Monday, April 02, 2007

Charles Murray on "Jewish Genius"   posted by Darth Quixote @ 4/02/2007 08:38:00 AM
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Commentary has published an article by Charles Murray on a topic that has received much coverage here at GNXP: the high intelligence of Ashkenazi Jews (see also here, here, and here). He expands the historical and ethnic scope of the discussion in a very provocative way.

Update: Razib takes issue with Charles Murray on some points concerning historical Jewish accomplishment:

The first is the fully realized conceptualization of monotheism, expressed through one of the literary treasures of the world, the Hebrew Bible. It not only laid the foundation for three great religions but, as Thomas Cahill describes in The Gifts of the Jews (1998), introduced a way of looking at the meaning of human life and the nature of history that defines core elements of the modern sensibility. The second achievement is not often treated as a Jewish one but clearly is: Christian theology expressed through the New Testament, an accomplishment that has spilled into every aspect of Western civilization.

i am kind of confused by this (or more precisely, i think this is just wrong). we know who the church fathers who shaped christian theology were. to my knowledge, origen, athanasius, gregory of nazianzus, etc. were not christians of jewish origin. christian theology seems pretty clearly something for which the greek cultural matrix was necessary, and the prime driver. amongst the church fathers the theologians are even invariably greek speakers (latin speakers such as augustine can be considered an exception, but his work is wide ranging and not focused on theology like origen, for example). obviously the jews get some of the credit for being the source of the basic religious ideas, but, there were jews around while christian theology was being developed, but they were apart from it, and it seems that later judaism (e.g., the theology of maimonides) shows the same influence of greek philosophy after a period of acculturation.

as for the first, this is much more defensible. but, anyone who knows about the origin of judaism between the 10th and 2th centuries also knows that the influence of zoroastrian religious ideas were likely critical. so the issue is not as clear cut as charles would make it, though it is quite miraculous that an obscure people could produce a book like the hebrew bible which we cherish to this day.

Update II: Greg Cochran says:
Non-Ashkenazi Jews do not have high IQ scores today: see Lynn and David. Nor is there the slightest sign that that Jews were sharper than average in Classical times: not one single paragraph in preserved classical literature suggests that anyone had that impression. Nor did the Byzantines....

Genetic isolation is a precondition for this kind of selection and I can imagine that it happened in some Jewish group other than the Ashkenazi. The Iberian Jews, if anyone. The same is true for them having mostly urban occupations - it's a precondition. But that shift hadn't happened at all by Classical times - it began hundreds of years later and was only more-or-less complete by 800 AD. And only among the Ashkenazi was there a shift to (almost entirely) white-collar jobs. And the effects of any such selection among non-Ashkenazi Jews clearly no longer exist: look at the psychometrics and the occupation/educational pattern in Israel....

One other point: the mutations that look like boosters are mostly new (~1000 years old) as well as being confined to the Ashkenazim.

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