people grew their own food. Sell it on several markets both near and far? That would mean dealing with a lot of surly highwaymen. And what would stop the landowner from seizing the entire surplus? After all, it was his land and his peasant.

The situation changes with farmers who own their land and sell their produce over a wide geographical area. Consider the "Yankee" farmers who spread westward out of New England in the 18th and 19th centuries. They contributed very disproportionately to American inventiveness, literature, education, and philanthropy. Although they lived primarily from farming, they did not at all have the characteristics we associate with the word "peasant."

Conversely, trade and finance have not always been synonymous with high achievement. In the Middle Ages, the slow growth economy allowed little room for expanding a business within one's immediate locality, and expansion further afield was hindered by brigandage and bad roads. Furthermore, the static economic environment created few novel situations that required true intelligence. How strong is selection for intelligence among people who deal with the same clients, perform the same transactions, and charge the same prices year in and year out?

This point has a bearing on the reported IQ differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews. Charles Murray, like others, believes that the Ashkenazim were more strongly selected for intelligence because they were more concentrated than the Sephardim in sales, finance, and trade, especially during the Middle Ages. Now, we have no good data on the occupations of medieval Ashkenazim and Sephardim. But the earliest censuses (18th century for Polish Jews and 19th century for Algerian Jews) show little difference, with the bulk of both groups working in crafts.

There was, however, one major demographic difference. While the Sephardim grew slowly in numbers up to the 20th century, the Ashkenazim increased from about 500,000 in 1650 to 10 million in 1900. The same period saw strong population growth among Europeans in general. This boom used to be attributed to falling death rates alone, but demographers now recognize that rising birth rates were also responsible, in some countries more so. In England, the rise in fertility contributed two and a half times as much to the increase in growth rates as did the fall in mortality, largely through a decline in the age of first marriage.

This trend toward early marriage coincided with growing use of roads, canals and, later, railways to distribute goods over a much larger geographical area. The baby boom was particularly concentrated among semi-rural artisans who produced on contract for urban merchants and who could ably exploit these larger, more elastic markets. "They were not specialized craftsmen in life-trades with skills developed through long years of apprenticeship; they were semi-skilled family labour teams which set up in a line of business very quickly, adapting to shifts in market demand" (Seccombe 1992. A Millennium of Family Change. p. 182). Their workforce was their household. In more successful households, the workers would marry earlier and have as many children as possible. In less successful ones, they would postpone marriage, or never marry.

In Western Europe, these cottage industries were concentrated in areas like Ulster, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Brittany, Flanders, Alsace, Westphalia, Saxony, the Zurich uplands, the Piedmont, and Lombardy. In Eastern Europe, they were concentrated among Ashkenazi Jews. Selection for intelligence among the Ashkenazim may thus have been part of a larger European-wide selection for intelligence among cottage industry workers. These entrepreneurial artisans had optimal conditions for selection: 1) a tight linkage between success on an intelligence-demanding task and economic achievement; 2) considerable scope for economic achievement; 3) a tight linkage between economic achievement and reproductive success; and 4) considerable scope for reproductive success. Such artisans were a minority in Western Europe. Among the Ashkenazim, they appear to have been the majority.

In the late 19th century, cottage industries gave way to factories and the tight linkage between economic achievement and reproductive success came undone. Entrepreneurs could now expand production by hiring more workers. Henry Ford, for instance, produced millions of his famous Model T but had only one child.

In conclusion, Charles Murray errs in thinking that selection for intelligence is driven by the type of occupation. The relations of production seem to be more important, in particular whether the worker owns the means of production, whether there is scope for economic achievement, and whether increases in production are driven by increases in family size.


By the way, it's quite sad how anthropologists have gone from glamour boys and girls in the 1950s to being almost ignored in the 2000s. Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, for example, was the Steve Levitt of the post-war era, an omniscient seer consulted on every topic imaginable. (For example, a fictionalized version of her named "Margaret Mader" has a sizable role as a space-traveling anthropologist in Robert A. Heinlein's 1957 sci-fi classic Citizen of the Galaxy. She explains to the young hero the complex family structure of the Free Traders' spaceship.)

But the rival school of physical anthropologists led by the two-fisted Carleton Coon could also generate celebrities. Coon, for instance, was a regular panelist on a high-brow TV gameshow called "What in the World?" that ran from 1951-1964. On it, Coon and a couple of other anthropologists would be shown some random object from a museum collection and then try to guess whether it was a Neanderthal's sternum or whatever.

