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Why is the IQ of Ashkenazi Jews so high?
Hank Pellissier   Jul 19, 2011  

Ashkenazi Jews are smart. Shockingly brilliant, in general. Impressively greater in brain power than the bulk of the human population. How did they get that way?

Ashkenazi Jews, aka Ashkenazim, are the descendants of Jews originally from medieval Germany, and later, from throughout Eastern Europe. Approximately 80% of the Jews in the world today are Ashkenazim; the remainder are primarily Sephardic.

Researchers who study the Ashkenazim agree that the children of Abraham are on top of the IQ chart. Steven Pinker – who lectured on “Jews, Genes, and Intelligence” in 2007 - says “their average IQ has been measured at 108-115.” Richard Lynn, author of “The Intelligence of American Jews” in 2004, says it is “only” a half-standard higher: 107.5.  Henry Harpending, Jason Hardy, and Gregory Cochran, University of Utah authors of the 2005 research report, “Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence,” state that their subjects, “score .75 to 1.0 standard deviations above the general European average, corresponding to an IQ of 112-115.” Charles Murray, in his 2007 essay “Jewish Genius,” says “their mean is somewhere in the range of 107-115, with 110 being a plausible compromise.”

A Jewish average IQ of 115 is 8 points higher than the generally accepted IQ of their closest rivals—Northeast Asians—and approximately 40% higher than the global average IQ of 79.1 calculated by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen in IQ and Global Inequity.

Plus, contemplate this astounding tidbit: Ashkenazi “visual-spatial” IQ scores are only mediocre; in one study their median in this category was a below-average 98. They surmount this liability by logging astronomic figures in “verbal IQ”, which includes verbal reasoning, comprehension, working memory and mathematical skill; a 1958 survey of yeshiva students discovered a median verbal IQ of 125.6.

I’m not asserting Ashkenazi cognitive specialness because I’m philo-semitic, or a Zionist, or pro-Israeli. I’m pointing it out because it is irrefutably true. People who can’t comprehend the easily understood data verifying high Ashkenazi IQ may not simply be anti-semitic; they must also be crippled in the math/logic zone of their inferior parietal cortex, with subsequent IQ in the ~85 range.

In the 19th century, Mark Twain noted that:

[The Jews] are peculiarly and conspicuously the world’s intellectual aristocracy… [Jewish] contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are.. way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world… and has done it with his hands tied behind him.

Twain’s observation is not dated. Ashkenazi Jews have continued to mentally out-compete other demographics since his statement, often suffering horrendous consequences for their toil. Here is a brief list of Ashkenazi accomplishments in the last 90 years.

Nobel Prizes: Since 1950, 29% of the awards have gone to Ashkenazim, even though they represent only 0.25% of humanity. Ashkenazi achievement in this arena is 117 times greater than their population.

Hungary in the 1930s: Ashkenazim were 6% of the population, but they comprised 55.7% of physicians, 49.2% of attorneys, 30.4% of engineers, and 59.4% of bank officers; plus, they owned 49.4% of the metallurgy industry, 41.6% of machine manufacturing, 72.8% of clothing manufacturing, and, as housing owners, they received 45.1% of Budapest rental income. Jews were similarly successful in nearby nations, like Poland and Germany.

USA (today): Ashkenazi Jews comprise 2.2% of the USA population, but they represent 30% of faculty at elite colleges, 21% of Ivy League students, 25% of the Turing Award winners, 23% of the wealthiest Americans, and 38% of the Oscar-winning film directors.

Israel: In 1922, this swamp and desert land was inhabited by a impoverished population of 752,000. Today there are 7,746,000 residents, with an Ashkenazi majority that have elevated it into a high-tech entrepreneurial nation with the highest per capita income in the region.

Personally, I find the Nobel Prize statistic the most amazing. Consider this: if everybody on the planet was an Ashkenazi Jew, would the result be 117 times more Nobel Prize-winning caliber individuals, with 117 times as many spectacular achievements, per annum? INSTANT SINGULARITY! Without any help from AI…

Let’s proceed. With the facts I’ve laid out, only the most obtuse reader can resist the pronouncement that Ashkenazi Jews are, on average, exceptionally intelligent. I emphasize the word exceptional because I am frequently chided as an “exceptionalist” and I want to make it clear that, yes, I do, in fact, believe specific cultures have evidenced greater ability to produce exceptional individuals and exceptional societies.

That said, the important question is… Why is the IQ of Ashkenazi Jews so high? Is the reason genetic, environmental, cultural, educational? A unique combination of several?

Here are eight theories:

Squeezed Into Brilliance: Jews in Europe were officially excluded from “common” occupations such as agriculture from 800-1700 A.D. This restriction forced the Ashkenazim for 900 years into intellectually more demanding vocations, such as trade and finance. Ashkenazim who weren’t mathematically and verbally adept enough to succeed in these jobs drifted away from Judaism—low IQs were pushed out. Conversely, the most successful merchants and number-crunchers raised larger families, passing on an increasing percentage of algebraic brains.

Escape Plan: The most intelligent and/or wealthy Ashkenazim were better equipped to escape, alive, the Inquisitions, pogroms, persecutions, holocausts, and other genocidal threats because they: 1) could afford to emigrate; 2) could predict the need to do so; and 3) had social and economic opportunities in the nations they fled to. Poorer, less connected, and less astute Ashkenazi ranks thus were inexorably depleted.

Sick Genius: Ashkenazim are prey to a host of debilitating diseases that might, counter-intuitively, enhance their collective intelligence. Tay-Sachs, Gaucher’s disease, Niemann-Pick disease, and Mucolipidosis type IV are all sphingolipid disorders that kill or severely weaken those who have two copies, but if you inherit just one, you get neuron growth promotion and accelerated interconnection of brain cells. A second cluster of Ashkenazi lipid storage disorders might stimulate neuron proliferation in the DNA repair genes.

People of the Book: In 64 A.D., the high priest Joshua ben Gamla insisted that Jewish fathers educate their sons in the Torah. This demanding edict reduced the Jewish population from 4.5 to 1.2 million, by pushing out the lower IQs. The remaining Jews became the first male literate ethnicity in history, with subsequent ability to move into highly-skilled professions. Judaic culture prized scholarship, abstract thought, and analytic argument, with the best Torah students marrying into the wealthiest families and having larger numbers of children.

Trading Tongues: Ashkenazi merchants plied their wares globally, from rubber in Brazil to silk in China. To prosper in the exchange, they memorized multiple languages. The stateless tribe needed diverse fluency anyway, to communicate with neighbors in their adopted lands. A “fusion” tongue was also created: Yiddish (German, Hebrew, Aramaic, plus other Slavics and a touch of Romance). Neurologists today recognize that language learning enhances memory, mental flexibility, problem solving, abstract thinking, and creative hypothesis formulation.

Check Mate: Chess historically has been a highly-favored activity among Ashkenazim; a 1905 magazine described it as the “Jewish National Game.” Almost 50% of Grandmasters have been Ashkenazi. The visual, organizational, and strategic skills required for chess build up the precuneus in the superior parietal lobe, and the caudate nucleus, a part of the basal ganglia in the subcortical region.

Melodic Minds: Music has been revered in Jewish religious traditions for 3,000 years. Klezmer “reached a very high level of sophistication and ornamentation,” according to the Jewish Music Institute, and Ashkenazi composers and instrumentalists contribute hugely to Western classical music (one history site declares, “The Jews ‘Own’ the Violin”). Have centuries of practice paid off? Researchers today believe music training optimizes neuron development and improves brain function in math, analysis, memory, creativity, stress management, concentration, motivation, and science.

Great Expectations: Success breeds success, on the neurological level. Victory provides a rush of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that activates motivation for further accomplishments. Ashkenazi children understand they are capable of high achievement, and they’re obliged to develop their skills for contribution to humanity. Is stern discipline necessary to produce these results? Ashkenazim have long discouraged spanking of their children; strong familial ties, incessant encouragement, and hard focused work at excellent institutions, seems to be sufficient.

That’s the range of explanations. My opinion is they’re all possibly correct, but what most intrigues me are the “environmental” factors—factors that are accessible to all humanity.

aj2I wonder, if the rest of the world really wants Ashkenazi-level achievement, why don’t we play chess with our children at night, instead of tossing them a violent video game? Why can’t we listen to their classical compositions on the weekend, instead of urging them to get concussions on the football field? Why can’t we provide them with excellent schools, entice them to learn oodles of foreign grammar, and convince them to believe in and expand their abilities, instead of forcing them to endure years of educational mediocrity and expecting nothing back but the same?

