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The Double-Edged Sword of Chauvinism

More on the controversial “scientific” study of Jewish genetic intellectual superiority — a study Sander Gilman has mellifluously called “bullshit” — by New York Magazine’s Jennifer Senior. She limns the pseudo-science and explores the rising trend in racial genetics, revealing the lovely fact that one of the study’s authors has pipe dreams of producing something of a “Jewish Drug” to make Jewish intelligence accessbile to all. Seriously.
Of course, there are dark corners behind every positive racial stereotype. A choice nay-sayer quote, from population geneticist Neil Risch: “Jews have been accused of being frugal, cheap, aggressive. There’s a clear survival advantage to those traits too. Why not pick on those?”
To put another way, as the sublime Sarah Silverman sings in a New Yorker profile: “I love you more than bears love honey/I love you more than Jews love money/I love you more than Asians are good at math…”
Towards the end of her article, Jennifer Senior gets to the heart of the anxiety over Semitic superiority:

Jews may take tremendous pride in their aristocracy, but we fetishize it at our own peril; to suggest that we’re chosen, rather than that we make our own choices, curdles quickly into a useful argument for anti-Semites who’d love to claim that the objects of their derision are immutable vermin. It can’t be an accident that the most aggressive debunkers of Jewish essentialism, including the participants in this story, are generally Jews themselves. The arguments come in handy when the ugly stuff is trotted out, too.

A much more cerebral assessment — of modern-era Diaspora accomplishment, at least — comes from Eric Hobsbawm in the London Review of Books. He focuses on the post-Emancipation spur towards accomplishment, aided and abetted by friction with the larger population, rather than by genetic selection of Smarties. (I think; I skimmed it. But I’m an Ashkenazic Jew, so I shouldn’t have to do more than skim.)

17 thoughts on “The Double-Edged Sword of Chauvinism

  1. The Double-Edged Sword of Jewish Genes
    This post is heavy on controversy, and light on facts. I question how you could post an article on this study, yet fail to even post a link to the relevant scientific paper! Are we to rely on the mainstream media to understand theoretical genetics correctly? Primary sources, please:
    Natural
    History of Ashkenazi Intelligence

    or
    http://tinyurl.com/cmh3g
    Furthermore, what is the relevance of Sander Gilman disapproval? Is she also a professor of population genetics? Are you referring to a published paper, or just more media sound-bites? I’d respond more thoroughly to the Jennifer Senior article, but it’s not loading as of yet…
    If you even read the paper that I linked above, you would understand that this study doesn’t point to Jewish chauvinism, as everyone jumps to assume, but rather points to counter-balance this talent with a plague: the possibility that Jewish mental ability might be correlated to Jewish hereditary/genetic diseases.
    The genetic diseases in question are all highly-related to neuron growth and plasticity. In excess, it can lead to disease (in the homozygous case). In the heterozygous state, with only one copy of the recessive gene present, it might be too weak of an effect to create the disease state, but significant enough to give the neurons a greater range of plasticity and re-growth characteristics.
    That’s pretty much it. That’s their hypothesis.
    Now, can you please give me a rational argument about this instead of more philosophizing about everything *but* the substance of the original scientific paper?

  2. Sorry for not posting to the original study — it’s a pdf file, and I know some people don’t like opening those in their browsers. But I could have noted it’s a pdf. Anyway, the study received wide coverage in the Jewish and secular media several weeks ago; this link was a longer piece on the issue. But you posted the link to the study, so all is good.
    Sander Gilman (a man, not a woman) is a professor who has written extensively on science, Jews, and the perception of Jews in the larger culture. If he calls something “bullshit,” I laugh and listen.
    As for chauvinism, I was referring to the reception the study has received in the media, as covered in Senior’s article. Her article’s quite interesting actually, because she explores her own conflicted feelings on chauvinism, Jewish intellectual superiority and the flip side of it. Maybe when the article loads you’ll appreciate it. Maybe not.
    As for the study, I’m not a scientist but I defer to those — in the article I posted — who criticized the “science” on the basis that the linkage of disease to intelligence is spurious. The genetic incidence of the various diseases is noteworthy, but the leap to intelligence is a stretch, to say the least, and it ignores other factors, including cultural. As Senior points out.