Coon's specialty was "The Wilder Whites:" Berbers, Albanians, and other tough mountain peoples who found the macho Coon to be their kind of man. During WWII, Coon served in the OSS and his chief assignment was to prepare to be "Lawrence of Morocco" -- if Franco ever let Hitler's armies have right of passage through Spain, they could land on the North African coast behind the Anglo-American forces fighting Rommel's army in Libya and roll them up. If that happened, Coon would disappear into the Rif Mountains and rally the wild Berber tribes to fight a guerilla war against the German occupiers.

My guess is that what went wrong was that the Franz Boas / Margaret Mead school of cultural anthropology succeeded in demonizing their enemies like Coon. Without rivals anymore to keep them on their game, the cultural anthropologists got complacent and politically correct, and thus boring. The subject is still fascinating, but you'd only find that out these days from a handful of anthropologists, such as Frost, Harpending, Stanley Kurtz, and Peter Wood.

That's too bad because anthropology ought to be the foundational social science, what physics is to the hard sciences.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

43 comments:

SN said...

"My guess is that what went wrong was that the Franz Boas / Margaret Mead school of cultural anthropology succeeded in demonizing their enemies like Coon. Without rivals anymore to keep them on their game, the cultural anthropologists got complacent and politically correct, and thus boring."

That's my impression too. But PC doesn't just make you boring, it makes you wrong, because it requires you to ignore or denigrate evidence with non-PC implications. And so anthropologists ignored most of the evidence created by the new science of genetics, ultimately rendering them irrelevant.

There are a few writers trying to bridge this gulf, notably the journalist Nicholas Wade - he accepts just enough PC cant to keep himself out of trouble, but otherwise ignores it. -SN

dearieme said...

Some years ago an Aussie (Freeman?) seemed to have demolished la Mead's great work. What's the current state of play?

tommy said...

My guess is that what went wrong was that the Franz Boas / Margaret Mead school of cultural anthropology succeeded in demonizing their enemies like Coon.

Throw Ashley Montagu on that list also. Montagu, also an anthropologist, was a strident critic of Coon and an early proponent of the theory that races don't really exist.

I have an old copy of Coon's The Races of Europe around here somewhere....

tommy said...

Someone had the good sense of uploading Coon's old book The Races of Europe. I presume its copyright wasn't renewed and it is in the public domain, but you're responsible for following your local laws. You can read it online or download it here. If you do read it online, the famous selection of photographs from the book are in the "Photographic Supplement" section in the far right column.

Peter said...

In Western Europe, these cottage industries were concentrated in areas like Ulster, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Brittany, Flanders, Alsace, Westphalia, Saxony, the Zurich uplands, the Piedmont, and Lombardy. In Eastern Europe, they were concentrated among Ashkenazi Jews. Selection for intelligence among the Ashkenazim may thus have been part of a larger European-wide selection for intelligence among cottage industry workers.

Do people from Yorkshire, Brittany, Saxony etc. have measurably high intelligence than people from other parts of their countries?

David said...

Was cultural anthropology ever true or honest? As shown by Derek Freeman, Margaret Mead's fieldwork in Samoa - the popular foundation of cultural anthropology - is fraudulent.

A good short write-up on that is here.

Here is an overview of the contenders (Galtonian vs. Boasian).

In my view, Boasian "anthropology" is not a real science, but was just a political ideology intended to carve room for Jews in Gentile societies. See Kevin MacDonald's The Culture of Critique, Chapters 2-4.

Mark said...

PC doesn't just make you boring, it makes you wrong

You got that one right, but in the wrong order. The goal of PC is to make you wrong. It only coincidentally makes you boring.

Mark said...

And what would stop the landowner from seizing the entire surplus? After all, it was his land and his peasant.

Funny how Frost just glosses over a thousand years of European history without even a nod. Today blacks and Jews enjoy high status as MOPEs ("Most Oppressed People Ever"), but for a millenia most European whites were held as serfs. Even when de jure serfdom was absent, de facto serfdom existed due to high population densities limiting economic opportunity.

Jews, in contrast, usually had more freedom - not to mention more wealth. And on those rare occasions when the mobs came to call they'd often find protection with the local nobleman or bishop, who used Jews for tax farmers.

So the common conception of Jews as being an oppressed people in Christian Europe is somewhat true but still misleading.

