A group of Manhattan Project physicists created a tongue-in-cheek mythology where superintelligent Martian scouts landed in Budapest in the late 19th century and stayed for about a generation, after which they decided the planet was unsuitable for their needs and disappeared. The only clue to their existence were the children they had with local women.
The joke was that this explained why the Manhattan Project was led by a group of Hungarian supergeniuses, all born in Budapest between 1890 and 1920. These included Manhattan Project founder Leo Szilard, H-bomb creator Edward Teller, Nobel-Prize-winning quantum physicist Eugene Wigner, and legendary polymath John von Neumann, namesake of the List Of Things Named After John Von Neumann.
The coincidences actually pile up beyond this. Von Neumann, Wigner, and possibly Teller all went to the same central Budapest high school at about the same time, leading a friend to joke about the atomic bomb being basically a Hungarian high school science fair project.
But maybe we shouldn’t be joking about this so much. Suppose we learned that Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach all had the same childhood piano tutor. It sounds less like “ha ha, what a funny coincidence” and more like “wait, who was this guy, and how quickly can we make everyone else start doing what he did?”
In this case, the guy was Laszlo Ratz, legendary Budapest high school math teacher. I didn’t even know people told legends about high school math teachers, but apparently they do, and this guy features in a lot of them. There is apparently a Laszlo Ratz Memorial Congress for high school math teachers each year, and a Laszlo Ratz medal for services to the profession. There are plaques and statues to this guy. It’s pretty impressive.
A while ago I looked into the literature on teachers and concluded that they didn’t have much effect overall. Similarly, Freddie deBoer writes that most claims that certain schools or programs have transformative effects on their students are the result of selection bias.
On the other hand, we have a Hungarian academy producing like half the brainpower behind 20th century physics, and Nobel laureates who literally keep a picture of their high school math teacher on the wall of their office to inspire them. Perhaps even if teachers don’t explain much of the existing variability, there are heights of teacherdom so rare that they don’t show up in the statistics, but still exist to be aspired to?
I’ve heard this argument a few times, and I think it’s wrong.
Yes, two of Ratz’s students went on to become supergeniuses. But Edward Teller, another supergenius, went to the same high school but (as far as I know) was never taught by Ratz himself. That suggests that the school was good at producing supergeniuses regarldess of Ratz’s personal qualities. A further point in support of this: John Harsanyi also went to the school, also wasn’t directly taught by Ratz, and also went on to win a Nobel Prize and invent various important fields of mathematics. So this school – the Fasori Gymnasium – seems to have been about equally excellent for both its Ratz-taught and its non-Ratz-taught pupils.
Yet the Fasori Gymnasium might not have even been the best high school in its neighborhood. It competed with the Minta Gymnasium half a mile down the street, whose alumni include Manhattan Project physicists Nicholas Kurti and Theodore von Karman (von Karman went on to found the Jet Propulsion Laboratory), brilliant chemist-philosopher Michael Polanyi, economists Thomas Balogh and Nicholas Kaldor (of Kaldor-Hicks efficiency fame), and Peter Lax, who once said “You don’t have to be Hungarian to be a mathematician – but it helps”. There are also some contradictory sources suggesting Teller attended this school and not Fasori; for all I know he might have attended both. Once again, most of these people were born in the 1890-1910 period when the Martian scouts were supposedly in Budapest.
Worse, I’m not even sure that the best high school in early 20th-century Hungary was either of the two mentioned above. The Berzsenyi Gymnasium, a two mile walk down Gyorgy Street from the others, boasts alumni including multizillionaire George Soros, Intel founder Andrew Grove, BASIC inventor John Kemeny, leading cancer biologist George Klein, great mathematician George Polya, and Nobel Prize winning physicist Dennis Gabor.
Given that the Fasori Gymnasium wasn’t obviously better than either of these others, is it possible that the excellence was at a higher level – neither excellent teachers nor excellent principals, but some kind of generally excellent Hungarian culture of education?
This is definitely what the Hungarians want us to think. According to Cultures of Creativity:
What’s so special about Budapest’s schools? A certain elitism and a spirit of competition partly explains the successes of their students. For example, annual competitions in mathematics and physics have been held since 1894. The instruction the students receive as well as these contests are an expression of a special pedagogy and a striving to encourage creativity. Mor Karman, founder of the Minta school, believed that everything should be taught by showing its relation to everyday life. Instead of learning rules by heart from books, students tried to formulate the rules themselves.
This paper on “The Hungarian Phenomenon” makes similar claims, but adds a few more details:
The Eotvos Contests were a powerful mean for the stimulation of mathematics on a large scale and were used to motivate mathematical culture in the society. It also provided a channel to search for talented youths. The contests, which have been open to Hungarian high school students in their last year since 1894, played a remarkable role in the development of mathematics.
Okay. But I want to challenge this. During this era, formal education in Hungary began at age 10. By age ten, John von Neumann, greatest of the Hungarian supergeniuses, already spoke English, French, German, Italian, and Ancient Greek, knew integral and differential calculus, and could multiply and divide 8-digit numbers in his head. Wikipedia notes that on his first meeting with his math teacher, the math teacher “was so astounded with the boy’s mathematical talent that he was brought to tears”. This doesn’t sound like a guy whose potential was kindled by formal education. This sounds like a guy who would have become one of history’s great mathematicians even if his teachers had slept through his entire high school career.
Likewise, the book above notes that Dennis Gabor, the Hungarian inventor of holography, “developed his passion for physics during his youth, but did so for the most part on his own”. His biography notes that “During his childhood in Budapest, Gabor and his brother would often duplicate the experiments they read about in scientific journals in their home laboratory.”
Likewise, consider Paul Erdos, a brilliant mathematician born in Budapest around this time. As per his Wikipedia page, “Left to his own devices, he taught himself to read through mathematics texts that his parents left around their home. By the age of four, given a person’s age, he could calculate, in his head, how many seconds they had lived.”
I have no knock-down proof that Hungary’s clearly excellent education system didn’t contribute to this phenomenon. A lot of child prodigies burn out, and maybe Hungary was unusually good at making sure that didn’t happen. But it sure seems like they had a lot of child prodigies to work with.
So what’s going on? Should we just accept the Manhattan Project consensus that there was a superintelligent Martian scout force in early 20th-century Budapest?
Here’s something interesting: every single person I mentioned above is of Jewish descent. Every single one. This isn’t some clever setup where I only selected Jewish-Hungarians in order to spring this on you later. I selected all the interesting Hungarians I could find, then went back and checked, and every one of them was Jewish.
This puts the excellence of the Hungarian education system in a different light. Hungarian schools totally failed to work their magic on Gentiles. You can talk all you want about “elitism and a spirit of competition” and “striving to encourage creativity”, yet for some reason this worked on exactly one of Hungary’s many ethnic groups.
This reduces the difficult question of Hungarian intellectual achievement to the easier question of Jewish intellectual achievement.
I say “easier question” because I find the solution by Cochran, Hardy, and Harpending really compelling. Their paper is called A Natural History Of Ashkenazi Intelligence (“Ashkenazi” means Eastern European Jew) and they start by expressing the extent of the issue:
Ashkenazi Jews have the highest average IQ of any ethnic group for which there are reliable data. They score 0.75 to 1.0 standard deviations above the general European average, corresponding to an IQ 112 – 115. This fact has social significance because IQ (as measured by IQ tests) is the best predictor we have of success in academic subjects and most jobs. Ashkenazi Jews are just as successful as their tested IQ would predict, and they are hugely overrepresented in occupations and fields with the highest cognitive demands. During the 20th century, they made up about 3% of the US population but won 27% of the US Nobel science prizes and 25% of the Turing Awards [in computer science]. They account for more than half of world chess champions.
This doesn’t seem to be due to any advantage in material privilege; Ashkenazi Jews frequently did well even in countries where they were persecuted. Nor is it obviously linked to Jewish culture; Jews from other regions of the world show no such advantage. So what’s going on?
Doctors have long noted that Ashkenazi Jews are uniquely susceptible to various genetic diseases. For example, they’re about a hundred times more likely to have Gaucher’s Disease, a hundred times more likely to get Tay-Sachs Disease, ten times more likely to have torsion dystonia, et cetera. Genetic diseases are so common in this population that the are official recommendation is that all Ashkenazi Jewish couples get screened for genetic disease before marriage. I’m Ashkenazi Jewish, I got screened, and I turn out to be a carrier for Riley-Day syndrome – three hundred times as common in Ashkenazi Jews as in anyone else.
Evolution usually gets rid of genetic diseases pretty quickly. If they stick around, it’s because they’re doing something to earn their keep. One common pattern is “heterozygote advantage” – two copies of the gene cause a disease, but one copy does something good. For example, people with two copies of the sickle cell gene get sickle cell anaemia, but people with one copy get some protection against malaria. In Africa, where malaria is relatively common, the tradeoff is worth it – so people of African descent have high rates of the sickle cell gene and correspondingly high rates of sickle cell anaemia. In other places, where malaria is relatively uncommon, the tradeoff isn’t worth it and evolution eliminates the sickle cell gene. That’s why sickle cell is about a hundred times more common in US blacks than US whites.
The moral of the story is: populations can have genetic diseases if they also provide a useful advantage to carriers. And if those genetic diseases are limited to a single group, we expect them to provide a useful advantage for that group, but not others. Might the Jewish genetic diseases provide some advantage? And why would that advantage be limited to Jews?
Most of the Jewish genetic diseases cluster into two biological systems – the sphingolipid system and the DNA repair system. This is suspicious. It suggests that they’re not just random. They’re doing something specific. Both of these systems are related to neural growth and neural branching. Might they be doing something to the brain?
Gaucher’s disease, one of the Ashkenazi genetic diseases, appears to increase IQ. CHH obtained a list of all of the Gaucher’s patients in Israel. They were about 15 times more likely than the Israeli average to be in high-IQ occupations like scientist or engineer; CHH calculate the probability that this is a coincidence to be 4×10^-19.
Torsion dystonia, another Ashkenazi genetic disease, shows a similar pattern. CHH find ten reports in the literature where doctors comment on unusual levels of intelligence in their torsion dystonia patients. Eldridge, Harlan, Cooper, and Riklan tested 14 torsion dystonia patients and found an average IQ of 121; another similar study found an average of 117. Torsion dystonia is pretty horrendous, but sufferers will at least get the consolation prize of being really, really smart.
Moving from medicine to history, we find that Ashkenazi Jews were persecuted for the better part of a millennium, and the particular form of this persecution was locking them out of various jobs until the main career opportunities open to them were things like banker, merchant, and doctor. CHH write:
For 800 to 900 years, from roughly 800 AD to 1650 or 1700 AD, the great majority of the Ashkenazi Jews had managerial and financial jobs, jobs of high complexity, and were neither farmers nor craftsmen. In this they differed from all other settled peoples of which we have knowledge.
Jews who were particularly good at these jobs enjoyed increased reproductive success. Weinryb (1972, see also Hundert 1992) comments: “More children survived to adulthood in affluent families than in less affluent ones. A number of genealogies of business leaders, prominent rabbis, community leaders, and the like – generally belonging to the more affluent classes – show that such people often had four, six, sometimes even eight or nine children who reached adulthood. On the other hands, there are some indications that poorer families tended to be small ones…as an example, in a census of the town of Brody in 1764 homeowner households had 1.2 children per adult member while tenant households had 0.6.
Now we can start to sketch out the theory in full. Due to persecution, Jews were pushed into cognitively-demanding occupations like banker or merchant and forced to sink or swim. The ones who swam – people who were intellectually up to the challenge – had more kids than the ones who sank, producing an evolutionary pressure in favor of intelligence greater than that in any other ethnic group. Just as Africans experiencing evolutionary pressure for malaria resistance developed the sickle cell gene, so Ashkenazim experiencing evolutionary pressure for intelligence developed a bunch of genes which increased heterozygotes’ IQ but caused serious genetic disease in homozygotes. As a result, Ashkenazi ended up somewhat more intelligent – and somewhat more prone to genetic disease – than the rest of the European population.
If true, this would explain the 27% of Nobel Prizes and 50% of world chess champions thing. But one still has to ask – everywhere had Jews. Why Hungary in particular? What was so special about Budapest in the early 1900s?
Okay, sure, everywhere had Jews. But it’s surprising exactly how many Jews were in early 1900s Hungary.
The modern United States is about 2% Jewish. Hungary in 1900 was about 5%. The most Jewish city in America, New York, is about 15% Jewish. Budapest in 1900 was 25%. It was one of the most Jewish large cities anywhere in history, excepting only Israel itself. According to Wikipedia, the city’s late 19th-century nickname was “Judapest”.
So is it possible that all the Jews were winning Nobel Prizes, and Hungary just had more Jews and so more Nobelists?
No. This doesn’t seem right. The 1933 European Jewish Population By Country site lists the following size for each country’s Jewish communities:
Poland: 3 million
Russia: 2.5 million
It’s hard to find a good list of all famous Manhattan Project physicists, but I tried this article and got the following number of famous Jewish Manhattan Project physicists per country of origin:
Here’s an alternative source with a different definition of “famous”, broken down the same way:
The main point seems to be disproportionately many people from Central European countries like Hungary and Germany, compared to either Eastern European countries like Poland and Russia or Western European countries like France and Britain.
The Central European advantage over Western Europe is unsurprising; the Western European Jews probably weren’t Ashkenazim, and so didn’t have the advantage mentioned in the CHH paper above. But is there any reason to think that Central European Jews were more intelligent than Polish and Russian Jews?
I’m not really sure what to think about this. This paper finds that the sphingolipidoses and other Jewish genetic diseases are about twice as common in Central European Jews as in Eastern European Jews, but I have very low confidence in these results. Intra-Jewish gossip points out the Lithuanians as the geniuses among world Jewry, but doesn’t have any similar suggestions about Hungarians. And torsion dystonia, maybe the most clearly IQ-linked disease, is unique to Lithuanians and absent in Hungarians.
Probably much more promising is just to focus on the obvious facts of the social situation. Early`1900s Hungary was a great nation and a prosperous center of learning. Remember, we’re talking about the age of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, one of the most industrialized and dynamic economies of the time. It might have had advantages that Poland, Romania, and Russia didn’t. My list of historical national GDPs per capita is very unimpressed by the difference between Hungarian and Polish GDPs in 1900, but maybe it’s wrong, or maybe Budapest was an especially modern part of Hungary, or maybe there’s something else I’m missing.
Also, there could have been a difference in the position of Jews in these countries. Russia was still experiencing frequent anti-Jewish pogroms in 1900; in Hungary, Jews were among the country’s most noble families. Actually, the extent of Jewish wealth and influence in Hungary sort of defies belief. According to Wikipedia, in 1920 Jews were 60% of Hungarian doctors, 50% of lawyers, 40% of engineers and chemists, and 90% of currency brokers and stock exchange members. “In interwar Hungary, more than half and perhaps as much as 90 percent of Hungarian industry was owned or operated by a few closely related Jewish banking families.”
So Central European Jews – the Jews in Hungary and Germany – had a unique combination of intellectual and financial advantages. This means Hungary’s only real rival here is Germany. Since they were rich, industrialized, and pretty liberal about Jewish rights at the beginning of the 20th century – and since they had just as many Jews as Hungary – we should expect to see the same phenomenon there too.
And we kind of do. Germany produced its share of Jewish geniuses. Hans Bethe worked for the Manhattan Project and won a Nobel Prize. Max Born helped develop quantum mechanics and also won a Nobel Prize. James Franck, more quantum physics, another Nobel Prize. Otto Stern, even more quantum physics, yet another Nobel Prize. John Polanyi, chemical kinetics, Nobel Prize (although he was half-Hungarian). And of course we probably shouldn’t forget about that Einstein guy. All of these people were born in the same 1880 – 1920 window as the Martians in Hungary.
I think what’s going on is this: Germany and Hungary had about the same Jewish population. And they produced about the same number of genius physicists in the same window. But we think of Germany as a big rich country, and Hungary as a small poor country. And the German Jews were spread over a bunch of different cities, whereas the Hungarian Jews were all crammed into Budapest. So when we hear “there were X Nobel Prize winning German physicists in the early 1900s”, it sounds only mildly impressive. But when we hear “there were X Nobel Prize winning physicists from Budapest in the early 1900s”, it sounds kind of shocking. But the denominator isn’t the number of Germans vs. Hungarians, it’s the number of German Jews vs. Hungarian Jews, which is about the same.
This still leaves one question: why the period 1880 to 1920?
On further reflection, this isn’t much of a mystery. The emancipation of the Jews in Eastern Europe was a difficult process that took place throughout the 19th century. Even when it happened, it took a while for the first generation of Jews to get rich enough that their children could afford to go to fancy schools and fritter away their lives on impractical subjects like physics and chemistry. In much of Eastern Europe, the Jews born around 1880 were the first generation that was free to pursue what they wanted and seek their own lot in the world.
The end date around 1920 is more depressing: any Jew born after this time probably wasn’t old enough to escape the Nazis. Almost all the famous Hungarian Jews became physics professors in Europe, fled to America during WWII using channels open to famous physicists, and then made most of their achievements on this side of the Atlantic. There are a couple of stragglers born after 1920 who survived – George Soros’ family lived because they bought identity documents saying they were Christian; Andrew Grove lived because he was hidden by righteous Gentiles. But in general Jews born in Europe after 1920 didn’t have a great life expectancy.
All of this suggests a pretty reasonable explanation of the Martian phenomenon. For the reasons suggested by Cochran, Hardy, and Harpending, Ashkenazi Jews had the potential for very high intelligence. They were mostly too poor and discriminated against to take advantage of it. Around 1880, this changed in a few advanced Central European economies like Germany, Austria, and Hungary. Austria didn’t have many Jews. Germany had a lot of Jews, but it was a big country, so nobody really noticed. Hungary had a lot of Jews, all concentrated in Budapest, and so it was really surprising when all of a sudden everyone from Budapest started winning Nobel Prizes around the same time. This continued until World War II, and then all anyone remembered was “Hey, wasn’t it funny that so many smart people were born in Budapest between 1880 and 1920?”
And this story is really, really, gloomy.
For centuries, Europe was sitting on this vast untapped resource of potential geniuses. Around 1880, in a few countries only, economic and political conditions finally became ripe for the potential to be realized. The result was one of the greatest spurts of progress in scientific history, bringing us relativity, quantum mechanics, nuclear bombs, dazzling new mathematical systems, the foundations of digital computing, and various other abstruse ideas I don’t even pretend to understand. This lasted for approximately one generation, after which a psychopath with a stupid mustache killed everyone involved.
I certainly can’t claim that the Jews were the only people being crazy smart in Central Europe around this time. This was the age of Bohr, Schrodinger, Planck, Curie, etc. But part of me wonders even here. If you have one physicist in a town, he sits in an armchair and thinks. If you have five physicists in a town, they meet and talk and try to help each other with their theories. If you have fifty physicists in a town, they can get funding and start a university department. If you have a hundred, maybe some of them can go into teaching or administration and help support the others. Having this extra concentration of talent in central Europe during this period might have helped Jews and Gentiles alike.
I wonder about this because of a sentiment I hear a lot, from people who know more about physics than I do, that we just don’t get people like John von Neumann or Leo Szilard anymore. That there was some weird magical productivity to the early 20th century, especially in Central Europe and Central European immigrants to the United States, that we’re no longer really able to match. This can’t be a pure numbers game – the Ashkenazi population has mostly recovered since the Holocaust, and people from all over the world are coming to American and European universities and providing more of a concentration of talent than ever. And even though it’s impossible to measure, there’s still a feeling that it’s not enough.
I started down this particular research rabbit hole because a friend challenged me to explain what was so magical about early 20th century Hungary. I think the Jewish population calculations above explain a lot of the story. I’m not sure whether there’s a missing ingredient, or, if so, what it might be. Maybe it really was better education. Maybe it really was math competitions and talent searches.
Or maybe it was superintelligent Martian scouts with an Earthling fetish.
Perhaps the answer is a concentration of talent, combined with some sort of highly specific cultural ethos that happened to be woven into the fabric of Budapest at that particular time? Along the lines of Paul Graham’s Cities and Ambition essay:
One potential factor is that there may just be significantly fewer areas in which an individual person can be so extraordinarily brilliant anymore. The past 150 years have seen the vast majority of people with the capacity to do things like “sit in a university all day and have brilliant insights into abstract mathematical systems”; perhaps the number of single-handed revolutions that could be accomplished in that way were mostly exhausted by the time WWII ended. When I think about innovations in research and technology today, the sorts of things that come to mind are Terry Tao doing something impressive in the polymath project with several other mathematicians, or Elon Musk assembling large teams of brilliant engineers. No one jumps to mind in the same way that Einstein or John von Neumann or Alan Turing do as standalone geniuses, able to revolutionize or create entire fields of study in a few brilliant papers. Perhaps the really important insights right now are less in the form of “have a stroke of insight and change the world in 5 pages” and more “collaborate with 17 other researchers and build off of the incremental progress from decades past”?
Of course, this entire idea basically rests on the near-tautological observation that I can’t think of anything that hasn’t been thought of yet, so I wouldn’t give it too much credence.
Relevant: Years ago I heard that Paul Dirac and/or some of the other key players in the development of early quantum theory didn’t actually consider themselves geniuses; they considered themselves luck enough to be in the right place at the right time.
Yeah, I agree with you. Nowadays I think the problem isn’t a lack of genius, but rather diminishing marginal returns for their efforts.
Although I have an alternate theory: perhaps our educational system encourages rigid, formal thinking along pre-existing mental pathways instead of chaotic, out-of-the-box thinking along new mental pathways. For instance, why must we learn arithmetic, then algebra, then calculus? Why not give 8th graders a bunch of unsolved scientific/mathematical problems, and let them invent their own methods of solving it (like how Gauss found the sum of the first hundred integers within seconds)?
The Dirac quote you remember may be this one:
Here is the citation:
It’s fun to get quotes right! 🙂
I was searching for a source for 20 minutes before giving up! How did you find this???
Specialization of labor. Quote-mining is one of the few remaining realms where a second-rate genius can do first-rate work.
In a nutshell, the requirements are an integrative temperament, broad reading habits, and a well-maintained bibliographic database (details here).
When the opportunity affords, I’ll drop in a few quotes from Nicholas A. von Neuman’s self-published memoir John von Neumann as Seen by His Brother (1987), and Linus Pauling’s visionary (but rejected) Rockefeller Foundation systems biology proposal, “The possibilities for progress in the fields of biology and biological chemistry” (1948), and Richard J. Barber’s never publicly released, now-unavailable, magisterially detailed tome The Advanced Research Projects Agency, 1958–1974 (1975), not to mention NASA’s ultra-detailed super-nerdy 243-page Saturn V Flight Manual (1968) — had to obtain my own physical copies of these STEAM-y bibliographic bad boys, which are found in inconveniently few libraries! 🙂
After all, no amount of self-assessed high IQ can entirely compensate for alt.ignorance — especially willful alt.ignorance — isn’t that elementary common-sense? 🙂
pattern recognition supported by adequate intellectual substrate
had to obtain my own physical copies of these STEAM-y bibliographic bad boys
Okay, maybe the Fungi from Yuggoth have eaten my brain, but this honestly made me laugh 🙂
Do you have an electronic copy you could share of John von Neumann as Seen by His Brother since it seems to be otherwise unavailable?
there’s currently one on Amazon UK for £438
If you compare our educational system to the educational system that Gauss or the protagonists of the post went through, the main thing you will observe is that we now learn much less arithmetic, then much less algebra, then much less calculus. I’m sure that the current state affairs is not quite what those who set the educational system down this gradient a few decades ago envisioned, but given that I’m pretty sure that back then, the motivation already was some mixture of “less rote memorisation, more creativity, more applicability to the real world”. Instead of trying ever-new experiments that run maths education further into the ground, might it not be time to try and backtrack to what we used to have first?
You could look and compare different fields. Scott had an article about a bunch of Germans making all the discoveries in psychology you can make with the then new technology of staining nerve cells.
There might be some natural experiments possible like that.
I don’t know how to evaluate which is more likely, as a counter-factual for “there was no Hitler”…
There was no Holocaust, and many people whose lives were cut short live full lives, and also physics and computer science advance much more quickly, with obvious stand-alone geniuses doing most of the work.
There was no Holocaust, and many people whose lives were cut short live full lives, and also physics and computer science advance much more quickly, but the sense that we have now that there are no geniuses anymore occurs at a roughly similar state of advancement in these disciplines.
There was no Holocaust, and many people whose lives were cut short have full lives, and also physics and computer science advance in no obviously quicker way, tending to show that what happened in Budapest while probably related to raw smarts, also depended on additional factors all coming together in a way that unavoidably resembles “secret sauce.”
Those were the three I was thinking of naturally, but I’ve been experimenting with never stopping at my “natural” stopping point, so…
There was no Holocaust, and many people whose lives were cut short have full lives, and physics and computer science advance in ways that continue to relate to sociopolitical drivers like war/nationalism–which are essential for overcoming the usual coordination problems that prevent founding new modes of thinking–and so advancement continues to proceed in sporadic “you had to be there” kinds of ways when sufficient coincidences accumulate to overcome coordination problems, and here the pattern branches again quite quickly… and either
a) The next peak that occurs is so obviously much higher than what happened in Budapest that this pattern becomes obvious, and society learns/lucks into some impressive tricks to overcome its coordination problems, and the resulting pattern of scientific development is one much more closely resembling a single Bayesian mind than anything history has yet produced, to the point where nobody finds geniuses interesting and inscrutable, because everybody finds they have a seamless interface with which to add their data and thinking ability to the larger project.
b) The next peak that occurs is so obviously much higher than what happened in Budapest that this pattern becomes obvious, and some individuals in society learn/luck into some impressive tricks to overcome coordination problems, and the resulting pattern is of concerted effort by some such individuals to prevent coordination problems from being overcome by anybody else, and science never progresses again.
c) The Martians decide the experiment was a success, and pull funding, and the stars all go out.
—- and break.
I’ve been finding that the exercise of pushing past natural stopping points has made me feel like a tidbit I ran across somewhere, that “some minds prefer to move from details to abstractions, while other minds prefer to move from abstractions to details” suggests there may be an un-named virtue of having a good balance between diligently acquiring facts and reflecting long enough to build good models for those facts, which maybe aligns with being able to switch between what the Myers Briggs calls “iNtuitive” and “Sensing.” Anyone else see what I’m talking about, want to help me find something else to read about this?
Kim Stanley Robinson has explored some of this stuff in scifi, but in the end…ur just handwaving.
where is the data?
give me data or give me death.
that Cochran paper is relly OLD.
we have way better tools naow.
Couldn’t help but make the jump from this to the importance of free speech. It’s troubling to think that you are just following a hypothetical narrative but in today’s societal trend, it could possibly land you in jail. There are more than a few countries where it would be taken out context and be deemed as thought crime just making the supposition of a no holocaust scenario. I know it’s a big leap to square the circle but that leap is becoming narrower and narrower on a daily basis.
I imagine if you clearly specify it’s a counterfactual you’d be OK.
I do think the laws against Holocaust denial have become counterproductive because people like to claim ‘well, if it really happened, why do they throw people in jail for questioning it?’. But then, I am not German.
Overall I am not a fan of hate-speech laws.
I always thought if there were no Holocaust…Und ich kann den Rest nicht verstehen, was passiert ist, weil ich kein Deutsch spreche.
That bit Snyder characterises as Bloodlands was pretty tough living even without the mass murdering. Not sure how many huge advances you’ll get from people who, even when things were OK, had pretty horrible lives. Which is not to say that even any would be a redemption of sorts.
A few years ago I wrote about why in the 20th Century, Jews had done so well in physics, Germans in chemistry, and Anglos in biology:
The British superiority at evolutionary thought doesn’t imply overall supremacy. Other ethnicities enjoyed other accomplishments. For instance, rocket science was developed predominantly by Germans such as Wernher von Braun and other V-2 engineers brought to America by Operation Paperclip. Space flight was promoted in America by the anti-Nazi refugee popularizer Willy Ley and the German-American dean of science fiction, Robert A. Heinlein.
At the same time, Jews such as Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Teller took the lead in the development of nuclear weapons.
While it can’t be ruled out, there’s no need for a genetic explanation for these national specialties. Rocketry, for example, was in large part a challenge to harness potent fuels, and the Germans were the best at chemistry.
Physics was convenient for urban Jews. (Those interested in living things tended to become doctors rather than naturalists.)
By contrast, Britain’s brightest scientists tended to live in close contact with the countryside, both natural and agricultural. For example, Hamilton (1936-2000), the most creative evolutionary theorist of the later 20th century, grew up in bucolic Kent, only five miles from Darwin’s Down House. It’s not surprising that a bourgeoisie that mostly stayed out of the burghs would take an interest in evolution.
Scientific fields tend to have random clumping, e.g. the Dutch and Scottish have a disproportionate number of excellent intelligence researchers, Israelis have a lot of theoretical computer scientists.
I attribute this partly to a hub-and-spoke model of scientific output, where a few great thinkers get the next generation interested and trained in the field. Since that’s easier to do for your fellow countrymen (especially outside the Anglosphere), you get these clusters.
I’ve wondered why in this decade IQ research seems to be dominated by Dutch researchers with unspellable names …
And what’s the deal with ‘t Hooft, as in the physicist Gerard? Last names shouldn’t start with apostrophes! (Mathematical physics seems to be a Dutch clustering as well, probably in part due to ‘t Hooft.)
The Dutch are simply more efficient, which allows us to use our intellect more efficiently.
BTW, the Dutch also substantially punch above their weight in astronomy, ever since inventing the telescope.
Rocket science was developed predominantly by Germans such as Wernher von Braun and other V-2 engineers brought to America by Operation Paperclip. Pffft. They were desperate war criminals building almost useless weapons and killing slaves for an unwinnable war. All the paperclippers and Albert Speer should have hanged. Read Strange Angel, by George Pendle, about John Parsons and the suicide squad, the guy who actually did invent pourable solid rocket fuel. America would have got it’s rockets just fine.
Agree that Speer deserved to hang – it’s a travesty he didn’t while Sauckel, his subordinate, did – but evidently the Americans responsible for Paperclip *didn’t* think they were going to get their rockets just fine, or other elements of what would turn out to be the space program. If they had, they wouldn’t have snatched up guys like von Braun, let alone Strughold. It would have been easier, after all, just to shoot them to keep them from falling into the hands of the Soviets.
Speer later admitted in a personal letter to having been present during the infamous Posen speech where the Holocaust was openly referenced, which would probably have resulted in a death sentence if that was known during the Nuremberg trial.
He also acknowledged having had some knowledge in a case involving a Holocaust denial pamphlet he was asked to give evidence against, or something like that.
And his defence as to the Posen speech – in which Himmler addresses him by name – was very feeble (I think it amounted to “everyone who said I was there was drunk and also Himmler had forgotten his glasses and mistook someone else for me”)
Two Nazi members confirmed that Speer had already left, one of whom did so under oath. So it’s direct testimony vs indirect evidence, which by my math, makes Speer a very intelligent guy or very lucky.
While I agree that the importance of Von Braun and his ilk is overstated in the development of American rocketry, you miss the real reason behind Paperclip. We were trying to keep the information out of the hands of the Soviets. If the US is making noises about hanging you as a war criminal, and the Soviets are offering you a rocket lab, where would you go?
Also, while JPL did some good work, what they did is very different from what was done on the V-2. Rocket science isn’t a unitary field.
(Also, I should point out that Karel Bossart was from Belgium, so I’m not sure where we credit his achievements. If you don’t know who he is, I suggest you learn more about the development of rocketry before commenting on it again.)
Ronald Coase? Two papers.
How about Claude Shannon? The Mathematical Theory of Communication founded information theory.
This would be an excellent plot for a Continuum/Narcissist game – the Continuum requires Hitler and WW2 to happen because otherwise the rapid expansion of physics would reinvent Yrnian time travel and threaten the future existence of the Continuum.
What’s Yrnian time travel? Google isn’t helping and my knowledge of Continuum is limited to the few scraps I can find, since I can’t buy the book.
