Hungarian Education II: Four Nobel Truths

1. Israel historically has only a moderate number of Nobels per capita

On Friday, I discussed the phenomenon of Hungarian science geniuses, and conjectured it was because of Hungary’s high concentration of Ashkenazi Jews. A commenter pointed out that Israel had an even higher concentration of Ashkenazi Jews, with less impressive results:

By this logic, Israel should have become the hotbed of geniuses. And while it’s true that there are a lot of smart people there, none of the Israeli universities are in the top 10 or maybe even in top 100. And the fraction of Nobel prize winners is not impressive, either.

The objection makes superficial sense. The list of Nobel winners per capita puts Israel at a modest tenth place, after places like Norway and the United Kingdom.

This doesn’t look promising for any Ashkenazi-Jew-based theory.

2. But their more modern numbers look much more impressive

On the other hand, that list counts total Nobels won, ever, and divides them by modern population. That gives an advantage to older countries. Norway’s been collecting Nobels since 1903; Israel wasn’t even founded until 1948. And for the first couple generations the Israelis were pretty busy starting kibbutzim, building infrastructure, fighting off enemies, et cetera. Setting up a good university system capable of churning out Nobels takes time. So Norway and the UK had an unfair head start.

I redid their analysis looking only at Nobels won since the year 2000 (because it was big and round and serves as a signal that I’m trying to avoid optional stopping). My source was this list of Nobel laureates by country, and I deferred to Wikipedia’s judgment about whether or not to count dual citizens, immigrants, et cetera. Here’s the results:

We see that during this period, Israel has by far the highest number of Nobel prizes per capita.

3. This advantage increases if we look only at Ashkenazim

The original theory was about Ashkenazi Jews in particular. Only about a third of Israels are Ashkenazi (the rest are other types of Jews, or Palestinians, or other non-Jewish minorities). If we separate out the Ashkenazim, the graph looks like this.

ISAZ is Israeli Ashkenazi Jews, considered as a separate population. On the one hand, it’s kind of unfair comparing Israel’s most successful population group to other countries taken as a whole. On the other hand, if we were to take other countries’ most successful population groups, those would be Ashkenazi Jews too, so whatever. Since Israeli Ashkenazim get about five times more Nobels per capita than any country, I’m going to consider the “what about Israel?” objection officially refuted.

4. But there’s not a lot of evidence for benefits to concentration, and other factors might be involved

One more graph:

USAZ is US Ashkenazi Jews, who get twice as many Nobels per capita as their Israeli cousins (I’m not sure how seriously to take this; the Israeli data is based on eight Nobel laureates, so there’s a lot of room for sampling issues.)

And although it’s hard for me to get exact numbers, it looks like a lot of Israeli Nobelist (maybe more than half) did their best work abroad, usually in the US.

Israel went from 1948 to 2002 without winning a single science Nobel (it did win in Literature and Peace during that time). Now it’s winning more of them – a lot more, more than any other country per capita – but mostly when its citizens go and study in foreign universities. This seems consistent with an Israeli educational system that’s still struggling to get its act together.

Does this mean that once the educational system gets its act together more fully, the ISAZ Nobel rate will approximately double to match the USAZ Nobel rate? I’m not sure.

Just from this analysis, it doesn’t look like the theory in the last post, where everyone gets benefits from concentrating closer together, is true. Israel has about ten times as many Ashkenazi Jews per capita than the US, but still does worse than they do.

These data don’t challenge the conclusion from the last post that Ashkenazim might have been responsible for Hungary’s sudden crop of great scientists. But they do potentially challenge the implicit conclusion that the education system didn’t matter that much. I’ll have more on that later this week.

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226 Responses to Hungarian Education II: Four Nobel Truths

  1. Anomaly says:

    The problem for the future of Israeli Nobel prizes is the problem all wealthy countries face: a demographic decline among those with high levels of education, high income, and/or high IQ. WHO is having children, and HOW MANY, is at least as important as whether Israeli educational opportunities begin to approach those in the US.

    • Cliff says:

      Israel is doing better here than anyone else, with a Jewish TFR of 3.0 (2.6 among non-Hasidim)

    • Tibor says:

      How is this relevant for a comparison between different countries if as you say this is a problem of all wealthy countries? By the way that statement is also not quite accurate, or at least it is far from uniform. Germany or Japan have extremely low birth rates. Germany’s birth rates are so low that supposedly you’d need an immigration of about 3,5 million every year to keep the population constant (that might not be a huge issue in Australia where people actually save money for their own retirement, but in Europe or America when we have this Ponzi scheme which depends on a steady supply of people of working age to pay for the retirement of the previous generation it becomes a big problem when the population decreases).

      The magnitude of migration is far too low to offset the effects of population aging. A United Nations study has shown that, to achieve such a result, levels of migration would have to reach levels that are both undesirable and unrealistic. In order to counter its aging population, this study found that Germany, for example, would require net immigration of 3.5 million people per year – 12 times higher than the annual average of 280,000 from the years 1991 to 2015.

      On the other hand, France does a lot better for example. Partly that can be caused by higher birth rates of French Arabs (who by and large have low levels of education and income), but that alone would not be enough. There are surprisingly detailed statistics on this (in contrast to some other countries), breaking down the births by citizenship and place of birth of the parents (even when just one parent is non-French or non-EU and even in which cases that is the farther and in which the mother). In any case, in 20 years or so France will replace Germany as the most populous country in Europe since Germany has the lowest birth rates of all European countries and France has the highest (incidentally, France is the only European country which has birth rates high enough for sustaining the current population without immigration). This also shows that it is not entirely explained by wealth either – Germany is richer than France (well, West Germany to be specific), but there are plenty countries in Europe which are poorer than France but have lower birth rates. Or rather it seems that there is simply a tipping point where having more children is not an economic necessity any more. When that is reached there seem to be other factors that influence birth rates (also note that the maternity leave is very short in France compared to Germany, usually just a couple of months which if anything should cause the birth rates to be lower).

      • Creutzer says:

        also note that the maternity leave is very short in France compared to Germany, usually just a couple of months which if anything should cause the birth rates to be lower

        France has widely available free daycare facilities and preschool, which is probably enough to more than cancel out any disadvantage it has in maternity leave.

        A wild speculation: career opportunities are worse in France than in Germany, which makes parenthood comparatively more attractive.

        • Tibor says:

          Germany also has those, they’re especially well developed in Eastern Germany sice the communists wanted women to go to work early and influence the children from infancy

      • Z says:

        What’s unfortunate is that though Germany may be bringing in immigrants to shore up their Ponzi scheme, their current policy actually exacerbates the problem. From the dod.mil’s The Future of Europe: Final Report
        , Page 144:

        Table 6.3 Total net transfers to the public sectory, by immigrant group (as % of GDP):


        Western Immigrants and their Children…………+0.13..+0.09..+0.19…+0.30

        Non-Western Immigrants and their Children…..-0.54…-0.85…-0.75…-0.84

        Page 145:

        Table 6.4 Net Contribution to Public Finances, by Immigrant Group:

        Ethnic Group……..1st generation….2nd generation….1st and 2nd Combined





        Frm. Yugoslavia….-3575…………..622………………..-3161

        By way of comparison, in the United States, National Academy of Sciences (NAS) estimated that the net fiscal drain (taxes paid minus services used) from immigrant households in 1997 was $11 to $20 billion a year. Against a US GDP of $14 trillion, this represents less than .1 percent of GDP. So Muslim immigrants in Germany and Denmark are ten times as large a drain on the state as immigrants in the United States

  2. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the early Zionist intellectuals consider diaspora Jews an unhealthily intellectual population who needed their own land so they could become farmers? After the Holocaust, this got connected to a meme that nerds were easy to kill so Jews should become jocks who are good at self-defense. So building the university system would have consciously been a low priority?

    • Steve Sailer says:

      I live in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. The many Israelis who have moved in since about 1980 tend to be more blue-collar in affect than most of the American Jews I grew up around. I presume that’s because the founding Zionists wanted Israelis to act like they were citizens of a “normal country” with lots of farmers, ditchdiggers, soldiers, and other jobs that European and American Jews seldom did.

      • Virbie says:

        Huh, that’s pretty interesting to hear. I grew up in the 90s and 00s in both Beverly Hills and the San Fernando Valley, and my middle and high schools were about 80% Jewish. The handful of them who were Israeli were definitely more brusque than all the ones who were American Jewish (note that my sample was largely from expensive private schools).

        I’ve also noticed this of the Israelis I’ve traveled with or met in Israel, and had mostly chalked it up to differences in cultural norms without thinking about why that might be.

    • vV_Vv says:

      Lots of Jews who migrated to Israel did it for financial reasons, since the government used to offer essentially free land and various subsides. Early Israel was highly focused on agriculture.

      This probably selected for less intellectual and less wealthy Jews, even among the Ashkenazim, which might perhaps explain why the Israeli Ashkenazim underperform the American ones in terms of Nobel prizes (though data is too sparse to draw a solid conclusion).

      Anyway, we know that there are population-wide generational changes of IQ and testosterone level caused by environmental mechanisms that are still not well understood. Maybe the Israeli environment (climate? food? nearly constant war?) caused the Israeli Jews to become less smart and more warrior-like, while the American (and historically German and Hungarian) Jews, due to their peculiar social role or genetic predisposition, got an amplified Flynn effect and testosterone decline.

      (Are IQ and testosterone causally related, anyway?)

      • Deiseach says:

        Certainly Chesterton, in his 1920 book “The New Jerusalem”*, considered this a test of the success or failure of Zionism:

        The true test of Zionism may seem a topsy-turvy test. It will not succeed by the number of successes, but rather by the number of failures, or what the world (and certainly not least the Jewish world) has generally called failures. It will be tested, not by whether Jews can climb to the top of the ladder, but by whether Jews can remain at the bottom; not by whether they have a hundred arts of becoming important, but by whether they have any skill in the art of remaining insignificant. It is often noted that the intelligent Israelite can rise to positions of power and trust outside Israel, like Witte in Russia or Rufus Isaacs in England. It is generally bad, I think, for their adopted country; but in any case it is no good for the particular problem of their own country. Palestine cannot have a population of Prime Ministers and Chief Justices; and if those they rule and judge are not Jews, then we have not established a commonwealth but only an oligarchy. It is said again that the ancient Jews turned their enemies into hewers of wood and drawers of water. The modern Jews have to turn themselves into hewers of wood and drawers of water. If they cannot do that, they cannot turn themselves into citizens, but only into a kind of alien bureaucrats, of all kinds the most perilous and the most imperilled. Hence a Jewish state will not be a success when the Jews in it are successful, or even when the Jews in it are statesmen. It will be a success when the Jews in it are scavengers, when the Jews in it are sweeps, when they are dockers and ditchers and porters and hodmen. When the Zionist can point proudly to a Jewish navvy who has not risen in the world, an under-gardener who is not now taking his ease as an upper-gardener, a yokel who is still a yokel, or even a village idiot at least sufficiently idiotic to remain in his village, then indeed the world will come to blow the trumpets and lift up the heads of the everlasting gates; for God will have turned the captivity of Zion.

        Zionists of whose sincerity I am personally convinced, and of whose intelligence anybody would be convinced, have told me that there really is, in places like Rishon, something like a beginning of this spirit; the love of the peasant for his land. One lady, even in expressing her conviction of it, called it “this very un-Jewish characteristic.” She was perfectly well aware both of the need of it in the Jewish land, and the lack of it in the Jewish race. In short she was well aware of the truth of that seemingly topsy-turvy test I have suggested; that of whether men are worthy to be drudges. When a humorous and humane Jew thus accepts the test, and honestly expects the Jewish people to pass it, then I think the claim is very serious indeed, and one not lightly to be set aside. I do certainly think it a very serious responsibility under the circumstances to set it altogether aside. It is our whole complaint against the Jew that he does not till the soil or toil with the spade; it is very hard on him to refuse him if he really says, “Give me a soil and I will till it; give me a spade and I will use it.” It is our whole reason for distrusting him that he cannot really love any of the lands in which he wanders; it seems rather indefensible to be deaf to him if he really says, “Give me a land and I will love it.”

        *I can’t recommend this book except as a historical curiosity, or as a source document for the sentiments that were astir in Europe at the time, even amongst otherwise educated and sensible people, and which can’t really be described as other than anti-Semitic (and I’m sorry, G.K. – deny it as you will, it is anti-Semitism. You have some points, but there is a lot of plain ignorance which a little work in digging into the history would have shown you, but you preferred to shut your eyes and let the stereotypes make your point for you).

        • CarlosRamirez says:

          You have some points, but there is a lot of plain ignorance which a little work in digging into the history would have shown you

          What are these things that Chesterton was ignorant about? It’s too easy to claim he was ignorant without elaborating how exactly.

