Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Those Jews Are So Smart

Now here's an interesting piece. It's by Charles Murray of Bell Curve fame, who posits that 1) Jews are on average more intelligent than other groups, 2) that their superior intelligence is due to hereditary factors and not cultural or environmental ones, and 3) that there are long and involved reasons going back to the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem for why this should be so.

I for one am perfectly happy to believe that Jews are pretty darn intelligent. They are, as Murray points out, very much overrepresented among the business, academic and cultural elite of our society, and no doubt for excellent reason. And I believe that Murray has made an honest attempt at figuring out why they're so smart (though reasons seem to be cultural in themselves, having to do with the ancient turn away from ritualistic religious expression and toward scholasticism, when Jews who weren't literate enough to read and interpret the Torah just kind of stopped being Jews, to save themselves the humiliation).

But this is beside the point. Murray was pilloried after The Bell Curve for the racism people thought was inherent in his argument that blacks as a group are less intelligent than whites (and that Asians are more intelligent than either).

Accusations flew from all sides, most especially about the appropriateness of relying on IQ scores as a credible measure of intelligence, when we all know very well that throughout American history different classes and races have had very different educational and cultural experiences.

This is what I'm thinking: It's fine and good to signal out a particular group, such as Jews or Asians, for being unusual in some way or other. How did they get to be so unusual, we might want to know. An interesting question. Maybe even a useful one.

But when the issue is intelligence, which Murray claims is practically immutable, the question inevitably becomes: who is this group more intelligent than? And how does this inferior group feel upon hearing the news of their inferiority? Is it likely to be helpful somehow, or just hurtful? Could there be something socially constructive about making such an observation, and then backing it up with reams of statistics that lend it the patina of unchallengeable Science?

All news, of course, doesn't have to be good news, and not everyone should be protected from the truth, if the truth can be ascertained. But science, like medicine, should do no harm. And invidious comparisons between racial groups can't do otherwise, can it? Not in our society, where blacks and Hispanics still constitute an underclass and whites are up in arms about the brown people flowing in over the borders. I would think Murray would be smart enough, if you'll excuse the word, to know that.


NUREG said...

Murray is concerned here with group averages. His speculations and conclusions say nothing about the outcome for any individual. Humans are like other species - some are bigger, some are taller, some are smarter, etc. Evolutionary selection guarantees such outcomes.

SnowDahlia said...

It's not exactly an uplifting notion to have to say to yourself,"Certain individuals of my race may indeed achieve at high levels, but generally speaking, we don't have the intellectual potential to compete with other races." If exceptions prove the rule, this is a very destructive rule indeed, both for the racial group in question and for America as a whole.

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