Seems like Scott has a lot more time to write with Unsong done 🙂
Excellent article as always.
However, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking, especially throughout part III, that you’re claiming a *very* strong link between genetics and intelligence. Furthermore, at the very end of that section, you claimed that it only took a *single millennium* for the average intelligence of an ethnic group to drift via Darwinian evolution.
You posted strong evidence, but let’s just sit back and think about the implications of this, especially in regards to our modern political climate.
Edit: Okay, so I know I’m skirting close to breaking the rules. However, I will point out that:
A) I’m black, and I can prove it upon request. Propagating racism is not in my best interests.
B) Scott posted what seems to be iron-clad proof that genetics has a strong influence on intelligence. This just made me think: if tomorrow, some peer reviewed study came out proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a strong link between genes and intelligence, how would that impact our current society? What would happen to, for example, James Watson, who discovered DNA and subsequently discovered the consequences of making racist statements related to that discovery? What would happen to pariahs like Steve Sailer? Because it seems like there are scientists who are crossing those lines and doing research on some socially unacceptable topics, and we may have to deal with the consequences of that within the next decade or so.
Are you familiar with the comments of the blog SlateStarCodex? Steven Sailer certainly isn’t a pariah here (he comments pretty regularly).
Well, no, but ddxxdd’s comment is about society in general, not the very strongly self-selected group (and possibly the ground zero for the eventual religion of the new millenium) that is the SSC comments section.
Sure, my point is that ddxxdd’s comment is pretty mild in terms of *euphemism*ness (so they don’t need to worry about skirting the rules), and that they don’t seem to know that the SSC comments section has thought about the implications of *euphemism* (or at least argued about it).
Indeed, the congregation grows.
I don’t see anything new here. Obviously genetics have a huge impact on things like height and IQ. (And so does eg nutrition.) One the extreme end eg things like trisomy 21 are well accepted and long known to affect intelligence.
There’s no new material for new inconveniences here. So no new impulse to re-evaluate measure of politeness?
Sorry to just hijack this conversation, but can you drop me some links where this is explored / a SSC article if one exists?
it’s talked about in the comments if not hugely in the post itself. also searching for flynn effect might bring up other stuff.
It’s only a matter of the strength of the selection effect. You could probably manage a much faster with actual human guidance towards the outcome, rather than what was essentially a historical accident. The Chinese may or may not be doing things like that.
Have you read The Blank Slate, by Pinker? It’s a pretty good start on the implications, but I think he’s wrong in that it doesn’t have to mean any change wrt feminism/egalitarianism/anti-racism/etc/etc. Some recent discussion here.
Now, what would be the implications of a one child policy, enforced so that the rich and successful can bribe their way to have more than one child? But for what “being successful in China” actually selects for?
A one-child policy in general is probably broadly dysgenic. You’re limiting variability in reproductive success too much. Even if there are some positive effects due to scofflaws being ‘better’ in some way I doubt they can outweigh the negative effect on the bulk of the population.
I’ve heard (but never confirmed) that the one-child policy was indeed dysgenic as it often made exceptions for rural farmers who were permitted to have two children. I imagine that even if the top 1% could bribe their way to having two children the rural population having two children would – at best – create parity.
Today genetic potential for IQ is dropping more rapidly than the likely rate of increase for the Ashkenazi Jews back in medieval times. About 3 times faster.
A couple of sources for Cochran’s claim:
1. Teasdale, Declines in Cognitive Test Scores
2. Pietschnig, A Reversal of the Flynn Effect
A couple of solutions to the problem:
1. Anomaly, Defending Liberal Eugenics Defending Liberal Eugenics
2. Salter, Eugenics, Ready or Not
Analog solutions involve mate selection, embryo selection, and contraception. But digital solutions are on the way with CRISPR Cas9:
Beall, Genetically Modified Humans
One not entirely obvious implication of intelligence being largely genetic is an argument for discouraging assortative mating, in order to avoid increasing the spread of the distribution. That point was implicit in The Bell Curve.
If social progress is driven disproportionately by the right tail, isn’t this an argument for *increasing* assortative mating?
The argument against is the effect on a society of the combination of meritocracy and a very wide intelligence distribution. The people at the top know they are much smarter than the people at the bottom, and act accordingly.
That was the main point I got from the part of The Bell Curve that I read long ago. I should probably go back and finish the book.
One reason why selection may have been so powerful was that it was not just reproductive success among highly educated Jews. It was that less educated Jews — unable to make sacrifices at the Temple, unable to study Torah or fund the study of a Torah scholar — tended to leave Judaism.
sry, tomorrow has arrived
genetics HAS a strong influence on intelligence.
Read the book. (Dr. Haier, The Neuroscience of Intelligence)
Its not possible to quarantine “socially unacceptable topics” in science.
One possibility, if intelligence is deciphered at the molecular level, is that it may stop being largely genetic. Suppose the mechanism is genes that produce protein IQX in the bloodstream. Once we discover that we synthesize the protein, give it to everyone orally or intravenously, and genetic intelligence no longer much matters.
I think you’re touching on what an eventual AI revolution will look like. “Smart” people will no longer be chosen through evolution because smart has nothing to do with genetics or even humanity any more. What exactly such a futuristic landscape will look like, I have no idea. But it will surely look very different from society today and will likely have little to do with genetically defined humans.
It’s worth noting that we certainly know that it can’t be *that* simple. As the parent post quotes, “2. Intelligence is highly polygenic” – humans don’t have any *single* protein “IQX” that has such an effect, there are many, many proteins with an effect on IQ that have complex interactions, some of which, as we know, include serious debilitating pathologies.
If we *truly* decipher and understand all the molecular mechanisms involved then we might stimulate human IQ with a careful cocktail of drugs, intravenously or in cranial fluid (blood-brain barrier matters), and purely genetic intelligence wouldn’t matter. However, to me it seems likely that this would have to be done to *babies* during their growth. In this case, this would have the same social effects as genetically engineered super smart kids, it would be usable and used by the same groups.
Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that intelligence is as genetic as height.
For one thing, this means that the idea of “meritocracy” is inherently unfair. Giving people access to wealth and resources based on their IQ-related achievements is as unfair as making people richer when they’re born taller. We would want some sort of social program to guarantee everyone access to a decent life according to their needs, not according to their abilities.
Even if you’re genetically tall, your height won’t manifest without proper nutrition. If intelligence works like that, we’ll want to be sure that everyone gets their proper developmental conditions so that their inherent IQ can fully bloom. Or else you’ll waste the social potential of high-IQ persons, like the pre-emancipation Jews. And you’ll also artificially create a chaste system, especially if wealth is inherited. Imagine again the parallel reality where wealth depends on heigh—let’s call it Earth-H. On Earth-H, people who are not this tall don’t even get enough food to avoid malnutrition, which means their adults are even shorter, so they don’t get selective pressure to have height genes, so they get even less social resources, et cetera. The combination of heightocracy and inheritance laws would be magnified in a feedback loop, in the most unfair of ways. People would probably come with elaborate ideologies to justify why it’s ok to let shorties starve, since they’re after all so short, lacking strength, reach, sexual attractiveness etc.
Imagine that such chaste systems were actually implemented through Earth-H history, and some populations for centuries never got the conditions to fully develop their genetic height, because they were enslaved or colonized by other, taller populations. This means that the present-day populational differences in height are a consequence of past exploitation. Because Earth-H is heightocratic, if you are a tall person and wealthy, your wealth is the result of past exploitation of shorties, not to mention direct inheritance. The ethical thing to do is then to pay reparations for the short people, share the wealth, and ensure that the feedback loops of chaste systems never happen again. Especially if you have a lot of wealth, that’s the result of a combination of inheritance and ability, both of which are accidents of birth; so this wealth should be shared with the less fortunate.
To recap, if intelligence is strongly genetic, we want a political program like this:
– To each according to his need; all basic human needs satisfied for everyone, regardless of ability. In particular, anything that has influence on the blossoming of IQ, such as malnutrition, pollution, and stress, should be eradicated for everyone. All people have an inherent right to a safe, clean and comfortable environment, and resources should be redirected to implement that.
– Meritocracy and inheritance are unjust, and will concentrate resources into an ever-smaller number of hands for no good reason. It is ethical to redistribute these resources to implement a level field for everyone.
– Affirmative action for historically exploited groups is a moral obligation.
– Full integration of historically exploited groups is a moral obligation, as are active efforts to combat any sort of segregation.
I think there’s a hidden assumption here, that height and wealth are both just traits which get arbitrarily rewarded by given societies, and handed wealth out of a pot in accordance with that soceity’s values.
I think that this is pretty clearly untrue. Intelligence didn’t get pushed into being a runaway selection criteria arbitrarily. Wealth is correlated with intelligence because you need intelligence to generate wealth.
I also think you’re pulling a similar fast one with your definition of meritocracy. Meritocracy is absolutely and definitionally fair; what it isn’t is equal. If I race Usain Bolt and the race is not biased, then he will win all but the most vanishingly unlikely of scenarios for the race. If we are being chased by a lion, then this sucks for me, and I do not deserve death for being slower than him, and as you say, the best thing to do would be to restructure society so that there were as few lions as possible…but the outcome of me losing to Usain Bolt nearly every time is not unfair.
This also seems like “pulling a fast one”. Isn’t that begging the question in a discussion about whether or not meritocracy is “fair”? Maybe some disagreement about what we mean by “fair” here?
Is that what it was, though? I saw leoboiko observe the implication that meritocracy is unfair, and Robert Liguori agree with him.
The point is that its fairness is not at issue. It exists because it is effective. We might decide we are more interested in fairness than in effectiveness — I sort of gather that leoboiko would argue that we should. But in that case we will certainly be less effective.
> the best thing to do would be to restructure society so that there were as few lions as possible
I like this way of describing things.
Meritocracy is always relative to the rules of the game being played. We as a society decide which games are high status. (For example, currently the “tech interview” game is pretty high stakes.) But, these games can be arbitrary at times. Unnecessary gatekeeping can’t be considered neutral.
What we can say is that meritocracy is often *formally* neutral. Formal neutrality is the thing captured in the quote: “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread”. Although it doesn’t have to work in favor of the rich: universal income is also formally neutral.
Formal neutrality is useful; for one thing, it’s easy to see, and often convinces less thoughtful people that the rules are fair. But it’s not the same thing as justice. There are all sorts of possible rules that would be formally neutral but have very different practical effects.
Oh, definitely. Meritocracy means stripping out all arbitrary barriers, be they structural or incidental. A company which only hires white people is not hiring by merit, and neither is a company which hires people who give really slick technical interviews over people with skills but no polish.
And, in your examples and mine, it’s often true that fair isn’t nice. But the right thing to do isn’t to try to fight unfairness with more unfairness in the other direction; that has a very mixed track record, and leaves the door open for people to go “OK, well, while we’re openly discriminating based on race to achieve our preferred social outcomes…”
I think that’s a misleading metaphor. A society isn’t a person and doesn’t decide things. Which games are high status is a mostly unintended outcome of the interaction of a bunch of different actors, each pursuing his own purposes.
Are you just assuming egalitarianism/redistribution is moral?
(But thanks – you sorta gave me a good example of what I asked for a few threads ago, which is a Muggle Realist Communist.)
Due to the is/ought problem, all moral claims have to be assumed at some level. Are you just assuming egalitarianism/redistribution isn’t moral?
Well, the default position is that there are no moral things at all, because morality itself is not a meaningful concept once you really dig into it.
You can argue against this, and with regard to at least some pieces I’d say that you can even do so successfully, but you still have to make those arguments or present that evidence.
What we are rewarding (and want to reward) is success in helping society progress – materially, culturally, etc. Helping other people. Making the world a better place to live.
Our society is not meritocratic in any sense. We don’t reward merit. Or intelligence. Being meritorious, well-intentioned, hard-working, intelligent, and capable gets you…nothing. What gets rewarded (imperfectly, of course) is actually delivering the result – benefits to other people, as evaluated by those people, by their willingness to voluntarily trade wealth for those benefits.
Intelligence is associated with wealth because we reward pro-social activity, and intelligence makes success in such activity more likely. Height doesn’t (except in basketball).
Steve Jobs wasn’t wealthy because he needed it, or because he was a nice guy (he seems to have been an asshole). He was wealthy because he created great things that benefited billions of people.
That’s as it should be. It’s not, and never has been, about fairness. It’s about incentives.
Without such incentives, capable people wouldn’t try very hard. And wouldn’t control large amounts of capital for use in their projects. And we all would be far worse off.
Oh please. Steve Jobs was a parasite who got rich off years of government investment into computer tech.
Government tech has this way of displacing non-government tech even if the government tech is less efficient. Then people look at it and think the government is producing benefits, when in the absence of government things would have been even better.
Don’t mistake “the only source in this timeline was government” for “if the government hadn’t done it, we wouldn’t have had it”.
@jiro yeah it’s great to speculate about who would’ve done what in some alternate timeline, but the fact is in this timeline Steve Jobs didn’t create any of the tech that made him rich.
Wow, that’s really blatant reasoning to the desired conclusion and it makes no sense.
You are arguing that the market is better at producing tech because the market is incapable of preferring better tech over worse tech…
I’m still trying to figure out what this government investment was. Shockley’s development of the transistor at Bell Labs? The development of the integrated circuit at TI and Fairchild? Motorola’s development of the 6800 in the 1970s? The similar but cheaper 6502 developed at MOStech in 1975? Wozniak’s novel combinations of the 6502 and commodity logic chips resulting in the Apple I and Apple ][? IBMs floppy disk and Shugart and Sony’s smaller variants? The 68000 again developed by Motorola, and the PowerPC developed by IBM? The user interface developed at Xerox PARC?
Or are we talking about ENIAC developed for the military, and the mouse developed at SRI?
There was giant defense investment in Silicon Valley from the Korean War to at least the end of the Cold War. Fred Terman, the Dean of Engineering at Stanford saw how Harvard, Caltech,, Columbia, etc benefited from Pentagon spending on electronic warfare in WWII (radar and counter-radar) and vowed to make sure Stanford got its cut the next time.
So defense spending paid for a lot of the base of Silicon Valley: the huge conglomeration of skilled engineers and technicians in one place. Apple leveraged off that base. But calling Apple’s leadership parasites is silly.
See Steve Blank’s Secret History of Silicon Valley for the details.
People are richer when they are born taller.
Sure, if we’re literally Communists.
I’m not sure why there’s this penchant for eliminating, via redistribution, the advantages of things that the SSC commentariat tends to have or at least admire. If you go and eliminate the advantages of intelligence, “grit”, low time preference and the like, you’re not going to create an egalitarian world.
Instead, you’re going to create a world where all those things others have (but you didn’t cancel because it would be gauche to redistribute to eliminate someone else’s advantage, unless that advantage is wealth) puts them at an absolute advantage. So who wins? The tall, the physically strong, the athletically gifted, the pulchritudinous, the charismatic, those with good social skills. Yes, all those things are helpful today; think how much more helpful they’ll be when you’ve eliminated the “unfair” advantages of intelligence, conscientiousness, etc? Of course, you could be so radical as to try to eliminate ALL these “unfair” advantages, but that’s _Harrison Bergeron_ territory.
Is “chaste system” a mistake, or deliberate? (I think you mean “caste system”?)
Given the low reproduction rate of the modern day winners of the meritocracy, it could have been a very clever pun.
Probably not though.
You’re making a very common error in economic thinking here: you are assuming that economic prosperity is zero-sum: that the shorties’ loss on Earth-H is the tallies’ gain. But, as Adam Smith pointed out back in the 18th century, it doesn’t work like that. Wealth is positive-sum. If, on Earth-H, a bunch of people were consistently malnourished then they wouldn’t produce as much, so they’d have less to trade with the tallies. So the tallies would be poorer too. Not to mention all the resources the tallies would be spending trying to keep the shorties still enslaved and colonised.
We saw this on our Earth: when the UK and France lost their colonies they still kept growing economically. Their economies didn’t shrink. Japan took off after WWII, when it gave up all thoughts of colonising other countries.
It’s a fact of the world that many atrocities destroy wealth overall. And colonisation and slavery are two of those type of atrocities.
Not just atrocities, also simply having lots of natural resources tends to ruin the productive ability of nations (see the Dutch Disease).
I suspect you’re thinking of The Resource Curse: namely why are so many resource-rich countries quite poor. There are however exceptions like Australia and the USA (and in the 18th and 19th century, Britain.). The Dutch Disease is about pressures a resource discovery like the North Sea oil puts on exchange rates and thus exporters.
You are taking for granted some highly disputable assumptions:
1. That stuff ought to be allocated according to desert.
Almost nobody in practice takes that seriously, despite lip service, since nobody believes that one deserves to be born in one place instead of another, and yet almost nobody is in favor of entirely free migration. An alternative postulate is that you are entitled to what you create yourself or obtain by morally legitimate transactions from others entitled to it. That avoids the very serious problem of deciding on some objective measure of desert. See Nozick’s distinction between desert and entitlement.
Simple example to make the intuition more plausible. We bet a dollar on the flip of a coin. You didn’t deserve to have the coin come up heads, but since that is how you bet you are entitled to get the dollar.
2. That “all basic human needs satisfied” is a concept that means something. The “need” for medical care is about as basic as needs get, and cannot be satisfied even if all resources are spent on satisfying it. You are treating a bundle of continua as if it were a small collection of binary choices–satisfy or don’t satisfy.
That’s aside from the point someone else made, that one effect of how stuff is distributed is how much stuff there is, since stuff needs to be produced.
Literally nobody? What about adherents of Vedic religions? Karma?
The problem with this is a misunderstanding of genetics. It is possible to take someone with tall genes and make them shorter through malnutrition but not possible to take someone with short genes and make them tall through more food. That just makes a short fat person. Also the short person with tall genes will then pass those genes to their children who only need to be adequately nourished to be tall. There is no making up for generations of malnourished short people. Just one generation of adequate nourishment is needed for the tall gene to be expressed.
Thus the policy implication is not communism which would only lead to fat short people but a system that guarantees a minimum amount of nourishment to protect against malnutrition that is open to everyone regardless of height. Since the number of children with malnutrition in the developed world is vanishingly small we have already achieved this outcome.
leoboiko, this seems a lot like how an early or mid-twentieth century Marxist would have analyzed the situation. I’m curious if that’s accidental, or whether you consider yourself as such (I’m honestly asking, not trying to insult).
In general these kind of projects fail because humans are inherently hierarchical. People want their leaders and heroes. They are social animals and they want to aspire to lead their peer group. Governments that are officially egalitarian usually end up being the most viciously hierarchical. Examples: the USSR, Communist China, Cuba, the list could go on.
You don’t get a choice to get rid of hierarchies. But you do get a choice as to who ends up on top. At various points in history, that has been the most bloodthirsty warrior, the guy with the right parents, the most ruthless adventurer, or the most cynical politico. Now we finally have a system that rewards intelligence at least a little bit. Let’s not screw it up. Of course, with a few more of these Hungarian high school science projects, we might not have any planet left to screw up…
“Humans are inherently hierarchical”
I know it’s popular here to use uninformed speculation to make vast pronouncements regarding human nature and how it’s possible to structure a society, and it’s something that I would really like to see less of.
[to scott: I didn’t mean to report this comment. the new placement for the report button looks exactly like reply at first glance 🙁 ]
To Whitedeath: Can you think of an existing or past human society that was not hierarchical? There have always been social classes (clergy, farmers, warriors, etc.). I think the extraordinary claim, which requires extraordinary proof, is that you can build one that isn’t. (I’m not trying to say that you are making this claim, but I felt like leoboiko was.)
300 years ago you could have made that same argument against liberal democracy. The point is that we’ve only had ~ 10,000 years of civilization, and to say that all possible forms of social organization have been tried in that time period is just false. There are countless ways of organizing society and “we haven’t had it in the past so it must be against human nature” is just a terrible argument.
“Democracy” in the sense of a republic where citizens elect representatives is a lot older than 300 years. The Most Serene Republic of Venice began in the ninth century. The Greek city-states are even older. Even Rome began as a republic (although with significant differences from the other ones mentioned here.)
I did not say that. I did say that the burden of proof should be on the person proposing the new, untried thing.
How about “we tried it several times in the past and it left a mountain of skulls each time.”
I have other arguments for why egalitarianism is a square wheel, but I don’t enjoy fighting on the swampy ground of psychology.
I specifically said liberal democracy, as in based on the Enlightenment ideas of equality and liberty.
And I’m pretty sure the burden of proof should be on the person speculating what “human nature” inherently allows for.
As for “being tried in the past”, assuming you’re referring to the USSR and such, apparently a totalitarian dictatorship now counts as “trying a nonhierarchical society”
I think you are being very uncharitable here. The founders of the United States openly acknowledged their debt to Greek and roman thinkers. That’s one reason why Washington, DC has all those neo-classical buildings, and why words like “demogogue” and “vox populi” were adopted from the greek and roman sources.
In his lifetime, people compared George Washington to Cincinnatus. They saw themselves as restoring ancient liberties.
We could have a long discussion now about the subtle ways US democracy is different than what came before. But the overall statement that democracy is 300 years old is simply nonsense. The Enlightenment didn’t give us any radically new forms of government. It has all been tried before: dictatorship, feudalism, republics, tribal societies, theocracies.
I asked a simple question: show me a non-hierarchical human society. Or even describe what it would be like.
The USSR explicitly had a goal of abolishing social classes and hierarchies. It was not created to be a totalitarian dictatorship. That was just intended to be a transitional phase prior to the final victory of the proletariat and the formation of a classless society. A lot of people very sincerely believed in and gave their lives for this goal.
Every time the USSR comes up on SSC someone tries to No True Scotsman the hell out of it. If only it had happened differently, if they had really believed in their ideals… guys, they did. They absolutely believed! It’s funny that nobody tries to No True Scotsman Hitler and the Nazis. “Well, if that guy hadn’t been such a drug addict…” And the USSR wasn’t even the only country that had the same goals and failed in the same way.
You really should read more history. The US did not invent everything. In a lot of ways, we were a bunch of ignorant bumpkins until WWII turned Europe in a smoking crater, and the smart scientists figured out which way the wind was blowing. Nobody took the US seriously as a world power in the 1800s or early 1900s. I worry about the arrogance we are showing today and where it could lead.
300 years ago the Greek and Roman democracies were long gone so someone could have easily made the argument “Democracy is inherently against human nature, all the democracies that have existed have failed”
Your demand for an example of a non-hierarchical society is a red herring. You’re the one who made the sweeping claim about what human nature inherently allows for so it’s on you to prove your speculations.
As for the Soviet Union they followed Marxist-Leninist ideology which calls for an extreme concentration of power in the hands of the state bureaucracy, basically the exact opposite of a non-hierarchical society. Sure they may have used promises of a future non-hierarchical society to motivate the people, but they hardly attempted to actually create one.
However, it is also slightly disingenuous to bring up all the various branches of communism as a representative of the modern leftist ideas as means of reaching egalitarian society, especially if one recalls that those particular branches were powerful ideological players because they had the support of an ideologically aligned world power (USSR) who were on a mission to evangelize their version of communism.
And USSR was very invested in quite particular ideas how the revolution should result in dictatorship of the proletariat, and especially Leninist interpretations that included leadership by the vanguard party (who represents people because communism says so, not because election results say so), killing the kulaks, and all that. With those policies it wasn’t exactly a surprise that the system ended up being a murderous totalitarian dictatorship, and everyone else post-1918 who took their ideas from Lenin reproduced the results.
The whole method of bringing forth the egalitarian society the violent revolution has now been discredited. It’s probably fair to say that such inherently un-democratic, pro-violent project tends to attract murderous sociopaths to lead it, or worse.
However, the branch of socialism known as the social democratic project, famous for the 1970s Sweden or the Bundesrepublik SPD, while not managing to create a perfect society or not even un-hierarchical one, nevertheless resulted in an attempt that is more comparable to Canada than USSR on the “mountains of skulls” metric.
[edit. a tl;dr: of my main point: it should be kind of obvious that one-party dictatorship is not exactly inherently tied to the idea of egalitarianism. However, one-party dictatorship is very predictable outcome when one attempts a Lenin-style revolution to create an egalitarian society. (This is because such parties are apparently quite good at winning Lenin-style revolutions / ensuing civil wars.) Moreover, the revolutions by revolutionary parties attract institutional history of wrong kind of people applying wrong kind of methods that are not successful in running a society in the long run (but probably are useful for winning civil wars). The conclusion is, Lenin-style revolutions should not attempted. Unfortunately they were very popular in the 20th century because they appeared to able to bring forth major changes fast.]
It and everything else is both fair and unfair for different interpretations of fairness.
If only life were so simple. However, it is inherently extremely complex. I don’t believe that one trait determines success. Just because I have the height advantage and access to resources, doesn’t mean I will have the variety of other characteristics required to assemble everything into a productive package. Where does the idea of free will, personal choices, and personal responsibility factor in to this equation?
“Giving people access to wealth and resources based on their IQ-related achievements is as unfair as making people richer when they’re born taller.”
“All people have an inherent right to a safe, clean and comfortable environment, and resources should be redirected to implement that.”
Pick one. You can’t have both. To say that low-IQ people have the right to have high-IQ people labor without recompense to provide them with a safe, clean and comfortable environment is to say that people MUST be given access to wealth and resources based on their (negative) IQ-related achievements.
There’s a good reason why all societies that tried “To each according to his need;” ended up with even the most powerful people not getting what quite poor people can get in societies not based on it.
It’s worth noting that a major (and IMHO historically the main) argument for meritocracy and why societies should support it has nothing to do with fairness or morality but rather with purely practical concerns.
Assigning social influence and decision making power according to meritocracy means that your country/society/organization/tribe will have competent leaders (and sub-leaders) making effective decisions.
Assigning social influence and decision making power according to nepotism, random (fair!) chance or superficial features with no correlation to ability means that your country/society/organization/tribe will have less competent leaders making less effective decisions, making it likely that a competing more effective organization will take over and change your system to theirs.
*That* is why meritocracy is good (in the sense of providing favorable results to its society) and why it would be expected to proliferate in the long run.
I should point out that the Jews have been an unusual group for longer than a millennium. For all we know the selection process started with the Babylonian captivity.
I’m not sure what the consequences would be for a discovery like that if it was generally accepted. A lot of very loathsome people would be very happy. But I don’t think it should massively change are policy towards various peoples. The biggest risk is not in the discovery itself but that the shock of the proof would result in people suddenly taking very drastic and awful action. People might end up thinking that because rejecting differing IQ differences has been so emphasized for the past half century if it isn’t true then everything that has been accomplished regarding civil rights somehow has to go. This could prove dangerous especially if it comes out in a populist time like today.
This seems plausible to me and it seems like one of the best reasons why people shouldn’t use bad arguments in support of good causes. When the argument fails the cause is harmed by association.
The thing is, the gains in civil rights were made by repudiating the good arguments — which subsequently turned out to be true. So it’s absolutely logical to conclude that, even if true, these good arguments might undermine the case for civil rights.
If science justifies racist attitudes (certain groups of people are more prone to crime and less intelligent), do we decide racism is moral after all?
Science (in some very broad sense that should include journalism, history, statistics, etc.) tells you about reality–what the world looks like. That won’t ever justify anything morally, because those fields don’t tell you about morality. (When a scientific field makes assertions about morality, they’re outside the realm in which they have any particular advantage over non-scientific fields.)
I believe we should do our best to get a correct picture of reality, and that we should then do our best to behave morally based on that picture. We ought not to kick blacks around, regardless of where the IQ differences or differences in crime rates come from, because kicking people around is a shitty thing to do.
I understand the is/ought distinction, but obviously moral conclusions can and should be influenced by facts about reality.
The morality of chattel slavery was and occasionally still is justified on the basis that it was better for slaves to be slaves because their limited cognitive capacities rendered them unfit to compete on a level playing field.
The morality of Jim Crow was justified on the basis that the lower cognitive capacity of the targets rendered them unfit to participate in civic life with the same amount of agency as other groups.
These sorts of arguments are logical and appeal to many, many people. Really smart, sophisticated people can work out the distinctions you’re trying to make and apply those on an individual basis, but I think it is unrealistic to expect that to happen on a society-wide basis. There are a lot of vaguely racist people out there who already have this vague idea that black people are inferior — I think learning about IQ science would not tend to make this sort of person more likely to consider blacks to be moral equals.
We could always discriminate on the basis of actual cognitive ability, or other productive abilities, which are not too difficult to measure, rather than imperfect correlates of it such as race.
We probably wouldn’t want to enslave low-IQ people anyway, which is why we would still need a deontological notion of human rights.
This is stuff has pretty much been already worked out by the Enlightenment philosophers and eventually resulted in classical liberalism.
So why are we still playing with identity politics, which is actually tribalism and Marxist-inspired collectivism, when we already have a superior alternative?
Neither it is lying to their face, as they will immediately perceive these lies as obvious, and they will tend to conclude that since they are living in a society based on racial tribalism, and their race is the one under attack, then the rational course of action is to band together based on race, and play the identity politics game as a team. This is what the alt-right is about: social justice for (fucking) white males.
However, it is very difficult to get people to agree to discrimination against their own children. This poses a problem for any scheme that would at least occasionally have privileged, high-IQ parents seeing their low-IQ children sold off into slavery or relegated to a lower caste existence or whatever(*), but not so much a scheme in which the disadvantage is attached to hereditary races that merely correlate with low-IQ status.
* I presume anyone trying to actually pull this off will come up with special euphemisms for this rather than saying “slavery” or “caste”, but that won’t change much.
We don’t have to sell to slavery the low-IQ children. As long as the labor market rewards high IQ, and there are redistribution mechanisms such as high property taxes, inheritance taxes, passive investiment taxes, etc. that prevent lineages of wealthy but unproductive people to maintain their wealth for multiple generations, the problem will sort itself out.
I think there were two different sorts of changes that might be described as “gains in civil rights,” only one of which depended on false beliefs–and I don’t think that was a gain.
Making it illegal to send all black children to one school and all white to another, or to require all blacks to sit at the back of the bus, doesn’t depend on believing there are no significant differences in the distribution of abilities by race. Such policies might make sense if the differences existed and were huge, but they pretty clearly are not.
On the other hand, policies that amounted to “if your hiring/admission policy results in whites being more likely to be hired or admitted then blacks it is putatively racist and illegal” do depend on a possibly false belief–that the distribution of relevant traits is the same for both groups (and for males and females). I don’t think those policies were gains.
The thing is, the gains in civil rights were made by repudiating the good arguments — which subsequently turned out to be true. So it’s absolutely logical to conclude that, even if true, these good arguments might undermine the case for civil rights.
Are you arguing that civil rights advances for (e.g.) black Americans rested on most of the country believing they were no less intelligent/more criminal than whites? Because I doubt that that was widely accepted -either by the public or the influential elite – in the civil rights era, and might not even be a majority opinion today.
The civil rights movement appealed to Christian principles of innate equality, American ideals of individual liberty and autonomy, and humanist ideals of shared dignity. It was aided by the fact that the leaders maintained extraordinary composure in the face of intense hostility. I suspect most white Americans simultaneously held negative opinions about blacks while accepting the argument for equality on these grounds. It’s possible that societal values have shifted away from respecting innate dignity and toward only accepting quantifiable criteria like IQ, and the argument for equality may be harmed by that development, but the initial victories were grounded in a different moral framework.
I understand your concern, and it’s worth thinking about. But we have a pretty fundamental problem here: we don’t have a society where the smart and powerful people are given one set of information, and the proles are fed another set. We can probably manage to pursue the truth and acknowledge it in public, or to suppress some kinds of truth, but I don’t think we can do it selectively very well.
Right now, if you read a serious educational story in the New York Times or Washington Post or Wall Street Journal–all papers targeted at educated smart people, and all papers with a lot of influence on people with the power to make real decisions–you will see a lot of discussion of the black/white gaps in graduation rates, grades, college attendance, even standardized test scores. But you won’t see a word about IQ differences, even though they’re (as I understand it) extremely solid, going back decades, and even though IQ predicts educational performance better than anything else.