  3. I enjoyed EV’s take on this silly science, and I don’t think taltman should hold him to such rigorous scientific analysis… In case you didn’t notice, Jewschool is not a scientific journal. It’s a stupid blog where obnoxious Jews get more obnoxious by hiding behind stupid pseudonyms, and that’s exactly why I read and enjoy it. Anyone who is interested in finding the actual paper is by definition smart enough to search for it on Google (even if they’re not Ashkenazi).
    I agree with the tone of EV’s post and the New Yorker piece; it’s absurd someone would waste their time looking for scientific reasons why “Jews are smarter” so that they can somehow tap that brilliance then bottle it and sell it. I can just see the label now: “Complete with Vitamins B, C, and J(ew).” “Also includes Afro-prowess!” (for longer man meat) “And now with added Chinamins” (for better math skills, but WARNING: may induce poorer driving skills).
    This is akin to measuring skull sizes in the 1930s. Or something the Kabbalah Center would come up with then sell along with their magic water.

  4. I was never taught this idea of Jewish “superiority” as a day school student. I was taught a very different idea of “chosen”-ness — something akin to custodial duty, the way my dad chose me to take out the trash.
    Yet time and again I hear people lambasting Jews for believing in our superiority, aristocracy, “chosen”-ness, etc. So I want to know where this is coming from. Who got this as part of their upbringing, and in what context?

  5. In reference to the above, incidentally, Sander Gilman is an outstanding humanities professor and cultural historian, at least in the work I have encountered of his. Google says he earned his PhD in German Literature from Tulane University in 1968. Among his contributions is an excellent history and exploration of Jewish Self-hatred which anyone who fetishizes the idea — like my friend above — would do well to read.
    Warning: it is a serious book with many pages. But I readers on an Ashkenazi blog

  6. When will people finally realize the doctrine of chosenness has nothing to do with genetic superiority?
    right. scripturally, it’s spiritual superiority: every jew posseses two souls.
    either way, it’s still a supremacist trip and “unhealthy for children and other living creatures.”

  7. Thanks, Genetically Jewish!
    Please note that I’m Self-Loather not Self-Hater. There is a subtle difference. I’ll tell you what it is when I figure it out.
    The book you reference seems very interesting and I skimmed the first chapter on Amazon, which is ALMOST like buying it and reading it. Though it seems a little too abstract and academic; I’m fine with my Woody-Allen-Philip-Roth -style self-loathing, which I postulate is just the other side of the whole Jewish superiority thing. We feel superior for being smarter; better with money; more attentive lovers (yes, I’ll say it); able to rise from the ashes to vanquish our oppressors; etc., etc., but then we remember the trouble we get in for being too proud, so we also hate ourselves for things like not being tall, blond, beautiful athletes who enjoy martinis and polo.
    Except of course those Jews who actually are tall, blond, beautiful athletes…whom I also hate. I mean loath.
    (Don’t take this post too seriously…though there’s a grain…)
    Yours!

  8. Mobius, re: every Jew possesses two souls.
    I hope you’re being sarcastic. I would find it ironic that an ‘unorthodox’ Orthodox Anarchist would choose a 18th century book taught by only one of many Jewish streams/communities/min hagim as representing the theological position of the entire Jewish people. Where’s the consensus there?
    Since you still insist that it’s supremicist, I take it that you’re not joking.

  9. I’m also disappointed that even after posting additional material on the actual science behind this over-blown ‘controversy’, there still hasn’t been any meaningful discussion about it. Just knee-jerk reactions about Jewish chosenness. Please, I deplore you all, just read the introduction of their actual scientific white-paper. That’s all I ask.

  10. Because I’ve not been through my copies of New York and the New Yorker yet, I cannot comment on the articles EV mentioned in his undoubtedly smart Jewish way. Instead, I wish to pose a question: If every Jew has two souls, does every Jew have two soul mates? Discuss.

  11. If only that were true…but thanks. It means a lot to know I’m second choice for everyone. Although having this verified does explain a lot…

  12. Within the serious scientific community there is no controversy or debate over the notion that there are large genetic differences between races, and that intelligence is almost entirely genetic. Against its very core ideology, The APA recently published these findings, and a study out of Stanford came to the same conclusion. The only reason most genetic scientists and psychologists dont just come out and say this is that they fear they will lose their funding and stir up emotions ala Lawrence summer

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