If all humanity adopted the best available characteristics of Ashkenazi culture, would we, as a whole, immensely benefit? Would we learn more quickly, more deeply, and produce greater wonders? Would we become over- instead of under-achievers?

If we promoted high IQ behavior to humans everywhere, globally, would we all become… enhanced? Better humans?

This article has been expanded into a considerably longer essay, with additional references and a total of 20 explanations, instead of this article’s mere eight. That extended version is available HERE

Hank Pellissier
Hank Pellissier serves as IEET Managing Director and is an IEET Affiliate Scholar.



I’m going to see if I can’t get my friend Doojie in here. He has a very, very informative theory that are similar to the “sick genius” and “trading tongues” theories.

I’ll let him flesh it out (if he’ll come), but in a sense the Jewish culture is kind of like a virus or ‘junk DNA’, and it’s purpose is to stop cultures from homogenizing by constantly intermixing. Essentially, they are the cultural equivalent of the cure to monoculturalism.

In this light, who isn’t a Jew? Only the genetically pure are not Jews, if we take Jewishness to mean cultural/genetic mixing in the abstract. Cross-fertilization.

Look at what Israel is doing right now. They are breaking down the isolationism of Arab culture.

I’ve recently had a significant change of heart about Israeli culture in light of this.

Although I remain an anarcho-pacifist, and I oppose violence anywhere and everywhere, considering the central function of Jewish culture in light of my friend Doojie’s ideas, I’d like to see Israel continue progress on that front - only without violence if at all possible.

It would seem, if you can believe this theory, that Jews are where they are because they the cultural equivalent of epigenetics. They keep things from being stagnant. They are a genetic library of immunities.

I’ll shut up now and go see if I can get Doojie to comment, he has a lot to say on this subject.

It’s as if Jews are the “Nam-Shub of Enki” (from Neal Stephenson’s ‘Snow Crash’)

why don’t we?
Chess has the same effect on aggressiveness as violent video games.
Most violent video games have similar or greater effects on brain development and activity then chess.
Though there are few studies about this stuff.

The studies about classical music turned out to be wrong also. There is little difference between learning the piano and learning guitar. And not much effect from listening passively to music.

A newer scientific attitude is, that violent video games teach young woman the skills they need to compete against men in high value positions. They are prevented from learning this attitudes and skills from society at large.
Should this be stopped too?

hi Tobias - thanks for your interest in the topic. 
Here are just a few of the links that I used in my research -
there are many many more, but this will get you started.

if you have any links to scientific research studies that support your statement, please send them.  I didn’t run across any of your contentions when I investigated the topic.


Researchers say parents should look closely at findings of new study




Adolescence, Music, and Algebra

You forgot one: Breeding.

While the smartest Catholics were being locked up in seminaries where they couldn’t reproduce, Jews were marrying their daughters to the brightest boychiks in the hood.

The net result is what you see today with phenomenally intelligent Ashkenazi yids.

It sounds prejudiced to say it but blacks in America went through a type of “selective breeding” in the slave days and wound up with more impressive physical prowess than the slaves that had been brought over in earlier generations.

  As an Ashkenazi Jew, I believe our accomplishments are due to our culture, environment and education. NOT GENETICS-

I don’t know if Doojie is going to join this conversation, but I started one at, and he’s already had some interesting things to say about it, so if you want to follow both in parallel:

Moe, as an Ashkenazi Jew I can tell you that I believe that over the centuries culture, environment and education lead to good genetics. So, it could be just a 2 side lucky coin type of situation:)
This article is very good as I think it touches a few points which are very dear to me so I could relate quite easily to almost all the points raised.
I think fear is imprinted in the Jewish consciousness though and we cannot stop it. We continued surviving throughout time because we kept vigilant to what people in
general “think about things” and if you consider how influenced we are by what people are saying and doing these days you notice it takes just a fine use of subtle ideas in order to attract the masses on false roads. See the likes of Hitler, Stalin or Kim Jong-Il hanging around the corner or the Neo-Nazi wave happening through Europe now and you
also start being aware of how easy extreme ideologies sustain themselves through their followers through time.

With Jews, while there are also extremist (who doesn’t have them? And I am talking about Israel a democratic state here as well) there is also an arab party, a green party, technocrats and new age freaks. There is also an old saying that jews are the biggest anti-semites themselves, so in order for someone to really understand what it means to be a jew take the famous cases of Woody
Allen, Chomsky and other so called anti-semite jews and compare their work to the work of a Rabi and you will find more philosophical similarities than between Germans and a nation and Hitler for sure. Israel is one of the most democratic countries in the world and this by itself is a clear example of release from the shackles of
oppression and the love for the freedom of people and the mind. Most of the jewish children, the young and the old feel they belong in Israel. This sense of belonging
is a trait well kept in time, it’s hard to describe the sensation of being in Israel, it just feels right. I am not saying it’s perfect, not at all,
as in any society there isn’t a clear finish line, things are not designed that way but instead try thinking about society as life itself, a constant progress with a
lot of crossroads and doubts.

What I find amazingly positive though is that the world is more and more freeing it’s mind and starting questioning things, a sort of “Search for the Truth”
quest (this is in our case why jews didn’t believe Jesus is Mesiah by the way and look at Christianity now, falling apart in the face of facts). Not sure Mesiah is the
answer either, but let’s leave religion aside for a moment and think that this constant questioning is what makes all people human, a jew or any person in general
which indeed wants to understand something about life. (here I am in total agreement with Hank saying that these values are accessible to anyone on this planet and there is nothing hidden or mystical going on in the back).
We should never forget what kind of society we want for our children and try to mirror everything around this idea and good things will emerge. When human beings will
stop being haters and start believing in their logic, sense and in their dreams maybe the world will change. Through spread of information and ideas we will finally get to understand each other
better, it takes some time but it’s coming. Take a look at the Arab Revolutions and the way the collective perception of the new arab youth wave is changing an area of
the world where religious fundamentalism is higher than everywhere else combined.

So it’s not even about being Jewish or not…we need to understand that no matter what genes you have, we as a species need to be constantly reminded what it means to
be a human part of a collective society. Greed, hate, friendship or love are all human emotions capable of starting world horrors (Shoah) or create good
things such as liberty of expression, cures for diseases, technological progress and so on. By the way isn’t all this the basics of what it means to be human?
Maybe the answer is balance although each of us has his own perception on what balance should be, we need to understand that we are designed to learn from our mistakes
and try to relate more to the similarities between us no matter what race or religion and we will eventually learn to tolerate each other, think for ourselves, create - not destroy and ultimately evolve.

(This is an extract copied word by word from some of the thoughts I laid down one night a few months ago - except for a few comments on Hank’s article, this is why I find it amazingly similar and I decided to post it)


Abba Eban made the point that the Jewish Scripture was about the history and making of civilization. The stories, the laws contribute to an understanding of what it takes to extend beyond family boundaries in the making of a society. In Jewish tradition, those who worship God are asked to do so with all their hearts, all their strength and all their minds. That last part - with all one’s mind—is a serious aspect not simply of worship but of understanding our world and context. The study of Torah puts an emphasis on reading Scripture at multiple levels. Reading a passage literally is only the beginning, only the opening of the meaning of the text. Such an emphasis extends, of course, beyond Scripture. It teaches us to look at life in deeper, more metaphorical, more abstract terms.
As your article points out, the religious aspect is only one contributing factor.
In secular terms, could not considering the study of poetry, Joyce, Meville and Shakespeare as a duty of citizenship also help to train us to think more deeply, see more of the patterns of life?

@ Jason - thank you for bringing up that detail about the Europeans putting their brightest sons - who demonstrated ability at literacy - into the priesthood, where they (theoretically) did not pass on their genes.  I have read that theory before and found it interesting.

@ Moe -  You state that it is Jewish culture, not genetics that lead to high IQ.  I am largely, but not entirely, in agreement with you.  In the world of IQ theorists, there are “hereditarians” who think IQ is 90%+ determined by genetics, and there are the “environmentalists” who believe IQ is determined by about 50% genetics and 50% environmental factors, such as education, nutrition, family support, etc.  I am firmly in the “environmentalist” camp and I particularly think good education boosts IQ.  However, I don’t think even the most “environmentalist” researcher thinks that IQ is 100% determined by culture.  As I wrote the article, I felt it necessary to include all the genetic reasons that have been currently theorized (by others), and then I added some “environmental” reasons, based on research that revealed cultural habits (music, chess, education emphasis) that have been linked to an uptick in intelligence.