      • quaelegit says:

        Before 1948 there were enough political hurdles in the way of getting to Palestine that immigration was definitely selecting for intelligence (or wealth or influence, which tend to correlate…)

        I don’t know the history post 1948 too well though. And I suppose a lot more people came after 1948 than before…

  3. AnonYEmous says:

    so is this just the pro-semite version of Horrible Banned Discourse?

    my personal opinion, if I’m giving it, is that only Ashkenazi Jews seem to have had the kind of evolutionary pressures to actually elevate them in terms of intelligence; it doesn’t seem as though there was much more benefit to being intelligence as a European or Russian as opposed to African or South American. Though that does leave room for personality-type racial differences.

    and of course, as a person at least partly ashkenazi jewish, I have every reason to believe this theory. Pretty sure that applies to Scott too.

    But seriously, isn’t this just basically proof of racial differences? Like, you can say it’s just “cool statistics” or whatever, but after a certain point you have to wonder what kind of other environmental factors could cause this, and so consistently too.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Wasn’t the standard discourse in pre1950s physical anthropology/”scientific racism”/whatever the correct term that whites and East Asians were smarter than Africans because it took more intelligence to survive and rear children to adulthood in the cold North than in the tropical paradise where our ancestors first became H. sapiens?

      • Besserwisser says:

        Sounds like pretty bs to me. I don’t know why intelligence would be a characteristic which is especially useful in cold environments. Even if they were tougher, what use is your brain once you know how to make clothes and fire? This isn’t something you need to reinvent every couple years later with massive reproductive benefits for the guy figuring it out, it goes from generation to generation with incremental changes. Does somebody know what the exact justifications for that were?

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          “What use is your brain once you know how to make clothes and fire?”

          For survival purposes? I’d think not much. The steelman for this position would be that they were proposing enough selection pressure right after the non-African H. sapiens wandered into their first cold environment, such as Anatolia, to skew their IQ up.
          It still seems a poor explanation for IQ difference between populations.

          • Debug says:

            I don’t think it is likely to be the case that the selection pressure on non-African Homo Sapiens in cold environments is sufficient to create the IQ difference between populations. If you look at arctic hunter-gatherer populations supposedly they have higher IQs but they’re not at the level of agricultural populations. I suspect that there must have been a separate selection pressure explaining the IQ difference between agricultural and non-agricultural populations.

            One possibility would be that discussed by Gregory Clarke in a Farewell to Alms – namely agricultural societies create malthusian conditions and under these conditions the richest have higher fertility rates and the poorest have below replacement fertility rates. Over time the offspring of the richest flow down to inherit the land lost by the poorest and over many generations this could select for more intelligent populations.

        • nelshoy says:

          To outsmart your fellow tribesman?

        • ilkarnal says:

          In hot and wet climates things rot. Hard to save food. Less need to save food, too. Planning and working hard for the sake of the future, not as selected for.

          Saving food also allows more complex societies based on ‘paying your dues’ to some community or lord, rather than every man for himself. Taxes were originally in grain.

          Then there’s the reality of genetic pleitropy. That’s part of the Ashkenazi story – they may have all sorts of adaptations that increase their intelligence but also do something else that’s bad. We notice the ones that do things that are really life-changingly bad, might not notice more minor trade-offs. Something that just makes you smarter and does nothing else might be selected for – though not necessarily, more on that later – but genetics is messy spaghetti code and changing one thing usually changes another.

          In the tropics, as is noted upthread, it isn’t actually easier to survive. There are tons of diseases, and very dangerous and competitive macrofauna. The competition between humans is more vicious and freewheeling without the influence of lords who have an incentive to collect taxes, and without people being bound to a certain strip of land. Something that made someone in the tropics smarter but a little more timid – and by the way it’s not impossible that being smarter in and of itself makes you more timid, that would certainly fit with what we observe – might just be a non-starter. Same with something that made them a smarter but a little more feeble in early childhood.

          I would say that civilization gives you some legroom in terms of how you develop, and this can lead to much greater intelligence or not. There are no hunter-gatherer populations with high intelligence. There is pretty wide variation within populations that have been civilized, so we know it doesn’t have to lead to super-geniuses.

          • Besserwisser says:

            In hot AND dry climates things rot. Africa is hot for the most part but there are plenty of areas where water is pretty scarce. People still lived there, presumedly having similar experiences in relation to preserving, storing and distributing food as Europeans did. This makes an European/African divide rather arbitrary, though I’m not sure that’s what you are arguing.

          • ilkarnal says:

            The drier parts of Africa do seem to be populated by higher IQ peoples. North Africans tend to outperform sub-saharan Africans, though that distinction is not absolute. Glomming all Africans together is sort of arbitrary, given the significant difference between MENA populations and subsaharan africa. However, no population on the African continent is particularly close to, say, Chinese or Japanese IQ averages.

            People still lived there, presumedly having similar experiences in relation to preserving, storing and distributing food as Europeans did.

            What’s behind this presumption? There’s no harsh winter in these areas. You don’t have this long freezing period you need to prepare for – not just by stockpiling food for yourself, but also fuel for the fires that keep you warm.

          • Besserwisser says:

            What about the countries in the Sahel zone? That’s really dry and part of sub-saharan. There are other places but that’s the one that comes to my mind. Also, the climates in the south of Japan and China tend to be similar to North Africa, making a linear correlation between IQ and climate very dubious. Especially since the differences tend to make it more important for North Africans to store food because of the dry periods in the summer.

            Food storage also tends to occur as a prevention for poor harvest, which certainly can occur in Africa. I remember a part of the bible where the Egyptians were advised to store food for a bad year because of some dream predictions*. Speaking of Egyptians, they had one of the oldest cultures in the world, certainly did stuff like stockpiling food and really complicated stuff like architecture or administration. Yet, they somehow can’t hold a candle to the Chinese or Japanese. What gives?

            * Or rather I remember a movie about it.

          • ChetC3 says:

            Also, the climates in the south of Japan and China tend to be similar to North Africa, making a linear correlation between IQ and climate very dubious.

            And for the last thousand odd years, it’s the Chinese living in the tropical south who’ve been stereotyped as the smart ones.

          • Nornagest says:

            The lower-lying parts of the Horn of Africa (Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti) are pretty dry; Ethiopia’s wetter, but most of it is also much higher in elevation, so more temperate. Southwestern Africa (Namibia, Botswana, parts of South Africa) is pretty arid too.

          • Aapje says:


            ‘Hot and dry’ is in itself a way to preserve food, in fact, the earliest form of food preservation was probably drying. This process can be improved upon by curing.

        • Z says:

          what use is your brain once you know how to make clothes and fire

          I’m not sure about hunter-gatherer times, but once agriculture took hold in the north, it took much more than fire and clothes for you and your children to survive winters consistently. If you didn’t spend all spring and summer preparing, come winter you’d all starve. And that’s in a good year. You actually had to prepare enough of a surplus or work out a community arrangement to keep you and your family from dying if you got drought/famine in the warm months.

          Without long-term planning and teamwork, you and your family were dead.

          If you’re descended from northerners, that means your ancestors went for at least a few thousand years of planning and working with others well enough to mitigate several bad years and not just survive, but ensure their families survived well enough to repeat the process.

          How does IQ play into planning and teamwork? See:
          * Individual Differences in Delay Discounting: Relation to Intelligence, Working Memory, and Anterior Prefrontal Cortex
          * The Cognitive Underpinnings of Effective Teamwork: A Meta-Analysis
          * Are Smarter Groups More Cooperative? Evidence from Prisoner’s Dilemma Experiments, 1959-2003

          Other than that, going by the study and graph vuzqk posted below, societal structure applied selection pressure much differently hundreds of years ago than it does now.

          • biblicalsausage says:

            And it’s not just that you have to make a surplus. You have to store the surplus in such a way that it does not spoil, does not get taken by animals, and does not get taken by people. In a Malthusian world, keeping hungry people from taking your food is an interesting problem in and of itself. If you do run a shortfall because something goes wrong, you have to improvise: find more food during a season not well suited to the task, talk somebody out of their food, etc. All of things goals represent opportunities to screw up. And an opportunity to screw up is a test, a test which where failure correlates with lower IQ. Failure (at anything that’s ever been tested) almost always has a negative correlation with IQ: car accidents, odds of getting arrested, you name it.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Even if they were tougher, what use is your brain once you know how to make clothes and fire?

          Intelligence is not just for making civilization-changing groundbreaking inventions. It is mostly for making smart decision in your daily life, which may not make a huge impact individually, but add up over time.

          In a harsh environment, being more able to efficiently manage your scarce resources, plan your hunting and gathering trips, negotiate, forge alliances and resolve conflicts with other people without using violence, could make a large difference in terms of survival for you and your children.

          One of the most obvious differences between the African and Eurasian environment is that in Eurasia there larger seasonal differences, which force you to plan accordingly, while in the African plains the differences are less severe, and if you just follow the migration of the large herbivores you will have a relatively steady (for paleolithic times) supply of food.

      • summer says:

        the actual incorrectness about that discourse (among the vast many) is that its not actually easier to live in africa/tropical places than it is to live in the North. Disease + Natural Disasters more than makes up the difference in level of plant growth, and that’s not even considering that soil quality (and thus ease of agriculture) dont align with latitude, because of course they don’t, theyre mostly choatic, while still following rough patterns (like the existence of horse latitudes)

        • MawBTS says:

          Disease doesn’t impose a strong selective pressure for intelligence (or at least it didn’t historically). Plasmodium falciparum doesn’t give you an IQ test before it infects you.

          Lots of people die in the tropics, but that in itself doesn’t do anything for intelligence. You need the dead people to be stupider than the people who survive.

          • Debug says:

            Something I’ve been thinking about (and is based off Dr. Cochran’s speculation about Ashkenazi Jewish longevity and how it may relate to reduction in genetic load) is how increased population densities of agricultural societies – due to the increased disease burden – could have selected for reduced genetic load.

            Imagine you have a common class of diseases – ideally rare mutations emerge that protect you against that common class of diseases. Now – in agricultural societies – you have sufficient population densities for new infectious diseases to emerge and you have a variety of infectious diseases that emerge over time. Rare mutations are one method to make yourself more resilient against disease but reducing mutational load also seems like a possible pathway to improved fitness. Those with the least sand in the gears might be best prepared to survive in the new agricultural world. The increased population density of agriculture might also give you large enough populations to begin shedding mutational load. Those with the most load on average die off – population rebounds – disease re-emerges – those with the most load die off again – cycle repeats.

            So – in perhaps a rather round-about way – maybe disease could select for intelligence if high disease burden selected for reduced genetic load. It is plausible? No idea.

          • James Miller says:


            Higher genetic load (I prefer the term mutational load) probably hurts you in all ways, but does it do more relative harm to your disease resistance or brain?

          • Debug says:

            James Miller,

            I agree that mutational load – due to there being far more genes connected to intelligence – certainly is more likely to hurt the brain then the immune system. Hence I lean towards the probability of my idea having any merit being quite low (Perhaps I should have made that clearer). However, I’ve seen infant mortality posited as one mechanism for shedding mutational load in humans. People have expressed concern about relaxed selection – such as when quebec was colonized but it doesn’t seem much has came from it (At least in terms of affecting intelligence).

          • baconbacon says:

            Disease doesn’t impose a strong selective pressure for intelligence (or at least it didn’t historically). Plasmodium falciparum doesn’t give you an IQ test before it infects you.

            Lots of people die in the tropics, but that in itself doesn’t do anything for intelligence. You need the dead people to be stupider than the people who survive.

            Nutrition (and general health) are often strongly correlated with being able to survive pathogens. If intelligence gave you any advantage in acquiring food then many diseases would de facto select for intelligence.

        • ilkarnal says:

          It’s not technically ‘easier’ to live anywhere with the population at Malthusian limit. Is life more uncomplicated when food grows year round and you can’t save it up even if you wanted to? Yes.

          Do you have as much evolutionary wiggle room when the land is riddled with horrifying diseases and very competitive, well-adapted to humans macrofauna? No.

        • Eponymous says:

          the actual incorrectness about that discourse (among the vast many) is that its not actually easier to live in africa/tropical places than it is to live in the North.

          The question isn’t whether it’s “easier” to live in one place or another. Eventually living children per person has to be 2, so all places have to be equally “easy” to live in in equilibrium. So there’s always evolutionary pressure, and as a result there’s always selection towards something.

          The question is whether intelligence is relatively more useful (compared to other things we could be selecting for) in cold climates than hot.

          For example, maybe in hot climates it’s important to be a strong and fast hunter, since there are many animals and food doesn’t keep; while in cold climates, it’s important to be a wise long-range planner, because you have to store up for the harsh winter. Or maybe in a warmer climate you tend to move around a lot (following the herds), while in a colder climate you tend to settle down around good shelter.

          (I don’t necessarily buy the latitude argument; just trying to steelman it a bit.)