When Europeans started migrating to Europe the lack of an economically enslaved population became a problem for the elites. Poor peasants willing to risk the danger (Indians) could always move over the next hill where land was cheap. Elites had to import their servant class from Africa.

The focus on racism as the big problem is simply a chance to divert attention from the real problem, which is the exploitation and manipulation of the poor (of any race) by the powerful. Black Africans weren't brought to the US so that we could be racist against them - they were brought here so that we could exploit their labor.

Jews like to focus on their history as victims of racism to divert attention from their guilt in the exlpoitation of human beings (in Middle Ages Europe as well as in the modern US). Focussing on mistreatment of Jews and blacks allows modern elites to mask their manipulation of economic and immigration policy for their own financial benefit.

SN said...

mark:
"You got that one right, but in the wrong order. The goal of PC is to make you wrong. It only coincidentally makes you boring."

Yeah, I know:

http://wcknewman.wordpress.com/2007/08/17/lolbaby/

That's my baby. :)

tommy said...

Sorry, I didn't notice that the content of the website I linked to for Coon's book is apparently served up dynamically with JavaScript (there is no change in the URL when you click on the links.) To find the book, click on "Bibliography," then search for "Coon," and then click on "The Races of Europe."

tommy said...

There was, however, one major demographic difference. While the Sephardim grew slowly in numbers up to the 20th century, the Ashkenazim increased from about 500,000 in 1650 to 10 million in 1900.

When exactly did this boom begin and how long did it last? Under this theory, how many generations are we presuming it took for Ashkenazic Jews to move from having the same mean IQ as Sephardic Jews to having their current IQ? The period between the end of the Middle Ages and the Industrial Revolution is fairly narrow.

This theory is interesting and it doesn't contradict the observation that Ashkenazic Jews seem to have lacked distinction (unlike the Sephardim) until recent centuries. I would say this is probably the most satisfying hypothesis I've heard yet. Still, I think this is going to require quite a bit of research to prove. If Jewish genetic diseases are linked to increased intelligence, it would be interesting to find out whether there is any evidence for the growth of neurological genetic diseases among non-Jews during this time. Again, if Jewish genetic diseases are linked to increased intelligence, it would be interesting to find out whether the geographical spread of such diseases accompanies the predicted changes in the economy.

Bill said...

You know, I think he's on to something here. After you posted something on the Industrial Revolution and intelligence, I thought about this issue of cottage industries for a while. My idea was that the reason the Industrial Revolution took off in England was due to the relatively short period during which England was playing catch-up in empire building, when it had to rely on the textile manufacturers in the north country for income who were at that time involved in exactly this kind of work.

How does this relate to intelligence? Well, my angle was that innovation in England during the 17th and 18th centuries was greatly enhanced by a wider talent pool of small, competing manufacturers, who due to population constraints came up with increasingly efficient means of production. Essentially, what I saw was that the Industrial Revolution was indeed the product of the population's intelligence, but the reason it happened in England and not elsewhere was the wider participation of the capable elements in industry and innovation rather than any special qualities of the English. Notice that once England's empire reached maturity, innovation began to taper off as the traditional mass-resource extraction and monopolies became the main source of revenue.

As for the Ashkenazi, many probably do not know this but the term "operator" (as in smooth operator) derives from sewing-machine operator, and was a generic occupational title for many Eastern European Jews in the early 20th century. Jews who immigrated to New York from Europe were immediately put to work by established Jewish factory owners in America, which suggests a cultural association with this practice, just as the Welsh mined coal, the Germans brewed beer, and the Basques herded sheep.

So if Ashkenazi Jews had been involved mainly in light industry for hundreds of years as both producers and dealers, they would by necessity be sharp, practical people, capable of understanding and applying technological innovations as well as maintaining the financial discipline and good sense necessary to prosper. The relatively backward state of affairs in their main population centers would also tend to protect them from competition and allow them to grow into a caste.

But I think this model eventually breaks down in Western European society, including the US, which could explain the western origins of Jewish revolutionary activism. BTW, does anyone here know that a popular moneymaking scheme for rich American Jews in the early 20th century was to establish banks in Eastern Europe as venture capital enterprises tapping into the talent pool of Jews in those countries?

This is really a solid idea Frost has come up with. Much can be done with it.

tommy said...

