Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

To Be Young, Gifted, and ...

There's an essay in TNR by someone named Steve Pinker explaining the "Ashkenazi Advantage" (an essay that might be of special interest at Left Behinds, where just about everybody except for me is what Pinker would call a "Meinstein"). As Pinker humbly writes, "Jewish achievement is obvious; only the explanation is unclear." He analyzes a recent buzzed-about bit of scholarship that concluded that Ashkenazi intellectual advantage is the result of natural selection over the first millenium of the group's history, and that certain Ashkenazi diseases (such as Tay-Sachs) are byproducts of this selected trait. Pinker's conclusion is basically that the verdict is still out, but the hypotheses are testable and should be tested.

I liked this bit at the end, about whether or not this research should be conducted, politically and ethically speaking:

Reality is what refuses to go away when you do not believe in it, and progress in neuroscience and genomics has made these politically comforting shibboleths (such as the non-existence of intelligence and the non-existence of race) untenable.


Group differences, when they exist, pertain to averages, not to individual men and women. There are geniuses and dullards, saints and sinners, in every race, ethnicity, and gender. Political equality is a commitment to universal human rights, and to policies that treat people as individuals rather than as representatives of groups; it is not an empirical claim that people are indistinguishable. Many commentators seem unwilling to grasp these points.
Talk amongst yourselves.


  • At 7:34 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    If I had Photoshop I would create a graphic using the American Airlines Advantage logo, but with the words Ashkenazi Advantage.

    (ps how sad that I'm replying to my own posts, but just think of it as an update)

  • At 12:33 AM, Blogger Emma B said…

    Wow! That guy's a real Jewish nazi... reminds me of my grandfather who used to contend that Jewish brains were just bigger than other brains. The whole thing's pretty sad, that is, if you stop to think about it instead of just pointing and laughing. I think I'll stop that now, and resume the pointing and laughing bit.
    Nice shiksa on the J-Date ad, btw.

  • At 3:59 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Lol, yeah, I decided to take it all as tongue in cheek, but it's hard to say.

    And yeah I was so happy when I Googled JDate and that was the first image that popped up.

  • At 7:56 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    That buzzed-about piece of scholarship wasn't all it was cracked up to be: I read about it in the New York Times at the time, and all it was was a somewhat plausible theory. The authors had showed how the hypothesis could be tested but if I remember right hadn't actually done so.

  • At 8:00 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    As the TNR article itself says:

    The most obvious test of a genetic cause of the Ashkenazi advantage would be a cross-adoption study that measured the adult IQ of children with Ashkenazi biological parents and gentile adoptive parents, and vice versa. No such study exists, so CH&H's evidence is circumstantial.

    I can't understand why you'd propose definitive research and then not do it, but maybe "CH&H" are out there trying to get funding now. Until the evidence is more than circumstantial, though, I'm not going to worry about the whole thing.

  • At 4:53 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Yeah in my summary I said it amounted to "this is testable and should be tested." But lit reviews and program-of-research critiques are pretty common (and important) in the social sciences.

    Anyhow I only posted this because I was hoping for some jokes cracked about Tribe supremacy, or jokes about dumbass members of the Tribe (of whom we all know a few). Or for Mrs. Hayes to chime in about how in fact East Asians score the highest on these tests... Me, I'm just repping the Pollack Nation.


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