      • baconbacon says:

        Wasn’t the standard discourse in pre1950s physical anthropology/”scientific racism”/whatever the correct term that whites and East Asians were smarter than Africans because it took more intelligence to survive and rear children to adulthood in the cold North than in the tropical paradise where our ancestors first became H. sapiens?

        The minor quibble is that Africa is slightly larger than the lower 48, India, China, Japan, Spain, France, Germany and the UK combined. You can get from Maine to Florida by traveling ~1,300 miles, Africa is 5,000 miles long. To steal from Douglas Adams, you might think it is a long way down to the chemist, but that is just peanuts compared to Africa.

        Treating a massive continent as if it was an evenly distributed tropical paradise is the major hole in this (and many) simplistic theories about how and why human culture spread. Ethiopia is mostly highlands with substantially cooler and dryer climate than what people envision when they talk about a tropical paradise, and is afflicted by wet/dry seasons where food is not uniformly accessible. Egypt has this large agricultural potential along that little river called the Nile, and the UN recognized 54 different countries in Africa. Look at them individually and you wont see a tropical paradise with food dangling from trees requiring no more intelligence than that of a child to survive.

        Another quibble is that selection happens at the individual level. Even if there was such a paradise you would eventually hit carrying capacity* and there would be major evolutionary benefits for anyone who was capable of living on the fringes as their offspring could do well in either environment.

        *carrying capacity is also misleading as it conjures up images of a population hitting X people and then birth/death replacement which is very far from the actual dynamics of what happens.

        • Progressive Reformation says:

          My impression of this whole discussion is that the various explanations of Europe-vs.-Africa environmental selection pressure differences is that some explanations seem plausible (necessity of saving food, necessity of committing to well-built permanent shelter) but until we know more they retain the flavor of just-so stories.

          There are other issues, of course. The world is much more than just Europe and Africa. What about India? East Asia? North America? South America? North America resembles Europe far more than it does Africa. In fact, in North America, we see the opposite trend – the most complex civilizations are in the hotter climates, rather than the temperate and colder ones. So other factors are probably at play here.

          • ChetC3 says:

            Even in Europe, the north being richer and more advanced is a phenomenon that only emerges in the last 1000 years or so.

    • Besserwisser says:

      The thing with grouping Europeans or Africans or Americans, as you kind of implied but didn’t outright stated, is they weren’t persecuted minorities but full-fledged societies which needed people of all kinds of dispositions. Most were hunter-gatheres at some point and farmers after that, with precious few taking on other roles. Divisions probably happened more based on class than on geographical area, with nobles marrying nobles and all that jazz. This also opens up questions about genotypes of other persecuted minorities.

    • Murphy says:

      I strongly doubt that the IQ difference is very much attributable to a couple thousand years of slightly stronger selective pressure. I think Scott is not correct on that score.

      People fail to appreciate how long it takes for even much stronger selective pressure to make notable changes.

      A much more likely explanation is founder effects: Ashkenazi Jews are descended from a very small group and exhibits excessive consanguinity and as a group marry out far less than many other jewish groups. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14742164)

      The reproductive biologist Jack Cohen talked about it in an article on infidelity: how as a group it was unusual in that even when there was marital infidelity the cheating partner tended to “cheat upwards” with a member of their own group.

      I’ve not run the math on how strong the selective pressure would have to be but my feel for numbers is screaming at me that the effect is orders of magnitude too strong. So much more likely, as with a number of other populations with unusual traits it’s likely that the small founding population had, by chance a number of IQ-boosting genetic conditions which probably remained at a fairly similar frequency in the Ashkenazi population but in raw-numbers dramatically boosted the number of carriers with selection playing a very small role.

      • alchemy29 says:

        People fail to appreciate how long it takes for even much stronger selective pressure to make notable changes.

        Do tell, what are the selection pressures and number of generations that would lead to a 1 s.d. shift? That should be a math question rather than a biological one (as long as we restrict the range of IQ to known variation), however, it’s beyond my ability.

      • >People fail to appreciate how long it takes for even much stronger selective pressure to make notable changes.

        You ever notice how smart parents tend to have smart kids. And if those smart kids also find other smart people to mate with, those kids tend to be pretty smart? How is this basic observation not contrary to this idea that selective pressures take thousands of years?

        • summer says:

          if what is being discussed here is the kind of arguments eugenicists like to use, maybe we should be a little more rigorous than evidence so anecdotal it doesnt even bother with a specific example

        • rlms says:

          Right, so presuming everyone has the same number of children and does so with someone of their own intelligence, the distribution of intelligence stays exactly the same between generations.

          • Anonymous says:

            In an ideal case, yes. In real-world circumstances, according to Clark’s The Son Also Rises, it drops a bit every generation, getting closer to the mean asymptotically (IIRC, something like 10-40% of the distance to the mean every generation).

          • Debug says:

            The reason this can’t practically happen (as of right now – in the ideal case) is because the observed phenotype doesn’t correlate perfectly with the underlying genotype. Let’s say you assume intelligence is something like: Y = A + B + C + D where A where narrow-sense heritability (assume 0.7), B is epistatic/dominance effects (assume 0.1), C is shared environment (assume 0) and D is non-shared environment (assume 0.2).

            Now – let’s assume each person in the society mated with everyone of the same intelligence as them. As of now we can’t observe the underlying genotype – we choose our mates based off observed phenotypes. Some people will have gotten more lucky then average in the B and D term above but that term will not be passed on to their offspring. Two people who got lucky on their B and D terms mate and will end up with children lower then you’d expect from their phenotypic average. Likewise, imagine you have a nobleman who got unlucky in his B and D terms. He ends up the black sheep of the family but if he has offspring they will be higher then expected from his phenotypic intelligence. This is why – over the long run – social mobility rates are relatively stable but can be quite unstable over short periods of time.

            The above throws a wrench in the gears of assortative mating and is why you see slow regression towards the mean as described in Clark’s The Son Also Rises. The imperfect correlation between genotype and phenotype causes mixing across many generations and this dilution effect results in regression towards the mean.

          • rlms says:

            I think we are in violent agreement. My point was that Nikolai’s argument is missing the assumption that high intelligence leads to more children (or some similar factor). Even 100% heritability of intelligence doesn’t imply fast selection by itself, you need some pressure factor as well.

      • JohnWittle says:

        You are discounting the fact that the genes for intelligence already existed in the population, which means Evolution did not have to create them from scratch. Ordinarily those genes had negative net effects on reproductive fitness, because of the genetic diseases that went along with them, but in a population selected for intelligence it wouldn’t take very many generations at all for evolution to select for the *already-existing* genes that provided intelligence

        • Murphy says:

          Those genes existed in the general population. If they’re net advantageous then they should be undergoing positive selection bias in the general population too.

          • Enkidum says:

            Not if the selection biases differ between the sub-population and the population as a whole, which is what the Ashkenazi superintelligence theory specifically argues.

      • MawBTS says:

        For a +1 SD shift over 1000 years, you’d need to add about a third of a point per generation. That doesn’t seem implausible to me.

        • Murphy says:

          Chickens can take < 4 months per generation. Human closer to 20 to 25 years.

          So in human generations that's closer to 3600 years.

          Add in that with chickens they're being ruthlessly selected by an intelligent set of controllers for the desired traits. If you put humans in a pen for 3600 years and every generation forced them to breed almost constantly and ruthlessly murdered the 90% of the children who scored lowest according to your criteria then yes: we could make similarly dramatic changes.

          but that's not how the real world works. On average eventually, sure. But it's nowhere near as fast/pure as with an intelligent controller. Without an intelligent controller selection effects are much much much more watered down.

          Sometimes an entire family of super-geniuses get their faces murdered off while the dimwit next door spreads their genes far and wide after spending everything on lottery tickets. .

          • Anonymous says:

            Chickens can take < 4 months per generation. Human closer to 20 to 25 years.

            So in human generations that's closer to 3600 years.

            Meaning what, that it would take that long to purposefully breed a useful population of humans (rather than, like, one or two) with IQs in the 400s? (For what it’s worth, I would expect them to also be bred for short time to sexual maturity, for acceleration purposes.)

          • Murphy says:


            Meaning if you want to shift the average significantly in any direction.

            If you just want to increase the variance then that’s another issue but the claim is that the ~1sd difference between the average for Ashkenazi jews and the general population is down to selective pressure. I believe it’s vastly more likely to be almost entirely due to founder effects.

            Put another way: I’d expect if you went back in time and sampled a representative fraction of the Ashkenazi population 1500 years ago then my bet is that you’d find they were already 1 sd above the general population.

            I’m sure you could breed humans intentionally to similar ends in under 3000 years, if you were willing to murder enough children you could probably create a population with an even higher average IQ but that hits the hurdle of being horrifically unethical.

          • bbartlog says:

            You know, this problem is actually amenable to quantitative analysis. It’s not necessary to apply your intuition to the problem of how long it should take to select for greater intelligence (and I advise against it because your intuition here is horribly wrong).
            I posted in the previous thread on this. If you have parents with 120+ IQ having four children, those with 80- IQ having none, and everyone else between with a statistically linear distribution, you gain more than one IQ point per generation. You don’t need to murder 90% of anybody and you don’t need 3600 years, unless you’re trying to breed intelligence completely alien to what we have today.

          • alchemy29 says:


            I’ve done the relevant math (I posted it in another comment) – it’s quite trivial to shift the average a few points with only minor selection pressure. If there is an error, then show the correct math

      • baconbacon says:

        People fail to appreciate how long it takes for even much stronger selective pressure to make notable changes.

        It depends on your assumptions about population dynamics. If the general population is growing at 0.2% a year and one sub group is growing at 0.21% it will take a long time for that subgroup to influence the larger group. If the general population spends a few years shrinking even slowly while that subgroup manages to grow then it will happen much more quickly.

        In fact you can get the founder effect by tossing in random bottlenecks in your model, where large chunks of the population die off in a non random way, and this will accelerate the distribution of specific genes. It is not at all implausible that a 2-300 year stretch with several particularly bad winters which were survived by one portion of the population over another could lead to a notable phenotypic shift.

        The other, random, note I want to make is that while everyone wants to discuss why certain subgroups might be geniuses or super geniuses, they rarely start from the appropriate point of recognizing that basically all human groups are super geniuses when compared to other animals. A 90 IQ population are likely Einstein’s compared with even our own direct genetic lineage.

        • Murphy says:

          I agree but there doesn’t appear to be evidence of multiple very tight bottlenecks for the Ashkenazi population.

          It tends to be more stark in immunology since plagues can regularly wipe out large fractions of the young population. Even then, 800 years of smallpox killing of large fractions of the population before they could breed and inflicting various health problems… still alleles that confer partial resistance ended up being carried by only ~10% ,give or take, of the population. Selective pressure like that could do it but I just don’t think the progeny death rate for being a slightly bellow average Ashkenazi vs the progeny death rate for being above average is enough.

      • alchemy29 says:

        Alright I figured out how to do the math. If you assume random mating, and a selection pressure increasing the fertility of people with IQ>100 by 10% and decreasing the fertility of people with IQ<100 by 10% then the next generation will have an average IQ of 101.19*. Apply regression to the mean and you end up with about 100.6. At around 0.6 points per generation, you'll get there in 25 generations* which should be less than 1000 years. I wouldn't call that an extreme selection pressure would you?

        Of course a founder effect could be at play as well, but there is nothing mathematically problematic with shifting the IQ of a population up by 1 s.d. in a thousand years.

        *You just break the Gaussian distribution to two parts, multiply them by the appropriate factors, find the means then do a weighted average. I could do a fancier selection – which gives a linear benefit to IQ say, but that's kind of messy and I think this gets the point across.

        *I'm well aware that this shrinks the s.d. which makes each round of selection less potent, but the actual number should be in the same ballpark.

        • bbartlog says:

          Yes, and that’s fairly weak selection on IQ. Historically selection has been a lot stronger than that in terms of observed differences in reproductive success, though of course the question is how much of that difference is then due to differences in intelligence. I mean, half the men of each generation failed to leave any children in many places.

        • Murphy says:

          I’m still a tad leery of this: if slightly higher IQ could give that large a real world reproductive advantage then there would have to be something special happening to the rest of the general population to keep IQ down equivalent to a plague which kills only smart people every few generations.

          A 20% advantage sounds small but really isn’t.

          • John Schilling says:

            ….equivalent to a plague which kills only smart people every few generations.

            Wouldn’t that be the Gaucher’s Disease, Tay-Sachs Disease, torsion dystonia, Riley-Day syndrome, et cetera, of the original post?

            The hypothesis at hand is that evolution “favored” the Ashkenazi with marginally higher IQ at the expense of hugely increased risk of a broad range of horrible diseases, which is only advantageous in environments where the penalty for insufficient smartness is particularly severe.

