The Jewish Journalism of Joel Shurkin

Monday, June 06, 2005

We thank you for your persecution--sort of

Utah researchers say that Ashenazi genetic diseases is what makes Jews so smart.
June 6, 2005.


I blush. I had second thoughts about running with this, but what the hell. Nick Wade of the New York Times says it’s legit and it is about to be published in a real journal.

Researchers at the University of Utah say that the pattern of genetic diseases that afflict Jews of eastern European (Ashkenazic) background is the result of natural selection for intelligence. Winning the coveted award for the most politically incorrect scientific paper of the year, the researchers (none of whom appear to be Jewish) said that because the Jews of the Middle Ages were locked in ghettos and forced into professions that required mental agility, natural selection selected the brightest.

images-3 For decades, going back to eugenics and William Shockley, scientists have erupted over the notion that intelligence was inheritable. Shockley, among others, destroyed his career by pointing out the obviousness of that claim. It still isn’t acceptable in polite scientific company.

The paper will be published in the Journal of Biosocial Science, (Cambridge University).

images-2 The diseases are similar evolutionary reactions to sickle cell, which occur in populations threatened by malaria. Evolution was forced to counter the threat by favoring any mutation that protected against it, even if it had side effects.

The notion derives from an theory propounded by Jared Diamond that Jews who were smarter than their fellows were more likely to survive the repeated persecutions brought on them. They also were more likely to succeed at the professions imposed on them, usually commerce, which required managerial and mathematical skills. They reproduced at a faster rate. In other words, your persecution made us smarter. I love it.

The Utah researchers said that the four Ashkenazi diseases—Tay Sachs, Niemann-Pick, Gaucher and mucolipidosis type IV, all manage chemicals called sphingolipids, which promote the growth and reproduction of brain cells.

I humbly point out that Jews represent 0.25 percent of the world’s population and have won 22 percent of the Nobel Prizes. The Utah researchers added that we represent 3 percent of the U.S. population and have won 27 percent of America’s Nobels. It can’t be the cuisine.


  • At 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Maybe it is the cuisine. Has anyone done a longitudinal (multi-generational) study on the intelligence of non-Jews who eat pastrami, schmaltz, kishke and ptach?

    However, has there been a similar study of Sephardic Jews to see whether there are similar findings to the research mentioned in your blog?


  • At 6:59 AM, Anonymous Jim F. said…

    William Shockley's career wasn't destroyed because he claimed that intelligence was inheritable. That's a proposition that (while not uncontroversial) is widely accepted by psychologists. What got him into trouble was his claim that the lower average IQ scores of African-Americans versus white Americans (85 versus 100) is due to genetic differences between the two groups as opposed to the enviromental differences experienced by the two groups. That, and his support for eugenics measures such as the provision of more generous welfare benefits to women with below average IQs who refrained from bearing childen, is what got him into trouble.

    And anyway, Shockley was a physicist/electrical engineer by trade, not a psychologist or a geneticist.

  • At 3:46 PM, Blogger Joel Shurkin said…

    It is actually all of the above. You should know I'm finishing a biography of Shockley to be published next year, and all of that stuff is in it.


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