There is no “inner party” of people who are free of the fairy tales and politically acceptable lies we tell ourselves in public. Even when smart people recognize that some area of public discourse is bullshit (as with mainstream media discussions of race relations, US foreign policy, and probably dozens of other areas), they still:
a. Absorb a lot of the propaganda, because it’s all they hear. (AKA getting high off their own supply.) This happens all the time, and you can see it in the public statements made by powerful people.
b. Form their own opinions in the absence of open discussion or easily-found and discussed data, which often leads them to come to dumb conclusions which they then can’t even acknowledge they believe, so they never get corrected.
c. Assume the less-credible, more-extreme voices or sources are probably more-or-less right, because again, there’s not an open public debate where all sides are heard and everyone can see how different ideas come out. Trump is the trope-namer here, and he’s an outlier, but I don’t think it would be smart to assume that Trump’s the only guy who has quietly assumed the Bannons and Taylors of the world are probably onto something, given the obvious BS spread by their enemies.
d. Say and do exactly what the socially-acceptable consensus demands, even knowing it’s wrong, even knowing it will lead to disastrous results, because the voters and low-IQ media types believe it or pretend to, and they don’t want to get accused of heresy.
Powerful people are smarter than the average for the population, but they’re usually not all that brilliant, and they’re mostly spending their time and mental energy keeping power or acquiring more. They’re a lot more likely to read a pop science book by Gladwell than one of those thick tomes by Murray, and that has consequences. Either they get 180 degree out-of-phase-with-reality views of the world, or they see that they’re being fed socially acceptable bullshit and quietly assume some other thing without talking with anyone about it.
Also, even very smart and accomplished people usually more-or-less accept their society’s consensus on stuff outside their expertise. Making that consensus less accurate means those smart and accomplished people, who may make decisions based on that consensus, make worse decisions.
Maybe there is some kind of society of philosopher-kings someplace, where the proles can be kept ignorant of inconvenient reality without consequences. But I don’t think we can do that in our society. I think this was maybe somewhat possible in the past, when higher education and academic papers/conferences and highbrow discussions were harder for the proles to see, and when a few media gatekeepers could decide what would and wouldn’t be said in public. But I don’t see this working at all now. Instead, I think we consistently see people making bad public decisions to avoid charges of heresy or because they believe the propaganda, and often making bad private decisions because they know the official story is BS, but haven’t worked out what the truth really looks like on their own.
 To some extent there’s segregation by choice, but it’s voluntary and there’s not some rigid separation, and lower-end publications can and will (at least in the internet age) link to higher-end publications, including research papers, to spread those results to a wider audience.
albatross11 — Well said.
To give an example of how elites aren’t a hyper-aware Inner Party who know the real truth denied the proles, consider the No Child Left Behind Act that dominated federal education policy for most of this century. About a decade and a half ago, President Bush and Senator Kennedy got together and came up with a plan: all states would have Abolish the Gap by making (virtually) all students “proficient” or “advanced” (i.e., above average) by 2014. But states were allowed to use whatever state achievement tests they wanted to document their progress.
Not surprisingly, the main effect was to encourage massive cheating on state achievement tests.
Here’s a suggestion of mine: instead of obsessing over raising black and Hispanic school achievement test scores by almost a full standard deviation without raising white and Asian test scores (the implicit meaning of “Closing the Gap”), why not set as a goal raising all groups’ achievement by half a standard deviation each?
This seems much more doable, but it never occurs to elites.
instead of obsessing over raising black and Hispanic school achievement test scores by almost a full standard deviation without raising white and Asian test scores (the implicit meaning of “Closing the Gap”), why not set as a goal raising all groups’ achievement by half a standard deviation each?
Because when they try that, this happens.
I don’t think anyone of consequence today is trying to justify chattel slavery as “welfare for the dumber race”, regardless of the scientific evidence about race and IQ. At worst, it seems like it’d be used to undermine the argument that certain statistics, like poverty or incarceration rate, are evidence of systemic racism, but not much else.
* Only the Ashkenazim, not the Mizrahim or Sephardim, show the increased average intelligence, and the split between those groups is recent.
* There’s no classical sources suggesting that Jews are unusually intelligent.
Ashkenazi Jews are about 60% European (most of that being Italian) – it makes sense than any selection leading to higher intelligence happened after his admixture.
Are you proposing that before that mixture, Jews were less intelligent than Europeans, but somehow they leapfrogged past to become much more intelligent than them? That seems unlikely. As I wrote in another comment (which doesn’t seem to be showing up now), I tend to think that Jews were already of above-average intelligence before that point. Otherwise, why would they respond to being blocked from craft guilds and landowning by specifically entering intellectually demanding professions, rather than e.g. being menial laborers? (Have other oppressed minorities ever had a similar professional path?)
I think intelligence has been reproductively advantageous for Jews since ancient times. Jews are expected to be literate, and to be conversant with the intricate details of Jewish law. Someone who didn’t meet those standards would not be considered a good marriage partner. Josephus wrote, “ Our principal care of all is this, to educate our children well” and “indeed the greatest part of mankind are so far from living according to their own laws, that they hardly know them … but for our people, if any body do but ask any one of them about our laws, he will more readily tell them all than he will tell his own name, and this in consequence of our having learned them immediately as soon as ever we became sensible of any thing, and of our having them as it were engraven on our souls.”
There have been a fair number of eminent Sefardi Jews, such as Shmuel Ha-Nagid, Maimonides, Abraham Cresques, Isaac Abarbanel, Rodrigo Lopez, the Sassoons and Disraeli, which is anecdotal, but I think significant for a numerically small and often oppressed population.
I don’t know whether this really would have been significant enough to have a eugenic/disgenic effect, but I’ve also heard the theory somewhere that while rabbis could and did have many children, Catholic priests, in theory, at least, could not have any. Insofar as the priesthood of many religions used to fulfill a role somewhat analogous to academia (with those who gravitate toward it being smarter than average), this might have made a difference.
Sephardic and Ashkenazi aren’t comparable categories in the context they are being used. If were were discussing minhag, it would be fine, but it terms of genetics Sephardic covers a lot wider range than Ashkenazi. The line from HaNagid to Disraeli is pretty winding. They could plausibly have no ancestors in common more recent than the second temple period.
Judaism used to be a Temple-based religion with a hereditary priest caste. Literacy was not mandatory, nor was it especially common.
After that pattern was destroyed, in the Jewish revolts & ensuing Roman suppression, literacy was pretty much mandatory in ensuing Rabbinical Judaism.
Josephus is a useful but not entirely reliable source. Also scum.
More in favor of my theory that Jewish intelligence was already increasing by the second temple period, and hence was inherited by all Jews, not just Ashkenazim.
Rabbinical Judaism is older than 800 CE and encompasses both Ashkenazim and Sefardim, so I guess we are in agreement about my main point.
True, but he could have lauded the Jews for having any number of attributes, so it’s interesting that he focuses on their learning, which isn’t even something that would be very interesting to his Roman audience.
It seems to me that the mere existence of the Bible (OT, I mean) and the Talmud–works that, even ignoring their religious claims, are clearly intellectual achievements of major rank–indicates that the Jewish society that spawned them was of significant intelligence.
The Talmud in particular–a many-volume work of intellectual argumentation composed by an entire society over hundreds of years–I just don’t believe that it’s produced by a society of merely average intelligence.
Literacy does appear to have been both strongly encouraged and common, according to the Biblical text.
Judges 8:14 “He seized a youth from among the men of Succoth and questioned him. He wrote for him the names of the leaders of Succoth and her elders, seventy-two men.” Whether the episode happened or not, clearly the author finds it unremarkable that a random youth should be literate.
1 Kings 14:19 (and many similar places). “The rest of the deeds of Jeroboam–how he fought wars and how he reigned–behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kinds of Israel.” Clearly assumes that people can read.
Heck, the mere fact of having a written Scripture, in contrast to the Romans or Greeks, seems to indicate a culture of literacy.
Strongly encouraged, see:
Deuteronomy 6:7, “You shall teach them thoroughly to your children and you shall speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you retire and when you arise.” Obviously made much easier by the ability to read the written Scripture.
Is the Bible more impressive than various ancient epics (Greek, Babylonian, Indian etc.)?
In at least two ways that I can think of. More extensive–takes in centuries of history–and more legally detailed.
Also, I emphasized the Talmud in particular, and explained my reason.
That being said, does being more knowledgeable make one more intelligent? An argument can be made that being illiterate doesn’t necessarily make you less intelligent.
No, I meant to suggest cause and effect in the other direction. That is, I argue that only a society that is of a fairly high average intelligence would have either the ability or the desire to create the Bible and the Talmud.
I don’t think you can infer that a society that permanently records its complex legal system is more intelligent than one that doesn’t, and I don’t know if there is evidence that Talmudic law is more complex than that of comparable societies (“don’t know” in the sense of “lack knowledge”, not “am doubtful”).
Granted, it is possible that Roman law, for example, was as complex as Talmudic law, but did Roman society put a high premium on everyone being knowledgeable in Roman law? Or was it, as in modern America, an area for specialists?
(However, as as a point for the greater intellectual challenge of Talmudic law than that of other law systems, I would point to its great scope. In modern American law, constitutional law, criminal law, and civil law is it. There isn’t anything else. In Talmudic law, those three are the topic of just one of the six major sections of the Talmud.)
In Judaism, Talmudic study has always been upheld as an ideal for all men, and the Talmud has in fact been studied by a very large percentage of men. That ideal and reality suggest a high level of average societal intelligence.
Also, the Talmud was not produced by a small caste of specialists, but by a society-wide effort that lasted centuries.
Basically, if you have an entire society that is involved in intellectual pursuits, I think you have strong evidence that the society you’re looking at has high average intelligence.
It’s just a fact that today, men like me reluctantly go into programming because there is such a surfeit of Talmud teachers. There are many men qualified and eager to teach Talmud for every paying position that exists. That societal ideal came from somewhere, and given that the Talmud exalts it and describes it in action, it is reasonable to assume that it existed in Talmudic times at least as much as today.
But how can such an ideal exist in a society where the average man cannot relate to it for lack of intelligence?
Perhaps you have a point on the legally detailed issue, but as far as extensiveness I think you are giving the Hindu scriptures too little credit. And perhaps also the Greeks; sadly in their case lots of material has not survived.
Fair point, you may be right about that.
Having more categories does not mean the law has greater scope, particularly if you are comparing unlike categories. For instance, current USA law includes food safety regulation, in a category you seem to be missing. Perhaps a slightly better idea of the complexity or scope of law might be got through a comparison of the size of written legal sources. The Talmud has nothing on the US Code in that department. Have you had a look at the fifty books of the Pandects of Justinian, only one of three–count’em, three–parts of the Corpus Juris Civilis? It is plausible to me that Talmudic law is the most complex body of early law, but nothing can compete with the modern regulatory state in terms of scope.
How does describing the Hebrew Bible and Talmud as “intellectual achievements of major rank” preclude describing the Greek and Hindu epics, or Greek philosophy, or Chinese philosophy, etc etc etc, as also intellectual achievements of major rank?
AFAIK, no-one is proposing that Greeks (or the descendants of ancient Greeks) are genetically more intelligent on average than white Americans. So if you accept that Greek epics are as impressive as the Talmud, “produces impressive intellectual works” is not convincing evidence for “has higher average IQ”.
Point taken, although they might make that argument with the Chinese. (Of course, the ancient Greeks might; after all, your average white American is largely descended of barbarian stock)
My guess is that a golden age requires everything to line up just right. Enough smart people around to do the work (with enough spare time and resources to do it) are necessary, but not sufficient. Though my impression is that Greeks were widely considered intelligent in the ancient world, so maybe the Greeks were unusually smart for some oddball reason.
Anyway, if we want to assess the importance of Jewish religious works, it’s worth considering the fact that a couple billion non-Jews have religions which are based (perhaps somewhat loosely and only in part) on Jewish religious texts. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they were more impressive/inspired by God/works of genius than other cultures’ religious texts, but it at least should edge our assessment a bit in the direction that there was something especially interesting about them.
If we are to take such a point into account, we should consider that a couple billion* non-Romans have CJC-derived legal systems. I know of only eight million or so whose state legal system is notably Talmudic. Moreover:
Arsène Darmesteter, “The Talmud” (1897). (I’d appreciate a more recent source, but I think Talmud/CJC pissing contests are out of academic fashion.)
I have to assume influence went both ways. Neither body of law “came first”–both developed over concurrent centuries. And I am sure that Jewish and Roman law, Greek and Jewish works of art, took substantial influence from those who went before. I have heard that many of the myths in the Old Testament can be traced back to earlier Mesopotamian sources.
*A couple billion is a low-ball. Try to count the people in this map.
I assume we can all agree that the Roman Empire had a vast impact on legal systems, notions of government, culture, military technology, language, religion, and all sorts of other stuff. In some sense, that’s kinda unsurprising, because they were a really big, powerful, successful empire that ruled a lot of people and commanded enormous resources. It’s unsurprising in the same way that it’s unsurprising that China had a big impact on its region, or that Spain had a big impact on the Americas.
But the Jews were like this really insignificant little bunch of tribes that routinely got kicked around by more powerful neighbors. They’re the last folks you’d have bet on to end up dominating the religious and moral beliefs of a big chunk of the planet–even less so than you’d have bet on the classical Greeks to have *their* outsized influence. So it seems plausible that there was something uniquely powerful about their religious traditions and writings.
This is why we need Good People to be honest about muggle realism and moral ways of dealing with it. If you outlaw truth, only outlaws will have truth.
Maybe the Muggle realists could start the ball rolling by abandoning the pretense that it’s pure science, and stating their political goals.
That would only split them into mutually contradictory groups, each wanting a different thing.
weakly muggle-realist commenter here.
I’d like to see the assumption that disparate outcomes are proof of discrimination brought to an end. Objections?
How about the agenda of getting people to tell the truth in public about questions of fact, rather than spreading socially acceptable lies? Because that seems to me to be a value independent of any specific policy agenda.
In terms of my policy agenda: I think we ought to be doing everything we can to provide a good education for everyone, to let them live up to their potential. And I think the best way to do that is to recognize that not everyone has the same potential, and that we may want to do different things for people at different levels of intelligence and interest and patience and such.
That needs to be based on individual abilities–it would be a disaster to just track the white and Asian kids into the fast classes and the black and Hispanic kids into the slow ones. But hey, we have ways todo individual-level tracking, based on IQ tests, subject matter tests, grades, etc. But where I live, tracking by ability is politically unacceptable because of the racial outcomes, and there’s plenty of concern about closing the racial performance gap. And housing prices are massively dependent on school districts, where the good schools are mostly white and Asian, and the bad schools are mostly black and Hispanic. And a lot of the discussions you’d need to come to grips with this and respond intelligently simply can’t happen in the current climate, to our continuing cost.
On an entirely different level, I’m concerned with police misconduct and the way the justice system sometimes grinds up low-level nobodies in the gears. But figuring out how big the problem is and what the problem looks like and how to fix it *requires* talking about (among other things) differences in crime rate by race. My best understanding of reality here is that both:
a. A lot of policemen get away with serious misconduct, because it’s hard to police the police. Some police departments are famously brutal or corrupt or inept.
b. Media coverage on police shootings of blacks by white police tends to be stunningly dishonest and slanted, to the point that it’s really hard to feel confident that you’re getting anything like the real story when the reports come out.
It seems to me that the dishonesty and shoddiness of media sources here is partly based on this same kind of ideological bounds/political correctness that afflicts education reporting. And I’d like to see that get better, because police misconduct, policing for a profit, and frightfully high crime rates in some underclass black urban neighborhoods are all really serious problems that we need to fix. But no good solutions are going to come out of dishonest reporting and discussions that leave a bunch of relevant details out because they’re politically unacceptable. That’s like designing an airplane with cartoon physics and expecting it to fly.
And so on. Inability to state politically uncomfortable facts or plausible claims of fact cripple a lot of real-world discussion of policy, leading us to bad policy even when basically all sides want better policy.
As FacelessCraven said, an end to the assumption that disparate outcomes are proof of discrimination.
Denying differences in ability leads to bad “solutions” to disparate outcomes. Punish the successful, give entirely unrealistic expectations to the unsuccessful, and then be shocked when the result is less successful people all around with lots of grievance thrown in.
Maybe the muggle realism denialists could state their political goals for refusing there’s a scientific question involved at all?
Certainly, many people who believe in the sort of position you’re referring to here seem to believe that it would have enormous policy implications. On the face of it, this seems extremely plausible; there are all sorts of ways in which our conception of the workings of society depend on how we conceive the capacities and nature of the people within society. To suggest that such policy changes would only be the result of drastic and irrational overreactions seems to me to indicate that you’re not taking the claimed position seriously enough.
The question is about the range of possible policy changes.
For people who think muggle realism can be discussed in public without disastrous consequences, I think the likely policy changes are things like allowing tracking by ability in schools even when it makes the racial numbers look bad, or eliminating the presumption that different average outcomes for blacks and whites = evidence of discrimination. Probably also this would lead to elimination of affirmative action by race in university admissions. Now, any or all of those may actually be bad policies–maybe they’ll do more harm than good overall. But none of them seem disastrous. And I’d rather have somewhat worse policies plus honest public discussion than slightly better policies plus stiffled and dishonest public discussion–I think honest public discussion will pay off in the long run even if it doesn’t right now.
On the other hand, I think there’s a thread of anti-muggle-realism argument that says that if we allow discussion of this stuff, it will lead to really awful outcomes. Imagine making the quiet unspoken bias against blacks in employment and education and policing into something explicit, loud, and substantial, and thus making it *much* harder for blacks to do well in society. At the extreme end, perhaps we end up flipping from affirmative action to official support (or blind-eye-turning) for explicit racial segregation in schools and jobs.
My intuition is that these extreme outcomes aren’t very likely, but I’ll admit I don’t have a great deal of strong evidence either way. It seems very unlikely that a country that elected Barrack Obama is going to go in for a return to Jim Crow laws. And existing polling data doesn’t support the idea that a lot of whites are just itching to mistreat blacks if only they can find a justification involving IQ. But society is complicated, so it’s hard to make a very strong argument here.
At SSCIn the SSC comment section we generally believe in a linkage between intelligence and genetics.
I had a very savvy civics teacher in high school who asked the same thing. Who would want to fund a study to determine the ethnic distribution of intelligence? And then who would want to fund all the subsequent studies that would be required for vital context? Where can we even discuss such things? It’s a shame that it’s so hard, because I agree that we have to talk about this, if only to put context around what scientific findings like that would mean.
I think part of the value of this blog is that we can at least broach this subject without too many people’s hair catching on fire. For example, I’m female and believe that there are cognitive sex differences. Now, a lot of people will hear “different” and read “inferior”, when this is not the case. We’re two halves of the same species and there are millions of women doing the same jobs as men already, so the truth has got to be way more complex.
I think there are clearly so many vectors of intelligence that you could only say a group is “inferior” if you reduce things down to just one of them. There are innumerable number of vectors for “intelligence”, many of which interact in ways we aren’t aware of and thus can’t even model just yet. So the truth isn’t that “women aren’t as good at math as men”; the truth is maybe that women have some slight edge in topology in combination with quantum calculus, whereas men have some slight edge in set theory and fluid mechanics, or whatever. In that context, who is “better”? Nobody. Or maybe more accurately, “it depends”. It depends on what you’re working on, what you’re trying to accomplish, who you have available, and on all the other usual stuff. Plus the only way you can see where people are on the bell curve in the first place is to present them with roughly equivalent opportunities and see where they land.
It might actually favor a more fair world if people understood that modeling cognitive differences probably doesn’t extend down to the level of individuals particularly well, and that thus the most pragmatic solution is more fairness, not less. I think it’s pretty easy to explain why making bell curves of entire genders or races doesn’t give you terribly many insights into where to place your social investment. The thing you’re looking for might be hidden in a population that simply hasn’t had an opportunity to demonstrate its unique combination of cognitive assets. If you direct resources towards the known quantities, you’ve tethered yourself to a model and a system that’s backwards-looking only. You’ll inevitably miss the outliers and innovators that might be implicit in the long-tail of any distribution. After all, we can only see the Hungarian genius bump by looking back- no one saw it coming. Besides, just about everyone’s recent ancestors were illiterate dirt farmers, and yet somebody won the other 73% of Nobel Prizes- the Hungarian Jews didn’t get them all. So what were those people’s ancestors up to for the preceding 600 years?
Dude, its happening as u speak.
Brain biochemistry differences at molecular granularity, convergent gene networks, polygenic expression of IQ and educational attainment…
What happens when the red tribe/blue tribe gap turns out neurotypical and not just phenotypical?
Is red tribe/blue tribe currently believed to be phenotypical? I would not be surprised if it is but I wasn’t aware of any consensus on that.
Ask Dr. Alexander
remember, phenotype is expression
different from genotype or neurotype
In complexity theory we are more inclined to describe the red/blue dichotomy as a soldier/explorer CCP (competition cooperation Paradigm)
What if it turns out not that Group A is better at X and Group B is better at Y, but that Group A is better at X, and Y, and Z, etc?
It’s probably better to adhere to an ethical system that does not assign moral worth to ability.
For Group A = geniuses (Hungarian or otherwise), it turns out that this is the case. And the things that geniuses aren’t unambiguously better at, e.g. rote work where the geniuses get bored too fast, pretty much have to be organized along the lines of rote workers serving under higher-IQ bosses.
The geniuses don’t look any different than anyone else, and they mostly aren’t organized along recognizable ethnic lines, so if it is troublesome we can ignore it easier than we can ignore any racial or gender differences. But, group that is better at almost all of the valuable high-status stuff, done, got that. We’d rather not assign moral worth on that basis, agreed.
But the society that doesn’t assign practical worth on that basis, will be outcompeted by the one that does. So the trick has to be finding a way to decouple practical and moral worth. I think Western Civilization generally and the United States especially used to be fairly good at that, though we may be losing the knack.
except we ARE finding that out
its called the Cooperation Competition Paradigm of Complexity Theory.
Its a robust explanation for the current red tribe/blue tribe polarization in America.
It’s probably better to adhere to an ethical system that does not assign entitlement to moral worth.
It’s probably better still to adhere to an ethical system that does not assign entitlement to moral worth.
> It’s probably better to adhere to an ethical system that does not assign
> moral worth to ability.
Human beings seem fundamentally incapable of that. Far better to promote the idea that we are all of fundamentally equal ability unless explicitly proven on an individual case otherwise.
After all, is there any society that has benefited in the long term from believing one large block is more capable (even in limited domains) than another large block? I can’t think of one.
This idea has measurable and significant consequences. If the idea is false and the consequences do not occur, your society can tear itself apart trying to find the reason for this. A noble lie is still a lie, and a lousy foundation to build on.
Ancient Rome with respect to Greece.
“A noble lie is still a lie, and a lousy foundation to build on.’
De Tocqueville said America had many more flatterers than a monarchy, since a king has only two buttocks to smooch while democracy has twice the voting population. It is a firing offence in Venona Transcript legacy media to doubt the pious fraud that America’s pitchfork-wielding peasantry are forever obsessed with Russian conspiracies. ‘Trump is a Russian pawn’ is within their skill set.
If this was likely, *every* society would have destroyed itself. Yes, a false belief results in some misallocation of resources, but let’s understand that we’re not talking about false vs. true belief, we’re talking about which false belief to we want to see internalized. And I’ll take a false belief in absolute equality over a false belief in absolute superiority/inferiority.
(And not playing the game at all simply concedes to human nature, which is pretty strongly in the absolute superiority/inferiority side of the spectrum.)
I’m pretty certain that if there had been any sense of *actual* superiority and there had been more than a handful of Greeks in Rome, there’d shortly have been no Greeks in Rome. We can acknowledge superiority of some small group in some small area as long it doesn’t mean *real* superiority in any consequential sense.
As far as (my admittedly limited reading goes), the Roman love affair with things Greek was far more a matter of self-aggrandizement, meant to portray themselves as taking the torch of civilization from the Greeks and carrying it further.
At least I don’t recall it being especially pronounced until after true superiority pecking order had been established by Rome conquering Greece. Then it was possible to acknowledge their abilities (and prove your worldliness by purchasing a Greek tutor for your child).
Most of them aren’t around any more. And there are ways around it; an obvious example is religious belief, which has been largely limited, in the Western world, to beliefs which do not have predictable temporal consequences.
This is a false dilemma. If we know both beliefs are false, we need not fixate on either one. And “misallocation of resources” is not the limit of the problem. If you have a false belief, and this results in your solutions to a perceived problem being counterproductive, yet you refuse to correct (or wall off, doublethink-style) your belief, you now have a classic positive feedback loop. Even if your solutions are only useless, if you consider a problem’s severity to increase with the time it has been unsolved, you have a positive feedback loop.
Your first argument is circular and your second is moving the goalposts.
Agreed, *if* all of society’s obsessed with this particular element. Otherwise we handle it the same way we handle the billion other contradictions that most human beings embody every day. By a constant process of negotiation, procrastination, ignoring the problem, mental two-step, etc.
We’re not particularly rational creatures and policy designed around the assumption of complete rationality can cause a lot of harm.
Hell, I spent many years trying to teach my child how what he perceived as a simple statement of fact was conveying huge amounts of meaning (that he didn’t mean) to everyone around him.
*sigh*. I forgot in debate club you need to define the terms, lest I be claiming that no-one ever thought their dog was superior because it could run faster :-).
How about “superior in total”. That taken as a group, they are “better as a whole”. Where the whole or total is whatever utility function that society values.
Now of course, human psychological self defense mostly prevents that, so I will admit I was mostly thinking about the effect of the belief of the inferiority of some class of your society.
Is a caste system *ever* healthy?
This problem has not reached the point of “all”, but it has certainly reached a point where it cannot be ignored. The results are visible and ignoring the issue “mental two-step” has reached its limit — largely because some keep calling it out. If there was nigh-universal agreement that people were not of fundamentally equal ability but we should claim they are yet act according to our true beliefs, the hypocrisy might be able to be kept up forever
But this is not the case; there are many who either truly believe that everyone is of fundamentally equal ability or who in any case insist on acting on that belief. And they call out the contradictions engendered by the larger set with the hypocritical beliefs. This makes maintaining the charade untenable.
As I said, moving the goalposts. This directly contradicts your parenthetical of “(even in limited domains)”.
As for caste systems, I believe they’ve been more the rule than the exception in civilization; royalty/aristocracy/nobility, patrician/plebian (and the later Roman classes), Hindu caste, etc. I don’t know about “healthy”, but they’re workable.
I don’t think there’s any real question that intelligence is substantially heritable–otherwise, how can we explain the results of twin studies?
There’s a substantial controversy over whether heritable differences explain any of the persistent observed differences in IQ between racial groups.
At the level of popular mainstream publications, it’s also quite controversial to mention in public that substantial differences in average IQ even exist between racial groups. However, I think this is completely commonplace knowledge among people in the relevant fields. (I heard of it as a kid, from my fairly liberal parents who were both special ed teachers.)
theres no question
im interested in what happens in the future.
what happens when we tease out neurotypic differences between red tribe and blue tribe?
spoiler: we are not “all one”.
Didn’t Haidt already do that? Red Tribe are high in conscientiousness, low in openness, Blue Tribe the other way around?
I think hes wrong…its more like soldier/explorer phenotypes.
In the EEA (environment of evolutionary adaptation) both types had fitness parity.
in 21st century civilization, not so much.
Soldiers are loyal, brave, rule followers, conform to authority.
Explorers are curious, risk-takers, inventive, explorative.
I also believe that there are neurotypic (brain biochemistry) differences that we will discover in the future.
then u will see conservatives screaming blue murder about genetic determinism, but it will be too late.
Pandora’s box will full open.
Are you suggesting that in the 21st century we’ll only need explorers and not soldiers then?
Where does morality fit into any of this? “Inventive” can be a euphemism for “devious” and “exploitative” also.
i think (me personally) that we are are going to need many more explorers than soldiers. There were times in history that we needed more soldiers than explorers. But now– we are only creating mass quantities of explorer jobs.
Soldier jobs: truck drivers, factory workers, miners, farmers, and yes, actual soldiers, will be the first jobs automated.
Never doubt that the military is fiercely pursuing silicon soldiers– cheap, expendable, obedient.
i think…we need to find a way to change soldiers into explorers.
thats why im an educationist.
and im sry…i dont get morality at all.
im aspergers positive.
I work in the defense industry, alongside uniformed military officers, and I doubt the alleged ferocity of this pursuit.
Can confirm that the U.S. military’s pursuit of “silicon soldiers” is un-ferocious enough that they’re currently taking criticism for not doing as much of it as they should be. E.g. that their recent buzz phrase of “human-machine teaming” was instantly obsolete for including the “human” part. Often with a heavy implication that the Chinese military in particular has no qualms about moving in this direction and may seize a first-mover advantage.
In broader context, the U.S. military is not just a fighting force but a massive jobs program that benefits constituents in every Congressional district in the country. Both DoD officials and their bosses in Congress are extremely well aware of that fact, which may help explain why they’d be slow to move toward a more automated approach.
what tickets do you have? you may not have to need-to-know on this.
if China is doing it we are doing it– trust.
except for cognitive genomics, because that is such a hot button here.
I think that’s more than enough time for a beneficial low-frequency gene to spread through a population.
Let us suppose an average time between generations of 25 years, which is I think pretty conservative. That’s 40 generations per 1000 years.
Let us assume that at the start of the period of selection one individual was hetrozygous for a beneficial allele which meant they had 6 children compared to everybody elses 1. (I kind of derived these values from the article as an approximation of : “four, six, sometimes even eight or nine children” vs 1.2 or 0.6)
On average, three of the six descendants will carry the allele, and, while it is rare in the population they will procreate in the same way.
Thus, the proportion of the population carrying the allele will at first triple with each generation.
If every heterozygous individual could breed with a homozygous friend, how long would it take before everybody was heterozygous? Well, 3^12=531441, which is more than Hungary’s reported jewish population at the end of the time period.
However, as the allele becomes common obviously it will start meeting copies of itself and reduce its own fitness, until an equilibrium is reached. We might expect the individuals to pair up randomly with respect to this genotype, and also the population isn’t a fixed size. I’m not going to bother with looking up/working out the real maths, because it’s clear that with strong selection you’re not going to need a millenium to get a beneficial trait increasing to a significant percentage and we’re not aiming for fixation.
In reality there are likely to be multiple genes each with a smaller effect.
So this intelligence gain wouldn’t be due to a single locus, but the successful jewish physicists would be heterozygous for a number of them.
Scott listed four genetic diseases linked to the Ashkenazi Jews. I haven’t looked at the nature of these complaints, but there’s no specific reason for the genes involved to show heterozygous advantage. Genes may have multiple different effects making them overall advantagous in one environment and deleterious in another.
You can also ignore the spread of rare and relatively novel variants (though they are clearly part of the Ashkenazi story) and instead look at a model like this:
– there are 3000 common variants – let’s say they each start with a population frequency of 50% to simplify things.
– having the IQ-increasing version of each of these alleles increases IQ by 0.1 points, while having the other one decreases it by 0.09 points (from a 100 point baseline).
– on top of this, each person carries an average of 1000 rare deleterious variants (the genetic load) of which 60 have a negative effect on IQ of -0.25 points each. The others presumably have other negative effects.
So the average person here has an IQ of 100 (1500 * 0.1 – 1500 * 0.09 – 60 * 0.25 = 0). The offspring of two such people will have a variation in the number of beneficial alleles as well as the genetic load, with the standard deviation being roughly equal to the square root of the number of variants under consideration. One that is significantly above normal might have 1600 ‘good’ variants and only 1400 ‘bad’ ones along with only 50 IQ-decreasing variants in the genetic load, giving them a 122 IQ.
Assume an environment where reproductive success is closely linked to IQ, such that this lucky descendant has 4 children, their average peer has 2, and their unlucky mirror counterpart with a 78 IQ has none. Assume further that this differential success is linear with IQ over the interval under consideration (78-122) but does not extend further in to the tails (honestly I’m just doing that to keep the math symmetrical, since no one can have negative numbers of children … but it also helps to show that you don’t need people with 150 IQ having a dozen children in order to see selection).