Personally, I am an Atheist Goy… and I don’t recognize any “religious” reason why Ashkenazim would have high IQ, in fact, quite the contrary.  Studies have indicated that non-religious believers have a higher IQ than believers…

Israel is one of the most democratic countries in the world

Israel law targets boycott campaigns

Israel’s right-leaning parliament approved a hotly disputed law Monday that will penalize those who organize or publicly endorse political boycotts against the country, including campaigns directed at Israeli universities, settlements and businesses in the West Bank.

Critics, including several prominent Israeli politicians, newspaper columnists and the parliament’s legal advisor, questioned whether the law would withstand a Supreme Court challenge, saying it probably violates the right to free speech and free expression.

A couple points contrary to the genetic selection hypothesis. 

Of the big six lipid disorders found in the ashkenazim only 1 shows signs of positive selection.  In the same study they also found evidence of positive selection for multiple diseases that are un-related to intelligence (Signatures of founder effects, admixture and selection in the Ashkenazi Jewish population). 

Cochran tells a story of Jews being unfairly pushed out of agriculture into “white collar” jobs which caused a selective pressure for smarter jews.  While this story is emotionally satisfying for some (it has strong moral didactic elements to it) historically it is untrue.  Jews were already moving into white collar jobs before legalized employment restrictions were placed upon them (Botticini, Maristella; and Zvi Eckstein. “From Farmers to Merchants, Conversions and Diaspora: Human Capital and Jewish History”, September 2007, Vol. 5, No. 5, Pages 885–926 doi:10.1162/JEEA.2007.5.5.885).

you arguments exclude wealth considerations. wealth allows people to study and develop intellectually. wealth allows access to elite schools and the luxury to study things like medicine and physics. your argument does not include one major sociological consideration, class, and is therefore flawed.


From an ex-communist and currently democratic (since 1989) Eastern European country where I grew up things appear differently. Imagine laws similar to this one and even worse involving major cuts in child care, health services, pensions and so on are passed almost monthly and the civil society (as in “the people”) and the politicians are not doing anything about it, even though this has been going on since ages, even before the communists came to power. Although the average salary in the capital city is now no more than 250E, gas, food and property prices are similar to our Western neighbors. Do you think this is fair? Now imagine how deeply blinded these people are and compare their situation with the Israeli protesters and maybe how loud their voices can be heard so the right-winged politicians could have thought that it is getting out of control. But they were still heard, otherwise, what’s the point of the “counter law”? I find this as the states complete acknowledgement of the problems raised by the protesters which will only make the people stronger and stronger. Put this in balance with what is happening in the US for some time, where the socio-political ground is broken into pieces practically by the state’s bankruptcy and people are more or less pressured to comply and accept the situation and even willingly so, having total faith in their government. A lot of people never even heard of wikileaks and even the ones that heard about it didn’t have the curiosity to look at the whole phenomena a bit deeper. Do you think democracy is well applied there? Than you start thinking about what democracy really stands for or rather how good this concept is understood, starting from it’s foundation of political philosophy to the laws passed and “executed” by the state. Take a better look at what I wrote, Israel is definitely not perfect. Every political vision is flawed and so is everyone one of us. There is never a perfect system, it could only be perfect through it’s imperfections and only than the really good things come to surface.
To end this in an optimist tone I do think that the Israeli civil society, the opposition and the current law will stop this attempt to gag the people. We should be striving to get the best out of this experience called life or so we should, so let’s see if this one passes or not and than maybe talk more:)

@ Karl - thanks for your points.  I am generally in agreement. 

In fact, my “People of the Book” category points out that the Jews, via their literacy, were already qualified for many non-agricultural positions; they didn’t need to be “forced” into those positions, as the “Squeezed into Brilliance” category suggests.

Regarding the link between Ashkenazim’s diseases and high IQ, it seems like the strongest correlation is in Gaucher’s disease, where those afflicted have demonstrated an unusually high predilection to becoming physicists.


I personally feel ambiguous about whether the Ashkenazi IQ is due to genes or environment.  I would like to put forth an alternate explanation for the disproportionate number of Ashkenazi emmy winners, nobel holders, professors, and ivy leaguers…  the Ashkenazim are biased to accept and professionally promote other Ashkenazim. 

If this argument was made about men (we hold most of the nobel’s, emmy’s, professorships) many people (most?) would assume it is because women have been categorically oppressed and that men in positions of power are sexist in favor of other men.  Further, people would assume that measures such as IQ if found to be higher in men are likely poor measures of intelligence and the societal use of such a measure indicates the pervasiveness of sexism in society.

I don’t actually believe this argument but it is interesting that it isn’t more commonly expressed.  I would be interested to hear any thoughts on why this argument isn’t common.

Hi Kim—nice try with bringing up the money factor.  You might have a tiny point, because wealth does have a correlation with high IQ, but it is not as significant as you imagine. 

If your hypothesis was right, for example, the wealthiest nation in the world per capita - Qatar ($76,108) - would also have the highest IQ, which it doesn’t - it is a mere 78. 

Meanwhile, CHina (100 IQ) has a tiny per capita income of only $4,382.  Your argument thus collapses.

Furthermore, your contention insinuates that the Ashkenazim always had high wealth, and thus had high IQ.  But in reality, the Ashkenazim, as you surely know, have been dispossessed of their capital innumerable times.  Most recently, after World War II, boatloads of destitute Ashkenazim concentration camp survivors were unloaded in Israel, the United States, and elsewhere, to economically start all over again. Which they did. Successfully.  So the equation really is this:

High IQ—-> Wealth

not the inverse, that you have conjectured


They’re not smart because they’re Jews. They’re smart because of the lineage they came from before becoming Jews.

We all know that certain breeds of dogs are more intelligent than others. Yes? Humans are very much the same.

In the ancient world, where people were kept apart because of distance or unfriendly neighbors, these genetic traits were allowed to concentrate.

When this group embraced the religion of Judaism, they dominated it. Gone are the biblical Hebrews that Moses knew. The new world Jews are of European origins now. Fiddler on the Roof types. “White” Jews.

Israel was founded by these people. And not all of them are friendly.

Great intellects often require something of a trade off, as you only have so much consciousness to work with. The downside of great thinkers is they are often spiritually dormant.

If you examine modern Israel (without your religious rose colored glasses) you see a zionist police state rather than a Jewish state. A racist, apartheid culture built around Jewish supremacy. Zionists are atheistic. They “look” like Jews, but are spiritually hollow inside. Totally ignoring the religion that gives them their name and identity.

But they are smart. They got the UN to give them a country. And then they got the world’s last remaining superpower onboard as their protector. We even pay them billions a year as “aid”. Even if we can’t afford it.

Told you they were smart.


While this is interesting information, it’s important to note that ‘smarter’ does not equal ‘wiser’, or ‘better’, for that matter.  There is so much more to intelligence and success than IQ—you might enjoy reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, where he exams the ‘success’ of geniuses—where he argues that it is not genius or talent alone that paves the way for success.

There are some very questionable assertions above, and I’d like to address them. This, despite the fact that I agreed with most of Hank’s article:

1. Any genetic explanation should not rely on the (mostly) discredited theory of “inheritance of acquired characteristics”. For instance, is the “build up the precuneus in the superior parietal lobe, and the caudate nucleus, a part of the basal ganglia in the subcortical region” truly inheritable?

2. “In 64 A.D., the high priest Joshua ben Gamla insisted that Jewish fathers educate their sons in the Torah. This demanding edict reduced the Jewish population from 4.5 to 1.2 million, by pushing out the lower IQs.” —-> I can’t figure out why you blamed the population decline on this edict as opposed to the Roman oppression/conquering of Israel not long afterwards.

3. “If we promoted high IQ behavior to humans everywhere, globally, would we all become… enhanced? Better humans? ”—-> I’m definitely not saying “no”, but it’s probably true that the people with the highest overall IQ in the world in the 1930s were the Germans. (They were really into classical music, too, by the way.)

4. Jason Berg writes: “While the smartest Catholics were being locked up in seminaries where they couldn’t reproduce, Jews were marrying their daughters to the brightest boychiks in the hood. ”—-> I would expect that both the smart and the dumb men were marrying, with rates just like in every other (non-Catholic, that is) culture.

5. Daniel Gene writes: “What I find amazingly positive though is that the world is more and more freeing it’s mind and starting questioning things”—-> I agree totally. Speaking of this, and speaking of Nobel prizes, check out this quote:

A friend once asked Isidor I. Rabi, a Nobel prize winner in physics, “Why did you become a scientist, rather than a doctor or lawyer or businessman, like the other immigrant kids in your neighborhood?” Rabi responded:

  My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: “So? Did you learn anything today?” But not my mother. She always asked me a different question. “Izzy,” she would say, “did you ask a good question today?” That difference—asking good questions—made me become a scientist!