It should also be mentioned that Frost's theory rests on the idea that there really weren't substantial differences in genetically determined intelligence among the peasants and the artisans to begin with. What distinguished the peasant from the artisan was mostly legal status and education and environmental factors in intelligence (like predisposition to malnutrition). After all, if there were large differences, it would be difficult to see how artisans could compose such a large percentage of the Jewish population to begin with.

This might be a questionable assumption.

Anonymous said...

As John Derbyshire said: "Jews have been practicing eugenics for about 2000 years" due to their arranged marriages that took people of different talent-backgrounds and put them together.


If you take a guy who is a math whiz and pair him off with a good musician or a girl gifted at literature, you will more than likely get a kid with some of both talents. Of course this breeds gifted, thoughtful, verbally acute people. How could it not?

Bill said...

After all, if there were large differences, it would be difficult to see how artisans could compose such a large percentage of the Jewish population to begin with.

-tommy


You are forgetting the international aspect of Judaism, which was well-established by the 16th century. Trade routes and religious/ethnic ties allowed dissemination of technology through Jewish merchants, which gave Jewish communities in relatively backward Eastern Europe a strong advantage over other local artisans.

You might be amazed to see how quickly printing technology was disseminated through Jewish intermediaries, largely as a countermeasure against Spanish/Catholic influence following the expulsion of Jews and Moors from Iberia.

ricpic said...

I really don't see what's wrong with the far simpler theory that Jews, who placed a high evaluation on the reading and interpreting of the sacred texts, bred for intelligence (especially the Levites and Cohens: the priestly castes) in the same way that gentile aristocrats bred for height, athleticism and a certain chiseled long faced angular look in both sexes.
The result of such breeding over centuries for these particular characteristics is a high percentage of bright, clever, but not necessarily thoughtful Jews, and a high percentage of what the Brits call gits.

huppa bearer said...

My friend from high school married an Ashkenazi. I knew he was a genius (but not a nerd), had no idea he was one of thousands.

Ben Capoeman said...

That's too bad because anthropology ought to be the foundational social science, what physics is to the hard sciences.

That would be wonderful, but economics and natural selection work on anthropologists just as much as the Ashkenazim. Universities are now money making entities. Pournelle's Iron Law (the people who serve the purpose for the creation of a bureaucracy are supplanted by people who increase the bureaucracy) rules all. Universities and colleges take in more students each year, and get more money for doing so. The problem is that there are just so many smart students out there; the solution is to lower your standards and admit dimwits capable of completing a Pell grant application. But where do you put these new students? They're not capable of passing first year calculus (which is no longer a requirement for students) so science and engineering are out. Music requires years of practice. College art students are very bad, but they're still the top few percentile of this crop. There are people who can survive the bloodshed necessary for a career in the Humanities, but again we see a barrier to entry. The sad fact of the matter is that all of the extraneous burger flippers capable of scraping up college funding gravitate to the social sciences, and the least capable always find the easiest route to their BA is in cultural anthropology. This is the crop from which later professors of the discipline are drawn. The reason there are no famous cultural anthropologists is the same reason there are so many famous Ashkenazim. Their economic ecology affected their group IQ.

tommy said...

You are forgetting the international aspect of Judaism, which was well-established by the 16th century. Trade routes and religious/ethnic ties allowed dissemination of technology through Jewish merchants, which gave Jewish communities in relatively backward Eastern Europe a strong advantage over other local artisans.

But are we still assuming that a people of otherwise average intelligence set up those highly effective trade routes? What I'm getting at is that the success of Jewish artisans could indicate an already exceptionally intelligent population prior to the baby boom. It's very difficult to separate cause and effect when figuring out how the Ashkenazim became exceptionally intelligent.

Tom Merle said...

Why is it you never mention Kevin MacDonald whose books underscore all the points made with remarkable scholarship. And he writes for VDare. Very confusing...

LCohen said...

I support the work of Macdonald - and Rushton as well - for its intellectual value, but they're the last of their kind. The academics of the younger generation are quite smart about using more sensitive language (e.g. 'ethnicity' instead of 'race') and don't let themselves get pigeon-holed by the liberal academic culture. Pinker and Bruce Lahn are prime examples.

Bill said...

But are we still assuming that a people of otherwise average intelligence set up those highly effective trade routes?

-tommy


Well, if we take the fact that many of the most important Jewish centers of trade, such as Amsterdam, were dominated by Sephardim, then yes we are.