Under such circumstances, the average number of good variants will tend to increase by slightly less than 20 per generation, leading to an increase in average IQ of a bit more than two points per generation. No rare or novel variants required, just operating on standing variation. A few centuries and you have geniuses popping up all over.
In reality many of those variants that increase IQ by 0.1 points probably come with some similarly small downside, like increased energy consumption or slower maturity or a bigger head, else they would have gone to fixation already even despite their small effect. Nor is it likely that the selection in the Ashkenazi community was so one-dimensional as to operate only on IQ. But in terms of plausibility just based on genetics, there’s no question that a thousand years is plenty for some people to end up with 15 points of extra IQ.
Look up quantitative selection – you don’t have to guess. .
What does genetics matter? If the effect is known, what does the cause matter? For your purpose, is there any practical difference between Charles Murray and the conventional attack on him?
It matters a lot for policy purposes.
If as a society we decide that we want to increase the popuation IQ, then should we hire more high school teachers like Laszlo Ratz, or should we practice eugenics (maybe even in some mild form, such as setting up an incentive system such that doctors and bankers have four children, while welfare queens have only one)?
What about immigration? Low-IQ immigrants are flooding into Europe and the US thanks to the de facto open borders policy. Can we stay confident that at least their children, if not them, will reach our average IQ once they are taught by our Laszlos, or should we scrap open borders for an immigration policy with IQ tests and extensive background checks?
Maybe the heritability of intelligence or the race gap has policy consequences, but Vox concedes them. Does any claim about the cause of the race gap have consequences? We have plenty of experience with the children of immigrants. We know what they’re like and don’t need to know why.
Should we emulate Ratz? We know that ed schools are bad at answering that question. But I find it quite easy to imagine that better teaching methods are possible either way the race gap falls.
Vox concedes that the race IQ gap exists, and that IQ is heritable at individual level, but they claim that at the level of a race (a large group largely defined by ancestry) these genetic individual differences mostly cancel out, and therefore the race IQ gap is mostly environmental.
Whether this is true or not has policy implications: racial affirmative action policies will be the first thing to fly out the window if we accept that the race IQ gap is mostly genetic.
There would be a few hardcore supporters who would still try to justify affirmative action because “you didn’t earn your genes”, somebody already attempted this in the comments here, but overall it is one thing to say “we have to give free stuff to this group of people to compensate for the prejudiced negative treatment that they receive due to widespread institutional racism” and another thing to say “we have to give free stuff to this group of people to compensate for being born dumb”.
But how changeable is how they are like, and what is the best way to change it? Knowing why they are what they are like is crucial to estimate the effects of possible interventions. An intervention can take 20-30 years before producing measurable effects, this is too much to play trial and error without a good theory, considering the stakes.
Ok, suppose we want to Ratzify public schools. We screen for people with high mathematical talent and excellent charisma and communication skills, we find that most of them are in high-paying, high-status jobs like executive managers, politicians, etc., thus we offer them competitive salaries to become high school teachers.
Twenty years later, we find that some Nobel laureates of Sino-Jewish descent idolize these super-teachers, but public finances have been encumbered by the increased education expense, and the tax base and government efficiency have been eroded because companies and public agencies are not as well managed as they could be, as they lost talent to the school system. We find that the super-teachers who went to teach in high-class neighborhoods had some moderate positive effect, while those who went to teach in ghettos had little or no effect.
But at least the quantity and quality of scientific output has increased, hasn’t it? Well, suppose that public and private science funding has been reduced due to economic downturn and poor management decisions, therefore the overall effect of the policy on scientific output is unclear and could be negative.
This scenario is a plausible outcome of a policy enacted without an accurate theory of the underlying phenomena.
well this is happening now
US was locked out of the Math Oympics for 20 years and now has won the past two years.
Is private extracurricular teaching the cause?
or maybe…mathability is separable from g
Affirmative action is a slippery topic. People give a dozen different reasons for it. Very few of the reasons are affected by anything we are discussing here. Some people advocate on the basis of factual claims which are generally false. For example, on the grounds that black high school graduates are behind due to bad education and will catch up in college. This is easily measured to be false, without telling us anything about the cause of IQ, let alone the cause of the IQ gap.
That article is being deceptive. The illustration shows pretty much all black people.
US winners of the International Math Olympiad in 2016 have names that appear to be 5 out of 6 Asian.
But there are other justifications, like “diversity is valuable” or “we need to create role models.”
Policy decisions are imminent.
given CRISPR and recent advances in cognitive genomics within 10 years.
(1) Welcome to crimethink.
(2) IQ is highly heritable. Something like 80% (here’s la wik on it). IQ stands for “intelligence quotient”, but how IQ — a measurement based on artificial tests — relates to actual human intelligence (however one might characterize that) is at least arguably somewhat obscure. But I doubt you’ll find anyone who studies IQ who does not think that it basically does measure intelligence.
(3) I hope that everyone’s politics can handle the truth. I don’t think, though, that progressivism can handle this particular one. At least not as currently constituted. Hence the defenestration of Watson, the pariah-hood of Sailer, etc.
How do you think liberals should be treated on the IQ question?
By pandering on the question of heredity? Because we are right on the cusp of a torrent of discoveries.
Dr. Zimmer in the NYT–
This is happening rite naow–
0. Intelligence is (at least crudely) measurable
1. Intelligence is highly heritable (much of the variance is determined by DNA)
2. Intelligence is highly polygenic (controlled by many genetic variants, each of small effect)
3. Intelligence is going to be deciphered at the molecular level, in the near future, by genomic studies with very large sample size
Do liberals really want to run the risk of treating cognitive genomics the same way conservatives treated established climate science?
> (3) I hope that everyone’s politics can handle the truth. I don’t think, though, that progressivism can handle this particular one. At least not as currently constituted. Hence the defenestration of Watson, the pariah-hood of Sailer, etc.
It’s going to be very interesting to watch this unfold over the next decade or two as we get increasingly higher resolution data about the genetic basis of intelligence. Someone downthread compared the current approach to the way conservatives treat climate science, which sounds about right. Decades of auto-backpatting about being on the side of science (climate, evolution, ‘born this way’, etc) will very suddenly be deafeningly dissonant.
You can see the groundwork being laid in progressive media, though, which gives me some hope — for instance, Steve Sailer points out that despite Vox running Charles Murray up a tree, the body of their article concedes that he’s roughly 80% right: http://www.unz.com/isteve/vox-charles-murray-is-once-again-peddling-junk-science-about/
So, hopefully this won’t be too painful for everyone involved as the science becomes increasingly obvious to anyone who cares to pay attention. But, that’s pretty much already the case as it stands — so who knows? Interesting, like I said.
I spend a lot of time thinking about what the hereditarian left is going to look like when it comes to policy. Things seem fairly inchoate right now. A peculiar age we live in.
“for instance, Steve Sailer points out that despite Vox running Charles Murray up a tree, the body of their article concedes that he’s roughly 80% right”
That isn’t much of a gotcha, since that 20% was the stuff about IQ differences between races having a significant genetic component which was always the primary reason Murray was controversial, and besides, it was the author himself who chose to highlight this ratio by listing Murray’s 5 main premises and saying the first 4 are reasonably close to correct, even if somewhat “slanted” in the way Murray presents them.
As an analogy, suppose Kevin MacDonald wrote an article that was 80% just explaining relatively mainstream ideas about evolutionary psychology and group selection, with the remaining 20% being devoted to explain his particular theories about Jews having been shaped by evolution to follow a “group evolutionary strategy” which involves acting as parasites to “host” cultures whose group cohesion they instinctively seek to undermine (with universalist ideas and such) while hypocritically promoting high social cohesion among their own group. If someone then wrote a critique which said he was peddling junk science, would you (or Sailer) defend MacDonald’s article with “he’s roughly 80% right”?
As for the rest of your comment, it seems odd to be crowing about an imagined future vindication when you are implicitly acknowledging that the evidence for a statistical pattern of some groups having more IQ-boosting genes, enough to explain a substantial portion of measured gaps, is at present entirely absent. There are plenty of scientifically-educated progressives like myself who don’t deny the theoretical possibility that group genetic differences explain some non-negligible portion of the measured gap, but who deny that there is at present any remotely convincing evidence (or a priori arguments about rates of evolutionary divergence between groups) for favoring this over the alternative hypothesis that genetic differences are negligible and the explanation for the gaps is almost entirely environmental (to pick a somewhat arbitrary threshold for ‘negligible’ and ‘almost entirely’, one might define the hypothesis that any genetic differences that exist would create a difference of less than 2 IQ points if environmental differences were completely controlled for–as I argued here, the “environmentalist” position need not be that genetic differences are precisely zero to infinite precision, and if any genetic difference is very small compared to the environmental difference, there is no particular reason to assume it would even go in the same direction as the measured difference, i.e. the group that has a measured advantage due to environmental differences might have a marginal genetic disadvantage).
I think it’s fair to accuse someone who talks as though there is a very strong evidence-based case for a hypothesis that is possible, but in fact presents a heavily slanted view of the strength of the evidence that ignores much of the mainstream criticism, of promoting “junk science”, especially when there seem to be strong ideological motives at play. As far as I can tell Murray also fails to discuss or even acknowledge some of the strongest evidence for doubting that the measured average gap is largely fixed by genetics, namely all the cases where comparisons of other groups of blacks and whites besides US citizens as a whole show either a minimal gap or in some cases a black advantage (one seemingly not explainable in terms of socioeconomic status), and gaps just as large as the black-white gap can be seen in groups of the same race who in some cases have only been relatively separated for a few centuries. See my comment here for a number of such examples.
As far as I can tell Murray also fails to discuss or even acknowledge some of the strongest evidence for doubting that the measured average gap is largely fixed by genetics,
As far as I can tell, from reading TBC & Murray’s more recent statements & interviews, he refuses to state to what degree genetics vs environment plays in observed differences in group IQ levels.
More importantly, I think you are strongly underestimating the political resistance to acknowledging the observed differences in group IQ levels. While the Vox article is annoying – and the headline even more so – that they will go so far as to acknowledge that groups in the USA have different average IQs is astounding progress.
Once we are at the point (we are not there yet) where everyone says “yes, there are differences, here is our accepted way of measuring that” THEN we can go on to what to me(*) is the obvious next step, which is how to a) find out the root cause and b) address the root cause.
We have been stuck on stupid – ie, “there ain’t no such thing as a real IQ test” – for so long, it is staggering that the population as a whole is coming around to agreeing that there are viable metrics.
(*) I continued to be surprised by the people who seem to think that acknowledging a difference just means we throw up our hands and give up. Or that it means passing laws that will never be unpassed. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am.
PS – re: the studies linked at your comment – can’t find the GSCE study anywhere. The “German children of black soldiers” study has been discussed elsewhere – the fathers of the children were pre-screened by the military for IQ, making them non-representative of African Americans. Race ratios in the US have long been known to drive the differences between state averages, and it’s not reasonable to think that a migrant population reflects perfectly the “old country” population genetically – either trans Atlantic movement or the US black “Great Migration”. So I don’t think those examples are as striking as perhaps you do.
As far as I can tell, from reading TBC & Murray’s more recent statements & interviews, he refuses to state to what degree genetics vs environment plays in observed differences in group IQ levels.
He doesn’t make specific claims about the exact degree, but he certainly genetics plays a non-trivial role in the gap, p. 311 of The Bell Curve says “It seems highly likely to us that both genes and environment have something to do with racial differences. What might that mix be? We are resolutely agnostic on that issue; as far as we can determine, the evidence does not yet justify an estimate.” And if you listen for example to the interview with him on Sam Harris’ podcast here, he spends a lot of time giving arguments for why people should be dubious of the environmentalist hypothesis, for example at 59:31 he explains the thinking behind this paragraph in The Bell Curve:
First, note that this argument in no way depends on the assumption that the “environmental” hypothesis is saying the genetic potential for higher IQ in each group is precisely identical to an infinite number of decimal places; you could make pretty much the exact same argument against a hypothesis saying that the genetic difference was some fraction of a single IQ point, while blacks experienced an environmental deficit that subtracted somewhere between 14 and 16 points (as I noted earlier, if the genetic difference is very small compared to the environmental one, it’s quite possible the group with the environmental deficit might actually be marginally ahead in terms of genetic potential, so there’s no strong reason to favor ‘blacks are 1 point behind due to genetics and an additional 14 points behind due to environment’ over ‘blacks are 1 point ahead due to genetics, but 16 points behind due to environment’).
Second, the argument about it seeming implausible that the average environment for blacks in America is about 1.5 standard deviations below the average environment for whites seems to be a purely intuitive one. It seems plausible enough to me that even if no individual environmental difference like parent’s income shows nearly this large a difference between blacks and whites, there could be a large number of different environmental factors which are individually not so different between the two groups but whose compound effect creates a much larger statistical difference.
Related to this, a paper titled “Family Background, Parenting Practices, and the Black-White Test Score Gap” (available on google books preview here) considered a much larger set of family environment variables than Murray/Herrnstein did, and found that in their model these factors could account for about 2/3 of the gap (p. 104); they added however that “almost every family characteristic we include in our statistical equations may be a proxy for both a child’s environment and his or her genes” and tried to control for this, finding that “about 26 percent of the apparent effect of family environment in table 4-5 is a genetic effect” (p. 133), where by “genetic effect” they are talking about individual variations in “cognitive genotype” passed on from the parents, rather than any possible group differences in IQ-related genes between races. So if the environmental factors they considered seemed to account for 2/3 of the gap before the correction, but the correction reduced this by 26%, that would imply they were able to account for around half the gap with those environmental factors. And there may be a great number of other environmental factors they didn’t consider which vary statistically between blacks and whites in the US, particularly “cultural” variables that are influenced more by peers or unrelated adults or the media than by family.
Finally, the intuitive force of Murray’s argument seems reduced here when you consider that one could make exactly the same argument about IQ gaps between closely related groups that belong to the same race, like the low-caste “Burakumin” in Japan vs. other Japanese, who I discussed in the reddit post I linked to at the end of my previous comment–in Japan the Burakumin are said to have an average IQ about 16 points lower, almost identical to the black/white gap in the US, so if Murray’s statistical argument is right this would also imply the average environment for a member of the Burakumin is about 1.5 standard deviations worse than the average environment for non-Burakumin Japanese. Should we conclude with Murray that this is sufficient grounds to conclude it’s highly implausible that the gap is almost entirely environmental, in spite of the fact that Burakumin have only been a separate caste for around 500 years, and that the children of Burakumin immigrants to the U.S. seem to test just as well as the children of other Japanese who immigrate?
We have been stuck on stupid – ie, “there ain’t no such thing as a real IQ test” – for so long, it is staggering that the population as a whole is coming around to agreeing that there are viable metrics.
Complete denial of the usefulness of IQ tests may well be a popular position among progressives who don’t have much scientific education or just haven’t looked into the subject, but has it ever been a popular argument against the scientists or scientifically educated layman who have published stuff disputing the racial arguments in The Bell Curve?
PS – re: the studies linked at your comment – can’t find the GSCE study anywhere. The “German children of black soldiers” study has been discussed elsewhere – the fathers of the children were pre-screened by the military for IQ, making them non-representative of African Americans.
I have edited the reddit post to address these–it now has a link to the reports with the data on GCSE scores, and I included a link to a book chapter by James Flynn (of the Flynn effect) who looked into the army screening tests and concluded that black soldiers would have had an average IQ only 2-4 points above the national average for blacks at the time.
Race ratios in the US have long been known to drive the differences between state averages, and it’s not reasonable to think that a migrant population reflects perfectly the “old country” population genetically – either trans Atlantic movement or the US black “Great Migration”.
So your view is that the gap of about 1 standard deviation between whites in Alabama and whites in Massachusetts is likely to be just about as much due to genetics as the national black/white gap? (and likewise for the gap between blacks in Alabama and blacks in Massachusetts?)
@ hypnosifl –
but has [complete denial of racial intelligence gaps] ever been a popular argument against the scientists or scientifically educated layman who have published stuff disputing the racial arguments in The Bell Curve?
By my non-universal skimming of the material over the last two decades, oh hell yeah it’s been a very popular notion.
Of course, by popular I mean “near universally recognized as the only way to avoid having your career terminated at the neck.” If you admitted in polite company that blacks averaged stupider than whites, you were an evil racist who wanted to put people back in chains.
There were whole entire portions of the field built around trying to deny this. They successfully screamed “racist” at people until the use of screening tests for civil service went away – to the detriment of everyone “served” by the government – and then they started after every other sort of evalutation that showed the same sort of result.
Sure, you could say that in private or in select academic journals, there were researchers who reported results accurately. But so far as policy makers, the average educated layman, and the population as a whole, the Truth was that “black people as a group are just as smart as white people, and if a place doesn’t hire black people, it’s because that place is racist.” Or, “if a school doesn’t educate its kids so that the black students get as many “A”s as the white students, it’s because the school is bigoted against blacks.”
As I said, the most important thing to come out of the “Murray debate” is the intellectual honesty to admit that there are differences in group intelligence.
I think you are continuing to overstate both the evidence of the impact of non-inherited contributions. I think that the way that the Flynn-effect narrowing of the black-white gap has stalled since the 1980s – while systemic and experienced racism has taken a nosedive since then – should be worrying to the environmental hypothisis, as is the continued similarity of the gap between whites and blacks in the US regardless of region.
I also think you overread the motivations you read into Murray’s work, but I’m perfectly willing to encourage further investigation into the causes of group IQ differences (and even tolerate your slandering Murray as a racist) so long as you publicly agree that differences in US black-white achievement (academic and otherwise) have roots in something other than active white oppression.
We are not going to solve this so long as we engage in self-delusion.
A big part of the problem is that Murray is just awful as a standard bearer in the internet age. Too much history.
And he himself politicized the issue. Conservatism needs better standard bearers.
But we are right in the middle of a Data Science Revolution in cognitive genomics, and our understanding of polygenic inheritance is increasing exponentially. Two recent research findings showcase this– Dr. James Lee et al (74 loci, ~750k individuals, soon to be 1 million) on educational attainment (used as a proxy for IQ) and Sniekers et al (51 loci, ~80k individuals).
I think ethno-racial differences are just a tiny part of the wondrous science we are going to discover.
An editable copy of the legacy code for humans.
I don’t want to get into the weeds on this one (for obvious reasons) so grain of salt here.
That said: I think there’s a tendency to take this one account of a specific historical group that Scott offers in this post and interpret it in line with a very particular general account of genetics and race. I don’t think that’s necessarily correct. I think that broader narrative is one way of construing this story and others like it. Accepting Scott’s account of the story does not require construing it in that way. That’s my view on the subject.
I think there is plenty of room to doubt that the Ashkenazi IQ average is nearly as high as what Cochran, Hardy, and Harpending claim–there seems to be question from other researchers about how representative the samples used for some of the higher estimates really were. Richard Lynn, who is often cited as an authority on the average IQ of various groups, is quoted here saying the average Jewish IQ outside Israel is only 103-104 (this is not specifically Ashkenazi, but wikipedia says Ashkenazi make up about 75% of Jews worldwide), and that “I don’t understand why there is this push to say 110-115, by my colleagues, when there is no scientific study that proves that.” Lynn also published a paper titled “The Intelligence of American Jews” which can be found here, where he wrote that past studies had shown that whatever Jewish advantage existed was mainly verbal rather than visual-spatial (tending to argue against the idea that Jewish success in fields like physics and mathematics has much to do with an average IQ advantage, I would think), and that:
Lynn also attempts to give his own estimate by combining a number of studies from the American National Opinion Research Center (which he considers to use a representative sample), and concludes:
The full scope of Jewish achievement in American life was summarized in 1995 by Seymour Martin Lipset, a Senior Scholar of the Wilstein Institute for Jewish Policy Studies, and Earl Raab, Director of the Perlmutter Institute for Jewish Advocacy at Brandeis University:
“During the last three decades, Jews have made up 50% of the top two hundred intellectuals, 40 percent of American Nobel Prize Winners in science and economics, 20 percent of professors at the leading universities, 21 percent of high level civil servants, 40 percent of partners in the leading law firms in New York and Washington, 26 percent of the reporters, editors, and executives of the major print and broadcast media, 59 percent of the directors, writers, and producers of the fifty top-grossing motion pictures from 1965 to 1982, and 58 percent of directors, writers, and producers in two or more primetime television series.”
So if you think the economy is zero-sum and power and wealth are only achieved though privileged and exploitation, you are not going to be pro-Jewish.
Not if you don’t mind holding inconsistent beliefs.
@Steve Sailer – I don’t think that level of achievement tells us anything in particular about average IQ, since it could simply be due to a culture which promotes the type of interests and thinking that make the high-IQ members of the culture more likely than high-IQ members of other cultures to devote themselves to fields like science, mathematics, economics, and ‘modern’ creative arts not rooted too much in tradition. Among other things, Jews in Western countries have a longer history of having a high proportion of atheists, which probably lends itself more to success in these fields than religion (48% of scientists self-identified as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular’ according to the Pew survey here, already a high percentage compared to only 16% of the general American public, but a 1998 study that looked at the more “elite” scientists who were members of the National Academy of Sciences found that 93% expressed either atheism or agnosticism). How many of the ethnic Jews who are famous for intellectual achievements were actually believers in the Jewish religion?
Being highly educated but feeling in some ways like an outsider to the dominant culture could also plausibly be correlated with intellectual and creative success, among other thing it tends to lead people to not feel overly beholden to “tradition”, and conservative traditionalism and science don’t mix well…also see this graph from the sociology book The Truth About Conservative Christians showing that Jews in the U.S. avoid voting Republican in almost exactly the same proportions as nonreligious people. I imagine you would also find a higher proportion of gay people among intellectual and creative high-achievers than among the general population, perhaps for reasons related to this.
For some discussion of other possible cultural quirks of the Jews which may lend themselves to intellectual and creative success, see this article and this one.
Nobody yet has offered my explanation for the success of Ashkenazi scientists in the 19th and early 20th century. If you have been brought up in a culture where the thing for a very smart kid to do is study Talmud and you are given the opportunity to study anything else …
@DavidFriedman: Are there really that many well-known Ashkenazi scientists from the 19th century? Can you point to a list? And would the list be dominated by Jews from countries that had large assimilated populations in the 19th century, like Germany and Austria? Wikipedia has a short summary of the history of Jewish assimilation here which notes
On the subject of “enlightenment ideals”, it’s interesting to note that one of that one of the earliest Jews to become a major figure in a secular intellectual field was the influential enlightenment philosopher Baruch Spinoza–and he was Sephardic, not Ashkenazi! He was brought up among traditional religious Jews (though from a community that had moved to Amsterdam after having had to convert to Christianity and practice Judaism in secret while living in Spain), but he was sufficiently connected to non-Jewish culture to have some major influences that taught him about enlightenment philosophy, the wikipedia article lists several:
And once he developed his rationalistic philosophy (Einstein was a great fan) he was excommunicated and decried as an atheist by the leaders of the Jewish community, fitting the pattern I discussed of high-achieving Jews being religious nonbelievers who had adopted more universalist ideas from the Western countries they were living in. The fact that he slots pretty neatly into this pattern despite not being Ashkenazi seems to support the cultural explanation for Jewish success over the idea of people like Cochran et al that Jewish success has to do with an especially high proportion of high-IQ individuals (though the cultural explanation needs to account for the disproportionate number of Ashkenazi among 20th century Jewish intellectuals in comparison to Sephardic Jews, perhaps in terms of much larger numbers of assimilated or secular Ashkenazi due to quirks of history and geography).
Finally, on your comment about Jews who have been “brought up in a culture where the thing for a very smart kid to do is study Talmud”, I recommend reading the last link of my previous comment, the article The Argumentative Jew, which proposes something similar to the idea you seem to be suggesting, namely that at least some of the Jewish success in intellectual fields has to do with a religious culture that encourages vigorous debate (within certain boundaries of course), in comparison to other religious communities that have more of a “consensualist mentality”.
Francis van den Enden (Franciscus van den Enden), a notorious free thinker, former Jesuit, and radical democrat
It’s always the Jesuits! 😀
“The thing for a very smart kid to do is study Talmud, and you are given the opportunity to study anything else…’
Assume instead of Martians, it was a Howard Family secret stockbreeding effort by Hungarian rabbis. The grandkids rebel from Talmud to anything else. Hungary was still getting stomped by the Turkish Army through the 1700s- I could see ‘feed only the smartest refuge kids’ having a real effect for generations.
Nobel Prize Winners in Economics, LOL. See: The Nobel Prize in economics has been awarded posthumously to Karl Marx
@ddxxdd: Regarding the evolutionary timetable, a single millennium might not necessarily be too short.
I played with a model where there’re two alleles at a certain locus: the wild-type *A gene, and gene *a, which confers a fitness advantage of k>1 on Aa heterozygotes, but which kills aa homozygotes before reproductive age. There’s an equibrium frequency of *a in the population, which depends on k.
According to http://www.jewishgeneticdiseases.org/jewish-genetic-diseases/, an estimated 1/3 of Ashkenazi Jews in the US carry “at least one of 19 Jewish diseases”. If we assume that the equilibrium frequency of *a in the Ashkenazi population is 1/6 (half of the alleles of 1/3 of the population), then the equilibrium-frequency formula yields a value of k=4/3.
Then I looked at how rapidly a population would evolve to near that equilibrium. My model gave me a formula for the frequency of *a in generation n+1, given the frequency in generation n. I built a spreadsheet to calculate the frequency in each of a succession of generations. With a fitness advantage of k=4/3 and an initial frequency of 0.001 for *a, the frequency of *a reached 0.16 in only 29 generations. That’s consistent with the 800-900 years in CHH.
Note that k=4/3 is probably a low estimate. It’s based on the assumption that the frequency of *a among Ashkenazim in the US is the equilibrium frequency that it reached in Central Europe; but the US figure is probably low: the Jewish-diseases page I cited refers to people with at least one Jewish grandparent, whereas for most of the second millennium, most Ashkenazim would’ve had four. A higher equilibrium frequency implies a higher heterozygote fitness advantage. A higher value of k would also be more consistent with the offspring numbers quoted in CHH.
If this is correct, even partially, I find it mind-boggling to imagine that the Nazis, supposedly the champions of human genetic excellence and eugenic curation, deliberately eradicated what amounted to a prize jewel of human populations.
Not really ming-boggling, but ironic. Mostly the result of assuming the conclusion.
Post WWII, the Soviets and Americans returned the favor (i.e. operation paperclip).
I’m not really seeing the irony here, actually. Remember, the Nazis were not interested in improving the general human gene pool, they were interested in the triumph of one particular gene pool, the bit they were pleased to call Aryan.
Now, imagine yourself a Nazi for a moment. That means you want the Aryan genetic pool to triumph over all others and you’re completely unrestrained by any sense of morality or decency in what you will do to achieve your goal.
What’s the first thing you want to do? Exterminate anyone that has a genetic advantage over your precious Aryans–get rid of the competition.
If the Jews as a group have a genetic advantage, then you want to kill them while the numbers allow you to do so, not wait a few hundred years until the Jews have numbers equal to the Aryans.
That’s assuming the Nazis perceived the Jews as somehow intellectually superior to Germans. I don’t think they did.
The average street Nazi? No, they were the ones that the Jews-as-vermin propaganda were aimed at. The Nazi intellectual leaders? That’s another story.
Look at it this way–the Jews were clearly vastly outnumbered by Aryans. How could the Jews be any kind of threat to the much-more-populous Aryans unless, one-for-one, they had some kind of superiority?
The very fact that Hitler and his intellectual defenders–and he had them–saw the Jews, scattered, stateless, and of small numbers, as threatening implies that they saw them as being individually powerful.
Given their priors, that would almost certainly be interpreted as the Jews being somehow genetically superior.
I’m pretty sure that they did. From Wikipedia:
I think the way the Nazis put it was “Jews are clever, sly cheaters utterly lacking in heroic virtue” rather than ‘intellectually superior”. So smart, but still inferior.
‘ming-boggling’- very good, yes, that’s a failed eugenics effort.
That’s probably what caused them to lose the war, as well.
If all the Einsteins in Germany hadn’t fled, then the Axis powers would have used nuclear weapons on the Allies, instead of the other way around.
And if Jewish people were still persecuted without being super-intelligent, maybe the Allied powers wouldn’t have gained an advantage. I shudder to think how modern history would have turned out if the Nazis were the victors who wrote the history books.
OTOH, would the Nazis have gained power if they didn’t victimize the Jews?
The Fascists came to power in Italy without the racial aspect that the Nazis had. The conditions in Germany were fertile for a right-wing revanchist nationalist movement (and arguably were also fertile for a left-wing communist movement, but we got the timeline where the former won).
The right-wing revanchist nationalists Germany ended up with happened to be anti-Semites of a particular virulent sort. Right-wing nationalists tend to be anti-Semites, by and large, but the level of anti-Semitism varies; the various right-wing nationalist dictatorships which allied with Nazi Germany tended to be anti-Semitic, but not in the exterminationist fashion of the Nazis – consider that the mass murder of Hungarian Jews only happened after the German takeover.
Bringing in ever-more enemies was probably also a contributing factor. “We haven’t forced England to submit? Let’s invade Russia! Russia is putting up a real fight? We need to declare war on America!”
Presumably you can’t just change one thing about the Nazis; if they aren’t anti-semitic explicitly but remain highly anti-intellectual, then it seems likely that Jews will flee anyway.
There seem like three main points where things could have gone differently. First, Austria could have united Germany instead of Prussia (they had the chance to try and deliberately didn’t go for it), which would have led to a much larger nation with a much different tone. Now, again you can’t just change one thing–the Prussians were the sort who wanted the German confederation under one rule, whereas the Austrians were the sort who were more willing to be first of equals and keep other regions independent (while under the Austrian umbrella). If this happens, you have an Austrian Empire that’s pretty massive, and World War I maybe doesn’t happen or happens differently; seems conceivable that it would have been France giving up industrial land and paying reparations. But in either event, it seems likely that Jews would have been a favored minority–Hungary still would likely have been the best place for them, but not by as much.
Second, Wilhelm II dies during his traumatic breech birth, or catches meningitis instead of Sigismund. Henry becomes the next Kaiser, doesn’t dismiss Bismarck, and doesn’t get wrapped up in WWI. No disastrous economic situation, nothing to blame on the Jews. It seems likely that there’s eventually a WWI, but it’s hard to see far down that counterfactual branch.
Third, rather than Hitler taking power, you might have some Prussian aristocrat taking the same route. Less populist fascism and more jingoistic militarism, there’s still reason to gear up for WWII but there’s not reason to sacrifice the Jews. (Both Wilhelm and Henry, for example, were strongly interested in scientific and technological growth, and would likely have been loathe to lose Jewish scientists.) Unclear how this history turns out if WWII happens as normal but the Axis wins; likely Japan dominates east Asia, the German Empire dominates the continent, maybe the Communists fall out of power in Russia, and America likely doesn’t get an influx of scientists from the rest of the world. (Unless America stays neutral, in which case it might remain the destination of choice for people fleeing war in general, and maybe gets massive Chinese influx instead of Jewish influx.)
Fourth, William I lives a long and and healthy live.
“Wir wollen unseren alten Kaiser Wilhelm wieder haben!” My mother taught me that song. I guess it originated during the reign of Wilhelm II, pining for the days of Wilhelm I, but my mother learned it during the Nazi era, when I think they would have accepted either Wilhelm over what they had then.
He has to outlast II for this to not eventually still cause the same issue, could be the case that this would work, given the number of grandparent->grandchild inheritances.
I shudder to think how modern history would have turned out if the Nazis were the victors who wrote the history books.
Postulate: The reason that no one has used a time machine to kill Hitler isn’t because there’s no such thing as time travel, but because all the timelines without Hitler were even worse.
I’ve read somewhere that Hitler was a time-traveler sent back to make sure the world would develop advanced weaponry in order for them to fend off a future alien invasion.