6. Daniel wrote: “Israel is one of the most democratic countries in the world” and iPan retorted to that statement. However, the retort did nothing to dent the truth of that statement.

7. Karl wrote: “I would like to put forth an alternate explanation for the disproportionate number of Ashkenazi emmy winners, nobel holders, professors, and ivy leaguers… the Ashkenazim are biased to accept and professionally promote other Ashkenazim. ”—-> This answer might be partially true, but it ignores the fact that for many years, Jews couldn’t even get into ivy league schools.

8a. xexon writes: “They’re not smart because they’re Jews. They’re smart because of the lineage they came from before becoming Jews.”—-> Are you saying the answer is mostly genetic? It sure sounds like it. That seems to be a very unpopular opinion here.

8b. He further writes: “When this group embraced the religion of Judaism, they dominated it. ”—-> I can’t even figure out what this means.

8c. He further writes: “Zionists are atheistic.”—-> No over-generalization there!

8d. He further writes: “But they are smart. They got the UN to give them a country. ” —-> Unless he’s being facetious, he should really check out the history of how the UN voted to make Israel a country. Also, if they were so smart, they would’ve figured out how to prevent Syria from being on the UN human rights council and North Korea on the Disarmament Conference.

Very interesting post! Since some brought up Israeli politics I will make a brief comment and then leave it at that. Ronaldo: “6. Daniel wrote: “Israel is one of the most democratic countries in the world” and iPan retorted to that statement. However, the retort did nothing to dent the truth of that statement.”

Israel is in all practicalities an Apartheid regime given its permanent and illegal territorial occupations (not unlike South Africa pre liberation). Apartheid regimes are acutely democratically lacking. Thus, Israel is acutely democratically lacking. (That conclusion is compatible with Israel having various good democratic privileges for the non-segregated areas and populations.)

I dunno - I look at those statistics and see proof of private information, private networks, corruption and mafia style activities. All people are created equal, and when one group excels relative to another, I take that as proof of foul play on the part of that group…

@ Linda McDonald Glenn - yes, what you state is quite correct.
Foe example, there’s a University of Pennsylvania study entitled:

Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance of adolescents

it shows that “self-discipline” has more than twice the correlation to a high grade point average (GPA) than IQ does

@ Ronaldo - thank you for your well-organized contribution to this discussion. 

regarding your third point, i.e., Germany perhaps having the world’s highest IQ in the 1930’s, you might be correct.  I didn’t find info from that era, but a recent report claims Germany had the highest IQ in Europe in 2006.  Germany’s 107 IQ was well ahead of Britain’s 100 and France’s 94. 

This detail is interesting because Ashkenazim descended from Germany’s Alsace and Rhineland regions, and an Emory University study estimates “that between 35 and 55 percent of the modern Ashkenazi genome comes from European descent”

that link is:

My essay isn’t really about high “Jewish” IQ because Sephardic IQ is quite moderate.  Ashkenazim are, it appears, a mixture of Jewish and German descent.


regarding your second point, about the decline in Jewish population - your point here is also quite valid.  The Diaspora began in 70 AD, just six years after the edict. My suggestion that the population decline was due to the stringency of learning to read the Torah isn’t my own, I am passing it on from Dr. Richard Nisbett, who advances it in his book, “Intelligence and How to Get It.”

@ Jonah, xeeron - I am hoping that this comment thread does not veer off into griping about the politics of Israel.  If you feel impelled to do that, there’s another thread for that here:

Yes, I am saying the answer is genetic. It’s unpopular because humans like to think they are above the animal world and somehow exempt from any comparison with them. That’s why I used dogs as an example. We know it’s true, but ego says it must be something else.

Judaism, is a religion, not a people, per se. Not a race. Ancient Jews were a fairly isolated group for reasons I’ve already explained. But now there are Japanese Jews and many other ethnic groups that have converted to this religion. Of all these new world Jews, the face and power of Judaism today is based on the white Euro-Jew model. The same lineage that has these stratospheric IQ’s.

Before Judaism arrived in Russia and northern Europe, the face of Judaism were the true semites from the Middle East. A people closely related to the Arabs. Modern Palestinians have many links to these original “biblical” Jews. So do the black Jews from places like Ethiopia. So there’s been a huge shift the past thousand years as to who is a Jew. IQ is indeed responsible, because smart people tend to dominate.

As for the UN, it’s an international body, and it also has it’s share of smart people. Call it competition. Israel can’t dominate because everybody is on to the zionists now and they’re under watch. Operation Cast Lead made them show a cloven hoof to the world and it’s gone downhill for them ever since.

But these zionists only represent a small percentage of the family, and will eventually be overthrown. Then maybe Israel can become a regular country instead of this meth baby from hell.


All Jewery is an idea. All Jewery is crypto. A meme.

Hank, no matter how hard you try, all discussions of Jewery will veer towards the question, ‘What is a Jew’, and then ‘What is Israel’.

I propose that it is impossible to have a discussion concerning Jewishness, and not have the conversation turn this way.

The reason being, is that Jewishness is and has always been a cryptic code.

Are they Khazars? Are they Semites or Europeans? Is it an ethnicity or a religion?

I think, perhaps, that if your post had simply asked the question, “Why are IQ’s of Ashkenazi’s so High?”, rather than “Why are the IQ’s of Ashkenazi Jews so High”, you would have a slightly different response.

I spent quite a bit of time trying to delve into the history of Judaism. The only thing murkier than this, is the ancient history of Aryans, and depending upon which line of thought you’re following, the two may be intertwined (some think that Jews are the mythical Aryans - a modern irony).

Further, any question concerning Judaism is going to get muddied through issues of modern Israel.

Does Israel represent Jewery? Clearly, there are non-Israeli Jews. Many Israelis are not religious, so their claim must be a racial one, but at the same time many of those same are not really Semitic (they are European - white not brown as most Middle Easterners are).

In any case, I’ve done so much reading, and found out only one thing: the entire concept of “Jewishness” is crypto. Jewishness is what a people make of it. If one group of people says they are Jewish, and convince enough of the world, then I guess they are Jewish.

Are the Ashkenazi’s really Jews? What does that mean? What’s a Jew? What’s an Ashkenazi?

Let’s say half of America converts to Judaism, does this lower the average IQ of Jews, since the sample size now includes a bunch of dumb Americans?

So you can see, I hope, my point about why this conversation must always slide in this direction. One cannot answer the question of why the Ashkenazi’s have a high IQ without questioning what Jewishness is to begin with.

I say that it is like Plato’s Ideal Forms. It’s an ideal, one that people will endlessly argue over. That’s all anyone can do concerning it.

Israel is it’s own subject.

Judaism is the original hacker.

This discussion always reminds me of a Discordian story, presumably about why Discordians never bother with conversion or prosylitization of other “faiths”, because in our eyes, everyone is a Discordian whether they want to be or not. In other words, the Discordians simply accept all other religions as denominations of Discordians, and therefore there is never a need to convert or oppose anyone, because they are already “us”. Merely an intellectual exercise, but one that Discordians are particularly famed for, perhaps only second to Taoists, but showing why Discordians never go to war over faith.

It’s a neat story. The reason I bring it up, is because I wonder if Judaism could do the same. Just declare every human to be a Jew, in addition to whatever that person decides to call themselves. Quite the opposite of exceptionalism.

We’re all Jews, just like we’re all humans. Even the ones that call themselves Muslims, or Christians, or Pastafarians. They’re all Jews too. I’m ok with that, because I know you’re all Discordians, whether you want to be or not.

The One True Faith
You’re a Discordian Whether or Not You Want to Be

{I’m reprinting the final paragraph - but you should take the time to read the whole story - it’s inlightning)

‘Nuff said.
    Now, for a quick tally. According to the most recent numbers I can get my hands on, I’ve shown that 2.3 billion people are calling themselves any number of odd things, but are really Discordians. That, my brethren (and sistren [can’t get those Feminists mad]), makes us the largest Disorganized religion on the whole silly (and I’ve shown the ``silly’’ part beyond a shadow of a doubt) planet.
    Therefore, walk proudly into church on Sunday morning, stroll up to the pulpit and read the Sunday comics out loud to the congregation! Sashay into the Temple on Saturday and make some good use of one of those Holy Flippy-Fliers! The next time you see a man prostrate towards Mecca, hop on his back and yell ``Giddap!’’ These men are your Brothers, after all, and will know how to treat you.

There were no Jews before the religion came along. Everybody was called something else.


Judaism = cultural epigenetics. Horizontal transfer. Informing the organism of society.

This is the secret to their intelligence. They are society’s library of immunities.

I further contend that anarchism is the best and most ideal form of Judaism (because it captures the character and essence of the cryptic nature of Judeo-hacking).