Shanghai was built by Oriental Jews (Sassoons), and many of the early Jewish tycoons in the New World were Sephardim. So Jewish financial success and domination of trade does not necessarily depend on above-average intelligence, which the Sephardim and Oriental Jews do not possess.

High Ashkenazi intelligence is a fragile thing, and I think their advantage is slipping away due to outmarriage and the different social order in the US. Considering the benefits one accrues from being Jewish today (social/business/political/academic networks), it is clear that Jews no longer need to be especially intelligent to succeed.

In a few generations, barring major changes in American society, Jews will probably test closer to European Americans than they do today.

Who knows? It may be the Mormons, with their egalitarian, industrious society, who end up being America's brightest group in 100 years. That Ken Jennings fellow sure was impressive.

Peter Frost said...

I suspect that even before the 16th century both Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews were already pulling ahead of their surrounding populations in terms of IQ. Some selection for intelligence will exist wherever most people (a) own their means of production and (b) increase the size of their workforces by increasing family size.

"Eugenic" marriage practices may have also been a factor, but such practices were also widespread among non-Jews. In most traditional cultures, certainly in European ones, the highest compliment for a marriageable woman was that she was "of good family." It was common practice to judge a potential mate not only in terms of his/her personal qualities but also in terms of his/her relatives and ancestors.

Three centuries (about 12-15 generations) may seem like a rather short interval to produce any significant increase in intelligence. Yet, in other animals, significant selective effects have been shown over less than 10 generations.

up your nose with a rubber hose said...

David, I want to thank you for that link to the article on Mead's work. In it I found this:


Boas, Benedict and Mead argued that it was "culture" that most influenced a growing individual, as opposed to the inborn influences of biology.


In a sense, that is true, but I doubt that Boas, Benedict or Mead really understood why, and perhaps were not intelligent enough to think it through.

We are the social species par excellence. From simple evolutionary arguments, you can expect each and everyone of us (well, perhaps not Autistics and psychopaths) to be born with a strong in-built desire and capacity to aggressively indoctrinate and acculturate in the local culture we were born into.

We will not be able to reproduce unless we know the local culture in detail, and some of us will know it so well we will be able to manipulate it and create new culture, and thus improve our reproductive success.

Indeed, some individuals will be so willingly indoctrinated they act against their own interests: eg, males a couple of thousand years ago who castrated themselves, and males and females who remain celibate for a higher purpose, and so forth.

So, yes, culture is paramount, but only because it is in our individual interests for us to absorb it. Moreover, there are two or three cultures, of necessity. There are separate male and female cultures, and possibly a fusion of these that both sexes can exist in as well. Furthermore, for some people, it is more important that culture remain relatively stable and unchanging, while for others, especially the high achieving young studs, it must change, because they need to opportunity to show off their smarts ...

So, the irony is, perhaps Boas, Benedict and Mead were partially right, but for all the wrong reasons, and they didn't know how to think things through.

Oh, and of course, culture cannot overcome some biologically important truths. Women ration sex because they have limited opportunities to reproduce and they all need assistance to produce the best possible offspring, and none of them want to be left holding the baby, while men ration commitment because none of them want to be left holding someone else's baby. These fundamental risks will find expression in all cultures.

RKU said...

Ben Capoeman make some very sensible and plausible points.

Perhaps one solution would be to support the creation or expansion of additional and relatively harmless college majors to draw those individuals away from the more important subjects.

What about "Personal Appreciation Studies" or "Advanced Basket-Weaving"...

Reid Farmer said...

Was cultural anthropology ever true or honest? As shown by Derek Freeman, Margaret Mead's fieldwork in Samoa - the popular foundation of cultural anthropology - is fraudulent.

A good short write-up on that is here.

Here is an overview of the contenders (Galtonian vs. Boasian).

In my view, Boasian "anthropology" is not a real science, but was just a political ideology intended to carve room for Jews in Gentile societies. See Kevin MacDonald's The Culture of Critique, Chapters 2-4.

By David, at 8/17/2007 7:42 AM

***********************************

I have to say that some Boasians did good work. They were the ones that stuck to their work and didn't go chasing popular acclaim like Mead. The work from people like Alfred Kroeber and Robert Lowie has stood up very well. I still use Kroeber's "Handbook of California Indians" all the time.

Krober's real world approach carried through to his students at Berkeley and I was fortunate enough to have two of them as professors, Arden King and Gordon Hewes. Both were awe-inspiring brilliant men who seemed to know EVERYTHING. Both humble and utterly grounded in reality.