…some other person should write the story where there was this team of time travelers sent back to change history and set humanity up for (possible) success in some future conflict only they got hit by a train or something and the only one left to carry out the mission was the tech-hopeless language expert who became the guy-we-know-as-Hitler (after killing some poor crap art student in a bar fight?) who was just flailing along without his team, trying to fight the good fight,and slowly going mad under the realization of what he was actually doing.
Someone else could write that. Not me.
Not quite identical, but are you thinking of this?
I mean, they aren’t exactly known as paragons of wisdom.
Neither mind boggling nor ironic – just as intelligence can differ between groups so can personality traits, in-group / out-group trust, propensity to violence, etc.
Nazis never said “we are curating the gene pool of humanity to maximize intelligence”.
Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about Nazi racial pseudoscience. But I thought they clearly classified Jews as subhuman, and subhumans as intellectually inferior (if treacherously crafty)? Wiki says:
(The Passing claims that the great Nordic race aren’t actually the most intelligent, but they’re up there with the most intelligent who are the Mediterraneans, by which he means Greeks and Renaissance Italians etc. Jewish not included. And even then, he says this high-minded Mediterranean disposition could only become proper civilizations by admixture with the Nordic race. He also advocates the eventual elimination of inferior races.)
I do believe that Germany also considered itself the torch bearers of the classic Roman civilization and tradition. This is in keeping with the history of the Holy Roman Empire as well as the ethos of Charlemagne trying to drag Europe out of the Dark Ages.
Well, they eradicated a competing clade of the same species that they perceived as attempting to attain social and political dominance over themselves through academia, politics, and banking. I don’t think the Nazis bragged as much about being more intelligent than the Jews so much as being more virtuous.
So I think it throws their motivations into sharper relief rather than making them more puzzling.
If you can’t join them kill them. (wait, wasn’t it the other way round?) /s
I only got to the second chapter of Mein Kampf before I got bored of the windbag author, but his complaint was that Jews were overrepresented in organizations that spread memes like trade unionism or whatever that he thought were bad for Germans and Germany.
I’m told you actually have to see him live to appreciate it; he brings an energy to his performance that is lacking in his written work.
He certainly got people fired up.
Apparently this is not everybody’s reaction, but I thought Triumph of the Will gave me a good idea of why so many Germans were enthusiastic about the guy. Riefenstahl managed to make him look statesmanlike most of the time, and also just the right amount of human and relateable. And, all due respect to perhaps the greatest director of the 20th century, but no doubt at least some of it was his acting and not just her directing.
By many accounts, he was very good at adjusting his performance to the audience. Nowadays you’re most likely to see a recording of him where he’s ranting and raving, but that’s selection bias. For example: Albert Speer described being pleasantly surprised at the first Hitler speech he went to, expecting ranting and raving; instead he got a fairly calm man in a suit and tie. Hitler would also adjust his speeches’ anti-Semitism up or down as necessary.
He seems to have been a pleasant conversationalist as well, witty and such. Only later in the war did the stress (and Parkinson’s?) get to him and people then describe him as a changed man
By Goebbels’ (and Speer’s?) account, he withdrew from the public eye and had a psychological decline somewhat after the crisis of ’41-42, and even moreso after the crisis of ’42-43. As for his personal behaviour, by some accounts he was far less tedious than often described – after all, post-1945, nobody’s going to say “actually, he was a really fun guy to be around”.
They wanted to kill any competition, so it makes sense. If they’re smart but they’re your enemy, makes sense to get rid of them. I think it was Eichmann who even admitted they were dealing with an ‘intellectually superior enemy’. Granted it’s one of the more dysgenic events in human history (as well as, of course, a horrible crime).
If they had aimed to assimilate rather than exterminate, we might all be speaking German, and in a few centuries there would be nothing left of German-Jewish culture except for slightly larger noses and darker hair among the intelligentsia in the UN’s Berlin capital.
To be frank the whole thing serves to underline just how nasty the Nazis were. ‘We can only survive by conquering other nations and exterminating our enemies…’
“an psychopath” -> “a psychopath”
The South East Asian overseas Chinese might provide an interesting control group. They are concentrated in similarly demanding professions.
There isn’t really a selection pressure for overseas Chinese though. A mediocre Chinese doctor or engineer would be just as likely to have a few kids as an excellent one, and neither is likely to have 10+ kids as some of the Jewish examples listed in the post.
What should be interesting with regards to Chinese development is the clues it provides to the role of schooling and environment. Regardless of your opinions on the efficacy of the typical Confucian system, at the very least everyone can agree the formative years of a young Chinese person will be markedly different from what a young Hungarian or German Jew might have gone through.
Sheer numbers mean that the number of extremely intelligent Chinese should be massive, even if Ashkenazi mean IQ is a bit higher overall. In addition, China has now largely shaken off the barriers to childhood development, such as malnutrition, that plagued it over the last 50 years. If a strong genetic hypothesis is true, then we should expect to see a huge number of genius Chinese emerge over the next 20 years. If we don’t see this, then we can conclude that only a weak genetic hypothesis is true and environmental factors remain important. (Though of course, in the former case it could also be that environment is important, and the confucian system just happens to be effective)
>Sheer numbers mean that the number of extremely intelligent Chinese should be massive, even if Ashkenazi mean IQ is a bit higher overall.
Nononono, plz. The ratio (# of people n+1 SDs above the mean)/(# of people n SDs above the mean) falls off tremendously as you increase n. Small differences in the mean thus dominate population size differences as you get far enough from the mean. Ignore population size when you care about the best of the best.
OTOH, there’s a pretty big constant there when you’re looking at like 20 million vs a billion people worldwide.
Let’s assume (liberally) that the Jewish mean IQ is 115 and the Chinese mean is 105. Both have SDs of 15. Assuming normality, 0.13% of Jews have IQs over 160, compared to 0.01% of the Chinese, a ratio of 13 to 1. However, there are maybe 65 Chinese people to every Jew, so there are 5 Chinese to every Jew among those with IQs above 160.
It took a couple of generations of modern prosperity for Japan to really start contributing at the highest levels of science. I predict that China will follow a similar trajectory but given its larger population it will be much more dominant intellectually than Japan, especially as European populations are failing to reproduce.
I recently talked with an expert on Chinese IQ. We have very little information on the average IQ in China.
There have been a few comments mentioning or alluding to Chinese IQ/achievement – so I’ll just tack this on here.
Ron Unz thinks Asian-Americans are already overrepresentated in educational success in the USA, but are discriminated against when it comes to elite university admissions. He also thinks that East-Asians are maybe a high-IQ group anyway.
Disclaimer: The first article contrasts that phenomenon with a supposed a drop-off in Jewish educational success since the 50s. The gist of the theory being ‘3rd-generation laziness’, intermarriage, and ‘maybe IQ isn’t so heritable after all’. This aspect of the article has been criticised for bad methodology – enough so I don’t have any confidence in Unz’ conclusions. The Asian aspect of the article has also been criticised but less so. You can read some criticisms here and here.
“Gauchier” -> “Gaucher” x2
Also, to contribute slightly more substantially, this would make an excellent topic for a book if it hasn’t already been meaningfully addressed in that medium.
Physicality, strength, endurance, submissiveness.
Perhaps more “being able to make do with small amounts of resources and food” than raw strength?
I’m pretty sure one of the things you need to selectively breed humans for a trait is buy-in from the humans. If you take a bunch of people and tell them “Only the ones of you with the best qualities (which we decide, fairly arbitrarily) will be allowed to procreate.”, then it sounds like you’re doing a whole lot more breeding for the genetic capacity to quietly evade the controls than meet the standards.
its called cousin marriage and assortative mating
I suppose that most slaves throughout history were not underfeed: if you were wealthy enough to own slaves, you would probably not want to underfeed them, as an healthy slave working in the fields produced more food than they ate. If they produced non-edible crops (e.g. cotton, tobacco), then these crops were worth more than what the slave ate.
Non-agricoltural slaves were typically house servants used as status symbols, and they would have made a bad impression if they looked emaciated. Other specialty slaves (especially in Ancient Rome) were used as fighters in sport events (e.g. captive gladiators), teachers (e.g. captive Greek teachers), or even shop clerks and managers, these slaves would also be unlikely to be underfeed.
…these crops were worth more than what the slave ate.
An interesting historical tidbit – this is basically why salt cod became so popular in the Caribbean, even though the Atlantic cod mainly lives up north and doesn’t really go past the Carolinas. (Yes, there are other species now sold as salt cod, but Atlantic cod was the cod back in the day.) Plantation owners were making so much money growing sugar that it was cheaper to feed the slaves imported cod than to divert land and labor away from sugar production to produce their own food.
more likely to be selected for attractiveness and charm.
thus the prepondurance of african-americans in entertainment,music and hollywood to day
How Stella Got Her Groove In the First Place?
im sorry…it isnt high moral ground to say that slaves were probably bred like bloodstock.
but theres evidence it happened– slaves could only marry and/or breed by permission.
and theres evidence they were bred for attractiveness, pigmentation for house servants as well as for forced labor, strength and endurance.
its pretty horrible, but its the truth.
I’d add disregard for material conditions in decision-making of whether to have kids.
Isn’t the usual complaint about the descendants of chattel slaves that they’re not submissive enough?
The part about pathological cognition catalyzing alt.murderous racial pogroms indeed is gloomy — efforts to trace my own family’s Hungarian Jewish ancestry have failed utterly, in that the pre-war Hungarian villages-of-record were razed entirely, with all birth-records and cemeteries systematically destroyed, leaving today only silent forests growing from charred foundation-stones.
Much more cheerful is the notion that, today, not just central Europe, but in fact the entire planet, is possessed of a “vast untapped resource of potential geniuses.” These “potential geniuses” are (obviously) none other than pretty much every human being. So it’s fortunate that our planet has no shortage of people — especially young people, eh? 🙂
This is to postulate, that the same psychosocial factors that catalyzed an efflorescence of Hungarian genius in the middle 20th century, may be acting, today, very broadly and in many cultures, to initiate a self-sustaining, SJ-positive, progressively evolutionary, social process that the alt.SSC has deprecated as the “Technobarbarous Enlightenment.” Nice phrase, alt.SSC! 🙂
It’s all-too-easy, and all-too-tempting, to overstate the role of genetics in cognitive achievement … what genetic trait, for example, can explain the comparable-to-Jews predominance of the Quakers in commerce and science? Perhaps the Friends appreciated, earlier than other social cohorts, the beneficent, cumulative, genome-independent, therapeutic effects of culturally institutionalized SJ-positive cognitive behavioral practices?
In these contemporary neurocognitive realities, “technobarbarians” like Elon Musk are discerning ample scope for SJ-positive megaunicorn-scale enterprises. These entrepreneurs aren’t going to stop “swimming levo” anytime soon, are they?
In aggregate, this amounts to a happy, hopeful, progressively Enlightened, SJ-positive, SCC-compatible outlook — an outlook that’s well-grounded in cognitive neuroscience, psychiatric medicine, and entrepreneurial opportunity.
So what’s not to like? 🙂
PSA: This is an alt.Sidles.
Yeah, okay, finally got around to banning him, still not sure of the general solution.
To be honest, I’m not 100% certain we need one. He’s sort of the town lunatic, but in an amusing way. So long as you don’t take him seriously, he’s fine.
Of course, I just could be saying this because this is one of the times when he’s using my account.
Agreed. It feels like his comments have been more coherent lately (although that might just be a Northern Caves effect, if I start feeling brainwashed I’ll mention it). But if Scott still wants to ban him, I’ll continue work on my machine learning Sidles-detector after exams.
And suddenly I’m amused beyond belief. Truly, this community is something, but I’m not sure if I want to know what. Welcome to SSC: working on AI systems to detect unconventional mathematics professors since 2017.
That’s not even the best bit. The first run of the system suggested that John occasionally borrowed Deiseach’s and my accounts. Unfortunately, I can’t find the relevant post right now.
What’s with the Sidles-hate? For example, this one was plausible attempt at a coherent comment on topic.
edit. It’s not like like Lonehand’s comments were a net negative in this thread. See this or this.
To be fair, he’s gotten a lot better (that or the rest of us have gone mad). Speaking for myself, the “hate” is mostly a product of his behavior in earlier incarnations coupled with the his demonstrated lack of respect for community norms.
I’d find him quite a bit more tolerable if he erased the word “cognition” from his vocabulary, stopped folding criticism into his citations, and dialed down the smug about sixteen clicks. Saying this does me no favors, as I’m pretty sure the style’s deliberately affected in order to wind up his opponents, but… fuck it.
As obnoxious as his style is, though, I think the real problem is that he seems totally unwilling to engage with ideas. He treats responses as a prompt for more of the same; he doesn’t clarify his points, or update on others’, or even really respond to them. Even Jim engaged; his responses were crude and unhelpful and usually involved slurs, but they were actual responses, not just thin excuses to dispense more “wisdom”.
He flagrantly and unrepentantly violates the rules that allow for this place to be a garden rather than a chan-esque hellscape. That’s more than sufficient. Those that knowingly engage substantively with his incarnations are likewise attacking the community.
disagree. engaging with him seems to have gotten him considerably more coherent, to the point that the above post contains interesting testable hypotheses. Do you think the above post is really strongly objectionable, if some rando had penned it?
I think hlynkacg has the right of it; most of the hate is carryover from his earlier incarnations.
One day someone comes into your house and punches you in the face. You throw him out and tell to never to come back. The next day, he comes back and punches you in the face again. You throw him out again and tell him to never come back. The following day, he comes back, and when you walk in the room you find your daughter handing him a piece of cake. When he sees you he then punches you in the face again. You throw him out and tell him to never come back. The next day, he comes back, and when you walk in the room you find your daughter handing him a piece of cake. You throw him out and tell him to never come back. You turn to you daughter and ask how she could give him a peice of cake when he wasn’t even supposed to be there in the first place. She replies that he didn’t punch in the face today.
The coherence or incoherence of the current incarnation is not relevant. By engaging you are rewarding defection, which is itself defection.
All that terrible maudlin stuff that everyone commented when Deisich got banned… please consider me to be saying similar things about Mr. Lonehand
I don’t know if I’m just really intelligent and good at understanding things, but his comments don’t really seem obscure at all.
I mean, he doesn’t really directly engage, just sort of dances around an argument, sprinkling pro-SJ fairy dust and links, but, yeah… why not? Engagement is hard. Most of us just have some stuff we want to say, and really, I think the anti-sidles prejudice is more about a depressing preference for *appropriate* comment form.
Week after week, I’ve seen lonehand post perfectly sensible things, and people jumping on him for being incomprehensible, or mad, or whatever.
Above, someone has commented, “I don’t get morality”. Like, they don’t understand what morality is? To me, that is incomprehensible and possibly mad.
Often, in the comments, you get these monumental arguments with so many assumptions, that they turn into weird twisted things that you’d need to be a genius with no interest in reality to follow.
So, yeah. The anti-sidles prejudice is bad.
Like I said above, I think a lot of that has to do with the behavior of his earlier incarnations. The Lonehand alt was at least capable of contributing to a discussion. The original, not so much.
Well dash it, if the first run of the machine-learning detector thought that bean and I were Sidles à la I Am The Walrus and “I am he as you are he as you are me/And we are all together”, then I will have to add my mite to the call for mercy in this case.
Some of his alternate identities have been better than others, and there have been recent posts that have been more comprehensible and less brain-shredding (unless, as said by others, it’s the mind-warping effect finally getting to us).
So a permanent ban seems too harsh, please don’t cast him into the outer darkness forever?
So long as he continues as he has done recently, and does not fall back to former, less moderate ways, I have no objections to him staying in good standing.
I think we-as-a-community should reward successful self-reinvention.
(Or, at least, the portion of us who champion nurture over nature should.)
Interested. Can you elaborate more, please? On the Quakers, and what reasons you have to believe that genetics are overplayed? Is it just the Quakers, or are there more factors?
The lede is that, in terms of population, the Friends are as small a minority, relative to the Jews, as the Jews are a minority, relative to the global population. In consequence, the prevalence of outstanding Friendly achievement in commerce and science, accounting for this ratio, is comparably notable to Jewish achievements.
There exists in the academic literature (to my knowledge) no formal statistical study of this lede (which nonetheless is widely believed).
For details, there exists no more modern reference than Thomas Clarkson’s in-depth study, A portraiture of Quakerism: Taken from a view of the education and discipline, social manners, civil and political economy, religious principles and character, of the Society of Friends (1806, PDF here).
It is wonderfully enlightening (as it seems to me) to compare-and-contrast Clarkson’s account of Friendly cognitive ideals, with Abba Hillel Silver‘s account of Jewish cognitive ideals in A History of Messianic Speculation in Israel from the First through the Seventeenth Centuries (1927, summary and links here).
Specifically, these two Enlightening works — read thoughtfully — both speak eloquently to perennial SSC controversies in respect to nature-versus-nurture and psychopharmacy-versus-psychotherapy.
One-bullet executive summary: Friendly nurture+psychotherapy dominates gene-centric nature+psychopharmacy — pragmatically, psychiatrically, and morally (although both domains are important).
The prevailing ignorance and neglect of this marvelous body of historical literature — ignorance and neglect that are evident even in the various (over-simplified) works that Scott’s OP referenced — is a lamentable impediment to rational / rationalist discourse. Isn’t it?
I have a lot of friends in “commerce and science” and none of them have ever even encountered a Quaker. But even if we accept this ancedote that Quakers are good at these things as real data, what does it prove? The racial composition of Quakers is almost certainly not going to be the same as American society in general. That a group of white, anglo-saxon Protestants does well is hardly the slam dunk argument for nurture over nature that you are presenting it as. And anyway, you are attacking a strawman. Scott never said that culture wasn’t important or that one culture couldn’t do better than others. Nature versus nuture is not a binary.
Technobarbarian here. Actually, Tesla is Palo-Alto-positive, not San Jose-positive.
I was thinking (tongue in cheek) the, look at what Hitler did and do the exact opposite strategy is starting to sound more plausible…
Could you please explain?
Round up the Jews and force them to redacted at gunpoint.
“we just don’t get people like John von Neumann or Leo Szilard anymore”
I’m interested how accurate this impression is. I assume the people saying so would know better than me. I guess you could look at the physics progress we made from 1970 to 2010 and say, could that all have been made in a rush in 1970 if a few geniuses had been around and tried hard enough? If so, evidence we’re missing physics geniuses. Or was that progress mostly waiting for further evidence, further technological progress, or was only made by collaborations one person couldn’t easily have encompassed? If so, maybe we’ve got as many geniuses as we had then, but something else is stopping them revolutionising physics.
No nation that has seriously attempted to build a thermonuclear arsenal has ever failed to achieve that goal. Indicating, perhaps, that not much genius is required?
In striking contrast, a great many nations have attempted to build their own domestic “Hollywood” film industry — and most nations have failed. Indicating, perhaps, that genius is required … in the arts? 🙂
Well, all the nations after the US had the advantage of copying someone else’s work.
Once you know it’s possible, once you know that slamming chunks of U-235 into each other at high speeds will make an explosion, I imagine it becomes a lot simpler.
To the degree that vision and commitment are the key ingredients of nuclear arsenal development, then plainly and inarguably, the person most singly responsible was … (the decidedly non-Hungarian) George Marshall — the man who, acting upon his own sole judgment and authority, personally committed the vast resources that were required for success:
The entire audio recording, which concludes with General Marshall setting forth the foundations of the peace-preserving post-War Marshall Plan — for which Marshall received the Nobel Peace Prize for 1953 — is well-worth the listening.
Not least because alt.Boeotian ideologues — for various inchoate reasons — utterly despise General Marshall! 🙂
Not to mention that there is a high probability they all had various levels of access to the original work/research.
Yeah, I’ve heard the opposing thought that maybe Universities are just lousy with von Neumanns now but the physics problems are correspondingly harder. Part of von Neumann’s legend is that he accomplished so much in so many areas, but if everything he accomplished was low-hanging-fruit-for-somebody-like-him, then by the time we get to the 2010s all that low-hanging-fruit is gone. A new von Neumann might have a really hard time demonstrating himself to be such.
This, FTW (see also a relevant Dirac quote).
Far more marvelous to von Neumann, than any mere thermonuclear explosion, would have been this week’s 2017 Future of Go Summit, with its lead-off defeat of reigning world go champion Ke Jie by a computer that, in Kie Jie’s memorable phrase, “plays like God”.
Nerd Alert: the third-and-final Ke Jie -versus-AlphaGo Master game can be watched today, live! 🙂
Fascinatingly, the computing resources required for this year’s “AlphaGo Master” are only 10% as large as were required for last year’s “AlphaGo” — the newly revealed Go-God-essence resides entirely in algorithmic AI improvements.
The present-day accelerating flood of algorithm-driven AI improvements would have fascinated a polymath like von Neumann, whose last published book was The Computer and the Brain (written in 1956, and published posthumously).
when i was in undergrad they told us Go was an unsolvable problem.
not so much.
Quibble: we don’t and can’t yet know if go has been solved. At least, not in the way that tic tac toe and checkers have been solved.
What we’ve done is make a computer program that can algorithmically navigate go at a level that surpasses human ability/understanding. It might still be playing go at a suboptimal level that does not clear the bar for a true solution of the game. Because we humans are not as good at go, there isn’t any way for us to know.
(Hazily, I think there is some connection here with Yudkowsky’s concept of instrumental rationality.)
This was mentioned above in the Dirac quote but I’ll repeat it a bit.
I think something left out in this discussion of the time period (WRT physics + math) was that there was a lot of low hanging fruit given the experimental discovery of the need for quantum mechanics.
A lot of not *actually* that incredible physicists managed to do stellar work because quantum mechanics was new and people were just beginning to realize the consequences.
Nowadays the physics problems are more difficult to crack and come with less public payoff. There have still been revolutions, like the post-war quantum field theory boom ,and you still have some *very* brilliant people who make contributions in all kinds of things. Ed Witten certainly comes to mind.
Major advances in things really *have* been made in the past 50 years but everything is extremely difficult to explain and you could spend 10 years of your life studying physics and still not really see all the different frontiers even in relatively niche subfields. Math is similar.
You need a lot of selection pressure. Either Chinese civil examination, the selection the Ashkenazim had, or the Prussian education system, which had a respectable showing, all said and done.
For an example of the necessary pressure look here
It’s unsurprising that the top graduates of Fasori are disproportionately Jewish, simply because of their IQ advantage. However, there’s an enormous confounder that prevents us from concluding that the “Fasori magic” does not work on gentiles. Most of the non-Jewish graduates remained in Hungary, having little chance or desire to emigrate to the U.S. (they were not treated as second-class citizens and for a long time it looked like Hungary was not going to enter the war) and thus they had no opportunity to work on grand projects such as the atomic bomb. A whole lot of them perished during the siege of Budapest.
Interestingly, it was not the Fasori that continued the use of Ratz’s methods after the war, but a different school called Fazekas, while Fasori returned to a more traditional methodology. If all of the effect was due to Jewish intellect, one would have expected both schools to be equally (un)successful. However, that’s not what happened: Fasori returned to baseline success rates in math education, while Fazekas became an insanely successful school, despite being located in the economically disadvantaged Josefstadt district of Budapest.
It seems that the magic works on gentiles as well: Fazekas is the single most successful school in the entire world based on International Math Olympiad participation, and Hungary ranks insanely high on the IMO only because of the disproportionate success of Fazekas students. As expected, a lot of alumni go on to become world-renowned scientists and mathematicians (some moer famous ones: Babai, Lovasz, Szemeredi).
Do you have a link to any description of what Rátz’s teaching actually involved that is accessible to people who don’t know Hungarian? If there’s a whole school that adopted something like that, then it must be written down somewhere and you seem to know stuff about this.
Unfortunately, I don’t know any source works about Rátz’s teaching that are available in English.
What other resources are there? The “European Special Schools” chapter of this book provides the best overview of Rátz’s approach and its 20th century developments, and Stockton’s other works also seem thorough and accurate.
The most important ingredient (and chief point of continuity) is KöMaL, a special journal of high school mathematics: Rátz was the editor in chief of KöMaL for a long time, and the mathematical committee came from the teachers of the Fasori school. These days the committee positions are shared between teachers from the Fazekas school and professors from Eötvös University. KöMaL had some special issues and anthologies that were available in English, but they are out of print according to the website, and I have not been to Hungary in ~15 years, so I wouldn’t know where (if anywhere) to look for library copies.
Hitler wiped out half the global deme (breeding population) of Jews. It has only just now returned to pre WWII level of approx ~16 million– that is really a horrifying statistic. But one hell of a selection gradient, ferocious selection pressure. I havent read the Cochran paper but I wonder if he talks about cousin marriage as practiced by ashkenazais? Like line breeding in thoroughbreds it exposes deleterious recessives normally masked by outcrossing, but increases expression of the selected trait.
There doesnt have to be linkage between the deleterious trait and the fitness enhancer– it happens thru assortative mating and cousin marriage in humans, through line breeding in thoroughbreds.
Intelligence is highly polygenic
meaning many genes influence the expression of IQ– for example, 52 genes in this study.
this study uses educational attainment as a proxy for IQ, finding 74 genes influencing EA
I think that Cochran study is pretty dated as far as modern research technology goes.
And Scott– its not gloomy. We are right on the cusp of a revolution in cognitive genomics and CRISPR will make it possible to edit the human genome.
Most of it is just an application of old-fashioned quantitative genetics. Which still works fine.
What new things do we know that impact this question?
I. IQ is more polygenic than I thought back in the day
II. A lot of the variance in IQ is explained by rare, deleterious variants. Genetic load. That was suspected, but has interesting implications, like Ashkenazi longevity.
II. Ashkenazi Jews are more European than we thought, about 60%. Mostly maternal ancestry.
The nice thing about doing new-fashioned quantitative genetics is that you’re not stuck with Fisher’s infinitesimal model any more, you can actually model varying polygenic structure.
Given the context there’s something I posted in a previous topic:
Re: genetics of intelligence you might find this interesting.
It’s preliminary but I’ll be watching some of the related studies.
In most people, the number of repeats ranges from nine to 35. These people are healthy. Those with 36 or more repeats are, however, at risk of developing Huntington’s—and those with more than 40 will definitely develop it, unless they die beforehand of something else.
Also, it’s been shown that humans apparnetly mate assortatively on CAG repeat number: That implies that it’s having some major real world phenotyic effect. Otherwise people wouldn’t just happen to randomly pair of with individuals who have similar numbers of CAG repeats.
I believe Tay-Sachs (which, as mentioned in the original post, occurs much more often in Ashkenazi) exhibits a similar pattern, where a small peptide pattern repeats a few times in the general population, but more than ~30 repeats and the risk of Tay Sachs rapidly shoots up.
No, it’s a point mutation.
Does anyone know how many of the genius Jews were Orthodox or if not Orthodox, how many generations from Orthodoxy?
None. The question of how many generations they were from Orthodoxy is not in general well-defined because there was no point in time where Central European jews were universally, or even widely, orthodox. As far as I understand, orthodox judaism in central Europe developed in the late 18th and early 19th century as an essentially reactionary movement that kind of split off from the more assimilationist, burgeois segments of the jewish population. Some of the geniuses in question may have had non-immediate ancestors from Eastern Europe (I think Szilárd’s family was originally from Galicia), who would have been more traditionally religious, but not Orthodox per se.
The historical claim you are thinking of is usually made about ultra-orthodoxy, not orthodoxy. I would be very surprised to see evidence that there was no point in time when Central European Jews were widely Sabbath observant, kept kosher, and so on.
According to wikipedia, Hungarian Jews were majority orthodox in 1910, but by 1920, 63.4% were Neolog (Reform).
“no point in time” – wrong.
Taking into account genius Jews that channeled their genius into Talmud rather than physics or math? If so, you’ll get rather large numbers of genius-Jews-that-are-Orthodox.
Before the Jewish Enlightenment self-liberated some Jews, Jewish brainpower tended to be restricted to commerce and religious studies.
I would use different (less positive) terms than you did here to describe the secularization of the Jews, but certainly it is true that an extremely large percentage of Jewish geniuses channeled their brainpower into Talmud before that stage of history.
However, even after it, there continued, and still continue, to be many Jewish geniuses that are virtually unknown to the secular public because their genius was/is channeled into Talmud rather than physics, math, or other areas.
Please tell me they corrected for ancestry? Otherwise, we have a correlation between disease and IQ, both of which is highly correlated with Ashkenazi ancestry – not exactly earth shattering.
Israel is like 32% Ashkenazi ancestry so 15 times more likely than the Israeli average is at least 5 times more likely than the Isreali Ashkenazi ancestry average.
I know what you mean, and I don’t want to nitpick, but I’d like to use my super-duper-half-hungarian-ashkenazi-jewish-math-teacher brain to just point out that the claim shouldn’t be that math teachers don’t have much effect; it should be that we don’t have much of an effect compared to an average math teacher. Demographics and IQ can predict the major chunk of academic achievement, but that doesn’t mean that if you lock a person in a room their demographics and IQ will teach them math. Compared to not having schools or math classes, math class is highly effective.
I vaguely remember reading about some research done on the Unschooling movement which showed that those kids only ended up one year behind everyone else. You might expect this to become more true as more resources become available online.
Unschooling is not the same thing as educational neglect. A serious unschooling parent puts considerable effort into helping their children learn; they simply follow the child’s interests instead of using a set curriculum. While I don’t have any studies about educationally neglected children, I do have anecdotes from some pretty smart ones, and not having any sort of math education at all does, in fact, reduce your ability to do math.
Unschooling orthodoxy also has it that there’s no advantage to start children in math early. You can just wait until their natural interests lean that way, which is said to vary a lot, and later when they decide to learn it, they catch up quickly.
I’m a linguist, and we have a lot of evidence that language acquisition works better on young kids—fetus to 7 years seem to be the sweet spot, with 7-to-14 declining but still measurably better than adults. Perhaps it would be a good idea to focus on getting kids to acquire a language, until they’re, say, 10 years or so; and postpone math (other than numerals and rudimentary arithmetic) for the latter stage.
(By the way, by “language acquisition” we don’t mean the kind of stuff typically done in language classes or Duolingo-like apps, with grammar exercises and quizzes etc. Rather, you soak their brains with language by doing some kind of activity in that language, and they pick it up automatically and unconsciously. Adults can do that too, but they seem to perform badly at it, and for certain things—like phonology—explicit instruction works better for them.)
Could you provide that linguistic evidence? Young children are good at learning pronunciation, but the evidence I have seen is that for every other part of language older people learn faster than younger people. eg, here (ungated, but huge)
He didn’t say they learn faster, he said “language acquisition works better”. The very paper you link notes that eventual fluency is generally higher with earlier acquisition.* It also does not mention vocabulary acquisition, which is ridiculously fast in children at a certain age. I don’t know how quickly this ability decays afterwards, but I’d be very surprised if it’s completely gone before age 10.
*It’s true that when you look at adults who have lived in a country speaking the language for 20+ years, then it does, indeed, get tricky to distinguish their performance on syntax and morphology from native speakers, but that’s far, far away from a discussion about the benefits of learning languages earlier vs later.
Could you provide evidence that vocabulary acquisition is faster?
It looks like rate of vocabulary acquisition actually increases until quite late. According to this survey article, it’s estimated to be around 7 words per day for ages 6-8 and 12 words per day for ages 8-10. I felt justified in calling that ridiculously fast, keeping in mind that this means picking up L1 vocabulary without conscious study.
What I wasn’t aware of is that it seems that L2 vocabulary acquisition in an L2 environment (as opposed to studying in classroom) is actually similar.
Overall, you’re right to be skeptical about overblown claims about language acquisition in children, but if we focus on the object-level point of whether more languages should be taught earlier, I think the calculus still comes out pretty clearly in favour. First, if your linked article’s claim that eventual fluency is better with earlier starting date of acquisition, that alone is valuable. Second, atrocious accents are ubiquitous and costly (non-monetarily). And third, it seems highly likely that children are worse than adults at learning, say, math by more than they are worse than adults at learning languages.