          • baconbacon says:

            The more complicated a trait is genetically the harder it is to pass down. Two blue eyed people won’t have their kids regress to the brown eyed mean. For extremely complex traits like intelligence (appearing to be influenced by dozens of genes and the combination of genes are possibly important, not just total smart genes), you need what almost amounts to inbreeding to consistently raise the IQ level.

    • albatross11 says:

      I think it demonstrates that Eastern European Jews have done really spectacularly well in intellectual pursuits in the last century or two–something you could notice from a lot of other evidence. But it doesn’t tell you where their extraordinary performance comes from, which could be any mixture of genes, culture, or just being in the right place at the right time.

      • JulieK says:

        Culture (or economic status) clearly plays a role, as shown in the increase in Israeli Nobels from to 20th century to the 21st, without any corresponding change in Israeli genes.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Zionist leaders tried hard to mold Israel’s people into the opposite of the old Jewish stereotypes of scholarly, scientific, and good at white collar businesses.

          They largely succeeded in the 20th Century.

          But in the 21st Century, Israel is turning out to be full of scientists and business moguls.

      • The Nybbler says:

        But it doesn’t tell you where their extraordinary performance comes from, which could be any mixture of genes, culture, or just being in the right place at the right time.

        If the Jews move, the performance comes with them. If the Jews become secularized, the performance follows them. Culture has an inhibiting effect; you can suppress the performance that way, e.g. you don’t see Haredi Nobel prize winners. But it doesn’t seem to be the initial cause.

    • Riothamus says:

      But seriously, isn’t this just basically proof of racial differences?

      No, and I am curious why people insist on making this flying leap of generalization all the time. That it is necessary to distinguish between Ashkenazim and other Jewish groups would seem to have ruled that interpretation out before the question was even asked.

      Genes track by breeding populations, and races are not breeding populations.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Generally it is true that races are not breeding populations. People get a Darwinian reward for exogamy. There are exceptions: Australian aborigines and Polynesians were isolated populations. In the case of Jews, those who practiced exogamy would cease to be counted as Jews. Such a race would only be a social construct with no genetic basis if they were receiving converts, for which no Christian would have an incentive until after the founding of the United States and the French Revolution.
        So what percentage of modern Jews are converts?

      • Steve Sailer says:

        A racial group is an extended family that is partly inbred.

        The Ashkenazi have been fairly endogamous over the last few dozen generations, enough time for some genetic variants to undergo some degree of selection.

      • ilkarnal says:

        Races are mostly endogamous populations that are fuzzy around the edges. Does a greyhound-wolfhound cross bring into question the existence of mostly separate breeding pools of greyhounds and wolfhounds? Ashkenazim weren’t breeding with other kinds of Jews for a very long time.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          The U.S. has a very important law called the Endangered Species Act that plays a huge role in what real estate developments and the like are allowed to be constructed.

          And yet the concept of “species” remains surprisingly fuzzy among scientists, with a couple of dozen competing definitions.

          For example, the EPA spends a fair amount of money to protect the Red Wolf, which appears to be a hybrid of wolves and coyotes, by neutering coyotes to keep them from breeding with Red Wolves.

          I had lunch once with a man who had built the most expensive golf course in California. (His golf course later went broke and he sold it to Donald Trump.) A huge issue for building the course was whether or not the rare California gnatcatcher bird that lived on the grounds was a separate endangered species or whether it was just a local race of the common Baja gnatcatcher. He decided to assume it was an endangered species and build his course around the bird, but that made the course less enjoyable for golfers, which contributed to its financial troubles.

          So if it’s not all that clear, even with billions of dollars on the line in lawsuits, what a species is exactly, it’s not surprising that race is even fuzzier. And yet the government cares a lot about races.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            it’s not surprising that race is even fuzzier. And yet the government cares a lot about races.

            It always seems like an isolated demand for rigor. Talking about intelligence? “Race isn’t real/just a social construct.” Talking about susceptibility to different diseases? Of course blacks have higher risk of sickle cell anemia, that’s just science. Talking about left-wing activism? Well no one ever makes you say “The Social Construct Describing a Population of Individuals of Recent African Descent Lives Matter!”

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Right. It’s hilariously one-sided. For example, Ta-Nehisi Coates is always calling white people “people who think they are white,” while blacks (who tend to be vastly more mixed race in America than whites) are “black bodies.”

      • AnonYEmous says:

        That it is necessary to distinguish between Ashkenazim and other Jewish groups would seem to have ruled that interpretation out before the question was even asked.


        ‘jewish’ is a religion. Isn’t it obvious that different groups of a religion can be ethnically different? What are you even talking about?

        • Riothamus says:

          Unless you are asserting that Ashkenazi is a racial category, it seems like you would agree there is nothing that can be said of their genetics that would lead one to interpret it as evidence of racial differences.

          The point is the question of race is wholly irrelevant.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Ashenazis had been highly endogamous for over 1000 years, so, yeah, they are a kind of racial group. If you send your saliva to 23andMe, they’ll estimate for you what percent Ashkenazi your ancestors were.

    • Tibor says:

      and of course, as a person at least partly ashkenazi jewish, I have every reason to believe this theory. Pretty sure that applies to Scott too.

      I’m not sure that’s the case. You can (inaccurately) measure your intelligence directly, hence the fact that you have some Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, even if Ashkenazi Jews are on average smarter than other ethnicities, does not mean much about you so I don’t see such a big incentive to believe that – unless you somehow identify with Ashkenazi Jews and want your tribe (literally this time) to be the best tribe. But if you’re like me and have something like 1/8 Jewish ancestry then it is rather ridiculous to identify yourself with that group anyway.

      Also, I don’t think that Scott bans discussion about ethnic differences in intelligence, he just bans a use of specific words because he was threatened by some bigots and because he wants to limit the influx of people to this forum who are interested in that topic for let’s say less academic or thruth-seeking reasons (the “witches” in Scott’s words).

      It should also be noted that here you seem to have a lot stronger case for major differences than in other populations and in a sense an accidental “eugenics” program going on over the middle ages. In this, it seems to be rather unique.

      I always found it funny that people would discriminate a group by allowing them to only do the high status professions 🙂 But I suppose that in the mind of a Christian in medieval Europe, doctors were just sharlatans (since they mostly were) and lending money was of course a sin, whereas status was by and large something you either were born into or not.

  4. Wander says:

    As you mentioned just at the end there, they were getting other categories, just not science. What does breaking down Nobels by other categories show? Are there any patterns there as well?

    Also, very interesting to see Switzerland having so many historic Nobels! The Swiss tend to be a pretty bright bunch, but they also have a very high number of foreigners living there. How many of those winners were native born Swiss, I wonder?

  5. Murphy says:

    There’s some more sampling ho-ha that complicated it further. realistic potential nobel winners are few and far between in any population. In academia they’re likely to be the kind of people who can work almost anywhere.

    If you’re one of the best in your field and can pretty much go where you like do you hang out in Cambridge, MIT, Harvard, Stanford etc or do you hang out in a rank 150 israeli university early-ish in your career?

    There can be a tremendous appeal to working in a university that already has a notable population of nobel laureates and where notable methods used across the field were invented by “Bill down the hall on the left”

    So the US and UK I think may get more far more nobels than they would otherwise simply because they’ve built some of the grandest institutions.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Michael Lewis’s recent book on Israeli psychologists Kahneman and Tversky (the former won an Econ quasi-Nobel) has a lot about Israeli university culture and Israeli military culture. In the Israeli military, smart guys like K&T did not go overlooked.

  6. Ecclesiastic says:

    I will say that in my (physics) department there are a huge number of professors that graduated from places like Tel Aviv. I’ve never checked, but I’d guess Tel Aviv is right up there with Harvard in terms of putting people in faculty positions. They are certainly overrepresented. Moreover, these professors are often the ones regarded in the department as the most intelligent. I have no idea if they are Ashkenazi, though.

    I’d guess the Israeli universities aren’t as good because people go to the superior US institutions with all the best people for postdocs and don’t come back.

  7. nelshoy says:

    You could also try taking out Hasidim to concentrate even further.

  8. Glossy says:

    Israeli Ashkenazim aren’t as smart as diaspora Askenazim.

    From Race Differences in Intelligence by Richard Lynn, pp. 93-94 of my paper copy:

    “Three studies carried out in Israel have found that the Ashkenazim have a mean IQ approximately 12 IQ points higher than the Oriental Jews (Zeidner, 1987a; Burg and Belmont, 1990; Lieblich, Ninio and Kugelmass, 1972). The IQ of 95 for Israel is the weighted mean of 103 of the Ashkenazim Jews, 91 of the Oriental Jews (12 points lower), and 86 of the Arabs.”

    Diaspora Ashkenazim have a mean IQ in the 110 to 115 range. I’ve speculated about the causes of Jewish intelligence here:


    • Sandy says:

      I have a feeling patterns of outmarriage have something to do with this, though I’d like to get some data to support that. Ashkenazim in Israel either outmarry with Mizrahi or Sephardic Jews, who have lower IQ scores, or with Arabs, who have even lower IQ scores. 90+% of Jews in the US are Ashkenazim, so there isn’t much possibility of outmarriage with Mizrahim or Sephardim on any significant scale, and the increasing number of US Ashkenazim who marry outside their religion and/or ethnic group are mostly marrying white Christians and Asians.

      • Glossy says:

        I think that the Ashkenazim who went to Israel were less intelligent on average than the ones who stayed in the diaspora.

        The requirement to serve in the IDF must have scared off some of the more intelligent Jews. Most military jobs are menial, and smart people are bored by those.

        Israel is a small society. Smart people are drawn towards major centers of civilization, economic and cultural capitals of continents. You can’t be a big fish in a small pond, whatever your pond happens to be – finance, movies, academia. And Israel is separated from the big ponds of the world not just by distance, but also by language.

        Among secular Jews, like in the rest of humanity, intelligence is negatively correlated with nationalism. Israel is a very nationalist project.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          The Israeli military gives plenty of IQ tests to conscripts and assigns the smart ones to challenging jobs, like in Unit 8200, which has helped launch the Israeli tech boom.


          • Steve Sailer says:

            A lot of Michael Lewis’s new book “The Undoing Project” about psychologists Kahneman and Tversky involves cognitive tests they made up for the Israeli military.

        • Brad says:

          This is a pretty ahistorical narrative.

          The main wave of Ashkenazim to Israel were: from 1929 to 1951, mostly directly from Eastern Europe (or in the later part from allied DP camps). Those that decided to stay in the diaspora because of the economic and cultural attractions, or otherwise, mostly were killed in the holocaust. Of those that got out, it is true that many ended up in the United States and some elsewhere, rather than Israel, but often this came down to luck rather than out of a considered choice.

          There was a second wave of Ashkenazim from the Soviet Union and Post-Soviet countries starting in 1980 and continuing to a certain extent today, but from a genetic point of view this group was much more likely to have mixed ancestry. And I don’t know that I’d call Kiev a cultural or economic center.

          There has been some emigration from Israel, which is something of a taboo subject over there, that’s a more plausible mechanism then what you’ve laid out.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            From living around a lot of Israeli immigrants, I don’t see much evidence that they are much selected for representing the more refined aspects of humanity.

          • Brad says:

            Charming and insightful as always.

          • Null42 says:

            Sure, he could be a bit more diplomatic.

            I mean, they’re intelligent, hardworking, loyal to family, and tough. But, ah, refined? Not so much. I’ve known a few Israelis and dated a few Israeli women, and they tended to be on the blunt side. (Which is good if you’re slow on the uptake.) I think the whole idea was that being nice got them killed and now they aren’t going to take crap from anyone. It makes sense.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            much selected for representing the more refined aspects of humanity.

            depends on how you define that

  9. rlms says:

    It might be worth separating out the Nobel prizes into categories. I imagine that discounting Peace prizes would benefit Israel, but either way it would be more accurate.

    For anyone else wondering, the population of East Timor is about 1.5 million and this guy won a Peace prize.

    • MawBTS says:

      Yeah, this would be informative and good to know.

      It seems there was only one Jewish STEM Nobelist in 2016 (based off my own surname analysis). J. Michael Kosterlitz, Physics.

      Of course, it varies year by year. In 2011, six out of seven STEM Nobelists were Jewish. Perlmutter, Riess, Shechtman, Beutler, Hoffmann, and Steinman. The seventh was Brian P Schmidt, who despite his surname doesn’t seem to be Jewish.

      • Creutzer says:

        Schmidt is a non-Jewish German name.

        • MawBTS says:

          How do you differentiate a German-Jewish surname from a German surname?

          My understanding was that Ashkenazi Jews originally didn’t have surnames until the Austrian-Hungarian empire compelled them to by law, and they adopted Germanic surnames that were usually occupational or toponymic. Are there sorts of German names that a Jew would not be expected to have?