Secular Jewish Anarchism

Many people of Jewish origin, such as Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Martin Buber, Murray Bookchin, Noam Chomsky, Murray Rothbard or David D. Friedman have played a role in the history of anarchism. However, as well as these individual anarchists of Jewish origin, there have also been specifically Jewish anarchist movements, within the Yiddish-speaking communities of Eastern and Central Europe, and the Western cities to which they migrated, from the late nineteenth century until the Second World War. All the members of the first anarchist group in the Russian Empire, which was formed in 1903 in Białystok, were Jews[1]. Yiddish-speaking Jews participated to the International Anarchist Congress of Amsterdam in 1907.

Jewish anarchist movements tended to stress the internationalist character of the movement, but many of them also supported their national culture and focused on specifically Jewish issues. Yiddish anarchist literature flourished since 1880s till 1950s and, on much smaller scale, till 1980s; the last Yiddish periodical publication, Problemen was published in 1991. In addition to many original books, pamphlets, poems and essays, all the major works of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Mikhail Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin, Errico Malatesta, Henry Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, Max Stirner and other anarchists were translated into Yiddish. Rudolf Rocker, a non-Jewish German anarchist, had studied Yiddish and authored many Yiddish books, pamphlets and articles. Most Jewish anarchists were anarcho-syndicalists, while a few others were individualist anarchists.

Different anarchist groups had different views on Zionism and the Jewish question. Bernard Lazare was a key figure in both the French anarchist movement and early Zionist movement. The later Territorialist movement, especially the Freeland League, under the leadership of Isaac Nachman Steinberg, was very close to anarchism. Some others, such as Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem, advocated non-nationalist forms of Zionism, and promoted the idea of creating a binational Jewish-Arab federation in Palestine. Many contemporary anarchists support the idea of what has been dubbed the “no-state solution”.[2] Noam Chomsky has said that, as an anarchist, he ultimately favours such a no state solution, but in the short term feels a two-state solution is the best way out of the present conflict.


I declare myself a Judeo-Discordian, fNorD

@ NAme: I think you’ve been reading too much Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Ipan writes: “I spent quite a bit of time trying to delve into the history of Judaism. ... In any case, I’ve done so much reading…”

If that’s the case, then why do you keep spelling Jewry as Jewery?

This was an interesting find a few years back,


xexon, are you saying you agree with the premise of the book, or just that you found it interesting? Because if you agree with the premise, that the Jews are not a race, then I’m not sure just how that jives with your contention that the answer is genetic.  To your statement, “Judaism, is a religion, not a people, per se. Not a race,” I would counter that it’s more a people than a religion. Not a race, but a people. Yes, “people” is hard to define, but I think the vagueness works well.

Excellent article. I would add is that the principles of Judaism are principles of rational thought. See the new book Rational Thinking, Government Policies, Science, and Living. Rational thinking starts with clearly stated principles, continues with logical deductions, and then examines empirical evidence to possibly modify the principles. See also Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better.

Jews are a religion. However this particular group of people who eventually became Jews represent an an isolated group, gentically speaking. For the reasons I mentioned earlier, distance and unfriendly neighbors. You just couldn’t wander around because you wanted to.

After they embraced Judaism, that isolation was maintained, as Jews frowned upon from taking mates outside of their adopted religion. So any genetic traits that give them their tremendous IQ’s was also maintained. Right up to the modern day.

Had history gone differently, and they took up say Hinduism, we would be talking about Hindus instead of Jews.

It’s this lineage of people, not the labels we attach to them because of religion or culture.

I think a lot of the trouble people have with Jews is the belief of their being a “chosen people”. It does nothing but give everybody else an inferiority complex. My belief is that statement was meant only for the early Jews who were struggling to survive in some very hard times in their beginning. It was like a cheerleader yell at a pep rally. It was meant to inspire them to hang on for a better day.

Ancient Judaism was never really meant for export. And as soon as it was, the trouble began.

It didn’t help when a group of uber smart people with bad attitudes came along, and that part of it went right to their heads.


xexon writes: “I think a lot of the trouble people have with Jews is the belief of their being a “chosen people”. It does nothing but give everybody else an inferiority complex. “

I seriously doubt anyone reading this blog has an inferiority complex because of that teaching.

An “atheist Christian” or “atheist Muslim” is a contradiction in terms, but an atheist Jew is not. I contend that this refutes the notion that “Jews (sic) are a religion.” I’m not saying that Judaism /isn’t/ a religion; I’m just saying that religion is not the top way to define it.

You never defined ‘export’.—Is the ancient teaching about being “a light unto the nations” equivalent to the promotion of “exportation”? Anyway, your implication that this is when trouble began (and no troubles were around before that point?) is so vague (not to mention the nameless “uber smart people with bad attitudes”), it seems to have come from a place of bitterness as opposed to logical thinking.

I’m writing as a rabbi, as a Jew of Ashkenazi descent, and as someone who’s generally interested in what Hank is thinking and writing about.

I’ll say right out that I find the article, and the general sweep of this conversation, disturbing.  I’m reading Hank’s intention as being rooted his interest in finding pathways to a better future for ourselves and for humanity.  While I share that goal, I think this line of approach carries with it serious and dangerous consequences.

What distrubs me is the singling out, the “othering” of Ashkenazi Jews.  It doesn’t much matter to me whether this othering occurs in a negative light (anti-Semitism) or in a positive light (philo-Semitism).  The othering itself is deeply problematic, and needs to be examined, questioned, and I believe, resisted.

The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman wrote about this phenomenon, called “allosemitism” (from allo-  meaning “other”) in an important essay called “Allosemitism: Premodern, Modern, Postmodern” in the collection “Modernity, Culture and ‘the Jew’”, edited by Bryan Cheyette and Laura Marcus (Stanford University Press, 1998).

An article in the Jewish press by Ruth Ellen Gruber looks at allosemitism in the context of contemporary European experience.

This work is part of a larger discourse about “Jewish difference.”  It concerns the ways in which Jewish particularity is perceived and defined both internally by Jews and externally by others who are thinking about Jews, and it examines the anxieties and disruptions of people’s identities that arise from perceptions of Jews as “different” or “other.” 

My concern is that with this article, Hank, you’re contributing, if unwittingly, to the continuing “othering” of Jews (even if you’re specifically talking about Ashkenazi Jews).  Left unchallenged, this othering promotes prejudice and stereotyping about Jews, at its best.  And at its worst, it seeds the ground for violent eruptions of anti-Semitism when times are tough and people need a target for their rage and pain.

Finally, I think that in addition to being dangerous, the conclusions here are just plain wrong.  I doubt the truth of the claim that Ashkenazi Jews are “impressively greater in brain power than the bulk of the human population.”  Like some others here, I question “IQ” as a reliable measure of intelligence, not to mention wisdom.  I also question research that claims to make valid calculations about the average IQ of millions of people over many centuries.  Jews, like members of most groups of people, are diverse in intelligence, wisdom, athletic ability, creativity, race, etc.

As a group, in the boradest strokes, Jews may stand out in some ways from the majority populations among whom most of us live, and have lived, throughout our history.  But I believe we have to take great care when we try to make claims about what Jewish difference is, where it comes from, and what it may mean.

I wasn’t referring to people “here”. But people of fundamentalist mindsets are also the same people who tend to mix racism with their religion of choice. “Christ killers” only gets these types going. The Klan is a perfect example of this. I come from Alabama originally and have seen it in action.

I don’t agree that there’s such a thing as an atheistic Jew. But I do understand how modern semantics have cemented these two words together. I can see “former” Jew or a person who was raised in a Jewish culture, “ethnic Jew. But as far as I’m concerned, if you don’t embrace the religion, you have no entitlement to the term Jew.

It’s no different than being a Catholic. Both religions have extensive cultures born around the religion iself. But neither would exist if it were not for that religion.

Export as in remaining a tight group in ancient Israel. Judaism doesn’t actively recruit. People kind of wander into it. And those who did in those early days became Jews where they were formally pagan before.

If they changed their mind later and went back to Baal worship or whatever, would you still feel the need to call them Jews?

It may be a new century, but the technicalities are still the same.

Bitterness? None at all. I have no religion. And I beat everybody else’s with the same stick. You’ve killed more people than you’ve ever saved. If I seem harsh, it’s only because of the incestuous relationship between religion and politics. Those who have adopted the vile philosophy of Herzl zionism use both to further their own agenda. And with an intelligence greater than those around them, they’ve been quite successful.

“God”, by whatever your definition, is about personal perception, not personal belief. The ability to see spiritually cannot be manipulated. Belief is wide open to it.