What could “better” mean, other than faster or longer retention? There is a study of retention, where Japanese made 2 year sojourns in America, bringing with them children of variable age. The older the children were, the more English they got out of the trip, as measured in college. This is not a perfect study because the older children had less time to forget. Maybe this is not a good comparison of 16 year-olds to 12 year-olds. But it demonstrates that 12 year-olds learn foreign languages not just faster, but also better than 8 year-olds.
So why do people who start earlier eventually learn more? It must be that they choose to study later. If you could instill in your child a desire to study a foreign language, should you? Anyhow, that is irrelevant to questions of efficiency of childhood. And the Japanese did not choose to study more. I think more like answer is that among people thrust into a foreign culture, the older they are, the more first-language friends they have, and thus the less desire to learn the language.
@Douglas Knight: Well, this is an entire field of research, really, with decades of accumulated experiments. If you’re interested, I suggest just going to an academic source and searching for “child language acquisition” (perhaps try a literature review). But if you want suggestions of specific studies, I’d recommend starting with Gleitman & Newport, The invention of language by children: Environmental and biological influences on the acquisition of language.
Yes, there are decades of research. As your link indicates, adults learn second languages faster than children.
I guess I should have started by asking what you mean by “better” and whether you were talking about second language, or whether you were afraid that math would displace first language learning.
It is true that early learning of second languages is associated with long-term better skill, but is it causal? The link I gave surveys the studies that actually address this question. There are not many studies, so I would love to learn about more, but the state of the art is that teaching children a second language is inefficient.
Douglas, I’m not sure I follow. Did you see the discussion on Genie and Chelsea? Did you see the part about how the accumulated evidence is that
…and how the detailed experiments studying acquisition as a function of age show that
…and also the hideous effects of delayed exposure to language learning in deaf children (which are strongly age-correlated, and preclude any attempt to explain away the biological factors as a consequence of first-language interference)? How did you conclude, from all that, that helping children acquire language would be in any way ‘inefficient’, or, contrary to what anyone can observe simply by asking around, that adults do better? It’s a trivial observation, after all, that no infant (except the severely disabled) fails to acquire languages, in the same natural sequence even, while adult success is highly variable; in multilingual cultures (such as the Amazon or India) babies acquire several languages with no effort on the part of anyone, whereas in literate cultures adults struggle with college courses and many end up with no long-term acquisition at all. And it’s not just one or two studies, you know. All evidence points toward the same biological factors—the same developmental stages regardless of IQ, personality, dedication, language, culture, or teaching methods (or lack thereof).
That acquisition of language by the brain varies with age is unsurprising, since the acquisition of other cognitive systems (such as walking or vision) is subject to the same effects. In no animal species young brains are the same as adult brains, and we’re just another kind of animal. That simple exposure to languages is sufficient for infants to acquire it is beyond discussion, as is the variability of adult success in the same task. The congruency of age factors for first-language acquisition, second-language acquisition and children’s spontaneous language creation just reinforces their biological basis.
If you still need more data, here’s a few more studies on age effects, in no particular order:
– http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0346251X16300471 (n.b. how the effect sizes are particularly big for second-language contexts.)
– http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959438815000975 (about first-language, but useful for summarizing some of the relevant biology)
But, again, this is a whole field, and the above is just the tip of the iceberg. Biological factors have been detected for as long as we’ve been studying the topic.
Yes, I read the article you linked. Yes, I read about Genie and Chelsea. Maybe there is a critical period for learning a first language.
But for second language acquisition? Yes, earlier start is correlated with farther advancement. I explicitly acknowledged that. So why did you give me so many links that seem to just reiterate that?
What about the fact that adults learn faster than children? Maybe you think it is not important. But let us set aside policy questions and deal with such a concrete claim for which there should be lots of evidence. Yes, Gleitman & Newport try to explain it away in the paragraph you quote. What time frame are they trying to explain? I could believe a month of shock. But why would anyone be promoting an adult advantage in the first month? Not I. I named my time-frame: two years of adult study is beats two years of comparable child study. Do you deny that? Do you have contrary quantitative claims? Or do you claim that the displaced child is in shock for years? To be precise, let me say age 16-18 vs 6-8, either both immersion or both instruction.
Without good, enthusiastic teachers there are no math geniuses.
On a related note, I’ve anecdotally noticed a greater ratio of Jews promoting collectivist politics (socialism generally, but not exclusively) than I see in other groups.
My first thought is that there was some form of high IQ -> socialism implication. At the same time, I work in the software development field with many other high-IQ folks and politics tends to be much more varied.
Does anybody else have any solid data on this?
I suspect this is mostly an artifact of Jews being overrepresented at high levels of everything. The Italian Fascist party was teeming with Jews until 1938 when Hitler forced the Italians to kick them out. More recently, Neoconservatism in the US was/is extremely Jewish: Wolfowitz, Abrams, Perle, Bell, Kristol, Strauss…
More a matter of location and timing than anything else. The center of American Jewish life since the big early 20th century Ashkenazi migration has been in New York City. That population of Eastern European peasants with unusually high IQs in an era where socialism was the big new thing naturally inclined towards socialism. Combine that with the tendency for urban populations to trend left-wing, and the heritability of political affiliation, and American Jews will remain disproportionately left-wing for a long time. As a double-whammy, remember that Republicans, the “country-club set,” generally excluded Jews during that time period.
A point of evidence in favor of this argument is that politically conservative Jews are a lot more common outside the big urban Jewish populations of NYC and Chicago. My college girlfriend grew up in Livingston, NJ, and had never met a Jewish Republican before me; I grew up in Cleveland and they were common; and my mom grew up in Augusta, GA where the few Jews were all pretty conservative.
And remember that this is a population effect; the top thinkers in a lot of political movements are disproportionately Jewish. Two of the biggest names in American libertarianism–Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand–are ethnically Ashkenazi.
I wonder how this translates to other countries. True, the Nazis nearly eradicated the central European Jewish population and who survived fled mostly either to the newly founded Israel or the US. But of those few who remained, is there a similar pattern as in the US with respect to their political views?
Also, if you have a smarter population, it will have disproportionately more college graduates and academia simply has a more left-wing culture than any other place outside of arts (unless they live in a left-wing totalitarian dictatorship in which case that might change temporarily). Hence you get more left-wingers simply by the fact that people assimilate to that culture.
Friedman is sort of a right-winger, but he really is a (classical) liberal, so that is not quite a “proper” right-winger. Ayn Rand might come a bit closer with her objectivism, but it is still not quite the good old conservatism.
Disraeli, the Tory prime minister, was Queen Victoria’s favorite prime minister. British Jews on average aren’t all that leftist.
In part, the correlation of Jews with leftism has a lot to do with the expansion of the reactionary Russian czarist empire westward into areas like Poland that had a lot of Jews. The czar didn’t like Jews and the Jews didn’t like the czar.
America wound up with a lot of Jews from the Russian empire.
Similarly, today Putin is kind of a neo-czar, and that sets off a lot of paranoia about Russia among American Jews brought up watching “Fiddler on the Roof” with its tale of a Cossack pogrom ordered by the Kremlin.
In reality, Putin seems to be fairly pro-Semitic, but he provides a good bogeyman for American Jewish persecution complexes.
Right. The one part of the Nolan chart you *don’t* see any Jews in is the authoritarian-right quadrant near the authoritarian end, probably because that’s where antisemitism was the strongest. (Still is, looking at the alt-right.) Generally ‘blood and soil’ movements exclude Jews (except in Israel of course) so you get Jewish communists, liberals, libertarians, and even neocons, but few paleocons and of course no fascists.
The few who *have* gone in that direction have actually been pretty effective–you might not like Breitbart or believe anything they say, but they’re very good at what they do. Makes me wonder if the alt-right’s shooting themselves in the foot, and maybe what we should all be afraid of is a *non*-anti-Semitic alt-right.
“my mom grew up in Augusta, GA where the few Jews were all pretty conservative.”
Here’s an obscure question: The most prestigious golf club in America is Augusta National, home of the Masters. My impression is that after Augusta Nation became the #1 club for CEOs during the Eisenhower era, it didn’t admit many Jewish CEOs (if any) up until the 1980s or so.
On the other hand, I saw somebody assert once that a number of local Jewish families in Augusta had joined Augusta National in the years after its opening during the Depression, before it became a national sensation. I thought that was interesting because it would support an impression I have that the South was somewhat less socially anti-Semitic than the North.
Would your mother from Augusta know if any of her Jewish friends’ families were members of Augusta National?
i can only give you anecdotal evidence (spent age 3-12 in more rural/religious parts of GA, age 13-24 in urban/secular parts of GA) but in every social group i was exposed to, i never got a whiff of anti-semitism. the religious southerners took the “god’s chosen people” thing very seriously, and in my high school, roughly half of the high-status kids were jewish. my adulthood (when i left the south for the midwest/mountain west) was the first time i met any jewish people that had personal experiences with anti-semitism.
As far as I know, none of her friends, Jewish or otherwise, were in the economic class that would be eligible for Augusta National membership (which isn’t to say they were poor–her father/my grandfather was one of the more well-respected and successful dentists in town–but Augusta National is for the 0.001%, not the 1%).
There is a particular relationship with verbal intelligence and left wing politics that isn’t found in non-verbal intelligence. Jewish intelligence is especially high in verbal subtests. Here’s a good reference on that:
UC Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine’s book The Jewish Century points out that many Jews found radical leftist politics attractive for three reasons:
– Jews were discriminated against because of religion, so get rid of religion.
– Jews were discriminated against because of nationalism, so get rid of nationalism.
– Jews were discriminated against because they were the best capitalists, so get rid of capitalism.
The last one isn’t too persuasive: let’s get rid of the thing at which we are good.
Not if you’re one of the Jews who’s bad at capitalism. 😉 Groups aren’t homogeneous, after all.
Having just read an enormous book about the history of Hungary and taken a vacation in Hungary and Transylvania (which I highly recommend), I think I have some insights into why Jews of a particular extraction flourished in the sciences specifically in Hungary, and why this peaked in the early-to-mid 20th century.
-How one defines “Hungarian” is a tricky thing. For one, medieval Hungary and the later Austro-Hungarian Empire were intensely multi-ethnic nations since their founding, and various political leaders invited even more groups to settle there over time. Political loyalty and speaking the language were, in most periods, considered more important than bloodlines in terms of how “Hungarian” you were. To this day, “Hungarian-ness” can be more flexibly applied than many other surrounding ethnic identities. What does this mean? The most we can safely say is that it was probably possible to be both Hungarian and Jewish at many points when this combination of ethnicity and religion was either legally or socially prohibited elsewhere. In 1890, over 60% of Hungarian Jews identified as ethnically Hungarian. Today there are far fewer Jews in Hungary for obvious reasons, but something like 95% of them consider themselves to be Hungarian.
-This is probably not very important, but it’s worth noting that one of the nomadic steppe tribes that assimilated into the Magyars were the Khazars, who according to various sources converted to Judaism in the 8th century. Just who or when or where this happened, or how long it lasted, is subject to lots of conjecture, often with an anti-Semitic flavor. We do have decent evidence that at least elite Khazars were Jewish from contemporary sources and burials that include artifacts with Jewish symbols. Draw conclusions at your own risk, but it’s worth noting that the Hungarians were hanging out with Jews from day one, and maybe didn’t have the same impressions of them as the rest of Europe might have had. Theodor Herzl certainly knew about the Khazars, as did many people with “interesting” racial theories in the late 19th century. Given the number of really sketchy looking websites that top the list when you start looking into this, I’m not really interested in pursuing it further, but it’s intriguing to note that Jews in Hungary at least had an unique opportunity to interpret their own history as thoroughly baked into Hungarian national history as much as anyone else around them, if not moreso. That kind of claim on a place and identity is a powerful thing for both you and the society around you, even if it’s mostly lost in the mists of time.
-For many centuries Transylvania was either its own autonomous province or part of Hungary proper. For 150 years it was also under Ottoman domination. Before it was known for vampires, Transylvania was more famous as a bastion of religious freedom second only to the Netherlands. Jews were periodically expelled from other countries around it, including Hungary, and Transylvania provided both refuge and, at times, the opportunity to claim a secondary identity as a Hungarian, albeit usually within an ethnic enclave. How the Jews were treated within Hungary varied wildly from ruler to ruler, but at least there was somewhere for them to run most of the time, which also meant there was somewhere for them to return from when conditions improved.
-The Ottomans were actually far more tolerant of religious diversity than the Germans were in this period; the largely protestant Hungarians sometimes took the side of the Turks against the Habsburgs, who were burning Lutherans at the stake until surprisingly late. And in turn the Turks occasionally sided with the Jews against their own vassals. Not that it was a love-fest or anything, but it sure beat the situation elsewhere.
-Poland might have had more Jews, but it certainly didn’t have as dynamic an economy, and its cities did not have a strategic location on the Danube. Hungary was considerably more plugged in to both Western and Southern Europe, and later the Ottomans, and had more opportunities to diversify its economy. Hungary also had gold and silver, something that countries to the north and east lacked in great supply. This may have provided the Hungarians with a kind of economic floor throughout periods of scarce currency and other instability, and provided greater autonomy for some regions.
-Relevant to the point above is just how plugged in Jews themselves were to global trading networks. In the early 17th century, Hungarian Prince Gabor Bethlen invited Jews to settle in Hungary, hoping to get in on their sweet connections to merchants in Italy and Turkey.
-It’s worth mentioning that Hungary in general had much closer cultural, not to mention geographic, connections to Italy than many of its neighbors. And most of the Italian movers and shakers from the medieval period forward had numerous Jews in their employ. More than one Medieval and Renaissance Italian book on business advises the reader to hire some Jews. The networks they built across Europe frequently seem to have outlasted the patrons they served. Like I said, they were plugged in- both to the patrons they needed to protect them and facilitate business and, knowing they could never fully trust the gentile establishment, to one another.
-Given that it wasn’t always wise to shout it from the rooftops, it’s often hard to tell who is “ethnically” Hungarian, German or Jewish at any given point in history. Since Jews were some of the last people in Europe to get last names, the German emperor in 1783 demanded that all Jews be given German surnames. Hungarian Jews spent the next 150 years playing Boggle with their last names, to the point where even the Nazis had significant trouble figuring out who was Jewish. And since language was so important to Hungarian ethnic identity, it’s worth noting that in the mid-19th century, Hungary’s Jews were afforded certain ethnic freedoms if they learned Hungarian and taught it in their schools. So they did, and thus became even more Hungarian for certain values of Hungarian. Throughout the late 19th century, more and more Jews are also learning Hungarian, which is maybe the biggest marker for “Hungarian-ness”.
-Also keep in mind that people move around, and the difference between a Hungarian Jew and a German Jew at points might be extremely difficult to determine, either from documents or probably even if you could ask them directly. This was probably even more true in the Austro-Hungarian empire; your self-reported answer for ethnic identity might change depending on how big of a jerk the current monarch felt like being to Jews, or how safe you felt reporting your true feelings.
– Hungary’s Jews played a considerable role in the Revolutions of 1848. The Jews and their allies won a brief victory, but then were quickly squashed and harshly punished by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. But one form of this punishment was that a tax was levied upon them to establish a Jewish school system. This was a heavy tax intended to be punitive and to soak up the kinds of funds Hungary’s wealthy Jews had directed toward revolution and their own emancipation. This was one of those moments when a lot of Jews “Magyarized” their German names. It’s possible that this intense forced investment in education gave Hungary’s Jews a lot more outlets for their intellectual pursuits than they would have had otherwise. And since legal emancipation was still years away, they might have had a special appreciation for those outlets.
-Late 19th century Jews in Budapest adopted a strategy of “integration, not assimilation”, which you will hear all about if you take the tour of the Dohany Street Synagogue- the 2nd largest synagogue in the world. This included interesting problem solving strategies such as needing a Christian on staff in the synagogue to push various buttons and operate the pipe organ, which was more for show than anything else- just to put the neighbors at ease and make them recognize the space as a house of worship. Sometimes it seems like negotiating the tenets of Judaism in the modern world alone provides a lot of practice in obtuse problem solving. I think if one were to diagram all the logic trees and workarounds implicit in the religion practiced at the Dohany Street Synagogue, it would look very much like the schematics for some futuristic technology.
-In 1867, Jews in Hungary finally got legal emancipation, just as the Austria-Hungary was becoming an economic dynamo. It was the fourth-fastest-growing in the world from 1870-1913, trailing only the US, Britain, and Germany. The eastern half centered on Budapest eventually caught up with and then passed Vienna in terms of growth and development. So compared to surrounding regions, Budapest had more industries, schools, jobs and wealth to attract smart people. Like most industrialized urban centers, Budapest aggregated talent as it grew. Between 1870 and 1910, the population of Budapest and its surrounds quadrupled to over 1.2 million. Granted, Budapest was nowhere near the size of London or Paris, but it was growing twice as fast. And the Jewish community in Budapest seems to have been growing faster than any other group.
-By the turn of the century, Jews didn’t just participate in Hungary’s economy- they more or less dominated it, especially the banking industry. After WWI, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dismembered; what had previously been a multi-ethnic state where Jews were just one of many minorities suddenly became a much smaller country where they were the only extremely visible minority who controlled lots of stuff and attracted a lot of resentment.
-Add to this that Hungarian Jews, like Jews elsewhere, were disproportionately represented within Socialist movements. I have to wonder if the talented young Jewish intellectuals of this period really included two groups; the quantitative guys who go on to do high-level physics, and the social theory guys who try to foment revolution, fail, and ultimately help pin a bulls-eye onto their entire ethno-religious identity group. Building nuclear bombs would actually appear to be way safer than applying similar brainpower to politics.
-And into this world our Martian geniuses were born. So maybe the Hungarian Jewish genius explosion couldn’t have happened to any other group of people, anywhere else, or at any other time. But who knows?
Interesting, the bit with intentionally confusing the names reminds me of a story my mum told me – in the 1960s Czechoslovakia where she was growing up, her uncle (she lived with his family for a few years) who was Jewish (or half Jewish?) often kept using the name “Naymann” when someone asked for her name instead of her family name “Neumann”. For some reason that version of the name was less associated with Jews (or so he thought) and 20 years after WW2, he and other Jews who survived the Holocaust were still a bit paranoid (living in a totalitarian socialist regime of course did not help much to regain confidence either).
“The emancipation of the Jews in Eastern Europe was a difficult process that took place throughout the 19th century. Even when it happened, it took a while for the first generation of Jews to get rich enough that their children could afford to go to fancy schools and fritter away their lives on impractical subjects like physics and chemistry.”
An important thing to keep in mind is that Jews had to emancipate themselves from their anti-enlightenment traditional culture. The Jewish Enlightenment led by Moses Mendelsohn in the second half of 18th century lagged the general Enlightenment by 2 or 3 generations. Before the Enlightenment, Jews were generally richer than Christians in Europe, so Jews didn’t see much reason to adopt gentile ways. But by the 1750s or so, a few Jews were starting to notice that gentile culture was progressing rapidly and had developed features that Jews should emulate.
American Jews tend to think of European Jews as poor like in “Fiddler on the Roof.” But the emergence of a vast Jewish proletariate of poor tradesmen was a relatively late development due to the huge Jewish population explosion in the 18th and 19th centuries forcing growing numbers of Jews out of their traditional white collar niche jobs into lowlier mass jobs.
Any good books on this?
My knowledge of Jewish history pre-Holocaust is rather bad.
The Cochran-Harpending paper has a good bibliography.
For the 20th Century, the award-winning “The Jewish Century” by UC Berkeley historian Yuriel Slezkine is good.
Thanks! Will give ‘jewish century’ a read.
Check out Bela Kun.
I’d add that the Austrian Empire was famously well-administered by competent bureaucrats from the Enlightenment onward. So a lot of little things were done right.
Perhaps a test of this is the current resurgence of “nationalism” in Hungary (or so it’s said in the US press). In most cases in European-derived culture, resurgences of nationalism include increasing irritation at any ethnic groups seen as outsiders, and so almost invariably involve an increase in petty anti-Semitism. It would be interesting to see if perhaps the current situation in Hungary is not correlated with an increase of anti-Semitism, which would suggest a long history of Jews not being considered outsiders.
As it pertains to education and selection, do you know of any research which has compared the school systems in Canada? Where I grew up there were two parallel school systems: the “Public” school system, and the “Catholic” school system. Unlike in the US, both of these were publicly-funded. (Much like everything in the US is complicated due to slavery, everything in Canada is complicated due to The French).
The default option was the public school system. But the Catholic schools were open to all-comers, regardless of religion. Getting in didn’t require a lottery or a test or anything – just fill out the form. At the high school level it was possible to opt out of religion classes by filling out a form. I *think* it was easier for a Catholic school to expel problem students (read: violent) than the public schools, but I’m not certain.
One thing that I did note, my mother being a teacher, is that the different schools and school systems were continually competing for students. Funding went with the student. You’d tour various schools to decide what school you were going to (regardless of school system) much like you would tour different colleges. What schools did to attract students varied – some of this was flash-in-the-pan stuff, like putting in some new computer/robotics/whatever stuff. But a lot of it involved taking effort to improve academics and other elements of school life.
I’ve always suspected that this led to better overall outcomes in Canadian primary/secondary education, but I know of no quality research on these topics. Does anybody here know of any such research?
Interesting question, but if we’re talking about American slavery, I would be surprised if there was any significant amount of effect. We’re talking only about 200 years vs. almost 1000, which is a big difference on the evolutionary time scale, with the American population getting a constant refreshing of the genetic pool from the original source to make sure that any potential emerging differences get washed away.
Even more than that, the source of the evolutionary pressure in Scott’s hypothesis was that Jews were limited to intellectual jobs, so the more intellectual Jews were able to win more resources to support more children. What resources are more successful slaves actually going to win for their families? They don’t get paid more, they don’t get more ability to control their lives, so where is the actual payoff that would lead to the evolutionary pressure? It’s not like less successful slaves would get killed off, there was a strong economic incentive against that.
But we see that other minority groups (e.g. Romany) have been blocked from trade guilds and landowning, and they didn’t necessarily turn to intellectual jobs. I tend to think that even before the Ashkenazi-Sefardi split, the Jewish population was of above-average intelligence, if perhaps not on the 25%-of-Nobel-laureates level.
It probably doesn’t help the Romany that they were already low-cast and illiterate in India and that many of them were enslaved approximately the moment they arrived in Europe and kept in slavery till the 1840’s.
The Jews came to the table with a culture that valued scholarship, honesty, and integrity, and kinship with all the Jews of the Disapora. The Romany IIRC had a culture of clan loyalty that did not extend to all the scattered Gypsies of Europe, valued honesty and integrity only within the clan and scholarship or even literacy not at all.
One of these lays a strong foundation for lucrative commercial networks in a pre-modern world. The other promotes different strategies for dealing with the fact that you aren’t allowed to own land.
The Jews apparently had at least some reputation for being astute as early as 1000 AD. I’ve seen it argued elsewhere that the requirement for the male head of the household to be literate (so that he could read the Torah) may have contributed to this, even if only due to the less literate leaving the Jewish community rather than due to the more literate having more children. So they may have started from a higher baseline than the Romany. Modern Romany have average IQ somewhere around 75; if their historical ancestors were similar they would just never have had the wherewithal to get started as doctors, moneylenders and so on.
If your overall theory is correct I suspect that the “missing ingredient” has something to do with the three generation rule. The first generation strives, the second generation maintains, the third regresses to the mean.
Scott, if you’re going to keep writing about genetic effects on intelligence, it behooves you to do a dive into environmental ones, particularly lead.
I think it’s safe to say he’s thought about it and currently seems to be interested in those differences that still can’t be explained by environment.
It’s also really important to keep in mind that most of our evidence on heritability of intelligence comes from range-restricted data–kids adopted into middle-class-or-better families that passed whatever background screening was required to adopt a kid. To a first approximation, we can assume that those families were somewhere close to the societal best practices for raising kids, w.r.t. education, nutrition, health care, safety, discipline, religion, etc. That’s useful for telling middle-class families now that there aren’t a lot of available improvements to your kids’ IQ or adult income available by taking your kids to museums instead of taking them camping or something, but it may not be as useful in telling us whether really poor kids or kids from really screwed up backgrounds can be helped a lot by improving their environments. And it may also not tell us much about what could be done with some amazingly different environment from the usual middle-class default. Maybe being raised in a commune on a space colony with seven mothers and eight fathers gives you a huge boost to IQ (or a huge penalty)–we have no idea from the data we have.
Adoption is irrelevant. I highly recommend reading the wikipedia article on twin studies.
True, you have a restriction of range problem, and heritability can only be defined for a particular population in a particular environment – something important to keep in mind if we start looking at projects to increase IQ in Africa, or other places where things like iodine deficiency and various diseases still have a major impact.
The fact that environment has such a paltry effect in the US is in some sense a great victory. I mean, the heritability of IQ *increases with age* (at least up to 18). That fact kind of boggled my mind when I first encountered it. But what it means is that we really do a pretty good job of allowing people to reach their potential, at least in the first world.
Only tangentially related, but let me take a rare break from technical support to recommend the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program to any North American college students of strong mathematical bent.
Hungary, and Budapest in particular, still has one of the strongest mathematical traditions in the world, and one which is quite different from the American. Through this program you can go study there and study math in English under extremely good Hungarian professors (the program was founded by, among others, Erdős and Lovász). Just as importantly, this is one of the few opportunities you will ever have to be surrounded exclusively by dozens of other math students as bright as you are.
It is worth doing.
Could be a combination of things.
1) The physics at the time was easier to figure out, because we haven’t learned a lot of the relative low-hanging fruit yet. The stuff we still have to discover is becoming really, really hard. This isn’t to diminish the geniuses in the early 20th century — they were really smart, and accomplished amazing things. But it’s possible that the scale of the problems we have today are just really hard.
2) Is it possible that smart people today are just going into other, more lucrative fields? Not all of them, but a bunch. There’s a lot of smarts going into the Valley to make stuff that is much more likely to make one rich than studying physics.
3) Perhaps a large number of the real geniuses are going in to fields that simply didn’t exist at the time that are equally challenging, like AI. I could certainly see someone like von Neumann doing AI research.
I suspect physics isn’t in a gold-rush state right now, but molecular biology and computer science probably are, because those are areas where the tools to do the work currently being done simply didn’t exist 50 years ago. On the other hand, academic science is a really tough way to make a living (be in the top 0.1% of human intelligence, get top grades in your undergrad hard science program, then do a PhD and a postdoc or two, and then maybe you get hired for a tenure track job that may eventually become a permanent position if you publish enough). My intuition is that we’ve made the barriers to being a scientist high enough that we’ve encouraged a lot of people to go do something else with their first-rate minds, and this is probably a bad idea. OTOH, it’s pretty easy to see how to make sure that working in finance is financially rewarding–you’re working with huge flows of money, and it’s not so hard to get a small cut for yourself. Basic research is inherently very far away from the payoff where there are large flows of money to tap into.
Education costs (including opportunity costs) have to be a huge factor as well. Particularly for those who want kids, like myself. It’s one of the reasons I dropped out of my MS in computer science over a decade ago. I love the academic side of my field, but if I was going to spend the time to find a wife, get married, and have kids, I didn’t want to spend the next 5+ years of my life in grad school chasing a PhD, especially since I could get work right away.
I’m sure my wife and daughters agree with my decision.
Yes. I think we’ve made Conscientiousness and willingness to jump through hoops a bigger requirement for many careers– which reduces the selection for g/IQ, all other things being equal. Reading the biography of Watson, for example, the impression I get is that immediate post-war science was far more free and less demanding in terms of willingness to follow rules.
Watson disregards grant rules, hops around different labs, etc. with not too much difficulty.
Contrast that to finance jobs, which are competitive, but seem to have lower barriers to entry for those at elite colleges.
Has the pureblood Ashkenazi population fully recovered? I get the sense that lots of shiksas or he-shiksas have invaded the bloodline. One of them was my grandmother!
But also, consider cognitive stratification within the Ashkenazi community. It probably was very high when these super-geniuses were spawning, with very smart and successful Jews only marrying other very smart and successful Jews. This is still a tendency in modern times, for sure, but
1) how many children result from these pairings in the modern era? High IQ women have famously low fertility rates these days and
2) can it really be as strong as in late 19th century Europe, with classism that was pretty damn brutal by comparison with present day?
I have been informed by reliable sources that the male equivalent of “shiksa” is “shaygetz” (spelling may vary, obviously).
Regarding your actual argument, I suspect #1 is a major influence. Is there any high-IQ social group, anywhere in the modern west, where having more than 2 or 3 children is considered desirable? In the US, I feel like having more than 4 kids is typically associated with either poverty, or extremist religion like the Quiverfull movement.
mormons are not high IQ
IPOF being mormon requires a relitively large investment in suspension of disbelief.
(Atran, In Gods We Trust)
Mormons have roughly average IQs for white Americans. That’s relatively high by world standards. More importantly, higher IQ and higher income Mormons have more children than lower IQ/lower income Mormons.
Yet BYU is not widely regarded as a bastion of academic excellence.
Im just saying that Mormons have erm…cultural handicaps for nuturing emergent geniuses as compared to ashkenazai jews.
Highly religious populations do score lower on IQ on the average…i can look the paper up if u like.
Having big families is part of mormonism isnt it?
And is it regarded as the opposite of such? From what I remember, the undergrads there seemed to compare favorably to the ones at the well-regarded state school I now work at.
BYU’s not a research powerhouse. By design it focuses on undergraduates and pedagogy over research. Maybe that’s what you were referring to? But if you think that the difference between BYU being R2 or R1 says something about the IQ of Mormons…
Would be interesting to total up the number of offspring produced by all of the geniuses Scott listed. I suspect it’s disappointingly small. Practically speaking of course all you need is for the second-stringers who ‘only’ have IQs in the 120-130 range to keep busy having kids, and you’ll still have fertile ground to produce more of the same – but it’s a bit of a missed opportunity to breed a strain of intellectual supermen 😉
That’s what the moon colony is for!
Dig them up, sequence them, clone. Rinse and repeat.
Where did this slavery take place? The ancestors of today’s African Americans were slaves for two or three generations on the average. The majority of slaves were imported after the Declaration of Independence.
More or less completely off-topic, I want to recommend Greg Benford’s new alternate history novel “The Berlin Project. The premise is that through some wheeling and dealing (involving raising private funds from Jewish bankers), Benford’s father-in-law Karl Cohen convinces Groves to go with (the now-standard) centrifuge method for refining U-235 (as opposed to the diffusion method pursed in the real world). The result is that the bomb was ready a year earlier and could be used in the European theater. The rest is kind of too good to spoil. You can of course expect lots of cameos by famous physicists. (Example scene: Cohen and Dyson talking shop in a London pub as the device is being assembled, while Feynman flirts with chicks at the bar.)
This argument doesn’t work well. It brings you back to needing to explain why Tay-Sachs, torsion dystonia, etc. weren’t purged from the Jewish gene pool when, by hypothesis, they were all drawback and no benefit.
I think Scott means to say that they couldn’t take advantage of their high IQ in the sense of earning Nobel Prizes prior to about 1880ish. But they absolutely could take advantage of high IQ’s reproductively. They were working in blue-collar trades for nearly a millennium while everyone else was farming or living off land rents. The population growth rate Jews managed between about 1000 and 1800 is absolutely amazing.
I think what he means is that they were unable to take advantage of it in order to engage in scientific and artistic pursuits. Before 1880 they were still able to perform better at the jobs they were allowed to hold because of it.
“For the reasons suggested by Cochran, Hardy, and Harpending, Ashkenazi Jews had the potential for very high intelligence. They were mostly too poor and discriminated against to take advantage of it.”
No, Jews in medieval and early modern Europe, while discriminated against, were not terribly poor on average, especially not compared to their Christian neighbors. Jews in this era put lots of brainpower into making money, at which they were quite good. They didn’t put brainpower into science, however, until after the Jewish Enlightenment, which lagged behind the general Enlightenment.
Wikipedia lists 22 medieval Jewish astronomers, 6 medieval Jewish mathematicians, and too many doctors to count. And most of them are Sephardim.