          • Creutzer says:

            Those Germanic names that the Jews were made to take were often new formations that were not already in use as surnames, which made them quite distinguishable. (Apart from occupational and toponymic motivations, many of them also were biblical allusions disguised as German words.) This is not to say that adoption of German surnames that already existed as such did not happen at all. But yes, there are plenty of German surnames such that P([name]|Jew) (and also P(Jew|[name])) is low, and Schmidt is one of them. It’s the German version of Smith, so it pertains both to an occupation that was rare among Jews and is extremely frequent in the non-Jewish population. Some Jews did adopt it so they wouldn’t be easily recognised as Jews, but P(Jew|Schmidt) is very low indeed.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        There actually are smart people with German surnames who aren’t Jewish, although I find that Americans tend not to really believe that’s possible.

        • Null42 says:

          Oh, the ‘smart German’ stereotype exists as well. It’s a bit antiquated as Germany’s preeminence in the sciences has passed (though it is still an important country scientifically), but ‘nutty professor’ types in cartoons and so on will still have German accents.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Golden Age Hollywood loved portraying Herr Professor experts with comical German accents. The last one I can recall is the UCLA meteorologist who advises Howard Hughes in Scorsese’s The Aviator.

            It’s seldom clear in old movies whether they represent gentile Germans or Jewish German-speakers (like Einstein and Freud).

  10. summer says:

    are these posts intentionally demonstrating how easy it is to come up with a fallacious [group]-supremacist viewpoint? because like, the idea that this is genetic is based on the extremely weak conjecture that intelligence is genetic, that Nobel laureates are a meaningful to describe the vaguely bundled together ball of concepts labelled “intelligence”, that that concept-ball holds up to scrutiny (imo, it doesn’t, but i can get why you’d advocate for it. however i’d say SSC readers are disproportionately people whose self esteem rests on the legitimacy as intelligence as a measure of supremacy, and so is at a disadvantage for talking as close to objectively as possible about it). Also there’s some obvious sleight-of-hand in the way various terms are used interchangeably (especially because “proportion of nobel laureates = intelligence of whole population” is assumed throughout this despite being a very weird assumption, imo). anyway i hope this is a demonstration and not a thing you actually believe because that would imply a distressing level of self-supremacy in a person who i often agree with, which implies a distressing level of self-supremacy in myself.

    • Space Ghost says:

      > especially because “proportion of nobel laureates = intelligence of whole population” is assumed throughout this despite being a very weird assumption, imo

      If you accept that intelligence exists, then it’s not weird if you know what a normal distribution is and how it works.

      If you don’t accept that intelligence exists, then there’s not really a point in having a debate.

      • summer says:

        sure, but why assume that the distribution of intelligence is normal, especially when considering that the scenario scott posits is explicitly compared to a scenario where being homozygous for a trait is negative and being heterozygous is positive. the idea that a genetic quirk creates nobel laureates twice or three times as often (exaggerating the effect) as in other populations and makes everybody else the same (or even worse!) is obviously not implausible. question your assumptions

        • James Miller says:

          The genetic evidence is that much of the variation in intelligence comes from a huge number of genes that each have a small effect, and mathematically this will give you a normal distribution.

          • summer says:

            it will give you a normal distribution if the genes act independently from each other, each causing a small boost. However, if some combinations of these genes are more fruitful than others, your distribution is gonna be weird! As a thought experiment as a possible explanation, let’s say there’s 100 of these genes. In this experiment, imagine that if you have 90+ of these genes, you recieve a massive boost, enough to make you much more likely to win a nobel prize. However, if you have <90 of these genes, your intelligence will only be boosted a very minor amount. In this case, you could still have a population selected for intelligence, and you could still have a higher proportion of nobel laureates in that group, but that would not mean the whole group is considerably smarter. And that's just one scenario of dozens. Given the evidence (ashkenazi jewish people have a higher rate of genetic disease and nobel laureates) the conclusion (ashkenazi jewish people have been selected for intelligence and are on average smarter) is a possible one, but there's no real reason to choose it over any other theory

    • SEE says:

      The existence of g, the general intelligence factor, is possibly the single most-established fact in the entire field of psychiatry, repeatedly showing up even in studies designed specifically to debunk it. You may find that your particular conception of intelligence (for example, conflating intelligence with supremacy) is an incoherent concept-ball, but g remains unaffected by your confusion, showing up whenever and however cognitive ability is measured.

      Similarly, the heritability of g is as fully well-established as the heritability of height and, in fact, happens to work out to be as heritable as height. That the heritability of g causes emotional responses in people who conflate intelligence with supremacy does not reduce the heritability of g any more than similar responses from people who conflate height with supremacy reduce the heritability of height.

      Scott is no more responsible to your emotional reaction to his acceptance of these facts than he is for your emotional response to his acceptance of, say, the truth of evolutionary theory. Your emotional problems with science are your emotional problems with science.

      • summer says:

        intelligence (word) and intelligence (g-factor) are distinct (obviously), and the two shouldn’t be conflated because when we communicate about scientific results we do it with words in a society that uses them. If you mean g-factor, say g-factor, if you mean intelligence, say intelligence. and how can you say a Scott saying “I think my group has this ill-defined but positive feature, which i measured non-conventionally, more than any other group” is non emotional. claiming that your genetic group is the best (at least in a certain area) is like, one of the oldest emotional expressions maybe ever. As an extra note, I grabbed the heritability stats from wikipedia:Identical twins—Reared together .86
        Identical twins—Reared apart .76
        Fraternal twins—Reared together .55
        Fraternal twins—Reared apart .35
        Biological siblings—Reared together .47
        Biological siblings—Reared apart .24
        Biological siblings—Reared together—Adults .24
        Unrelated children—Reared together—Children .28
        Unrelated children—Reared together—Adults .04
        Cousins .15
        Parent-child—Living together .42
        Parent-child—Living apart .22
        Adoptive parent–child—Living together .19

        Notice how the association plummets from raised-together to raised-apart? Considering that jewish people are a group that tended to establish a community when in high concentrations, it is not unreasonable to conclude that some major social/community factor that was a part of jewish culture rather than their genes caused the difference. stop letting your desire to play with a “taboo” area of science cause you to jump to conclusions

        • biblicalsausage says:

          Basically, g measures the ability one’s ability to successfully solve complex novel problems mentally. If that’s not something we can call “intelligence,” I don’t know what is.

          • summer says:

            its something we can call intelligence, but its just one thing we call intelligence. the original g-factor measured the correlation between positive performance in various school subjects. here’s the list of things measured by the WAIS-R, one of the many tests where good performance in all its subtests positively correlate: Vocabulary, Similarities, Information, Comprehension, Picture arrangement, Block design, Arithmetic, Picture completion, Digit span, Object assembly, and Digit symbol. Are those all the “ability to successfully solve complex novel problems mentally”? it certainly means SOMETHING that those things are all positive correlated, but its not some objective, meaningfully defined feature. it’s a concept-ball

          • Incurian says:

            Constructivism therefore you’re wrong.

        • Z says:

          Are those correlations before or after shared environment effects taper off?

        • Virbie says:

          > intelligence (word) and intelligence (g-factor) are distinct (obviously), and the two shouldn’t be conflated because when we communicate about scientific results we do it with words in a society that uses them.

          FWIW, it didn’t even occur to me that we were talking about anything but g. Given that the context of the conversation was specifically heritability and group differences, and given that we’re talking about it here, this seemed rather obvious. Correspondingly, it seems pretty odd to say: “What you’re saying only makes sense if you use one sense of the word so I’ll assume that you meant the other sense and call you horribly wrong.” Why would you go out of your way to avoid the interpretation that (by your own admission) makes way more sense?

          • summer says:

            because there’s no strong reason (imo) to believe intelligence (g) and intelligence (proportion of the population that receives Nobels) are strongly correlated in a general population, especially because Nobels select for incredibly high performance in a single area, as opposed to g, which is about the correlated higher performance in a wide range of areas. Because they’re being used interchangeably, these posts assume the existence of some third factor (intelligence in the word sense) that strongly connects these two. clearly he doesnt exclusively mean g, because he’s not referring to g-only things

    • Vorkon says:

      While I agree wholeheartedly that “proportion of Nobel laureates” is a particularly bad way to measure intelligence, I don’t think you’re being fair here.

      Proportion of Nobel laureates was just one of the various pieces of data Scott used to make his point in the previous post. This entire post is nothing more than an attempt to reconcile a potential problem with that point of data. Obviously this post is going to focus exclusively on the proportion of Nobel laureates; it’s not attempting to make any arguments other than the object level one about the proportion of Nobel laureates.

      The previous post might be, mind you, but that’s a different matter entirely.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Right, the fact that as of 2000, Israelis hadn’t won many Nobel Prizes was a counterexample to use against the weight of evidence that Ashkenazis tend to be pretty smart.

        But as of 2017, the Israeli Nobel Prize count doesn’t weigh that much anymore against the ideas that Ashkenazis tend to be pretty smart.

        Similarly, as of 2000 the Japanese hadn’t won many Nobels, but as of 2017 they’d won quite a few more.

        In contrast, a Larry Summers-type theory that women aren’t all that great at physics has not been undermined by recent trends in Nobel Prizes. No woman has won a Physics Nobel since Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963.


    • nydwracu says:

      the extremely weak conjecture that intelligence is genetic


    • The Nybbler says:

      are these posts intentionally demonstrating how easy it is to come up with a fallacious [group]-supremacist viewpoint?

      They present evidence for a “group-supremacist” viewpoint at least as strong as the results of world-class sprints and marathons.

  11. Freddie deBoer says:

    My irresponsible speculation is that this is all tied to the era of physics in which one happens to work. The atomic era (and later the development of the standard model) were unusual in that experimental technology and physical theory were developing in tandem with each other. In contrast string theory, for example, has not had the advantage of being empirically investigable via new technology. My guess is that the Hungarian geniuses you referred to would not have any greater luck in resolving contemporary physical quandaries like resolving gravity with quantum theory than today’s physicists do. There’s something to be said for being born at the right moment at the right time.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think a lot of that is probably true, but doesn’t explain why Hungary rather than anywhere else.

      • nelshoy says:

        Maybe something to do with not taking their Judaism as seriously? I don’t think most of the nobel prize winners are very devout, and back in the 20s most Jews were still very religious. If Jews elsewhere are wasting brain labor on Torah and Talmud while the Hungarian ones are free to focus on math and science, that could go a long way in explaining the descrepancy.

        Another possibility could be the Hungarians having exceptionally good IQ genetics even for ashkenazim.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Right, that would be an interesting question. One question is whether Budapest Jews were all that exceptional outside of physics. Off the top of my head, it seems like more Vienna Jews were more famous in more fields than Budapest Jews, who were famous for being famous in physics. We tend to weight physics heavily because of, among other things, the atomic bomb. But it’s not clear whether focusing on physics gives us an understanding of the broad picture.

          But I haven’t counted.

    • wintermute92 says:

      There’s significant weight to this, at least to explain why this effect seems so overwhelming in one time period. It was a remarkable stretch of new theory with highly testable predictions, compared to modern situations like string theory (untestable) or gravity wave research (tested after decades and a small fortune in equipment building).

      It’s also worth remembering that physics had leapt ahead shortly before the Manhattan Project got underway. Einstein unjammed the field with relativity in the 1910s, prompting a new wave of interest. (Feynman notes that physics was still an exotic major in the 1930s, and himself tried mathematics and electrical engineering first). The Solvay Conference in 1927 had 17 eventual Nobel winners out of 29 attendees – it’s fairly clear that relativity was something of a choke point, enabling a wide branching of important insights once it was understood.

      None of this answers “why Hungary?”, but it certainly answers “why 1930?” For all the laments about the decline of modern genius, nuclear-era physics clearly represents a ‘right time’ we’d be insane to expect as a sustainable condition.

  12. Brad says:

    I wonder which country has a higher outmarriage rate for Ashkenazi. Certainly the intermarriage (Jew and non-Jew) rate is higher in the US, but US Jew-Jew marriages are much more likely to be Ashkenasi-Ashkenazi.

  13. decadence says:

    Norway has an almost non-existent Jewish population (Wikipedia says about 1,500, or 0.03%), so I’d be surprised if even one of its Nobel lauereates was an Ashkenazi Jew. However, being culturally near identical to Sweden, and the only country other than Sweden to award Nobel prizes, its rank could easily have been boosted by favoritism.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Norway is very small, and had a husband-wife team win the Nobel (giving them two laureates). That’s all that’s going on there.

      • Aylok says:

        I’d be interested to see the analysis run with the rather subjective fields of Peace, Literature (and maybe Economics) left out. The Nobel Peace prizes generally tend to go to people from conflict-ridden countries (like East Timor) who have brokered peace deals, which is admirable but not really related to the measurement of human intellectual accomplishment, and many of the Literature prizes have been given to authors who are now considered at best mediocre (especially the Scandinavian ones – the most notorious example being the scandalous award in 1974 to Harry Martinson and Eyvind Johnson, two very obscure authors who were actually members of the jury).