@ Dev and others - there is and always has been a great deal of resistance in the field of IQ studies, especially when there is any ethnicity that is being examined separately.  There is a fear, as Dev notes, that there will prejudice leveled against various ethnicities for having a higher, or lower, IQ than the human “average”.  This “othering” that happens is indeed disturbing if it is used in a negative way.

My opinion, which is shared, I believe, by the bulk of researchers - is that there is the possibility of huge social value that can be attained via IQ studies. “Environmentalist” IQ researchers believe that up to 50% of IQ is due to a wide variety of child development factors, such as nutrition, pre-natal care, interaction with the parents, emphasis on education, sensory experiences, and even things like music training, playing chess, positive discipline, and absence of cigarette smoke. 

I approached this topic as a parent of two children, who was intrigued by Jewish (and Asian) academic success in the USA.  I want the best opportunities for my young children; this led me to investigate the reasons for high Ashkenazi IQ, in the hopes that I’d find tips to enhance my own offspring’s learning abilities.

That said, I also think there is a general resistance to IQ studies because we all want to believe that we are absolutely “equal” and it is considered, by some, to be rather evil or at least politically-incorrect,
to look at any categorization that separates us in any way.  I actually think many people who refuse to acknowledge cognitive differences do so because they believe that a moral world would not have creating such distinctions. 

Unfortunately, the tough news is that nature is not at all interested in our wish for the world to be “fair.” So, that leaves us with the choice to either bury our heads in the sand and pretend everybody “is just the same” or, else, for us to seriously examine what or what does not work in the difficult business of building intelligence.

To conclude, it seems to me that humanity can either muddle forward and ignore what we’re learning - quickly - about learning cognition, or we can apply everything our researchers are discovering, to make sure everyone entering the world has a chance to develop the best brain possible.

to continue…. 

The resistance to IQ studies is more “Western” not “Eastern” -
check out this link:

In China, people are paying $800+ to get their children tested early in life, so that they can prepare them for careers that they have genetic aptitude in.  Meanwhile, in the West, many parents and educators are appalled by IQ testing - and deny its validity - for a variety of reasons.

I do think some resistance to IQ studies is a carry-over from religious beliefs - Christianity purports that “we are all equal in the eyes of God” and everyone’s “soul” is theoretically “egual.” But if you take a more scientific stance, believing only in what is provable, you find that what we all have are brains that are not at all similar.  They are different, with different - and therefore not equal - abilities.

This evidence that we have been “created unequal” is perhaps alarming to religious sensibilities.  Does USA resistance to IQ testing bears a resemblance to the long ban on stem cell research?  I think so…

However, even if some of us don’t like IQ testing, the world is proceeding with it as an important indicator.  SAT tests, which bear a great resemblance to IQ tests, are used to determine who enters college.  Improving one’s IQ, via any “environmental” methods that can be utilized, enhance one’s ability to enter academia.

The PISA tests, which compare schools internationally, are also quite similar to IQ tests.  Students from China (Shanghai) placed #1 in Reading, #1 in Science, #1 in Math.  USA students were far far behind…

To conclude, I want to point out that my article has been circulated widely and appreciatively - often copied in total - on several Jewish websites.  Here’s a partial list:

plus, I was sent an email from a rabbi in Seattle, praising the article, and a friend in Israel says, “I liked every word.”

@ xexon: “But as far as I’m concerned, if you don’t embrace the religion, you have no entitlement to the term Jew.”

You are surely entitled to your opinion, but lets just say it counts a lot less if you’re not Jewish.

@ Hank: “this led me to investigate the reasons for high Ashkenazi IQ, in the hopes that I’d find tips to enhance my own offspring’s learning abilities.”

You have a lot in common with the South Korean ambassador to Israel, Ma Young-Sam. I have a suspicion that you’re already familiar with what he’s said.

@ Ronaldo - I didn’t know about Ma Young-Sam so thanks for telling me—I just read some fascinating info in the Israel National News that I will pass on below:

    “Reports of the Talmud being a national classic in South Korea
    have been floating around for several years, but it’s now official:
    The country’s ambassador to Israel, Ma Young-Sam, told the
    “Culture Today” TV show that Talmud study is now a mandatory
    part of the country’s school curriculum. In addition, it is said,
    almost every home in South Korea boasts a Korean version of
    the Talmud, and mothers commonly teach it to their children,
    who call it the “Light of Knowledge.” Why? “We were very
      curious about the high academic achievements of the Jews,”
    Young-Sam explained, according to a Ynet report. “Jews have a
    high percentage of Nobel laureates in all fields – literature,
    science and economics. This is a remarkable achievement. We
    tried to understand: What is the secret of the Jewish people?
    How are they, more than other people, able to reach those
    impressive accomplishments? Why are Jews so intelligent? The
    conclusion we arrived at is that one of your secrets is that you
    study the Talmud… We believe that if we teach our children
    Talmud, they will also become geniuses. This is what stands
    behind the rationale of introducing Talmud study to our school

Hank: I agree this thread should stay on (this very interesting) topic. But I raise eyebrows over you singling out my comment for a “don’t go off-topic” flag when I clearly limited my remarks to only a brief reply on political issues others already had brought up. I also gave an argument, not a “gripe”.

Back on topic. IQ increase can be beneficial but there might also be drawbacks. Do you know of any research on (positive/negative) connections between IQ increase and morality? More specifically, is there any research findings of two (or more) human subgroups that both have roughly the same, group average IQ advantage compared to average IQ for all humans but where one of the two subgroups score markedly higher in terms of some measureable and arguably morally relevant cognition/emotion factors. For example empathy. I’m convinced that a high IQ and “EQ” combo is benefitial but if there was a hard trade-off between the two then I would as a parent aim to boost EQ.

Forgive me, but at least one completely wrong theory is under People of the Book: the idea of universal education actually goes back to the Torah: the command that every father must constantly teach the commandments to his children. Joshua ben Gamla only starts a universal male school system. That that development resulted in a loss of 3/4 of the Jewish people during the Roman period does not make sense. However, later, due to the brutality of the Crusades, the vast majority of Ashkenazi Jews were murdered.

@ Jonah - sorry about my comment !  My apologies!  And thanks for staying on the IQ topic. 

regarding your question - here are two links you might find interesting:

the first is about a study that revealed that “self-discipline” is more than twice as important to getting a high GPA, as IQ.  That seems obvious to me, it’s better to sit down and do the homework than to just think you’re so brilliant you don’t have to do it.

The second refers to IQ and EQ.  I admit though, that I don’t know much about EQ.  I’ve heard that people who have a high IQ but are always emotionally traumatized are less effective than those with lower IQs but high EQs, who find dealing with life emotionally uncomplicated.  I’ve also heard that a high EQ is important for managerial positions.  Beyond those two details though, I’m quite ignorant re: EQ.  Let me know what you learn?

@ Jeremiah - thanks for entering the discussion.  Regarding your question, I’ll just pass along my source material:

“In AD 64, the Jewish high priest Yehoshua ben Gamla issued an edict specifying that all males be able to read the Talmud”
( “Intelligence and How to Get It” by Richard Nisbett)

“From the end of the second century C.E., Judaism enforced a religious norm requiring Jewish fathers to educate their sons. We present evidence supporting our thesis that this change in the religious and social norm had a major influence on Jewish economic and demographic history. First, the high individual and community cost of educating children in subsistence farming economies (2nd to 7th centuries) prompted voluntary conversions, which account for a large share of the reduction in the size of the Jewish population from 4.5 million to 1.2 million.”
(“From Farmers to Merchants, Voluntary Conversions and Diaspora:
A Human Capital Interpretation of Jewish History”
by Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein, August 2006)

I recommend reading the second source, it has fascinating equations explaining how Jews who were subsistence farmers could not afford educating their sons…  It is written by researchers from Universita Bocconi in Milan, and Tel Aviv University

I want to point out, that the article that Dev linked to, shares resonance with idea’s I’ve been presenting.

A quote from that article:

The project statement doesn’t use the term “allosemitism.” Instead it describes Jews and Roma as having “transcultural” European identities “in both fact and imagination.”

This, it states, has led to the condemnation of both groups as “rootless,” “parasitic,” “degenerate” and worse, as well as to continuing anti-Semitic and anti-Roma outbursts. At the same time, it notes, “the same transcultural character of Yiddish and Roma music is romanticized and embraced by contemporary ‘world music’ pop culture, which frames it as subversive and transgressive and therefore ‘hip.’ “

I’ll be back later to discuss this in more detail, and to respond to some comments.

I feel that the way in which this article attempts to approach a discussion of intelligence is flawed.

To try and discover intelligence through the lens of statistics and collectivism is highly problematic.