At the very beginning of my career I was fortunate enough to meet Boas' daughter, Franziska, who was a retired college dance professor. She and Mead were classmates at Barnard and Columbia. Franziska hated Mead and described her as a liar and manipulator who manipulated her father. This was in the early 70s before Freeman's debunking of her research was out. I was astonished when she told me this, as Mead was still held in high esteem. It appears she had a better insight into her character.

Peter said...

I have an old copy of Coon's The Races of Europe around here somewhere....

A guy named "Coon" who wrote about race, heh heh.

Phil said...

I think some of the elevated IQ is due to subtraction rather than addition. I've read references to dumber Jews in the Middle Ages marrying out and leaving the community since they couldn't compete with their brighter bretheren.

Mark said...

I think some of the elevated IQ is due to subtraction rather than addition. I've read references to dumber Jews in the Middle Ages marrying out and leaving the community since they couldn't compete with their brighter bretheren.

Are we talking here about a religious community or an economic one? Because it seems that for well over a thousand years the Jewish community has been both. And since dumb/unreliable members don't serve a very useful purpose in a trade network, they would've been sloughed off or consigned to the margins.

Look at it this way: if you took the brightest 5-6% of non-Jewish whites and changed their skin color to purple, people would always be remarking on how incredibly brilliant and rich the purple people race is.

So it's at least partly true that Judaism is sort of an honor society. Jews are not strait descendants of the group of people that followed Moses into the desert. In Before the Dawn Nicholas Wade noted that while the Jewish male line did indeed seem to come mostly from the Levant, the mitochondrial line of Ashkenazi Jews is right out of Europe. So you had intelligent Jewish males mating with intelligent, high status, non-Jewish females.

In Dark Ages Europe that wouldn't have been terribly uncommon. Europeans for the most part were still pagans at the time. For a variety of reasons, parting from paganism wouldn't have been as difficult as parting from Christianity.

Anonymous said...

"So you had intelligent Jewish males mating with intelligent, high status, non-Jewish females."

I thought the mother had to be Jewish for the children to be considered Jewish.

Anonymous said...

>> "So you had intelligent Jewish males mating with intelligent, high status, non-Jewish females."

I thought the mother had to be Jewish for the children to be considered Jewish. <<

Rules have changed over time.

It's true that the mitochondrial DNA of Ashkenazi Jews is European, not Levantine, in spite of what the rules are today.

It would also seem more likely that a Jew who worked as a field hand would be more likely to fall away from Judaism than a Jewish artisan, who worked with other family members and was perhaps in a guild with other Jews.

~ Risto

Anonymous said...

"in spite of what the rules are today"

Matrilineal descent is Halakhic, given at the time of Moses, and was unchanged until recently. "What the rules are today" support patrilineal descent. This is a deviation from traditional jewish law of the last 3,000 years.

A common view pulled at random. Do your research. Here on traditional Judaism generally.

Anonymous said...

I'm puzzled. Men from the North are fairer, women from the South are darker. Shouldn't the combination then be Fair Men, Dark Women?

Matthew Dunnyveg said...

There is one more possible reason I can think of for higher Jewish intelligence:

One of the problems with pre-modern societies is that they allow almost no upward mobility for the best and brightest. Indeed, the usual social mobility direction is down. And as was the case with American slavery (e.g., Frederick Douglass), the best and brightest probably didn't stay in their place with grace and aplomb--they probably fought hard against those who would keep them down.

The problem in a pre-modern society is that if a bright young serf is bucking to climb the social and economic ladder, if he succeeds he knocks somebody else back down the ladder. In other words, it is entirely possible that many of the best and brightest were recognized at a young age and killed so that the ruling class didn't feel threatened by upstarts who aspired to take their places.

This wasn't the case with diaspora Jews, who all occupied a rather low level in the larger society. In fact, Jews appreciated precocious young people because there was no power structure for them to threaten.

For pre-modern non-Jews who didn't find themselves born into the top echelons of their society, being none too bright and going with the flow were probably the best survival strategies available. This theory would also explain why so many of the common people are reticent to get involved in the workings of their governments (e.g., immigration) even when it is imperative that they do so.

I don't know that the above theory is valid, but it is certainly plausible.

Ben Capoeman said...