  14. alchemy29 says:

    I wonder, do Ashkenazi Jews get less Ashkenazi over time due to marrying other types of Jews? And is that going to grind their streak of Nobel prizes to a halt over the next two centuries?

  15. HoustonEuler says:

    Here’s another stat to suggest ISAZ is performing pretty well:

    List of universities by number of graduates who created a $1 billion tech startup.

    Of the ones that have produced >5, there are the ones you’d expect from America (Stanford, Harvard, MIT, etc.), University of Oxford, IIT in India. And then there’s Tel Aviv University. Not bad.

    Since 2000, might as well throw in a Fields Medalist (Lindenstrauss) and a Turing Award Winner (Pearl).

  16. ss4johnny says:

    Given that East Asians now score most highly on many high school math tests, at one point do we re-do the analysis and check to see how many East Asians win Nobels?

  17. Steve Sailer says:

    Other things that have changed in recent decades regarding Nobel Prizes are that:

    – Japan has been winning a fair number of hard science Nobels after a long drought.

    – Women have been doing well in Medicine/Physiology Nobels, but not terribly well in Chemistry and have continued to be shut out in Physics. Madame Curie’s Nobels in Physics and Chemistry before WWI still stand out. My guess is that women find the Life Sciences more appealing than the Death Sciences, while a fair number of guys find Oppenheimer’s line “I am become Death, destroyer of worlds” to be the coolest thing anybody ever said.

    • acrimonymous says:

      I think 3 of the Japanese prizes are shared for the LED, and 2 are connected to a neutrino detector that probably couldn’t have been built just anywhere.

      It’s no accident that Nobels tend to go to people in places that have the wealth and infrastructure to support research.

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        This does suggest that the Nobel distribution per country is very prone to …don’t know the exact term, let’s say, clustered outliers? Nobody wins anything for a long time, until some research group gets a medal, and then a bunch of persons of some nationality gets one. Especially this might hurt Japan, which to my understanding is still slightly more isolated place than some others. Or was some decades ago, because often Nobels are not given for cutting edge research, but for established results.

        Another possible confounder is that the Nobel committee changes their criteria over time: the prize for LED was very curious, because everyone remarked how it was more of “award for practically relevant engineering feat” than the theoretical physics aligned stuff that physics Nobels had been about for some time. Norwegians have famously made quite extensive extensions to the criteria for Peace prize, etc, etc.

  18. zodphaybroxlebeeb says:

    Gravity is stronger on Krypton. Old country much more oppressive.

    • registrationisdumb says:

      Ironically, muscle & bone atrophy is a big deal in space travel and directly caused by lack of gravity. Superman may be inhumanly strong when he first gets here, but after a year or two he’d be gradually more and more brittle to the point of human levels.

  19. alwaysrinse says:

    RE the USAZ/ISAZ gap: Note that circa 1990 about a million Ashkenazi Russian Jews came to Israel and about half a million came to the United States. This wave of immigration represents something like a third of Israel’s Ashkenazi population, but a very small portion of America’s Ashkenazi population. These Russians have not won any Nobel prizes yet (at least to my knowledge), which makes sense as they have emigrated relatively recently and most Nobel Prizes require lots of years of lab work in one country. Adjusting for this removes a large portion of the USAZ/ISAZ gap (we shall soon see some Russians who did well in math though). The USAZ:ISAZ ratio is like 1.8:1 on Scott’s graph, but this should make the ratio somewhere between 1.5:1 and 1:1.

    I also think that in general USAZ achievement is declining whereas ISAZ achievement is rising. In Scott’s post we saw how Israelis have been winning more Nobel prizes. For more evidence, look at the Fields Medal. Elon Lindenstrauss became Israel’s first Fields Medalist very recently, in 2012. There were a few non-American non-Israeli Ashkenazi winners before that. The recent ones are Werner and Perelman in 2006, and before that there was Zelmanov in 1994. It is noteworthy that Perelman declined, is Russian, and most of his family lives in Israel, as, aforementioned, is the case with most Russian Jews. Zelmanov is also Russian. Recall that math is portable, unlike laboratory work. You have to go back to 1990 to find a US-born Jewish winner: Edward Witten (and he’s a physicist). It is also noteworthy that an ISAZ, Oded Schramm, worked with Werner and was slightly too old to win the Fields Medal in 2006. Schramm lived in the United States (and was tragically killed in a climbing accident in Washington in 2008). So in some sense Israel was close to having Fields Medals in 2006 also. So all this points to rising ISAZ achievement.

    If I have time later I might go through the Fields Medal and Nobel Prize figures for USAZ, but my suspicion is that their number has been dropping per capita, even relative to the rest of the US population. This is a major point of contention, and there is a Ron Unz article about this, a response from Gelman and Mertz, and so on. My suspicion is that the earlier generators of USAZ had higher achievement. Bronx Science and Stuyvesant produced very many famous alumni back in the day.

    Maybe if Donald Trump pulls off the “ultimate deal,” he can help improve living standards in Israel, and reverse any sort of ISAZ brain drain. Heh.

  20. neaanopri says:

    When you look at the list of Nobel winners there’s one obvious connection: cultural and political ties to Norway. There might be other elements at play there, but holding up the Nobel prize as a perfect metric for intelligence, and concluding that people near Norway are just smarter is, I think, a very dangerous conclusion. It seems obvious that culture is probably responsible for however much of an effect exists.

    It’s of course possible, and I don’t think that it’s wrong to discuss, it’s just pretty useless. How could we get a better world? Maybe just convince Jews to have lots of babies which they give up for adoption to non-jewish families! This is I think insane, and it is just a waste of space on a blog as good as SSC.

    It’s also strange that just after banning a certain topic of discussion, Scott seems to be flirting with it.

    • biblicalsausage says:

      There are ways to distribute genes (if you want them) that don’t involve people giving away their babies. There is, for example, a sort of masculine goo, that many men are willing to part with pretty cheaply, that is chock full of genetic material, which people buy from a goo bank and use to make their own babies.

    • Aapje says:

      It’s also strange that just after banning a certain topic of discussion, Scott seems to be flirting with it.

      I think that ‘Jews smart’ is a much safer topic than ‘X dumb’ (where X is a disadvantaged group).

    • John Schilling says:

      It’s also strange that just after banning a certain topic of discussion, Scott seems to be flirting with it.

      “I am banning the terms [X] and [Y] – this doesn’t necessarily mean banning all discussion of those topics, but it should force people to concentrate on particular claims”
      S. Alexander, 23 April 2017

    • vV_Vv says:

      It’s also strange that just after banning a certain topic of discussion, Scott seems to be flirting with it.

      I don’t think the topic is actually banned, we are just not allowed to name it.

  21. registrationisdumb says:

    I eagerly await the march of technology that allows us to pinpoint increasingly small and obscure populations that have obscenely high intelligence levels, to the point where we know that due to Jerry of Cleveland’s unique SMRT gene gives his two children a unique ability to have a 1/2 chance of being a Nobel Laureate.

  22. Incurian says:

    But they do potentially challenge the implicit conclusion that the education system didn’t matter that much.

    I think “research infrastructure” might be the thing, not “education system.”

  23. Eli says:

    Israel went from 1948 to 2002 without winning a single science Nobel (it did win in Literature and Peace during that time). Now it’s winning more of them – a lot more, more than any other country per capita – but mostly when its citizens go and study in foreign universities. This seems consistent with an Israeli educational system that’s still struggling to get its act together.

    Well, me having gone to the Technion, this is easy to explain, though multi-causal.

    1) Israeli academics are not usually considered well-qualified for a professorship at home without first spending a postdoc or two abroad. Even then, positions are harder to get in Israeli universities than outside Israel, so many Israeli academics emigrate semi-permanently.

    2) Israeli universities don’t have the resources for expensive experimental apparatuses. They tend to specialize in fields where smarts and shit-tons of math classes will go the furthest. In particular, you can usually recognize a Technion-trained professor by their use of more pure math than everyone else in their field.

    3) Their algorithm for success is reproducible and really works: just learn way more math than everyone else in your field thinks is even necessary, then go somewhere with money and resources available, then apply the math to wow people and get tenure. Aside from Israel’s high tariffs against importing tons of computers and chemicals, this algorithm works at MIT and other such places too.

    • Null42 says:

      Makes sense. If you have no money and people don’t want to trade with you and all you’ve got is brains, you might as well leverage that. And, as Barbie pointed out, math is tough.

      One thing I’ve always wondered: Israeli-Arab wars would seem to be a nice natural experiment to test whether intellect is of any use in wars. Do Israeli generals, etc. purposely use more confusing and/or complex tactics and subterfuge to exploit their edge?

      • John Schilling says:

        Do Israeli generals, etc. purposely use more confusing and/or complex tactics and subterfuge to exploit their edge?

        They’re probably too smart for that. Winning wars is done by getting the simple things to actually work right in the worst of all possible worlds.

      • bean says:

        Israeli-Arab wars would seem to be a nice natural experiment to test whether intellect is of any use in wars. Do Israeli generals, etc. purposely use more confusing and/or complex tactics and subterfuge to exploit their edge?

        This would require the Israelis to be good at warfare. They aren’t. Their record of beating up the Arabs looked a lot less impressive after Desert Storm, when we found out just how bad most of the Arab armies really are. The Israelis are just somewhat less incompetent.

        • James Miller says:

          Were Jewish military strategists considered especially competent in European wars?

          • bean says:

            I don’t honestly know, mostly because my interest in European wars pre-1914 is spotty at best. I don’t think the problem with the IDF is one of Jewishness, but one of various organizational pathologies. They tend to have the attitude that because they’re the IDF, the winningest military of modern times, they know best, and their ‘knowing best’ includes, among other things, a disdain for staff work. Staff work wins wars, but the little the Israelis are willing to do is more than the Arabs are capable of.
            (Basically, they’re a really good amateur military, up against bad amateurs.)

            Re-reading this, I don’t think this was what you meant at all. But I’m going to post anyway.

            Edit: Wiki has a list of Jewish-American flag officers. I don’t have the time to figure out actual/expected, and I’m pretty sure it’s incomplete. But I will say that I only recognized three of the names, Hyman Rickover, VIctor Krulak, and Norton Schwartz. Only Krulak has any reputation for combat command, and even then, he wasn’t a flag officer during that time.
            Edit: Make that four. I missed Jeremy Boorda, another name not associated with combat command.

          • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

            (A bit late for a reply, but for posterity..)

            Even more theoretical: the fields of strategy and history (e.g. Luttwak and van Creveld (not sure if vC didn’t also consulting for governments).

      • The Nybbler says:

        From what I’ve read, the Arab states are exceptionally poor at war from top to bottom, so not really a good test.

      • Z says:

        One thing I’ve always wondered: Israeli-Arab wars would seem to be a nice natural experiment to test whether intellect is of any use in wars.

        Relevant reading on that:

        Why Arabs Lose Wars

        Western Influence on Arab Militaries: Pounding Square Pegs into Round Holes

  24. dansimonicouldbewrong says:

    The claimed connection between Nobels and intelligence, like the previous claimed connection between 20th-century physics breakthroughs and intelligence, leaves out a whole lot of really important factors, such as:

    – Ambition: It takes a huge amount of drive–not to mention self-regard–to (a) choose to focus on a highly competitive, “hot” field, (b) decide to work on the “big” problems in that field (usually high-risk, high-reward), and (c) dedicate oneself sufficiently to those problems to make major progress on them. Lots of really brilliant people prefer to work on what *they* think is important and interesting, not what everyone else does at a particular moment in history. And they may well calibrate their pace of work with a comfortable lifestyle in mind, rather than fame and fortune. That doesn’t make them in any way less intelligent.

    – Cultural affinity: Even very ambitious brilliant people tend to try to make it big in fields that the people around them value. If one’s culture values musical, religious or political genius above scientific genius, then one is far less likely to direct one’s ambitions towards pursuit of stellar achievements in science–even if one possesses Einstein-level talent for it.

    – Opportunity: Even a one-in-a-billion autodidact genius like Ramanujan benefited from enough mathematical activity in his environment to recognize him and expose his talents to the world. And however much one might debate the unique power of Budapest’s high school mathematics curricula, it’s certainly the case that a rigorous mathematical education helped the great Hungarian-Jewish physicists of the 20th century get started in their careers much better than, say a life of poverty in a rural Hungarian village would have.

    So while I suppose it’s possible that Ashkenazi Jews really do have enormously more potential for scientific genius, on average, than other populations, it’s also possible that what we’re looking at here is basically selection bias, where we focus on a couple of tiny, oddly-defined populations that happen to be extraordinarily heavily Ashkenazi Jewish for a combination of other reasons, while discounting the many large populations that aren’t particularly disproportionately Ashkenazi Jewish and would therefore provide evidence against a strong correlation. After all, do we really believe that the Norwegian people are so prodigiously blessed with intellectual talent that only Ashkenazi Jews can outperform them at genius creation?