So, there’s an interesting effect you see showing up when a population undergoes positive selection for a highly polygenic trait. First off, you obviously see an increase in whatever is being selected for (putatively intelligence). Secondly, and more interestingly, you see a reduction in variability while the population is undergoing selection. This is because all of the positive trait loci are in linkage disequilibrium, being negatively correlated with each other.
It works like this: look at the distribution of intelligence in the population, removing the effects of one particular small-effect allele. It’ll be bell-curve shaped. Suppose we apply truncating selection to this population: everybody below some intelligence threshold doesn’t reproduce. Then look at the impact on this particular allele. The people with the allele have an effective lower threshold for the truncation selection on all the other alleles that affect the trait. That means that in the next generation, anyone with the positive allele for this locus is slightly less likely to have other positive alleles at all the other loci. This effect builds over time – after many generations of truncation selection, the variance in the population can drop substantially thanks to this effect.
The particularly interesting thing is what happens when the selection stops. As soon as there’s no more selection, the linkage disequilibrium starts going away, half disappearing in each generation. That can increase the variance in the population substantially. This can lead to an immediate and substantial increase in the fraction of individuals above a very high threshold in the first few generations after selection stops.
I sometimes think that this might have some relevance to the sudden impact of the Ashkenazim in such a short time period: suddenly, there were many more extremely intelligent children being born thanks to relaxation of the strong selection.
The Harpending/Cochran model is talking about specific kinds of trades that Eastern European Jews were restricted to–we can think of this as selection for IQ, but really, it was selection for being a successful banker or merchant or doctor or whatever. That’s correlated with IQ, but it’s probably a more specific subset of mental abilities. Maybe that relaxed selection leading to greater variance meant mental toolkits that were less precisely targeted on those jobs.
 Being a successful doctor before 1850 or so mainly meant convincing your potential patients you were a good doctor, since you had no idea what you were doing and mostly made your patients sicker when you treated them.
 I wonder if part of the package here was figuring out how to be successful without pissing off the Gentile majority around you too much, too.
It would make sense that Ashkenazim were being selected for a whole suite of traits, IQ being the only one we’ve measured (so far). After all, the average Ashkenazi IQ is maybe 10 points above the American average, but the average Ashkenazi income in the US is almost double the American average and Ashkenazi net worth is over four times the national average. Ashkenazim are economically punching well above their weight even if you take their high average IQ into account.
Plus, it’s probably wrong to exclude cultural and legal circumstances entirely. Jews, generally forbidden to own land, were a classic “middleman minority” who could succeed only in the occupations honor culture Christians looked down on–trade and educated professions. There’s a reason Shylock is a Jew; until modern economics came along to explain that interest was a good thing, the only group in Europe that was typically able to charge interest, and therefore to make money in finance, were Jews. On the legal profession side, consider that the study of Judaism, with all its parsing of individual words and analysis of rabbinic precedent, uses a skill set very similar to what lawyers do; and that unlike Catholicism, the most religiously learned member of the community (the rabbi) had high reproductive value rather than low.
And then there’s truth in the cultural stereotypes about Jewish families. A culture that tells children they have to be a doctor or a lawyer is going to create a lot of doctors and lawyers.
The Catholic Church relaxed its opposition to interest (‘usury’) in 1515, when Leo X allowed the Montes Pietatis to start charging interest. And John Calvin never opposed it at all. And the Fuggers seem to have been able to work around the prohibitions on interest despite being Catholic. So there was plenty of competition even before the advent of modern economic theory, though by that time the Jewish specialization in the industry was already centuries old.
I’ve read some economic historian types who say that Jews gave up farming for the most part well before restrictions on farming affected them.
bbartlog–it’s worth pointing out that the Fuggers were successful textile merchants who went into finance only when the Jews were kicked out of Augsburg, and so there was a niche to fill.
They used tricks that are also common in the Muslim world; charging fees that aren’t “interest” but serving the same role.
Jews make up about one-third of the billionaires in America and about one-seventh of the billionaires in the world:
Here’s my count of Forbes Israel‘s list, with Jewish billionaires as a fraction of the country’s total number of billionaires:
US 105/442 = 24%
Israel 16/16 = 100%
Russia 12/99 = 12%
Canada 6/29 = 21%
Brazil 6/45 = 13%
UK 5/37 = 14%
Ukraine 3/10 = 30%
Monaco 3/3 = 100%
Australia 3/22 = 14%
Spain 2/20 = 10%
France 2/24 = 8%
Germany 1/58 = 2%
Hong Kong 1/39 = 3%
However, the Forbes Israel list of Jewish billionaires is pretty slapdash and they missed a lot of Jewish billionaires.
not 1850, 1940.
It seems to me (as someone with a pretty lame and spotty grasp of history, so add grains of salt to taste) like we occasionally see golden ages occur in various places, and it’s usually kinda mysterious why it happened in that particular place. (Ancient Athens being the model for this–not very many people, not obviously selected for intelligence, yet they invented a whole big chunk of western civilization in a few centuries.)
My intuition is that one really critical part of a golden age is that you get a critical mass of people working together on related ideas, interacting and building on each others’ work. And I suspect that it’s easy to have societal constraints/arrangements screw that up, and one part of what makes a golden age possible is that somehow your social arrangements don’t (say) make it impossible for some nobody who’s just figured out calculus to get anyone to hear what he has to say.
Probably the reason the Wright brothers were first in flight is they could build/machine anything they wanted to try. Although they were inventive, I think you’re right that having a city full of inventors modifying their machines to produce new types of parts, or simply stronger/lighter weight parts was a key to getting them airborne.
An additional complication: the admixture of the slave-owner‘s genes, which make a significant portion in the American case.
Any chance the productivity around the early 20th century was partially low-hanging fruit? That is, all these new ideas (relativity and QM, primarily) had just been discovered, and there were lots of obvious questions to ask, math to do, and experiments to run. Once all of that was handled, the next steps became significantly harder.
No doubt low-hanging fruit explains the scientific productivity of the world in general at that time, but it doesn’t explain why Hungarians or Jews did particularly well.
Take the allegory of the 1980’s as a ‘bull market’ when almost anyone in investments made money. The riskier, the more money you made.
How does that explain the success of students from Phillips Exeter Academy (or some other prestigious prep school)? Well they were part of a system larger than themselves, and were being groomed to take charge of investing operations, right as the bull market hit.
In a counterfactual world without Phillips Exeter, there’s still the bull market, there’s still a bunch of profit for the bank, just under guidance of some other warm body that got the job.
Although his parents met in Berlin, they were both Hungarian. You mentioned his father earlier; his mother’s name is Magda Kemeny. “Magda” is used widely in Eastern Europe, not so much in Germany. “Kemeny” is distinctively Hungarian.
While John’s mother was Hungarian, Michael and Karl’s mother, Cecília Wohl, was Lithuanian. So the first generation Polanyis were half Hungarian, while the second generation John and Eva Striker Zeisel were 3/4th. (“Striker” doesn’t sound Hungarian, but her father was named Sándor.)
Wait, but how long did it take the Ashkenazi population to rebound? Are we sure that the problem isn’t just that the next set of geniuses is sixteen? (Also, how much of the Ashkenazi population is inconsiderately intermarrying?)
In the US I see numbers around 50% of Jews marrying out. And practically all American Jews are Ashkenazi, so any stat about American Jews is basically a stat about Ashkenazi Jews.
But not at random, surely. I’m a little fuzzy on the genetics involved, but is there any particular reason that the offspring of a smart Ashkenazi father and a smart Chinese mother is less likely to be smart than the offspring of two smart Ashkenazi parents?
Hey Brad I think I reported your comment. I’m sorry. I was trying to reply; hit the wrong button.
Anyhow, yes. Regression to ethnic means is one reason to think that, if the hypothetical fathers and mothers have identical IQ’s, the child of two Ashkenazis will on average have a slightly higher IQ.
I guess this is the part that I’m fuzzy on. Why is ethnicity the right reference group for regression to the mean? Can’t there be subgroups within an ethnic group that have a mean different from that of the larger group?
Separately, how strong is the regression to the mean effect? If we compare a couple that’s 115/130 both Ashkenazi vs a couple that’s 130/130 one Chinese and one Ashkenazi, which one is likely to have children with higher average IQ?
Assuming the answer is the second one, then I believe the decedents of secular Jews will come out ahead of the decedents of haradi Jews. Because college and graduate school ensure strong assortative mating patterns among secular Jews whereas assortative mating is breaking down or gone among the haradi.
One way to think about regression is: What are the grandparents’ IQs?
It’s just a matter of empirical observation that whites, blacks, and Jews regress to ethnic means. So, on average two Ashkenazis people with an IQ of 104 each will have a kid with a slightly higher IQ than the parents, while two Gentile people with an IQ of 104 will have a kid with a slightly lower IQ.
Now, why people regress to ethnic means is something people can argue about. But that they regress to ethnic means is pretty clear.
“But that they regress to ethnic means is pretty clear.”
Is it? Source?
Well, on blacks and whites sources include Arthur Jensen’s “The g Factor”, p. 468-472, and Jenson and Rushton’s 2005 review articles “30 Years of Research on Race Differences in Cognitive Ability.” On Ashkenazis, I can’t off the top of my head find anyone who has examined the regression question. But since everyone who looks at Ashkenazi IQ finds a higher average than white IQ, they’ve got to be regressing to a higher mean. Otherwise the white-Ashkenazi gap would collapse pretty quick, and there’s no sign of that happening.
Needless to say citing Jensen and Rushton on the regression question doesn’t mean I endorse any of the inferences they make from the data on regression. I will remain publicly agnostic as to whether heredity is at play, or whether unknown factors that precisely mimic hereditary are at play.
I appreciate the references, but you haven’t really answered the question at hand. Maybe because the research hasn’t been done, in which case fine. But if we don’t know the relative strength of parental IQ effects and parental ethnicity effects than we can’t say that intermarriage is ‘ruining’ anything.
If the assortative mating effects are stronger in the contemporary US than they were in the shetl, and I believe they are, then the intermarriage with assortative mating should produce even more geniuses than keeping the old shetl system would have regression to the mean notwithstanding.
We are now in the second generation of inter-breeding Ivy League (etc) mutts. Yale, for example, has interquartile range on the SAT of 1410 to 1600 which translates roughly from 138-152+ in IQ terms. It seems to me that from the point of view of maximizing the chances of a genius child an Ashkenazi that attends Yale is better off finding a spouse there, regardless of ethnicity, then picking at random from his B’nai Mitzvah class.
All I’m trying to say is that all other things being equal, the Ashkenazi is a better bet if the goal is maximizing IQ. I’m not advocating actually using Ashkenazi status as a way of choosing marriage partners. And if you want to compare a really bright Yale student to a randomly selected Ashkenazi, that’s of course a whole nother question.
When it comes to modern assortative marriage, I’m really not sure if marriage is actually getting more assortative than it used to be or not. And if we’re talking about several generations of modern-assortative-style marriage vs. Ashkenazim continuing to marry other Ashkenazim, I just don’t have the data and statistical chops to have a strong opinion on the long-term effects.
Perhaps I’m missing something, by what does it matter if the Ashkenazi population is intermarrying if they are still engaged in the same level of assortative mating on intelligence as before?
If I marry a smart Gentile instead of a smart Jewess, shouldn’t I be getting the same amount of heritable intelligence with a lower risk of paired taysachs genes?
Only if the smart Gentile has parents who are as smart as the parents of the Jewish girl you would have otherwise married.
Once again I’m finding that I don’t understand supposed regression to the mean as a genetic phenomenon. Your children’s genes are sampled randomly from the genes of the parents, not from the genes in the population. What does it matter which populations the Jewess and the gentile come from if they have the same number of loci with the +intelligence variant?
Because of luck. Imagine IQ = X+Y where X is inherited intelligence and Y is a random number rolled for each child, all we observe is IQ, all you pass down is X. The higher IQ is above the population mean the higher Y probably was. Holding your IQ constant, the smarter your parent are, the lower your Y probably was, and the smarter your children probably will be.
Say your mother and father were each the smartest sibling in their families of four siblings each. Their children are likely to regress toward a mean in between their own average IQ and the average IQ of themselves and their siblings.
I wonder, though, if this model is appliccable to IQ (and, for that matter, height). Isn’t the idea here that environmental effects determiner to what extent genetic potential is realised, so that effectively, they can only detract from it, but not add to it? In that case, what you describe shouldn’t apply, right?
That doesn’t seem right. Imagine the case where intelligence is entirely genetic. You are smarter than your siblings because you won the genetic lottery. But your children don’t get a random selection from your parents’ genes, they get a random selection from you and your wife’s genes, so your luck is passed down.
Intelligence isn’t entirely genetic, but the obvious environmental influences are going to correlate fairly well between you and your siblings, so the difference might be entirely a result of your winning the genetic lottery, in which case there is no reason for your children to regress towards the sibling mean.
The fact that intelligence is multigenetic in complicated ways might defeat that argument, however–you could have been lucky not in getting genes A,B, and C each of which gives you a point of IQ but in getting A and B, which happen to complement each other, instead of A and b which don’t.
But, David Friedman, is it really a fact that genes that effect intelligence complement other specific genes in complex ways? Last I heard, Steve Hsu’s finding in “On the genetic architecture of intelligence and other quantitative traits” is that we’re pretty much dealing with a linear, additive phenomenon here.
From my limited understanding of genetics, it seems that recessive and dominant genes are sufficient to explain this. Suppose there’s a bunch of genes, each of which if expressed gives you 1 unit of Z. Some are recessive and only expressed if you have two copies of the Z-positive allele, and some are dominant so you only need one copy.
Now suppose that due to different allele frequencies, group A has an average Z of 60, and group B has an Z count of 50. A member of group A with Z=55 is more likely to have unexpressed recessive alleles for Z, and “redundant” copies of dominant alleles. So if two members of group A reproduce, and both have Z of 55, the expected Z of their offspring is greater than 55 but less than 60. Similarly, if two Z=55 members of A reproduce, the expected Z value of their offspring is less than 55 but greater than 50.
I was sufficiently curious/bored to write a Python implementation of this model, which behaved as I expected. Conditioning on both parents having Z of 55, offspring in group A average 56.6 and offspring in group B average 53.4.
Presumably the intelligence of the siblings would also be some evidence.
I find the easiest way to intuit regression to the mean is to suppose that for the relevant characteristic, say height, there are two causes, one of which is genetic. The very tall person is, on average, someone who got unlucky on both dimensions–genes for height and non-genetic cause for height. His children will have the tall genes but a new roll of the non-genetic cause, so probably have the good luck to be shorter than their parent.
So what we need is a proxy for the degree to which my hypothetical wife’s intelligence is genetic. Parents and siblings would provide that if the non-genetic cause was random. But if it’s environmental, it is likely to correlate across other members of the family, so that still doesn’t work.
It sounds as though the ideal strategy to produce genetically smart kids is to marry a very smart woman who has had lots of negative environmental influences, so is genetically very very smart.
Just how to find her I leave as an exercise for the reader.
When theory is inadequate, all that is left to rely on is data. I take the observed intelligence of our children as adequate evidence for the selection strategy I actually employed.
You are correct.
If I understand correctly, most Ashkenazi Jews in pre-modern Eastern Europe were farmers living in shtetlekh, which would have selected for things like physical strength and endurance, much like Christian Europeans.
And while Ashkenazi Jews were indeed generally prohibited from becoming part of the landed nobility or joining most trade guilds, similar restrictions applied to other ethnic minorities such as Sephardi Jews, Roma, Muslims (who eventually all left Europe after centuries of living in poor conditions after the re-Christianization of their lands), Christian minorities and so on, but they didn’t became
ReptilianMartian super-geniuses. So what was special about Central Europe that caused this strong and unusual selective pressure on the Ashkenazim living there?
Maybe it’s just that the low-hanging fruits have already been picked, so even if people with the same level of intelligence exist, their achievements aren’t as spectacular.
Or their achievements are spectacular, but in fields other than the hard sciences. Who founded Google, Facebook, etc.? Jews, who I presume are Ashkenazi.
Well, how many children do you have? Four? Six? Nine? For whatever reason high IQ is not positively correlated with evolutionary fitness in modern Western societies.
“If I understand correctly, most Ashkenazi Jews in pre-modern Eastern Europe were farmers living in shtetlekh.” That’s definitely not true between 900 and 1650.
So what did the Jews do in the Kievan Rus?
Well, my understanding is that when it comes to the Kievan Rus things are a bit hazy due to a lack of documentary sources. However, I don’t think there’s any evidence that the Jews of the Kievan Rus were mostly Ashkenazim, and I don’t think there’s any evidence that the Ashkenazim in Kievan Rus, if there were any, were mostly farmers.
And even if we grant that Jewish population of the Kievan Rus was entirely composed of Ashkenazim, and that every one of these Ashkenazim was a farmer, I think the Ashkenazi population as a whole would still mostly not consist of farmers.
I would be very surprised if there were any mainstream historians who held that Ashkenazim, at any time between 900 and 1650, were mostly farmers.
If they’ll swallow Bellesiles…
Didn’t you watch the opening scene of “Inglorious Basterds” about a family of Jewish farmers living in splendid isolation in the French countryside?
If you can’t trust Quentin Tarantino’s knowledge of history, who can you trust?
change mostly recovered to barely recovered plz
I find the more striking comparison is Africans to US blacks. Nigerians are carriers at 2-3x the rate of US blacks. Probably the first slaves had African levels, but the lower levels of falciparum malaria in America lead to change in historical time.
I understand that Nigerians have the highest sickle cell rate in Africa, much higher than people in other parts of the continent. Are we sure that American blacks don’t just descend from enough non-Nigerians to end up with lower sickle cell rates?
Yes, it does seem to be higher in Nigeria than in the Ivory Coast. But it also varies within Nigeria, higher near the coast, which is probably where the slaves came from.
Note also that given the odd way we define “Black” socially, most US blacks have a fair percentage of white, non-malaria resistant ancestry.
A simple analysis suggests that the gene frequency for HbS would drop by a factor of two since coming to the US, not counting white admixture.
The history of the evolution of H. sapiens (like all living things) takes place in a planetary cauldron of environmental variation in which niches produce differing trait patterns. The Ashkenazi Jewish niche is an example of localized selection pressure for exceptional cognitive brain function. The tools for measuring these kinds of distinctions have only been around for a few hundred years, but the phenomenon (in other forms) has been going on for a few million years.
The really interesting thing is that we are now on the verge of tinkering with DNA directly; which is taking us from natural selection, through social/memetic selection, and ultimately into scientific selection. And the speed of change is ramping up exponentially. What we need now is new and better tools for long-term prediction (so as to avoid future unanticipated dangers). Perhaps an Ashkenazi Renaissance is the answer, so why aren’t you reproducing?
good point: the TRF (Total Reproductive Frequency) of jews is very low.
25% are over 60.
The total fertility rate for Jews in Israel has been rising: it’s now 3.13 babies per Jewish Israeli woman per lifetime, which happens to be equal to the Israeli Arab TFR.
Are your last three words supposed to be “Israeli Arab TFR”?
Yes, thank you. I’ll fix it.
Even in the US there’s these communities of Haredim having six or ten kids a couple. I wouldn’t be surprised if 200 years from now most Ashkenazim are high-fertility again because the secular ones quit breeding / intermarried away.
This study shows inverse correlation of educational attainment with family size.
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.
Israel is not the richest country, and has its share of problems, which may lead to Israeli academic reaching certain success to choose to continue his/her work in one of more attractive establishments abroad. Which creates kind of a circular problem – if most brilliant academics leave, you can’t have a top university, and if you don’t have top universities, most brilliant academics would leave to be in the best ones. There would be exceptions, of course, but may not be enough to sustain top universities. Israel is also a pretty small country – Jewish population of Israel is about 6 million, and if you subtract Haredi Jews, people who don’t have inclination to go into science even if they could have IQ to do it, etc. – the pool is not that large. US and Israel probably have the Jewish pool of roughly the same sizes, but the resources available in US would be vastly bigger.
That said, looks like Israeli universities aren’t doing that bad: http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Israeli-universities-take-six-of-top-100-global-rankings-448740
What fraction of top Israelis in the sciences stay in Israel vs coming to the US or Europe?
16 million jews worldwide, 10 million in Israel.
Jewish population pre-WWII was ~16 million.
I think you’re confusing overall population of Israel with Jewish population of Israel. Israel population is ~8.6 million, 75% Jewish (the rest is mostly Arab). Not sure where 10 mln figure came from, it’s certainly not in https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/is.html and is not accurate.
pardon, ur correct, i was including all Israelis not just jewish Israelis.
Due to the nature of Israel as a predominantly Jewish state, its universities are less likely to attract geniuses from other countries than those of e.g the US.
I think Israel looks bad on those lists of Nobel Prizes per capita because they’re over historical time, whereas Israel has only been able to concentrate on things other than building itself up for a generation or two.
I think Israel has more Nobels per capita since the year 2000 than any other country in the world, but I’m not 100% sure. See here and try to prove me wrong.
the Aliyah was/is probably a selection gradient– dont you think?
and except for the UK, all the top contenders have populations < 10 million.
its dangerous to live/work/study in Israel.
and then there is the fact that Israel is somewhat of an international pariah in academe because of the Palestine problem.
Here’s my count of Jewish Nobels through 2011:
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 …
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. …
By any means of counting, there are quite a number of countries where Jews make up a remarkable percentage of native-born Nobel laureates. For example, among American natives, Lynn counts 200 prizewinners through 2009 (leaving aside the peace prize as non-intellectual). Jews made up 62, or 31 percent. Since Jews comprised about 3 percent of the adult population in the U.S. in the middle of the last century, this gives American Jews an Achievement Quotient for Nobel laureates of just over ten.
And the American AQ is fairly low by international standards. In places with very few Jews, AQs can be stratospheric, such as Switzerland (3 Jewish laureates out of 17 total laureates for an AQ of 60), Latin America (2 out of 8 for an AQ of 220) and Italy (4 out of 17 for a 320).
After awhile, The Chosen People becomes slightly repetitious as evidence for consistently high levels of Jewish accomplishment pile up. For variety’s sake, I started looking for exceptions to prove the rule.
I found a few. British gentiles are pretty good at winning Nobels. They’ve won 76 while British-born Jews have won only three, for an Achievement Quota of six. This low AQ not appear to stem from British Jews being untalented or terribly discriminated against, but instead because British gentiles are unusually good at doing Nobel-worthy work.
Academia != tech. When it comes to corporate high tech development, Israel generally is at the top of the world alongside Asian powerhouses and the US. And when it comes to military tech, Israel seems to be on top (maybe alongside the US, but Israel seems to get a lot more value for its investments).
Israel is starting to take off in winning hard science Nobel Prizes in this century:
There have been 4 Israeli winners in Chemistry since 2004.
The Nobels usually come with a lengthy time lag.
Israel intentionally cultivated a rather anti-intellectual culture. There was a lot of emphasis from its leaders on being a Normal Country with lots of farmers and soldiers and fewer highbrows.
American culture was less intellectual as well, with few Americans winning Nobel Prizes up until the end of the 1920s.
There are a number of Jewish groups in the United States at present who are highly prosperous in business but not intellectual, such as the 75,000 Syrian Jews of Brooklyn:
I suspect that up until the Jewish Enlightenment in the later 1700s, European Jews were on average more like today’s Syrian Jews in Brooklyn than they were like the intellectual Jews of early 20th Century Budapest and Vienna.
Further evidence that non-Ashkenazi Jews are also above-average…
I remember watching an interview with a Hungarian government official (I forget his actual position) who was lamenting the fact that many Hungarians had accomplished great things but none of them had done so in Hungary, and wished he had some way to stop this brain drain.
Bobby Fischer’s real father was almost certainly Hungarian-Jewish mathematician/physicist Paul Nemenyi:
Unfortunately, brains is not the only thing that Bobby inherited.
I think there’s little evidence that the Jewish specialization in cognitively demanding occupations was because they were barred from farming or other occupations in Europe. Instead, they voluntarily chose to pursue occupations like moneylending. If there were any prohibitions, they were enacted long after Jews had given up farming. IIRC, Cochran has argued against the “farming ban” thesis and there’s this article, too.
Jews were generally barred from owning land: also it’s generally hard for immigrants to establish themselves as farmers. Plus, Jewish rules materially interfered with farming.
Moneylending was lucrative, although it generated enemies.
The Catholic ban on usury is key. derived from the Jewish ban on usury, by the way.
Just a wild-ass-guess, but perhaps part of it is that there is a strong preference among Jews to live within walking distance of a synagogue. This may make urban living and non-agricultural jobs a good deal more enticing to Jewish people.
Or just near each other. Modern migrants also tend to prefer to live in cities, where they can support each other, even if they migrated from rural areas.
Catholic migrants from rural Ireland mostly wound up living in big cities in America, and that was during an era of great bargains to be had in American farmland.
Early 20th century Poland produced a lot of brilliant logicians and mathematicians, if not physicists. It wasn’t just Tarski. Haven’t checked how many of them were (like Tarski) Jewish.
Of the 21(=11+5+5) mathematicians wikipedia lists as the Warsaw School, 7(=4+2+1) are listed as Jewish (and almost all of the others survived the war in Poland). Of the 14 more listed as the Lwów school (Scottish cafe), 5 more Jews.
>the Western European Jews probably weren’t Ashkenazim
Where do you get that? In France and the UK, well before the twentieth century, most were Ashkenazi.
Not too surprising. Given how the normal distribution drops off, a small increase in the mean will give you many times as many geniuses. And given the disproportionate influence of geniuses in pushing society forward, this will have a noticeable practical effect. And given that IQ variation is probably driven by thousands of additive small +IQ variants, there’s substantial scope for a small amount of selection to make a very noticeable difference in mean IQs.
I wonder what a Eugenics program could accomplish in 100 years…
As Eastern-European Ashkenazi, the issues of Holocaust (and Bolshevism) have been of particular interest to me.
I will address a few misconceptions that I find common and now see repeated in the comments above.
– Nazis did not prosecute the Jews because they thought them inferior nor because they considered them superior.
– Nazis considered Jews to be a cohesive, politically and culturally influential power that, if not defeated/neutralized, would cause changes to western, particularly German society that from their point of view was worse than death – worth dying in desperate struggle, let alone killing to prevent. Basically, cultural and moral degradation, loss of pride, ceasing to strive, breakdown of family, loss of will to live, failure to procreate and finally extinction.
Leaving value judgements aside (modern Germans certainly do not share 1930s concerns about going extinct), purely empirically the predictions seem to be accurate in most respects. One can argue that German war exhaustion, defeat and humiliation played the role in Germany’s destiny but what about the victors?
– Tracing intellectual origins of Nazi antisemitism one will inevitably come to – and arguably stop at as sufficiently fundamental – the influential 1903 work of the prodigy genius Otto Weininger “Sex and Character”, of which a single chapter is dedicated to Jews.
Otto Weininger – the brilliant father of Nazi anti-Semitism was, incidentally, an Ashkenazi jew.
You mean in a self-fulfilling prophecy kind of way? The Nazis, by being terrible and then losing, did a good deal to permanently shift the overton window on certain relevant issues.
The USSR was just about as terrible as Nazi Germany, and the USSR eventually lost. We still have commies.
The USSR “lost” in a much softer way than Nazi Germany, as note the former CPSU member and KGB chief still ruling a united Russia. If World War II had ended with a negotiated surrender that left the Nazi party formally dissolved but Heinrich Himmler as Germany’s first postwar chancellor, the world would I suspect be a rather different place.
Possibly slightly more radioactive, on account of how Russia would have perceived a NATO that included Himmler’s Germany.
And we still have Nazis as well. Also a difference that many people don’t seem to realize is that famines and gulags are not an inherent part of communist ideology while genocide is an inherent part of Nazi ideology.
That’s a point against communism. Neo-Nazis could theoretically simply strike the genocide right out of their Nazi-based ideology. But since the famines and gulags you get from communism aren’t simply a line-item in the ideology, it’s a lot harder to get rid of them.
That gulags and famines aren’t a part of communist ideology is a point against communism? If Neo-Nazis took genocide out of their ideology they wouldn’t be Neo-Nazis anymore, but it’s possible to be a communist without supporting the USSR. I suppose you could say that communism inherently leads to gulags and famines, but then the question of “why do people still support communism despite the USSR?” is pretty obvious, they simply think that your argument against communism is flawed.
Whether or not genocide is essential to Nazism is a definitional question, but everyone would still CALL them neo-Nazis, whether they claimed to be still neo-Nazis or white separatists or white nationalists or whatever. And to be fair, “just like the Nazis except we’re only going to ghettoize and mistreat the untermensch instead of exterminating them” (for example) is still pretty close to Nazism.
But Communism… well, if the gulags and famines aren’t part of the ideology, yet they happen anyway, how do you remove them?
Or they like gulags and famines as long as they aren’t happening to themselves.
You’re not being charitable. Outside of the people who deny the crimes, explain them away to a ridiculous extent, or say they were a good thing, there’s a general view among modern-day communists along the lines of “mistakes were made last time; by being smarter and having better theory we can avoid those mistakes next time.”
And Spencer and David Duke swear off violence, saying they want a peaceful separation of the races. “Ethnic cleansing” isn’t meant as a euphemism for genocide, but it always turns out that way. How’s that any different from “mistakes were made, we’re the nice kind of commies?”
I’m not an expert on the history of Nazi ideology, but I thought the original plan was to expel the Jews, not to kill them, in which case genocide was not an inherent part of the ideology.
But there are two possibilities there. One is delusion, and the other is mendacity. When Spencer says “peaceful ethnic cleansing”, is he deluded (he thinks it’s possible; historical experience strongly suggests it is not) or is he lying (he wants the violent kind, but knows that openly saying it is bad PR)? Personally, I think he’s deluded – if he was honest about the necessity of violence, he wouldn’t have been walking around DC during a low-level riot without a couple of bodyguards. He’s a PhD dropout who’s convinced that intellectuals can do what is usually done by far rougher types.
Likewise, I get the impression that a lot of modern-day communists are the sort of people who don’t expect for the revolution to be especially violent and are gonna be very surprised when they get purged.
Historians are divided over whether the plan was from day one to exterminate the Jews, or whether it was mass deportation, only turning to wholesale mass murder when the USSR didn’t collapse in mid-to-late 1941 – following the abandoning of the plan to deport the Jews to somewhere like Madagascar, it seems that the area east of the Urals was the likeliest destination. The latter seems more likely – there’s a clear switch from isolating Jews in ghettoes in Poland to building death camps, with the first operating December ’41, and east of that a switch from the Einsatzgruppen shooting grown men (under the pretense that they were partisans, generally – killing all adult men is fairly common in war) to (by about August) exterminating entire communities, killing women, children, and the elderly too.
Those who have the latter view argue over whether it was a top-down order, or whether it was the result of improvisation from below (eg, in this interpretation, the building of the first death camp in Poland was a response to crises involving food and disease in overcrowded ghettoes).
Relevant is that, their ideology aside, the Nazis were flying by the seat of their pants 75% of the time. Reading about how the Nazi government actually did things is enough to forever dispel stereotypes of Germans as inherently efficient.
So why aren’t commies more forcefully corrected? Personally I find a public display of a hammer and sickle just as threatening as a public display of a swastika. “I want (or am too stupid to understand my ideology inevitably leads to) gulags” is just as bad as “I want (or am too stupid to understand my ideology inevitably leads to) death camps.”
Maybe “communism leads to gulags” isn’t as open and shut as you’d like it to be.
Leftist control of social institutions.
Oh please not more “evil commies are brainwashing our kids” fear mongering.
You seem to believe in a causal relationship between (neo-)nazi ideology and genocide. Others here believe in a causal relationship between communist ideology and famine and gulags. In fact, many people here believe in both causal relationships.
This topic has already been discussed to death on SSC. Unless you have radically new arguments or evidence against the communism-gulags relationship, you’ll be arguing against people who have heard all that you have to say and have already accounted for all of it (updated on it). I bet this will lead to a frustrating and unproductive discussion.
ps. I hesitated to comment because of the Gravatar clash. It’s awkward.