Boas and Mead are sure taking a trashing here. Remember that before Boas, all cultures were hierarchically ranked in positions of varying degradation below that pinnacle of Human achievement, Victorian England. (The wogs start at Calais.) Papa Franz taught that each culture was a valid response to ecological circumstances; post-modern political correctness has taken his insight and converted it into an ideology that today is Jim Crow against the middle and lower socio economic status dwellers (but not racist!)

Mead certainly is a lodestone for criticism, but I'd point out that prior to her work Malinowski was the authority on the cultures of the South Pacific islanders. It took Mead to point out that he'd never interviewed any women. (He'd slept with most of them, but apparently wasn't a good listener.) Leaving out half the population in a cultural study turned out to be a big deal, and it took Margaret Mead to correct that.

Someone mentioned the brilliant work of Boasian students Alfred Kroeber and Robert Lowie, and I'd like to add Ruth Benedict and Edward Sapir to that list. All much needed to counterweight Radcliffe-Brown and the Colonial Office, don't you know.

Ben Capoeman said...

Perhaps one solution would be to support the creation or expansion of additional and relatively harmless college majors to draw those individuals away from the more important subjects. -RKU

A better one would be to set reasonable prerequisites. I'd written a letter to Dr. Pournelle on the subject in which I'd flippantly suggested making linear algebra a prereq for Intro to Sociology. But a year of calculus and courses in elementary linear algebra and an introduction to mathematical statistics (NOT the mathless survey currently offered for social science students) should be a reasonable demand for taking upper division courses in the social sciences.

For anyone not able to do first year calculus there are trade schools. I've yet to meet a plumber who makes less money that I do.

Anonymous said...

Frost's explanation makes some sense, from the standpoint not only of the capabilities of Ashkenazi Jews but also the German people from the period of late 1400's thru early 1900's.

This is something that's always mystified me, as an anthropologist sort of chiefly Irish extraction (who has long been interested in the make-up of my own people). Until the late 1800's really, the German lands were considered to be something of a backwater in Europe, divided principalities without an overseas empire, with the Germans themselves tending to emigrate in high numbers to the more culturally vibrant Latin European countries like France. The German culture and the German language were both scorned and even despised by the Germans themselves-- the German high officials and nobles, including Frederick the Great himself, spoke French with each other, not German, and in general Germans were considered to be a bunch of scrubby peasants.

Despite this, just about any honest accounting suggests that on both a per capita and absolute numbers basis, the Germans have produced far more "super-geniuses" and highly influential people than any other country:

Gutenberg, Kepler, Luther, Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, Goethe, Schiller, Diesel, Daimler, Wohler, Benz, Einstein, Hertz, Roentgen, Gauss, Ohm, Planck, Heisenberg, Siemens, Koch-- dozens of others. No other country, including countries much richer and more unified than Germany, even comes close. Some are Jewish, most Gentile but I suspect Frost is right-- there must have been some common features in the selection that took place among both Gentile Germans and Ashkenazi Jews. Certainly, this selection process over centuries makes much more sense than any half-baked a priori superior race theories.

If you look at the bios of people like Diesel, Ohm, Bach and so forth, it's striking how many of them were products of the cottage industry culture, skilled artisans with exactly the sort of incentives he describes-- and how they had large families to boot. Bach himself, didn't he have something like 17 children? So you had skilled craftsmen and proto-engineers with large numbers of offspring who increasingly were able to survive to adulthood. Something about the intellectual culture here must have selected for high achievement among both German Gentiles and Ashkenazi Jews.

Incidentally, it's fascinating how the reproductive incentives that predominate in e.g. 2007 USA, Canada and Britain are totally the opposite of the factors centuries ago that would have selected for higher intelligence and achievement. Today in these countries, intelligent and wealthy individuals are discouraged from having children by a series of factors-- the extreme length of education, societal discouragement of marriage and children. Higher costs of living and housing, the PC hatred of successful Caucasians in general.

Also the extreme financial risk that wealthy and successful men assume upon marriage due to divorce policies that essentially take away most of their wealth if a marriage doesn't work out (occasionally one of those unavoidable things). This I suspect may be an underrated but major factor in the extreme dysgenesis of places like the USA and Britain-- the extremely severe "divorce penalty" is much higher for working and affluent, highly skilled men than for others, and it both discourages marriages at the outset while making second or third marriages (and more children) financially impossible for an otherwise capable man bankrupted by a divorce.

