Friday, April 13, 2007

Genius - A Jewish trait?


The liberal media tends to link that word with the Jewish people's behavior.
Well how about the latest from the rightwing press?

Some 32 per cent of the Nobel Prize winners this century are Jews, yet they make up only two/tenths of one per cent of the global population. As stereotypes go, the Jewish whiz-kid is a pretty good one. The archetypal Jewish Mother brags non-stop about her children's accomplishments. My son, the doctor... or the lawyer, the rabbi, the dentist, the professor... it's a constant refrain around the mahjong table, no? (My son, the general is the proud Sabra Mama take on this theme.)

Charles Murray, a highly controversial social theorist, extols Jewish genius in his latest article which was published in the neo-con monthly, Commentary. Murray concludes that "the Chosen People" are six times as likely to have elevated IQs as the standard population and their levels of achievement are laudable. He points out:

In the first half of the 20th century, despite pervasive and continuing social discrimination against Jews throughout the Western world, despite the retraction of legal rights, and despite the Holocaust, Jews won 14 percent of Nobel Prizes in literature, chemistry, physics, and medicine/physiology. In the second half of the 20th century, when Nobel Prizes began to be awarded to people from all over the world, that figure rose to 29 percent. So far, in the 21st century, it has been 32 percent. Jews constitute about two-tenths of one percent of the world’s population. You do the math.

Hmmmm. Murray says it doesn't take an Einstein to notice that Jews tend to be smarter than the average Joe. (All the numbskulls and schlemiels loitering in my Jerusalem neighborhood must be the exceptions that prove this rule.) Surely smart Jews have been clever enough not to boast about their brains and get them bashed in. This is not the kind of publicity that is necessarily welcome.

Coming from the author of The Bell Curve, which in 1994 blamed the low IQs of African-Americans for their consignment to an underclass, this analysis of Jewish genius is bound to be examined carefully. Some scholars detect an underlying racism, in this case a rare pro-Semitical slant, in anything that purports to look at "genetic tendencies" based on race or creed. He takes pains to examine why non-Ashkenazy Jews score lower. Murray himself is a Scotch-Irish goy from Iowa, and displays a predictable contempt for dumb farmhands. Is he trying to ingratiate himself with his employer, a neo-conservative, pro-Zionist institution? Makes you wonder.

Sure, most Jewish families value higher education and marry for brains, and canny survivors may have been "winnowed" through centuries of persecution, as the London Sunday Times surmises from Murray's text. It may also be true that standardized IQ tests tend to have a cultural bias. They measure test-taking ability, not raw intelligence. It's a point of pride that Jewish intellectuals rank high in the stratosphere of academics. (Except for recent campaigns trashing Israeli universities as overtly politicized institutions of higher learning.) Go figure.


Anonymous said...

Its quite easy... Since jews were struggling to survive since last 2000 years, and there wasnt enough of them to pick the fight, only the smart were able to surive and propagate.

Lena said...

Another way to look at it is that the achievement of the goals of higher education and betterment of the self are more rewarded in the Jewish community than in other communities.
I (a "shiksa" from the MidWest from the working class) got into an Ivy League school but had to work my way through college with my family telling me that I would fail. Bless their hearts, they were trying to toughen me up in case I *did* fail. They never saw the chance of success.
I told this story to a Jewish friend of mine, a woman a generation older. She couldn't believe it. She said that in a Jewish family, if a child got into an Ivy League university or college, or even into any college, their parents would "scrub toilets with a toothbrush to put their kids through college". It is that tenacity and dedication to higher learning that also fosters and tends genius and allows it to blossom and bear fruit.