It presents statistics, without acknowledging much how statistics are obtained, or how they are interpreted by the human mind.

For example, is anyone curious how these statistics would be interpreted by people of varying IQ’s? I.E., do people within different IQ ranges see these statistics, and derive different meaning from them?

Where are the graphs? We know the median IQ (117 - a figure that is disputed in different studies, but which Hank almost derisively dismisses - presumably because favoring the higher number helps support his article - isn’t this selection bias or something?)

Who here is actually a trained statistician?

I believe that the pursuit of understanding what intelligence is, is more fruitful when one studies individuals.

But, let’s get back to the transcultural issue.

It seems that Judaism, throughout all history, has been a process of discovering the best aspects of a culture, and assimilating them.

Look at how they began in Babylon, then migrated to Egypt, then to ancient Israel. Nomads. Wanderers. Picking up useful ideas wherever they went.

This I think is one of the key reasons why Jews are so smart. Every few hundred years the definition and identity of Judaism gets redefined.

This prevents it from becoming stagnant.

There are even key components of the religion itself that aid this process.

For example, Judaism is one of the earliest religions to adopt the idea of a “hidden god”.

Why is that important? I often like to compare it to the notion of an asymptote. It puts god beyond the horizon of observability. The effect this has on people contemplating it, is to constantly inquire and attempt to discover it. Because it’s beyond our reach, we eternally reach for it. Not too different than the Tao.

In religions where god is not hidden from view, you see far less of this. Judaism has a tradition of questioning. It is considered normal to question god, and god’s existence. It’s encouraged. Many other religions abhor this questioning.

This tradition fits right in with Judaisms transcultural heritage.

what is the maximum IQ authorized and do rich will be able to be fourty times more smart, if they have the money ? But do we even need to try to manage such technical stuff for some “random smart senses connected to mind” can come ?

Hank, you seemed to be receptive to searching the last reference I suggested, the one about the South Korean ambassador. Here’s one more: Check out what the French medieval monk, Abelard (d. 1142), wrote about Jewish education.

The French medieval monk, Peter Abelard (1079-1142), wrote about Jewish education:

“A Jew, however poor, even if he had ten sons, would put them all to letters, not for gain as the Christians do, but for understanding of God’s law. And not only his sons, but his daughters.”

“not only they would go to school, but they would work there, for god’s law has to be taught trhough painfull education ; harder and harder”

Jesus is a Jew… I think they’re spiritually blessed!

Do we need to accept that the results of the “IQ test” relate to something transendentally intelligent, (not ethnically selective etc.)?  If so, then we are to understand that ‘intelligence’ is a universal objective that you (specifically) can not only completely understand but also constructively and accurately measure in a metaphysical sense.  I mean, that would be a new one for me.  That’s fine.  I just want to nail this down.  IQ = human.  (?).  What is the scientific basis of the “IQ test” (by the way).


In the first comment of this thread, what you seem to be echoing is secondhand anti-semitic memes that have little basis in reality. What you are describing is liberalism broadly, and liberalism is a tradition which transcends race.

It may or may not be true that some races are more liberal than others. Some may claim that intelligence and liberalism are correlated, because xenophobia is irrational… it is caused by ignorance and exacerbates it.

Yet, intelligence and ignorance seem to coexist happily for many very cognitively powerful people. Anyone who would accuse religious fundamentalists or fascists of being stupid are dangerously underestimating their opposition.

Of course intelligence comes in many flavors. Fascists seem to well understand how to wage political warfare, even if they aren’t always well-rounded. Though I can think of fascists in basically all disciplines… philosophy, mathematics, economics, music, art, poetry.

Absolutely none of it is to my taste, including their art, but it proves that we musn’t make the mistake of conflating intelligence and liberalism. And Ashkenazim certainly have their fair share of fascists among them, like all other races.

In isolation intelligence is quite meaningless. For someone in the left-libertarian spectrum like myself, who disagrees with just about everyone, I find it extremely frustrating to attempt to reason with fellow Ashkenazi who are undoubtedly intelligent and nevertheless incapable of budging from their various irrational ideologies.

And I see nothing consistent about the forms those ideologies take. I see liberals, theocrats, fascists, pacifists, anarchists, neo-conservatives, “moderates,” apolitical spiritualists, dogmatic fundamentalists, and everything in between.


In the first comment of this thread, what you seem to be echoing is secondhand anti-semitic memes that have little basis in reality.


In linguistics and ethnology, Semitic (from the Biblical “Shem”, Hebrew: שם, translated as “name”, Arabic: ساميّ) was first used to refer to a language family of largely Middle Eastern origin, now called the Semitic languages. This family includes the ancient and modern forms of Akkadian, Amharic, Arabic, Aramaic, Ge’ez, Hebrew, Maltese, Phoenician, Tigre and Tigrinya among others.

Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim (Hebrew: אַשְׁכֲּנָזִים, pronounced [ˌaʃkəˈnazim], singular: [ˌaʃkəˈnazi]; also יְהוּדֵי אַשְׁכֲּנָז, Y’hudey Ashkenaz, “the Jews of Ashkenaz”), are the Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities along the Rhine in Germany from Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north. Ashkenaz is the medieval Hebrew name for this region and thus for Germany. Thus, Ashkenazim or Ashkenazi Jews are literally “German Jews.” Later, Jews from Western and Central Europe came to be called “Ashkenaz” because the main centers of Jewish learning were located in Germany (see below) Ashkenaz is also a Japhetic patriarch in the Table of Nations (Genesis 10).


Part of what I’ve been getting at is this seeming deliberate redefining of the very terms like “semitic” and “Jew”.

Where do these terms come from? What do they mean? Why do people change the meaning of them to suit their purposes?

And what does that have to do with IQ?

This very process of redefinition seems to be ingrained into the multiculturalism that I’m pointing out.


But, I’m also trying to point out the flaws in Hank’s approach to the topic.

Where are the professional statisticians to help us figure out how to interpret statistics?

It seems like this article is aimed at leading the horse to water.

For example, Hank says:

Ashkenazi Jews are smart. Shockingly brilliant, in general. Impressively greater in brain power than the bulk of the human population.

And then quotes statistics that say that Ashkenazi have a mean IQ of 117.


I have an IQ of 140, and I don’t consider myself brilliant. Above average, yes, but not genius.

My beef with the article has nothing to do with Judaism, but that I resent sloppy use of statistics, particularly for political, or socio-political goals.

Hank insists that he just wants to figure out how to give his children the best advantages, but I don’t believe him. It seems more like he’s hiding behind the “it’s for the children!” defense, and I’m not buying it. He can’t make his children Jewish, it’s too late for that. All he can do now, after the fact, is nurture their intelligence to the best of his ability.

I don’t know, I just think the whole thing is a set up. It carries a thin veneer of credibility.

Hank also says:

That said, I also think there is a general resistance to IQ studies because we all want to believe that we are absolutely “equal” and it is considered, by some, to be rather evil or at least politically-incorrect,
to look at any categorization that separates us in any way. I actually think many people who refuse to acknowledge cognitive differences do so because they believe that a moral world would not have creating such distinctions.

I thought about that, and I’ve also been reading a lot about Christopher Langan, a man from Long Island who is reported to possibly have the highest IQ in the world (his IQ is so high, that IQ tests can’t actually determine what his IQ is because the test doesn’t test that high - but they estimate that his IQ is somewhere between 190-210).

What I realized is that the anti-IQ sentiment that Hank refers to applies to collectivism more than individuals.

I have no resentment of Chris, or any other individual with a high IQ. In fact, I find them to be an inspiration.

But, as I point out, I believe that trying to view IQ through the lens of collectivism and statistics is fraught with danger.

From Dev’s article:

“People who think Jews are smarter than everyone else don’t have Jewish relatives,” my brother Frank likes to quip.

So again, my real issue is how statistics are used to mislead.

Is it a statistical anomaly? What was the median IQ of Ashkenazi Jews in the 50’s, the 60’s, the 70’s, and so on (in other words, can we show on a graph that there has been a rise, has it always been this way for thousands of years? Has something changed in the past few decades that caused an increase in their IQ?)

These kinds of questions are not asked. Rather, the article seems to lead people by the nose to draw simplistic conclusions.

I have more interest in studying intelligence through neuroscience, fMRI, and other studies that actually look at people’s brains on a physical level.

Cultural studies are always skewed and open to a high degree of misinterpretation. There have been STUDIES done on this very tendency to misinterpret, and that’s why I keep bringing up the fact that the article itself lacks and analysis of how we are supposed to look at these statistics in the first place.

And, a median IQ of 117 isn’t all that remarkable, at least not to me. If it was 150 I’d do a double take. Maybe that’s just bias stemming from having an IQ of 140.