    • Steve Sailer says:

      There is a lot of reluctance, usually on the part of Jews, to publicly admit in forums open to non-Jews that a host of statistics suggest that Jews are a pretty big deal in the modern world.

      • dansimonicouldbewrong says:

        I assure you that my “reluctance” is strictly a matter of suspicion that the Nobel data don’t support the grand claims being drawn from them. In fact, even if there is indeed a “host of statistics”, as you put it, that “suggest that Jews are a pretty big deal in the modern world”, I’m still not convinced that Nobel prize-winning percentages are valid statistical evidence to support that conclusion.

        An apt analogy is Indian-American domination of the Scripps National Spelling Bee: although one might well expect Indian-Americans to be unusually intelligent, on average–after all, many of them are American today precisely because they or their parents or grandparents scored very highly on academic examinations back in India–it’s still quite a stretch to treat Spelling Bee success as a metric of Indian-American intelligence relative to the rest of the population, given the other factors involved.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Okay, well, how about being one of the 50 richest individuals on Earth? Is that trivial like spelling bees or are we starting to get to meaningful?

          From the Jewish Telegraph Agency, 2016:

          “Eleven of the 50 richest people in the world are Jewish, according to the 30th annual Forbes billionaires list released Tuesday. The list features five Jews in the top 15 and seven in the top 25 spots.”


          11/50 = 22% or roughly two orders of magnitude greater than the Jewish share of the world’s population (around 0.2%).

          To paraphrase Sam Spade from the end of the Maltese Falcon, it’s not that any one source of data on Jewish exceptionalism is proof in and of itself of Jewish exceptionalism, but look how many of them there are.

      • tmk says:

        Make your point if you have something to say, instead of coyly implying stuff.

      • Null42 says:

        Eh, mostly when you bring up money or power, due to the nasty history with the first in premodern Europe (usury and so on) and with the second in modern Europe (Adolf’s ‘Judeo-Bolshevism’). The Forward was happy to show off the alt-right’s ‘coincidence finder’ tool on a list of Nobel laureates.

      • The Nybbler says:

        There is a lot of reluctance, usually on the part of Jews, to publicly admit in forums open to non-Jews that a host of statistics suggest that Jews are a pretty big deal in the modern world.

        Probably because of the (justified, I think) concern that this is likely to result in more animosity than admiration. Who wants a huge target painted on their backs?

        • Barely matters says:

          This exactly.

          Modern civilized discourse has really backed itself into a corner when it comes to dealing with this sort of thing. Group differences in outcome being due to either a) Differences in innate ability, b) cultural systemic advantage c) ??? (Hit up the comments if you have ideas for some other factor), and combining those options with the doctrine of disparate impact has left very little wiggle room to talk openly about it.

          If you acknowledge a group being innately better in some field, you are also acknowledging another group as being innately worse, which pings the mainstream bigotry detectors and will have you rounded to the nearest racist.

          If you acknowledge a group benefiting from a tight knit, high trust, wealthy and politically influential social circle, the results will be mixed at the object level. For whites general, this is privilege. When applied to Jews, terming this ‘privilege’ will be rightfully met with “I remember a guy 70 years ago who said Jews controlled more than their fair share of powerful and moneyed positions…” And you will be rounded to the nearest trump supporter (at best).

          The only socially sane option right now is to publicly deny noticing anything out of the ordinary, which is why (((echos))) shenanigans are so repulsive in a way that Greenhouse is not.

          Being that disparate impact doctrine insists that differences in group outcomes are prima facie evidence of privilege and only seems to be getting stronger over time, Jews have no real option here beyond keeping their heads down, working hard to excel, and then lobbying obliquely from behind closed doors.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            “Jews have no real option here beyond keeping their heads down, working hard to excel, and then lobbying obliquely from behind closed doors.”

            But is that what we are really seeing? Keeping their heads down in the media, lobbying obliquely behind closed doors, etc?

            It seems instead that what we see are prominent Jewish media figures and billionaires like George Soros egging on the denunciations of “white privilege” while making clear that anybody who dares mention the parallel logical concept of “Jewish privilege” would be crushed like a bug. (See what happened to the careers of Gregg Easterbrook and Rick Sanchez for illustration.)

            A particularly comic example of this was the sympathetic media promotion of the #OscarsSoWhite campaign against White Privilege in Hollywood.

            In 2017, isn’t it clear that it is possible to have it both ways? Promote critiques of whites in general while making it clear that Jews are absolutely off limits for critique.

            In the long run, that strategy seems imprudent for Jews (as the rise of BDS on campus might suggest); but in the short and medium run, you have to admit, it has been wildly successful.

          • Barely matters says:

            I don’t actually disagree with any of this.

            Bringing attention to it without being willing to officially drop the resistance to one option or the other will likely burn goodwill until there’s serious blowback. I’m really not looking forward to that.

            In terms of the Oscars, I’ve noticed that people saying something along the lines of “Wait, are blacks actually proportionally less represented in film than non-jewish whites?” have discovered the single most efficient way to be uniformly hated by everyone on all sides without actually being factually wrong. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if an #OscarsSoJewish tag could get that job done even faster (With the bonus of possible legal action).

            So I’d agree that it seems workable in the medium term, with potentially horrible effects in the long. I’d really prefer if we’d collectively bite the bullet and drop one horn of the dilemma to ease some of the cognitive dissonance before too much negative sentiment builds up.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Here are Nobel percentages as of 2011:

      Nobel laureate data is compiled by the Israel Science and Technology Homepage, a website run by biochemist Israel Hanukoglu, who was the chief science advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term as prime minister. Updating Lynn`s Nobel numbers to include the recently announced 2011 prizes, we find:

      Medicine or Physiology: Jews have comprised 51 of the 199 laureates, or 26 percent
      Physics: 47 of 191, or 25 percent
      Chemistry 30 out of 160, or 19 percent
      Literature: 12 out of 108, or 11 percent
      Peace: 9 out of 101, or 9 percent
      Economics: 24 out of 69, or 35 percent

      Hanukoglu is using the rabbinical definition of who is a Jew.

      Including everybody who is at least half-Jewish bumps up the percentage of laureates by one to six points: medicine goes up from 26 percent Jewish to 27 percent, physics from 24 percent to 25 percent, chemistry from 19 percent to 20 percent, while economics jumps from 35 percent to 41 percent.

      So Jews tend to be over-represented by a couple of orders of magnitude in the (less political) hard science Nobels.

      That’s remarkable.

  25. Jiro says:

    Unless failing to find something by using the year 2000 would have led you to say “I guess Ashkenazim aren’t smart”, picking 2000 can lead to p-hacking, even though the number 2000 is nice and round.

    If you don’t use a limit of 2000, Wikipedia lists 8 Sephardim who won Nobel Prizes excluding peace and literature. None of them are from Israel, and many are from France (with the largest Jewish community in Europe and a high concentration of Sephardim). It’s not Ashkenazim numbers, but it’s awfully high for a supposed low IQ group.

    Wikipedia lists 2.2M Sephardim and 10-11.2M Ashkenazim, so this is already the equivalent of 40 Ashkenazim earning Nobel prizes. And I’d expect far fewer Sephardim because they are not concentrated in the United States like Ashkenazim are.

    (If you assume that there’s something about Sephardim in Israel which prevents them from being Nobel winners independently of IQ, such as status as recent poor immigrants from Arab countries, that’s the equivalent of about 110 Ashkenazim, although of course this can be p-hacking as well.)

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Lots of noteworthy Sephardim from the past: Spinoza, Ricardo, Disraeli, Confederate leader Judah Benjamin, Supreme Court justice Cardozo, etc.

      If you go far enough back, it seems like there were more prominent Sephardics than Ashkenazis until some point in the 19th Century. I wonder if the Sephardics didn’t experience as big of a population boom as the Ashkenazi did in the 19th Century?

      In thinking about the descendants of Spanish Jews, it’s probably worth distinguishing between the Atlantic ones who wound up in Lisbon, Amsterdam, London, New York, and Rio, places where there was a lot of opportunity, and the ones who moved to the Ottoman Empire, which was going great guns in 1492 but was the sick man of Europe by the 19th Century.

      Finally, there are the Oriental Jews who stayed in places like Persia, Baghdad, Cairo, Yemen, and Algeria, where there was probably the least opportunity in the modern world. Of course, there was some blending over the generations between the Sephardic Ottoman Jews and the Oriental Jews. So it’s pretty complicated.

      • Jiro says:

        Finally, there are the Oriental Jews who stayed in places like Persia, Baghdad, Cairo, Yemen, and Algeria, where there was probably the least opportunity in the modern world.

        Most of those places were part of the Ottoman Empire at one point. But that’s why it’s actually plausible not to count the ones in Israel. The ones in Israel mostly came from the Middle East recently and were in that low-opportunity group.

        But even if you don’t try to correct for that (and you really should), it’s still far too many for Scott’s theory. If Sephardim have average IQ (never mind IQ 2 or 3 points below 100), and got Nobels in proportion to that, the number of Nobels you’d expect is zero.

        I suspect the correct answer is that Sephardim have high IQ, despite reports, and there’s nothing specifically special about Ashkenazim. At most, Sephardim might have worse environmental contributions to IQ because of that lack of opportunity, unless you think there’s a large genetic difference between French and Italian Sephardim and Israeli Sephardim.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          I think there is some confusion over the use of the term Sephardic: Americans tend to think it applies to Spinoza/Disraeli type Atlantic non-Ashkenazi Jews and that all the Jews in Israel who are not Ashkenazi must be Cardozo type Sephardics.

          But in reality there were never that many Atlantic Sephardics, and they didn’t suffer all that much persecution, so they aren’t terribly common in Israel.

          Most of the non-Ashkenazis Jews in Israel are instead Middle Easterners, Mizrahi, whom Americans aren’t terribly familiar with.

          This Wikipedia article tries to disentangle these two senses of the word “Sephardic”:


          “More broadly, the term Sephardim has today also come to refer to traditionally Eastern Jewish communities of West Asia and beyond who, although not having genealogical roots in the Jewish communities of Iberia, have adopted a Sephardic style of liturgy and Sephardic law and customs imparted to them by the Iberian Jewish exiles over the course of the last few centuries. This article deals with Sephardim within the narrower ethnic definition.”

          In other words, after 1492, some Spanish Jews moved north and west to form the high-achieving Atlantic Sephardic communities. Other Spanish Jews moved east and south into the Ottoman empire where they achieved a religious ascendancy over the indigenous Jews, who tended to adopt Sephardic rituals. So we wind up with the word Sephardic being applied to both the glittering but thin on the ground Sephardics of the Atlantic and to the larger number of indigenous Jews of the Middle East.

          So the Atlantic Sephardics are a rather rare group. There historical heritage is impressive. Do we have good current IQ figures for them? I don’t know.

          • Creutzer says:

            Do we have good current IQ figures for them? I don’t know.

            When I went for a paper search about half a year ago, I couldn’t find anything.

            There was one response to the CHH paper that pointed to the “Atlantic” Sephardic jews as a probable counterexample, making the prediction that they would have high IQ and acknowledging that we don’t have the data. Unfortunately, I forget who the author was and can’t for the life of me find it again…

          • Note that your Atlantic Sephardim include David Ricardo, who is easily Nobel level, aside from being born a little early.

  26. Reasoner says:

    With “benefits of concentration”, are we talking about concentration among other smart people or concentration among others of one’s ethnic group? If the US Ashkenazi who win Nobel prizes are mostly at prestigious universities, you could have one without the other.

    • nydwracu says:

      The most intellectually productive times in my life also happened to be the times when I was talking to the most Ashkenazi Jews, so probably the first one.

  27. Mark says:

    Looking through this list of UK nobel prize winners I found:

    124 total nobel laureates

    16 Jewish nobel laureates

    Of those 16 Jewish nobel laureates, 7 were Germans/Eastern Europeans who fled the Nazis, while 4 others on the list were people with British citizenship, but who were born and established their careers in other countries.

    So, I’m going to say that there are 5 British-Jewish nobel laureates (two of these are descended of highly educated Jews who fled the Nazis).

    Estimate the British Jewish population to be about 250,000 – That means that British Jews have 20 Nobels per million population. If we didn’t count Kosterlitz and Kroto, it’d be 12.

    Middle class Nobel laureates:
    From the list, 63 of the Nobel laureates come from a middle/upper class background.

    In the early 20th century around 15% of workers in the UK were classified as being in professional/managerial positions – population of UK around 40 million so 6 million middle class – 10 nobel laureates per million middle class people.

    I therefore conclude that Jewish-British people are the most intelligent group in the world, closely followed by the British middle/upper classes.
    [Though apparently, 197 nobel prize winners Jewish, world Jewish population 15 million – gives 13 nobel prizes per million. I therefore conclude that the world intelligence ranking goes:
    Ashkenazi (in general) –> British Jews —> British middle class.]

