Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Friday, June 03, 2005

So that's why the SAT was so easy!

Unsurprisingly, three different people sent me this story:

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.
These genetic mutations, say the researchers, account not only for such icky things as Tay-Sachs, but also for nicer things, like this:
In describing what they see as the result of the Ashkenazic mutations, the researchers cite the fact that Ashkenazi Jews make up 3 percent of the American population but won 27 percent of its Nobel prizes, and account for more than half of world chess champions. They say that the reason for this unusual record may be that differences in Ashkenazic and northern European I.Q. are not large at the average, where most people fall, but become more noticeable at the extremes; for people with an I.Q. over 140, the proportion is 4 per 1,000 among northern Europeans but 23 per 1,000 with Ashkenazim.
I hate to say it, but I don't agree. As Neo-Neocon has already pointed out,
Why would a selection process (if such a process actually did occur) for smarts that would confer an advantage in business and money-lending and surviving persecution end up increasing the numbers of extreme intellectual outliers in a population, rather than just the average IQ of that population?
It seems to me that the real answer lies in the fact that, up until recently, Ashkenazi Jews were obsessed with education and with intellectual achievement. In other words, if there were bright kids amongst the average population, they were given every opportunity to exceed in that arena. Other cultures may put the same emphasis on athletic skills, cooking, or crop production. I also think that this emphasis is dying away in the American Jewish tradition. Jews have thrown in their lot with the liberal side of life, and are infinitely more concerned with self-actualization, self-realization, and a host of other self-things, all to the exclusion of the hard work (and hard knocks) necessary for academic, intellectual achievement. Of course, that hard-work vacuum is swiftly being filled by the Asians. (I don't think it's any coincidence that the top three spellers in the most recent national spelling bee were all East Asians.) I'll predict, therefore, that in 20 years, some researchers will be publishing a report stating that there is a direct correlation between Asian/East Asian intelligence and a predilection for spicy food or the use of chopsticks or lactose intolerance, or any other cultural or biological trait shared by those groups.