Because the Nazis did their evil more intentionally and more intensely, but more because they were the bad guys in WWII. In the alternate timeline where things shook out differently and it was the USSR that got crushed militarily and the Nazi empire that eventually collapsed due to its own internal problems, internet leftists are complaining that the hammer and sickle is completely verboten, while swastika-waving college students are tolerated.
Quite the opposite.
The necessity of physically eliminating the members of the exploiter classes inescapably follows from Marxist concept of class polylogism.
You can’t persuade the bourgeois. You can’t even talk to him or understand him, and vice versa. His conscience is determined by his class origin – different perception, meaning, logic. So once he played his historic role (of overcoming feudalism), he cannot be reformed, converted, rehabilitated.
Nazism, otoh, was against race mixing but not against existence of inferior or even superior nations. Seeing the only hope for progress in struggle, if they eliminated competitor, they would have had to split and start competing again.
The USSR did not lose as quickly as the Nazis, nor as dramatically. There’s a lot to be said for a peaceful collapse–like saving a hundred million lives–but having conquering Allied troops going through the death camps made for some really dramatic pictures.
I understand it as, the victors also face the issues of “cultural and moral degradation, loss of pride, ceasing to strive, breakdown of family, loss of will to live, failure to procreate and finally extinction”. I guess the nazis did give society an allergic reaction to white pride, so that’s one of the issues we can chalk up to them.
Yes, that was my interpretation, too. It’s just ironic to count it as an accurate prediction when it was them who made it true – and unintentionally, too.
Could you apply the same “self-fulfilling prophecy” thought process to anti-Semitic pogroms? Jews worried about hostile gentiles, form close bonds, Jewish in-group behavior perceived by gentiles as out-group hostility, resulting in anti-Semitic hostility?
I’ve also read an interesting theory that the majority of Jews living in Palestine pre-Diaspora converted to Christianity; the ones who didn’t were the educated, religious-professional classes, so those are the ones modern Jews are descended from.
Interesting. One point against this theory is that generally when countries convert, it is their elites who convert first and most completely, while the lower classes retain their traditional religious beliefs. (At least, that’s what my brain returned when I queried it for historical examples.)
Where did it actually happen that way? My impression is that the opposite is generally true. For example, Christian minorities in the Middle East tend to be wealthier than the Muslim majorities because lower class Christians converted to Islam as they couldn’t bear the higher taxes and other costs that Muslim rulers imposed on non-Muslims.
According to this paper, “the high individual and community cost of educating children
in subsistence farming economies (2nd to 7th centuries) prompted voluntary conversions,
which account for a large share of the reduction in the size of the Jewish population from
4.5 million to 1.2 million.”
Korea was the first example I thought of. There the upper/educated classes are mostly Christian, while the lower classes are more often traditionally religious.
Admittedly, I am not as confident of the other examples I thought of, such as Soviet educated classes becoming atheists, while the poor preserved the Orthodox faith.
I think Indonesia broadly fits the first pattern (the elite converted to Islam first).
The interesting corollary to this theory is that if true, the modern Palestinians are likely more closely related to the Classical Jews than the Israelis.
Why? I don’t follow.
Because modern Palestinians may be largely descended from ancient Jews, while modern Jews are an admixture of ancient Jews, Europeans and others. Not sure I buy it though.
Possibly the case. Ashkenazi are about 60% European. While Palestinians have a lot of South Arab ancestry that didn’t use to be there, and some African ancestry (8%).
Thinking about it, mostly likely true for Christian Palestianins, that have not as much of those two newish ingredients.
And conversely, it would be interesting to know if the Roman women who married Jewish men and became the ancestresses of Ashkenazim, left paganism for intellectual reasons. (Clearly there was a widespread movement at that time of Romans who were dissatisfied with their traditional religion; some became Jewish, while larger numbers eventually became Christian.)
Considering that the Dispersion was pretty much completed as a result of the failed Bar Kochva Revolt against Rome, which took place, per Wikipedia, between 132 and 136 C.E., that theory supposes that most Jews converted to Christianity within the first 130 years of Christianity existing, and that the remaining Jews were still enough to make a formidable enemy to the Roman Empire at the height of its power.
Now, I’m not saying that’s totally impossible…but I’d like some really good evidence for the proposition.
The book where this theory was proposed was called The Chosen Few. You can read a good summary of the argument here. As I understand it, the idea is that a lot of the conversion happened after the diaspora; only the educated were motivated/able to hold on to their religious identity when scattered among other nations.
No, Eretz Israel Jews did no accept Christianity. But Jews were not alone: the country had large Greek speaking populations, there were many Greek towns (like Neapolis = Nablus in the Shomron) and even half of Caesaria was Greek. Ashqelon, Gaza etc were originally Philistine, that is Mycenaean, and they immediately assimilated into the Greek culture that swept the Levant after Alexander. It was the Greeks that abandoned their pagan gods and joined the Church, that was in those times viciously anti-Jewish.
There were plenty of Jews who accepted Christianity. It was years before there were Gentile converts.
I don’t think it’s that simple. Firstly, there was enormous growth in the Ashkenazi population in the 19th century. From Wikipedia:
The great demographic expansion of the Ashkenazim is a major explanation for their efflorescence beginning in the late 19th century. Aside from that, if the Ashkenazis were such geniuses, why didn’t they invent science on their own? Why wasn’t Copernicus, or Galileo, or Newton Jewish? While Scott seems to be blame European, Christian society for failing to recognize and nurture Jewish talent, I would say it’s more apt to put most of the blame on traditional Jewish culture and religion. Getting emancipated from Judaism was necessary for Jewish genius to flourish.
True. not that numerous earlier, and they weren’t interested. Maimonides lost: people that thought more like Al-Ghazali won. Probably not a coincidence – shared intellectual milieu in Iraq
Scott should read up on the Jewish Enlightenment. From Wikipedia:
The Haskalah, often termed Jewish Enlightenment (Hebrew: השכלה; literally, “wisdom”, “erudition”) was an intellectual movement among the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe, with certain influence on those in the West and Muslim lands. It arose as a defined ideological worldview during the 1770s, and its last stage ended around 1881, with the rise of Jewish nationalism.
The Haskalah pursued two complementary aims. It sought to preserve the Jews as a separate, unique collective and worked for a cultural and moral renewal, especially a revival of Hebrew for secular purposes, pioneering the modern press and literature in the language. Concurrently, it strove for an optimal integration of the Jews in surrounding societies, including the study of native vernacular and adoption of modern values, culture and appearance, all combined with economic productivization. The Haskalah promoted rationalism, liberalism, freedom of thought and enquiry, and is largely perceived as the Jewish variant of the general Enlightenment. The movement encompassed a wide spectrum ranging from moderates, who hoped for maximal compromise and conservatism, to radicals who sought sweeping changes.
In its various changes, the Haskalah fulfilled an important, though limited, part in the modernization of Central and Eastern European Jews. … Owing to its dualistic policies, it collided both with the traditionalist rabbinic elite, which attempted to preserve old Jewish values and norms in their entirety, and with the radical assimilationists who wished to eliminate or minimize the existence of the Jews as a defined collective.
On the last sentence: this is where I recommend Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years.
Have to read this response paper to Cochran et al? I’m still reading through it, and it’s all a bit over my head, but I think it makes a pretty good case against their thesis. In particular, the evidence that the genetic disorders in question actually lead to an increase in IQ appears much shakier when you take a closer look at it. The studies that provide evidence for an IQ boost have in many cases failed to replicate, the gene for torsion dystonia didn’t even appear until the 16th-18th centuries anyway, and most glaringly, the study that Cochran et al point to as evidence that congenital adrenal hyperplasia leads to higher IQ is actually about a form of CAH that is found in Moroccan Jews, not in Ashkenazi Jews. Finally there is, as the authors call it, the dog that didn’t bark: there doesn’t seem to be any evidence at all that Tay-Sachs genes lead to an increase in IQ, and it’s hard to see how such a thing would have gone unnoticed given how much Tay-Sachs has been studied.
The paper also takes a look at Jewish society during the Middle Ages and argues that success in banking and similar jobs was due more to having the right parents than intelligence, and that the most intelligent Jews would be much more likely to become modestly paid clerks of wealthy bankers than wealthy bankers themselves.
Studying Torah and interpretations of Talmud attracted super-nerds, and was very prestigious.
Wealthy merchants eagerly married their numerous daughters to dirt-poor but promising religious scholars and subsidised their life of study and numerous progeny.
Other than religious studies which were extremely competitive and intellectually challenging, if fruitless pursuit, pre-emancipation Jews seem to be intellectually sterile.
Forget physics – did they leave any good descriptions of people they lived among and observed for centuries?
Right, outside of innovations in business/financial techniques, Jewish culture before the Jewish Enlightenment is not all that intellectually interesting to modern people.
Strange as it may seem these days, Jews largely inflicted this boredom upon themselves.
Honestly, I don’t think much of your culture, either.
Few outsiders have found the Talmud interesting. That’s a fact.
“Honestly, I don’t think much of your culture, either.”
You are using a lot of it.
This actually ties into a rather important issue. It’s appears from reading this article that Scott, as an example of a super intelligent youngish man, has absorbed the current Conventional Wisdom that the reason European Jews didn’t contribute all that much to European culture until the later 19th Century was because the Christians held them down. But the reality appears to have been that the medieval and early modern Jews equally held themselves down.
Moreover, a lot of post-Jewish Enlightenment history becomes more explicable if we bear that in mind.
For example, why was Freud so lionized for much of the 20th Century? Well, one reason was that there were a whole lot of smart Jewish intellectuals in the 20th Century, but they didn’t have all that many Jewish intellectual heroes to lionize. There was Marx, but a lot of Jews were too non-radical for Marxism. So along comes Freud with his immense self-confidence in his crank theories about toilet-training and he fills the Jewish hunger for a non-radical Jewish genius.
Fortunately, Jews went on to produce authentic geniuses like Einstein, so Freud has largely been memory-holed lately.
Sure. And it’s likewise a fact that Western culture of today does not impress me. Western tech, sure, but the culture?
Look, outsiders find x not interesting for any x that is serious and difficult. Outsiders find math boring. Outsiders find physics boring. Outsiders find poetry boring. Outsider find Talmud boring? (Or at least, what they imagine of it, given that the number of outsiders that know anything of it is vanishingly small?) Color me unimpressed.
That you find Talmud uninteresting tells me more about you than it tells me about Talmud. Which was more or less my point to begin with.
No, not really. Tech and culture are two different things.
Of course, contributing to tech (physics, math, etc) when you could be studying Talmud is a waste of time, but that’s a relative thing. Reality tv culture, a culture that could produce such a thing? Clothing fashions, movies and television, professional sports, Harry Potter, etc? That’s trite on an absolute scale.
Jewish Medieval to Early Modern culture features a few good poets (Judah Halevi, Solomon Ibn Gabirol) and philosophers (Maimonides), mostly from Spain and Italy, as well as some semi-interesting mystical texts (the Kabbalists) and Biblical commentaries (Abraham Ibn Ezra). But they compare rather poorly to the writers and philosophers among the Christians in Europe.
How many outsiders would find an advanced mathematics textbook interesting?
Modern Anglosphere culture wins any kind of popularity contest hands down. It’s our most popular export product: the Eastern block had overwhelming demand and a huge black market for Western cultural artifacts, even though their governments and sometimes us actively try to prevent the from getting their hands on them (e.g. game cartridges embargoed by COCOM for tech reasons).
That said, the appropriate comparison is between about Jewish culture before the Jewish Enlightenment vs. European culture before the European enlightenment. For some reason cultural outsiders were a lot more interested in obtaining copies, translations of the works of Plato, Herodotus, Boethius, Dioscorides than the Talmud (not to mention Roman style secular law and e.g. the Turks).
That’s true in a literal but useless sense. Oustders who become interested in a subject and start studying it aren’t outsiders any more! But there are people who once were outsiders and found math and physics interesting. There aren’t such people for Talmud.
Furthermore, you’re equivocating on “interesting”. Few outsiders are personally interested in studying math and science, but many outsiders are interested in having other members of their society study them. Talmud study, on the other hand, is not found interesting by outsiders in either sense.
This blog is neither a court nor a Talmud study class. You don’t get points for saying things that are literally true but not relevant.
There are thousands of people who did not grow up as religious Jews but eventually came to study the Talmud and found it interesting. Seriously, what is your source for a blanket statement like this?
List of cultural artifacts invented by 17th century European gentiles, that modern outsiders tend to be interested in (5 seconds spent making this list):
1) Novels (both as form and specific instances e.g. Don Quixote)
2) Classical music (same as above e.g. Bach)
3) Scientific method (Francis Bacon)
List of cultural artifacts invented by 17th century Jews, that modern outsiders tend to be interested in:
Again, that’s very carefully worded to be literally true but not relevant.
There are people who became religious Jews and started to study the Talmud now that they seriously believed in a religion that told them the Talmud is worth studying. But those are examples where the belief system comes first, and the decision to study the Talmud comes only as a consequence of the belief system. They’re not examples where someone comes to think Talmud study has merit or interest on its own.
Montaigne, who was perhaps half-Jewish, more or less invented the modern essay in the 16th Century and had a big influence on Shakespeare.
Spinoza was expelled from the Jewish community when he was 23, so I’m not sure if he counts. He would be the best counterpoint, I guess.
Montaigne was a nobleman and at best 1/4 Jewish ethnically; he certainly never practiced Judaism.
Yes, who needs art, music, literature, science, math, philosophy, when you can just obsess over and over about every single sentence of some ancient book of bizarre chronicles and legislation of bronze-age peasants, or another ancient book of exgesis of the previous one written by iron-age merchants?
You can count the influential Jewish thinkers before the 18th century on one hand: Maimonides, Spinoza, and?
I have no idea what’s your basis for saying this, if you’ve never engaged in in-depth study of Jewish texts yourself. But if intelligence is genetic, there were many highly intelligent Jews over the centuries who devoted themselves to such study, and they seemed to have found it satisfying.
The Torah and Talmud as ultimate nerd-snipe?
Nerd-snipe, Urban Dictionary:
I’ve never thought about it that way, but yeah, it works.
Greg Cochran: Few outsiders have found the Talmud interesting. That’s a fact.
Yes, true, and I wonder why this fact is even disputed. The Talmud is written in long dead languages like Aramean, and one needs years of full time learning to just beginning to understand what they are talking about and what are the issues debated. And the sheer volume of the Talmud and the commentaries. Therefore only dedicated specialists are able to extract pleasure from it (not me). German Protestant scholars invested much honest effort in learning it and I think they reached the level of a yeshive-bocher, yet abandoned it as a collection of fables and nonsense.
So Cochran is right and I am not offended. No one should be.
Of course, if one lives in a Mea Shearim or in Shay Agnon’s books, where every third word is a witty reference to something in the Talmud or the Mishnah, then it makes sense and you enjoy replying with an exquisite bon-mot of the חז”ל HAZAL.
Or maybe the stupid ones were studing it, while the smart ones were busy being artisans, merchants and bankers.
The Coen Bros’ “A Serious Man” is worth a watch.
both those papers are really old.
much better methodology exists today.
IIRC, Cochran et al. were saying that fast selection for high IQ had the side effect of also making certain brain diseases more likely. A trade off. They weren’t saying that genetic disorders lead to high IQ.
I’m not sure if they were saying this or not. I get the impression that they probably believe they’re related, although there might also be some genes that increase intelligence but don’t cause disorders. I think they even mention that if Tay-Sachs carriers don’t have increased IQ that would be a blow to their theory.
Genetic variants that boost IQ even a little, without *any* drawbacks, would tend to have been fixed in the human population. We did undergo a long period of positive selection for intelligence in our prehistory. Of course some of those drawbacks would be things we don’t see as such today, like ‘expends three extra calories per day’ or ‘takes two days longer on average to reach adulthood’.
Isnt that whole Cochran study pretty dated?
My understanding is that formal studies of the torsion dystonia-IQ link have been proposed at least 3 times and all been shot down for political reasons. But maybe something has happened lately?
From the Ferguson response:
I’m not aware of Cochran’s or Harpending’s responding to Ferguson’s criticism (except by possibly suppressing it in peer review), I’d be grateful for a link if one exists.
If there are any other takes on it, especially by population geneticists, I’d also be interested to know.
Until then, it seems more likely that it’s mostly a cultural thing (as you say at the end, some cultural factor definitely was in play, maybe it’s all there was and non-Ashkenazi jews are culturally different too?).
I hope you read the Ferguson paper and are moved to amend this blog post. It’s an interesting puzzle, but it’s easy to notice on how few people it’s based (both those with diseases and those with Nobels, overlap nevermind). The disease-IQ link is the weakest part in their thesis. The selection for IQ part is more plausible, but I’ll guess when the polygenic score rankings come out, genetics won’t explain >40% of the group difference between Ashkenazim and others.
There are abut 20 distinctive Ashkenazi genetic diseases. Some may be common because of founder/effect/drift – chance. Quite a few cluster into a couple of metabolic paths – sphingolipids and DNA repair – and that is extraordinarily improbable. Has to be selection for something.
The sphingolipid mutations sure look like brain modifiers. Gaucher causes longer axons with more dendrites, Tay-Sachs more dendrites. As for the DNA-repair cluster, things like BRCA1 and BRCA2, obviously selection for something, but what?
A few are obviously selection against infectious disease: likely true for the alpha-thalassemia, the common connexin-26 deafness mutation ( also common in southern Europeans), and mild versions of familial Mediterranean fever.
Characteristic Ashkenazi mutations cannot be the sole cause of higher-than-average Ashkenazi IQ because a significant fraction do not carrr any. Moreover, selection can and does act on standing variation: it would changes the frequencies of the typical GWAS-hits.
I read Ferguson’s paper. He doesn’t know a thing about genetics – I told him he needed to find a collaborator that does. Not that it would help – Ferguson has a gift for unanswering all kinds of questions. He’s sure that Chimps wouldn’t go to war with other chimp bands if humans hadn’t somehow corrupted them.
If you think that the powers that be suppress environmental-influence papers while pushing papers like this one, you are … misinformed.
As for signs of higher-than-average Ashkenazi Jewish representation in high-complexity jobs, it’s not limited to a few Nobelists. It’s an overwhelming trend.
It sounds like you’ve amended your theory somewhat, which is good.
I know Ferguson isn’t solid on genetics (he seems to know it too), but he made some criticisms of your theory that were worth reacting to, and it’s a shame this wasn’t publicly carried out (or, again, maybe I’m missing some detailed response of yours). I don’t think it’s a particularly compelling argument that he’s said stupid stuff elsewhere.
Namely, you have two fairly disconnected parts:
1. the genetic diseases, which may or may not cluster with extraordinary improbability if you apply modern methods.
2. the IQ part. I think this is much more plausible if you focus on polygenic selection as the cause, shifting the MSB. I do think your theory is widely known enough among people with access to genetic data that it’s likely that somebody checked the disease genes for IQ associations and found nothing, then didn’t publish it, more likely publication than political bias (but wouldn’t say the latter doesn’t exist).
Ferguson makes the point that you pick high estimates for the IQ difference, do you concede that?
Then there’s the culture vs. genes question. Obviously it’s not going to be not one or the other, after all you’re at least arguing that the culture created the selective pressure, and anyone saying that culture caused the difference should concede that it’s very unlikely that this doesn’t entail some genetic selection.
Scott argues that you need to invoke culture for at least some of the pattern. Why not most of it? The argument rests mostly on differences to Sephardic jews I think. I don’t know enough to say whether cultural differences could explain that too.
It’d be nice for you to engage with your critics’ arguments rather than your perception of their stupidity. The part which you seemed to read as me saying that the powers that be prevented Ferguson’s paper from being published: I read Ferguson as saying that you or one of your co-authors got it rejected. Maybe that’s not true, maybe there were other reasons such as journals’ general hate of commentaries.
I know much of the academy is not particularly favourably inclined to your work, but enough are that there is a forum for these ideas. So I do tend to interpret the lack of published evidence for the testable predictions in your paper as lack of actual evidence (the disease-IQ link part, the polygenic part is only now becoming meaningfully testable). I’m not convinced this was ignored/suppressed by all who had the ability to test it, but obviously you’re in a better position to tell, if you feel like it.
No, I’ve talked to Cochran about this. He thinks the diseases might directly contribute to higher intelligence.
Isnt Cochran the Gay Germ guy?
It’s a tiny part of his intellectual output, and he considers it an untested hypothesis.
One can’t help but wonder what we’d have by now if the story of the early 20th century didn’t end with Nazis. AI? FTL travel? Cold fusion? Quantum computing?
Focusing on the Nazis understates the preventable disaster that was the early 20th century. The original sin was WWI, completely unnecessary and massively destructive to the European and global social order. So many of the people Scott talks about, or whom he could have talked about, were in Austria-Hungary. WWI destroyed that great Empire, gave us the USSR, and planted the seeds for WWII to boot.
Yeah, if you could go back to 1910 and tell people in Europe what the next 40 years were going to bring, you’d sound like Sarah Connor. War, revolution, destruction of centuries-old empires, civil wars, disease, economic collapse, political unrest, more war, occupation and dictatorship, etc.
At least two of these are probably physically impossible, so… no.
Focus can travel faster than the speed of light – like, if I have a powerful beam of light and wiggle it around, the end of the beam is travelling faster than the speed of light. I can look between two stars faster than a message might be sent between them.
So, couldn’t I use this to “travel” faster than the speed of light, by bringing together whatever information I receive from both stars at my third point faster than the two points could communicate with each other?
[I guess if we’re concerned with the person making the observation rather than where they are doing it, you could half the time of any information transfer by shooting them off towards the information they want. If we can recreate any location informationally does that mean we can travel FTL?]
I think this is a matter of how much information we can have about a place.
If we could have all the information about a location, we could send that information and (effectively) travel FTL.
If we don’t care about much of the information, we can definitely travel FTL. And, in fact, this solves the Fermi paradox. Why isn’t the universe teeming with life? Because we are the result of too many FTL message transfers where we could only pay attention to the most local of phenomena – all of the rest was just assumed to be boring.
The end of the beam of light is travelling faster than the speed of light because the composition of the “end” changes: when you point it at one place it is not composed of the same light as the end of the beam when you point it at another. No actual thing has travelled, just we moved the label “end” really quickly.
You can look quickly between two stars because the light from each has already taken light-years to get to the vicinity of your eyes. You need only move your eye slightly to pick up light from one star or another.
If you want to call receiving information from two different places at the same time “travel” then sure, you are travelling faster than the speed of light whenever you open your eyes.
@physicsmatt has a good proof of that– he convinced me.
but in some scifi its hypothesized that space travel could be asymptotic to the FTL axis– like in the 3bodyproblem by cixin liu.
Not sure which two. FTL is probably impossible if you look at it naively (strap a really big rocket to the end of the payload) but there could be some tricks we don’t know yet. After all, we have phenomena like superconductivity which does not exactly naively extends low resistance. Maybe there’s some trick for FTL too.
If cold fusion is the second one, not sure what even in current physics prohibits it. It is true nobody has any idea how to make it (or hot fusion, for that matter, as applied to energy generation) work, but maybe there’s some trick to it too, like μCF for example.
Interesting read. Have you considered the possibility that in the absence of strong evolutionary pressure, the Ashkenazim are shedding the heavy genetic load that they developed 1100 – 1900?
If so, we would expect average Ashkenazi IQs to tend down towards 100 over time, and so less Jewish geniuses.
This is quite sad, and it puts an even stronger emphasis on your point about the tragedy of lost geniuses in the Holocaust – we may have wasted our only chance to cash in on the unique opportunity of late 19th century Ashkenazi genetics. Do we have to pick another ethnic group to persecute for a millennia before further progress in science can be made? With luck our fading minds will be sufficient to perfect genetic engineering, at least, and we can avoid that unpleasantness.
(A little overstated, perhaps, but I’m interested how our comfy western society interacts with genetic fitness.)
This is the standard story, but it seems somewhat dubious to me, and very poorly backed by historical evidence. With the example of banking, it seems much clearer that Catholics were persecuted out of banking by other Catholics; the idea that you persecute someone into being a merchant seems hard to swallow. The Roma seem to have had a somewhat similar level of persecution, and match more what I would expect from just persecution–a roving underclass who are pushed into professions like ‘horse thief.’ I don’t know any stories of Roma being given special privileges by nobles to attract them, when I do know many for Jewish communities. (For example, the ghetto seems to have historically been a privilege granted to Jews–you get this section of town all to yourselves, with walls to protect you against mobs!–which only turned into downsides when Nazis used them to trap Jews in place. And most pogroms that I’m aware of were in response to Jewish market dominance, rather than preceding them.)
It seems to me like there are three big factors: public reading, low share of total population plus exclusivity, and living in urban environments.
Perhaps when you were young the teacher would have the class read a section of a book, each student doing a page at a time; this made it pretty obvious who in the class was a good reader who was a poor reader, and as one might expect reading ability is related to general intelligence, but especially related to verbal intelligence. As may be surprising for the gentiles (and surprising that it’s surprising for the Jews), every Jew is expected to read in front of their synagogue regularly (I think it’s generally annually). (It would be like as if Christian churches expected people not just to sing hymns, but also to regularly sing solos.) This makes it much more obvious who’s got high verbal intelligence, enabling better sexual selection on it. (Note that Jewish women are both famously attracted to intelligence and also that Jewish intelligence is heavily skewed in favor of verbal over visual-spatial.)
The second and third factors are fairly tightly linked. Low share of total population combined with prohibitions against outmarriage leads to tightly knit clusters of people, oftentimes who have strong connections with other tightly knit clusters located elsewhere. This pushes people out of farming roles that are geographically diffuse and concentrates them in cities. (This is the sort of thing that could be described as a push factor–no Jewish family would be safe if they lived alone in a rural Christian countryside–but seems much easier to see as a pull factor–no Jewish family could find spouses for their children if they lived alone in a rural Christian countryside.) When concentrated in cities, adaptations to urbanity start to appear (it seems likely that the Jewish nose, for example, is related to disease detection and resistance, which is much more important in cities than the countryside), which include adaptations to urban roles like artisan, merchant, doctor, and banker. (Also noting that if you do have an easy in with Jewish communities sprinkled throughout the towns, that further makes it easy to enter the business of being a merchant.)
The other thing that low population size does is keep those specializations concentrated. A particularly wealthy Catholic merchant or banker is likely to try to marry up into the nobility, which is a gene pool not optimized for business or finance; a particularly wealthy Jewish merchant or banker has options that are much more favorably constrained. (One might try to marry into the Rabbi’s familiy, for example, which is much less of a change in focus.) The Han Chinese seem to have a similar respect for education (and, according to gossip, similar brands of sexual selection), but were the only ethnicity in their region; someone has to do the farming, and that limits the extent to which you can select for urbanity.
Compare also to India, where Brahmin IQ seems to approach that of Ashkenazi IQ; not surprising for a contained breeding group of people in intellectual professions. (Parsis are also interesting in this regard, but much less populous than Jews or Brahmins.)
“With the example of banking, it seems much clearer that Catholics were persecuted out of banking by other Catholics; the idea that you persecute someone into being a merchant seems hard to swallow.”
Right. The conventional wisdom today is that medieval Jews would have happily chosen to be stoop laboring serfs, but they were persecuted out of that opportunity so they had to find refuge in lucrative white collar work.
That seems a little odd, though.
A person would have to have been capable of tutoring at well over 100 if they tutored both Bach and Beethoven in their respective child-hoods. It’s slip-ups like this that really make me question your credibility.
I’m guessing you’re not Jewish.
Your guess is correct so far as I know but I don’t get the joke.
Johann Christian, of course.
A+! This would give the comparison an air of possibility. I should have interpreted SSC more charitably.
One obvious answer is being able to play the masters, game the system, evade whatever rules can be evaded. That set of abilities is somewhat useful in most circumstances, but I think would be especially useful for slaves.
The really gloomy thing is this:
Without the oppression that lead to selective pressure for intelligence, no genius aggregate would have been formed.
Without selective pressure, wherein the less-fit do not reproduce, population regresses to the mean – and in our hypersafe, hyperprosperous environment, may do more than that. Wonder why the hell we have so much autism these days? Could be due to increased mutational load, as more and more people who are less well-endowed genetically survive.
In life, as a species, we struggle or we founder. If you want greatness, it’ll take a good number of generations of struggle.
It’s said that the best possible crop rotation is ‘1 year of potatoes to 10,000 years of scrub brush.’ Fortunately we invented synthetic fertilizers.
We do have a ‘hack’ of sorts – eugenics. It removes much of the suffering of the ‘unbreedables,’ as they fail to reproduce due to sterilization rather than, say, by making their way through the digestive system of a leopard. But….well….with an OP about Jewish history, I dare say I need not point out the potential issues with this approach.
Seems transhumanism is our only hope, gents. May the nerds of the future use their nerdy programming to reprogram their own DNA and make themselves genetically superior to the jock that gave them wedgies in middle school, show up at his house, woo his wife with a newly-grown jawline, then kick him right in his stupid ribs.
Then take a quiet moment to reflect on the strangeness of this reality, wherein the dust of stars over countless aeons formed such that they could contemplate their own origin and, at length, free themselves of all base shackles and become truly free.
I like the way Land puts it:
How does this theory account for Brahmin intelligence?
Brahmins were tied into certain roles in society, just not by oppression, seems to be the obvious explanation if that theory is taken as a given.
Vaniver, I would love to see more discussion about the Brahmins and IQ. I think it’s currently an under-discussed aspect of this conversation compared to (say) Ashkenazim and Africans.
However, I do not see that there could have possibly been a selective pressure for intelligence among them without a substantial ‘weeding out’ of the less intelligent offspring. It’s true that this may have been done rather more kindly than it was in other populations, but it surely happened. If forced to guess, I suspect it happened by the tools of legitimacy and arranged marriage; offspring who were ‘duds’ just tended to not be the standard-bearers of the family line and so on.
Many of them would have led lives more comfortable than the average Dalit, surely. Some individual people who were ‘weeded out’ by selective processes led fulfilling or comfortable lives. Moving forward, we could make that the more common case. But it was not, and is not, the common case now.
I’d never heard of László Rátz despite this topic being very close to my interests, so thanks for the pointer!
This is all anecdotal, and I’ll maybe write something better when I’ve had time to think about it more and read the other comments, but I personally find it highly unintuitive that teaching doesn’t make much difference. Particularly in maths, where it is so easy for teachers to be terrible! I’ve written about this a couple of times but the short version is I had an exceptional maths teacher with a physics PhD and four people from my year group of ~250 went on to do physics PhDs too, and he can take most of the credit for that. This is not some highly genetically selected population, just some comprehensive school kids in a small town in England.
OK, we are all far from the supergenius level, but I get the impression your scepticism of education making a big difference goes down to this level too?
It looks like it can pay off, if governments put money into high quality training for something, or even if someone just founds a good school or two. The musical training programs in Germany led to its dominance in classical music, and the music programs in Scandenavia seem to have led to their increasing importance in pop music, as producers.
There are a lot of fields where a little emphasis on the part of a culture can go a long way. For example, South Korean women have dominated ladies’ professional golf over the last decade, probably due to a South Korean woman winning the US women’s open in 1999 and causing a media sensation in South Korea.
There are other fields where a big national push doesn’t pay off because there is too much global competition. For example, the East German sports-chemistry complex dominated women’s track & field in 1976-1988, but didn’t make much of a dent in men’s track.
I’ve read that it’s easier to get results from doping women, at least when exogenous testosterone etc is involved. Someone with a female hormonal balance will respond much more readily to small doses (their body not producing much naturally) so there’s more bang for the buck in terms of juicing athletes to the maximum possible level without getting caught. Supposedly a big disparity between a country’s female athletes and their male in international competition is a clue towards doping.
Wouldn’t it be a small disparity? Doping improves female athletes’ performance a lot, male athletes a little.
Disparty in achievement relative to same-gendered people of other nations is what’s meant, I think.