    • Steve Sailer says:

      That was my impression: the British upper middle class appears to be the best at winning Nobel Prizes of any non-Jewish group in the world.

      If you want to understand the prejudices of, say, Stephen Jay Gould against so many Anglo scientists from Darwin and Galton to Hamilton and Wilson, one way to think of it is as part of the Final Round competition between the two winningest scientific ethnic groups, Jews vs. Anglos, to deserve the honors of Heavyweight Champion Ethnicity of the History of Science.

  28. Jules says:

    I understand that genetics have been underplayed quite a bit, these past decades, but I’d like to remind the commenters here that there *is* a cultural component to these results, and it’s probably quite significant too.

    • nydwracu says:

      It’s a lot easier to change the average IQ of a country than it is to change its culture.

      (Immigration. I am talking about immigration. And mass incarceration of stupid criminals if you want to go there. This is not desirable or moral in the first order, but without it the East Coast would probably make Johannesburg look like the long-lost fifth Teletubby. Welcome to Omelas!)

      • biblicalsausage says:

        I’m skeptical on the use of mass incarceration to raise IQ scores of the remaining population. The average criminal has an IQ of something like 92. So say you lock up 1% of the population, which is the highest percentage any country outside of the USSR has gotten. A little back of the envelope calculation says that if you have a population with an average IQ of 100, and then you remove a 1% block of that population with an average IQ of 92, then remaining population has an IQ of 100.08.

        I don’t think you’re going to see any serious change in population IQ on the basis of mass incarceration.

        • Aapje says:


          Perhaps the idea is that they don’t get to reproduce and then the eugenic effect will shift the IQ of the population over time?

    • Null42 says:

      @Jules: Of course there is! There’s also a feedback loop, though. Academic families may have genes for higher IQ (and poorer athletic ability), but they’ll raise the kids to read books, etc. People like to play to their strengths and feel good about themselves. It’s culture + genetics, but culture will be affected by genetics.

      @nydwracu: How about importing lots of smart immigrants, then? (This is basically what Canada does and they have a lot fewer problems than we do with integration.)

  29. acrimonymous says:

    Two issues:

    (1) One more graph please comparing secular Ashkenazi per population. The religious ones really shouldn’t be considered as their opportunities to pursue Nobels are zilch, right? Which country has a higher percentage of religious/Orthodox Ashkenazi–US or Israel? I don’t know about it.

    Does this mean that once the educational system gets its act together more fully, the ISAZ Nobel rate will approximately double to match the USAZ Nobel rate? I’m not sure.

    Just from this analysis, it doesn’t look like the theory in the last post, where everyone gets benefits from concentrating closer together, is true. Israel has about ten times as many Ashkenazi Jews per capita than the US, but still does worse than they do.

    (2) You’re assuming that concentration yesterday and today is comparable. With the rise of the Internet and university system and other changes in the way people communicate ideas, I think that’s a big matza ball to swallow.

    • Anonymous says:

      The religious ones really shouldn’t be considered as their opportunities to pursue Nobels are zilch, right?

      You mean the ultra-orthodox that don’t read much except scripture, don’t likely know the Gentile language, etc, etc. Not “religious” per se. Pretty sure Einstein, for example, was religious.

      • Enkidum says:

        “Pretty sure Einstein, for example, was religious.”

        Not if his repeated explicit denials of that are to be trusted.

        • Anonymous says:

          Really? Hm. Actually checking the wiki page on the exact issue, it seems his beliefs were somewhat weird, but I wouldn’t call him non-religious in the common sense.

          He clarified however that, “I am not an atheist”,[4] preferring to call himself an agnostic,[5] or a “religious nonbeliever.”

          • Brad says:

            In Jewish terms what exactly he believed isn’t especially relevant to the question of how religious he was. Instead it has to do with practice. Einstein wasn’t religious because he didn’t pray three times a day, or even once a week, didn’t keep kosher, didn’t observe the laws of Sabbath or sexual purity, didn’t cover his head, and so forth and so on.

            There are some religious Jews that have had worldly success, including a few scientists, but more rarely than non-religious Jews. I don’t think any have won the Nobel prize.

          • Anonymous says:

            Fair enough.

          • Enkidum says:

            Calling Einstein religious is simply doing violence to language. Someone who repeatedly says things like “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends…. For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions” is not a religious person in any sane sense of the word.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Einstein didn’t believe in Judaism. He was a theist who believed in Spinoza’ s philosophy and flirted with Hinduism.

          • Enkidum says:

            Doesn’t “theist” normally mean one who believes in an individual God? He was certainly a mystic, but he was very explicitly against the notion of God except in the most abstract sense possible.

          • Aapje says:

            Einstein used ‘God’ as a metaphor for nature, sometimes, which is pretty much equivalent to atheism.

    • alwaysrinse says:

      Note that Robert Aumann is religious. They are also a much smaller portion of the Israeli population than the seculars.

      I would also like to see a graph that adjusts for age. I am pretty sure Israel’s population pyramid looks different than America’s – even secular Ashkenazi Israelis have a significantly higher fertility rate than their American counterparts. Nobel Prize winners, of course, tend to be old.

  30. xedocss says:

    Seems to be quite a lot of meaning to be pouring into a grand total of 8 Nobel Awardes in Israel post 2000 (not to mention that among these are two pairs of Israelis that shared the award for discovery).

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to prove, but I doubt the Nobel data has much to say about it.

    • alchemy29 says:

      Scott is not using Israeli Nobel prize data to say that the Ashkenazim are more intelligent. He is refuting an argument (made by a commenter), that the Ashkenazim can’t be that intelligent since Israeli’s haven’t been winning many Nobel prizes. This is perfectly clear, it’s in the first few paragraphs.

  31. JulieK says:

    You should probably only give fractional points for shared prizes. (I.e. if an American and an Israeli shared the prize, it counts as half a point for America and half a point for Israel.)

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Right. The ideal count would be weighted by share of the prize money, and by share of Jewish ancestry. E.g., the quarter Jewish Aage Bohr, son of Niels Bohr, shared the 1975 Physics Nobel with two others, so that would count 1/4 x 1/3 for a 1/12th share of a full Jewish Nobel Prize.

      (Note, however, that I didn’t see from Wikipedia how the prize money was divvied up in 1975, so Bohr’s share might not have been 1/3rd.)

      But I haven’t noticed much evidence that these refinements in technique would matter much in changing the Big Picture.

  32. Bram Cohen says:

    The natural instinctive reaction to this sort of analysis is ‘Genetics are not fate! I’ll show you by succeeding and despite this pattern!’ But that runs into another form of sampling error: I’m reading this and thinking this, but I’m jewish, so anything I do only reinforces the pattern, leading to the question of whether my reading this and reacting in that way are somehow related to my jewishness.

    I’ve always found all religions equally creepy, and despite my family making some attempts to raise me around multiple religious traditions I forgot about all of them, and hardly know any hebrew words for anything or even the basics of jewish ceremonies and customs (a friend was very amused once when I asked if jews go to church on saturday). All in all I’ve managed to avoid being very jewish at all, with the minor caveats of being an entrepreneur, a mathematician, and an atheist.

    As for the effects of education, it’s probably the case that people underestimate the value of basic literacy and overestimate the value of everything else. Basically everything past the first few grades is just telling the students to read a book and giving them some help with the exercises.

  33. HeelBearCub says:

    This seems consistent with an Israeli educational system that’s still struggling to get its act together.

    Does this mean that once the educational system gets its act together more fully, the ISAZ Nobel rate will approximately double to match the USAZ Nobel rate? I’m not sure.

    This runs counter to the (oft repeated by Scott) idea that education and educational systems do not matter, and that intelligence will simply float to the top of it’s own accord.

    Some sort of note of the inconsistency (and hypocritical nature) of this explanation, especially in light of the last post explicitly rejecting education as likely to be important, would be appreciated.

    • The Nybbler says:

      If you want such “inconsistency” explained, you need to point to a particular statement. The idea that educational systems do not affect g but do affect Nobel Prize capacity, for instance, is not self-contradictory.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @The Nybbler:
        Scott’s position (roughly) is that education is a pointless waste of money.

        Others of you will say yes, my education was worth it. Not because of what I learned about eukaryotes or Ukraine or whatever, but because formal education in the school system taught me how to think.


        Note, when I asked Scott his position on education in the past, he pointed me at that essay.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Hmm, I think Scott overstates the case.

          But on the other hand, Incurian points out the Nobel Prize may depend on “research infrastructure” rather than “educational system”, two things which are different but occur in overlapping institutions (universities being involved in much of both post-secondary education and research).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Nybbler:
            I mean, Scott could have phrased it extremely sloppily, but it’s the kind of thing he would criticize heavily if others were to do it.

            To me it just looks like an example of being contrarian in an intellectually dishonest way. Argue (in many cases) against the excesses and errors of the system by rejecting the idea that the system is warranted or useful, all the while implicitly (and perhaps unconsciously) accepting that the system is warranted and useful.

            If the contrarians actually got what they wanted, they would immediately start criticizing it. If they achieved power, they would flail, having to decide what to do, rather than simply criticizing what is being done (and stating how easy it would be to fix it).

          • I see no inconsistency between claiming that education does not affect intelligence but does affect how the intelligence gets used. A very smart person intensively educated in Talmud is less likely to win a Nobel prize in physics than an equally smart person educated in modern physics and math.

    • Murphy says:

      I think lots of war or instability etc is a reasonable confounder.

      I remember a few jokes about a SSC or geneticists guide to child rearing which is one page with the words “Don’t starve, poison, seriously wound or molest your children” written in 32 pt font.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if bellow a certain level lack of schooling it does make a difference. If you’re surrounded by literate supportive people you’ll still be fine but if you’re in a country which is struggling on every front and the school system is in the toilet and then that might yield different results than comparing kids with ok-ish teachers to students with pretty good teachers.

    • I see no inconsistency between claiming that education does not affect intelligence but does affect how the intelligence gets used. A very smart person intensively educated in Talmud is less likely to win a Nobel prize in physics than an equally smart person educated in modern physics and math.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @Dafid Friedman:
        Scott’s position is that education is not useful, not (merely) that it doesn’t affect intelligence. That it has almost no positive impact on how well you perform tasks related to that education.

        As to the position that those with high innate intelligence still retain an advantage after education, as the education is something that people have in common, that seems correct to me. I am also a believer in the idea that different people learn best in different manners, so what works best for one person may not work very well for another.

    • I see no inconsistency between claiming that education does not affect intelligence but does affect how the intelligence gets used. A smart person intensively educated in Talmud is less likely to win a Nobel prize in physics than an equally smart person educated in modern physics and math.

  34. jhertzlinger says:

    What are the relative ages of USAZ Nobelists and ISAZ Nobelists?

  35. baconbacon says:

    One thing I am surprised by is that no one has posited (even badly) that the Nobel selection committee might be biased and causing this over representation.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      The hard science Nobels have had a quite good reputation for a long time. I’m sure they have some biases, but nobody has offered a theory of how whatever their biases are might be biasing the number of Jews who win up or down by a significant amount. And as we see, Jews tend to do similarly well in other but quite different tests of brainpower, such as becoming a billionaire.

  36. Nate the Albatross says:

    I don’t think it is coincidence that Budapest/Hungary and the United States were both able to unlock those potentials. No offense to Israel, but it is a young nation and has some isolating political elements, where Hungary and the United States were/are vast multicultural empires/commonwealths/groups of nations – where very different cultures can work together on the same problem in close proximity.

    Long term, I would expect Israel to continue to advance technologically, and I also expect these types of differences to smooth out a bit as it becomes easier to share research internationally.

  37. albatross11 says:

    One question I’ve always wondered about, which relates to this whole discussion: How much of the return on IQ (in terms of income, career success, marriage, etc.) is based on absolute things (are you smart enough to figure out how to take that medicine correctly), and how much is based on relative rankings (do you get one of the few positions in the elite university that makes you for life)?

  38. akarlin says:

    First off, Israeli Ashkenazi Jews are 1/2 S.D. dumber than diaspora Ashkenazi Jews. There must have been a selection effect at work. Cleverer Jews prefer Wall Street and Silicon Valley to toiling in the mud and serving years in the IDF.

    Their share of the Israeli population is 75%.

    But now take out the scientifically useless Haredim (-10% percentage points), and you get 65%, and plummeting due to much lower fertility rates than the Haredim, Arabs, and other minorities.

    Now also adjust for half of those having Sephardic ancestry (the Sephardi Jews have lower IQs than Ashkenazis, comparable to Europeans) and the population share of the demographic group that produces disproportionate amounts of intellectual output is closer to just a third of Israel’s population. (And as per above, they are dumber than their diaspora coethnics to begin with).

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