Whereas far less economically productive and educated segments are encouraged to have children in large numbers by social circumstances. Probably a formula for the demise of nations.

David said...

"Jews appreciated precocious young people because there was no power structure for them to threaten."

C'mon. No power structure? Jewish or not, people follow the pattern remarked on by Aristotle: "Potter against potter." Of course there is politics in Jewish organizations, as in all organizations.

But interesting comment on Powers That Be tagging and eliminating smart kids. I think it happens today.

After all, what does "no child left behind" mean but "no child gets ahead"?

Matthew Dunnyveg said...

C'mon. No power structure? Jewish or not, people follow the pattern remarked on by Aristotle: "Potter against potter." Of course there is politics in Jewish organizations, as in all organizations.

No, Jews did not have a comparable political power structure. There were no large Jewish landowners or nobles who had to worry about losing their positions. Jews were, and are, hyper-ethnocentric, which means that cooperation was more important than competition. This was usually the case as long as the young person improved some component of the Jewish consensus, rather than attacking that consensus.

At least this is the way Kevin MacDonald portrays the matter. I just finished one of his books and am starting on CofC.

I would also add that one of the biggest advantages of our modern system is meritocracy. Excepting the radical egalitarians who can't stand the thought of everyone not being equal, today being bright is a definite plus.

Also, in my earlier argument on superior Jewish intelligence, another factor militating against intelligent gentiles was that so many of them became clergy in pre-modern times. And whatever else the Catholic Church may have been, it was hardly conducive to its brightest members passing on their genes.

David said...

Matthew, as you tell it, Jewish communities sound like Meadian utopias (except for dissenters, like Jesus).

I guess, having some Scots-Irish ancestry, it's a bit hard for me to wrap my head around the possibility of such significant levels of intergroup amity as you say Jews largely have.

I still believe that Jews are people and not angels - i.e., jealousies, envies, and divisive politics play a good-sized role in their communities, as these regrettable passions play a role in all human communities.

The question is would this suppress talent (inadvertently or deliberately)? Sure.

Funny: listen to Finkelstein debating Dershowitz (or any of many others). Would the Dersh give Norman a job, or vice-versa? Above that of janitor, I mean.

Anonymous said...


Also the extreme financial risk that wealthy and successful men assume upon marriage due to divorce policies that essentially take away most of their wealth if a marriage doesn't work out (occasionally one of those unavoidable things). This I suspect may be an underrated but major factor in the extreme dysgenesis of places like the USA and Britain-- the extremely severe "divorce penalty" is much higher for working and affluent, highly skilled men than for others, and it both discourages marriages at the outset while making second or third marriages (and more children) financially impossible for an otherwise capable man bankrupted by a divorce.


But don't you think that is selecting for males who more carefully choose their spouses?

pat said...

I haven't read Murry's latest work on the Jewish IQ question but it seems to me that there is very little case for ancient Jewish exceptionalism.

First of course is the fact that most ancient authors seldom spoke about IQ or brains. Tacitus, Caesar and Livy express admiration for the fighting spirit of of Celts, Germans, and Etruscans. As best I remember none of them explained Roman success as a function of greater Roman brain power. Plutarch and Polybius focused on qualities of character seldom or never focused on anything like our modern concept of intelligence.

The one exception of course is the famous passage by Vegetius where he considers why Romans dominated all the people of the earth. He raises the issue of intelligence only to dismiss it. He remarks that Romans clearly are not as intelligent as the Greeks who had been Roman vassals for centuries. He does not associate intelligence particularly with Jews. He wrote well after the First Jewish War and the Second Jewish War (sometimes called the Third Jewish War). He certainly would have known enough about the Jews to have noticed exceptionalism - but he said nothing.

Even more suggestive evidence is the failure of Josephus to comment on Jewish brain power. Certainly no one could have been in a better position to understand Roman versus Jewish characteristics. On the contrary Josephus seems to regard his fellow Jews as something very much like fools.

I believe that Jewish exceptionalism probably began in the evolutionary bottleneck of the fourteenth century. That is however another post.

Jun said...

Any explanation for high average Ashkenazi IQs has got to explain why Ashkenazi IQs are higher on verbal/mathematical ability than on visualization and visual-spatial ability (as compared to non-Ashkenazi, European scores).

Not sure Frost's explanation accounts for why this should be. The Cochran, et. al., and Murray theories seem to fit these facts better.