In addition, with the possibility of cognitive enhancement technology in the very near future, that will probably boost anyone with access to it to well above 200 IQ, is a slight statistical uptick of a mere 117 even that relevant in the face of the Singularity?

I hope I’ve made myself more clear, and not added any confusion to my position.

It’s merely irresponsible use of statistics that I don’t like. The article wants to lead us to a conclusion that I don’t think is valid, and despite Hank’s assertions to the contrary, I don’t believe him when he says his motives are altruistic. It doesn’t pass the smell test to me (and I don’t think Hank is a bad person at all, but I’m keen on detecting social/memetic manipulation).

I should have added this to the bottom of my last post, but here goes.

Just as a reminder of how things can be manipulated, I’d like to point out that a self-proclaimed Rabbi and Ashkenazi Jew who has posted in this thread (and this is the internet, do we really know the identities of anyone? Am I an Ashkenazi Jew? What about you? Who are any of us here on the hypernets?)

Said the following:

I’ll say right out that I find the article, and the general sweep of this conversation, disturbing. I’m reading Hank’s intention as being rooted his interest in finding pathways to a better future for ourselves and for humanity. While I share that goal, I think this line of approach carries with it serious and dangerous consequences.

What distrubs me is the singling out, the “othering” of Ashkenazi Jews. It doesn’t much matter to me whether this othering occurs in a negative light (anti-Semitism) or in a positive light (philo-Semitism). The othering itself is deeply problematic, and needs to be examined, questioned, and I believe, resisted.

And to a degree, I agree with this, and have been trying to point this out. The irresponsible use of statistics in this way will not do much good for Ashkenazi’s, or the rest of the world.

It will accentuate divisions amongst people, and in my view it’s specifically looking at it through a collective and statistical lens that does this.

But here’s the dilemma, and this is meant to illustrate in part the problem with this kind of thinking:

There are Ashkenazi Jews in this thread who would disagree with me (and I’d point out that I think that Ronaldo purposefully tries to bait people), and at the same time there are Ashkenazi Jew(s) in this thread who also, at least to some extent, echo similar arguments as I have.

Who is to be believed? Thus, the entire approach is flawed until we have a more objective way to derive the correct inferences from the data. Currently, it’s just data points without context.

Here’s a study you might find interesting:

Children Play Like Scientists Work

Young children play like scientists work, according to a new research project at MIT and Stanford University.


My conclusion: Intelligence begins by nurturing natural curiosity and experimentation.

The disciplinary approach to education is what is at fault. High intelligence results from having a “gaming mentality”.

@ iPan—in regards to the question, is my article good for the Jews?
I did some research and found this:

Are Jews Smarter?  by Jennifer Senior

So. Is this study good for the Jews? [referring to: Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence by University of Utah researchers] I talk to Abe Foxman, legendary head of the Anti-Defamation League, whose life’s mission is the pristine upkeep of the Jewish reputation. His answer surprises me. “If it’s a genetic condition,” he says, “it’s not for us to embrace or reject. It is what it is, and that’s the way the genetic cookie crumbles.” I detect a note of pride in his voice.


@iPan and others—just some simple questions, explaining my motivation for the article -

Is it wise and beneficial to study the lives of successful people, to determine how they garnered their achievements?

Is it wise and beneficial to study the structure and policies of successful nations and historical eras, to determine how they obtained their accomplishments?

Is it wise and beneficial to examine a culture that receives 117 times more Nobel Prizes than its population ratio, and also ranks highest in intelligence testing?

Yes yes yes I decided, which is why I wrote the article.  I have also written articles on South Korea, Singapore, Israel, and Brazil’s agricultural prowess.  I believe that it is important to examine high achievement, to learn from it, and pass on the valuable info.

My desire to do this is obviously tranhumanistic.

I read all 8 pages of this article Hank.

And my interpretation of the article says to me that it supports far more of the points I’ve been making.

Let me try to rephrase once again.

Intelligence is multi-causal, not mono-causal.

I think you look at it far too simply. Your article here at IEET comes across as flat, 2-dimensional.

You make blanket statements, such as this one, the FIRST line in your article:

Ashkenazi Jews are smart. Shockingly brilliant, in general. Impressively greater in brain power than the bulk of the human population.

While the article you just linked to, shows a far more complex picture, and draws less conclusions than it raises questions.

That’s the point I keep trying to get at.

Your article seems to want to draw people to a foregone conclusion. It seems more politically oriented to me than scientific.

The article you linked goes so much farther into discussing these ambiguities, which is exactly what I’ve been trying to point out.

Intelligence is such a nebulous concept. There are so many unknowns.

You make absolute statements such as “Ashkenazi Jews are smart. Shockingly brilliant, in general.”, and I think this is disingenuous.

The truth is much more complex. Intelligence is a confluence of many factors, and is not exclusive to any ethnic group.

Is it wise and beneficial to study the lives of successful people, to determine how they garnered their achievements?


Is it wise and beneficial to study the structure and policies of successful nations and historical eras, to determine how they obtained their accomplishments?

Generally not with the lack of subtlety that is done here.

Too many people don’t correctly infer from the data that is presented a clear picture of what is really going on.

Why do you think I keep bringing up the interpretation of statistics?

You treat statistics as if the data itself is a self-evident conclusion.

It is not. What I am skeptical of is the interpretation of statistics, and I point out that statistical studies have been done on how human groups interpret statistics. A kind of meta-statistical study. The results of that are interesting too.

9 out 10 doctors agree, there is at least one more doctor.

Some Jews are really smart. Some Ashkenazi are really smart too. Even, some Israelites are pretty clever. And then, there are some Hebrews, some Judeans, and some Semites that are brilliant.

I’m pretty sure there are a few Pacific Islanders with a lot of brain power. Then there is the fact that there is at least one Canadian with an IQ over 123.

Who’s who and what does it mean? What is the statistical relevance of it all?

No one knows. This article doesn’t clarify anything, so what is it’s purpose?

I had a conversation with a friend once, after taking several IQ tests in rapid succession, and learning that I had an average IQ of about 140.

I was uncomfortable with this, and remarked to my friend that I felt that IQ was far too limiting in it’s description of what intelligence is, that it was incredibly superficial.

He remarked that people with low IQ’s rarely understand that.

So we have an interesting paradox: those with higher IQ’s tend to understand that IQ really isn’t the totality of intelligence, while those with lower IQ’s tend to place too much importance on it.

If only everyone were smart enough to understand this inherent limitation in standardized testing 😉


I can sympathize with the quote you posted

“People who think Jews are smarter than everyone else don’t have Jewish relatives,”

Though I have relatives at many levels of intelligence. Despite knowing many dim-witted Ashkenazi, I can still believe the claim that on average the intelligence level is high.

In my family I can think of a fair number of geniuses, quite a few above average intellects, quite a few average intellects, and a few below average intellects. And one autistic savant.

Assuming IQ tests are measuring something important about intelligence, does that average out to be 117? My guess is probably.

I also sympathize with you finding 117 to be unremarkable. I often find above average intellects to be either incredibly boring or incredibly frustrating. The geniuses at least aren’t boring, but they are often just as unreasonable.

I also noticed that no one yet has examined the German descent of the Ashkenazi’s, and it’s connection to their intelligence.

We focus on their Jewish descent, but not their Germanic descent.

The Germans have also been known as a really intelligent people for a long time.

Maybe the Ashkenazi’s intelligence isn’t derived from their Jewishness, but from their Germanicness.

I’m not asserting that this is true, I’m illustrating yet again how factors can be overlooked in favor of a foregone conclusion.

Why do we ignore their German heritage to emphasize their Jewish heritage?

Hmmm….seems like people are biased.

See also:–Kruger_effect

@ iPan - regarding Ashkenazi Jews and German, there was a study done to determine how “European” the Ashkenazi were, and the conclusion was between 35-55%.  The research was done at Emory University.

There is a longer discussion of this topic going on at

iPan thinks I created this essay for “political” reasons?
Not true, I presented it for the reasons I mentioned above.

Personally, I think those who deny the stats I am presenting do so for “political correctness” reasons.

In my continued reading, I’ve noticed that Jews and Chinese are similar in that they both, early on, had a legal and ethical code. Chinese have Confucianism, Jews have the Torah.  Together this 5% of the American population occupies 50% of Ivy League student enrollment. 

I think it’s important to determine how intelligence, i.e., academic success, is developed. Ability to succeed in an academic setting frequently leads (eventually) to societal contributions.

I find the best-seller, “Guns, Germs and Steel” quite silly because it portrays human history as a consequence of merely environmental factors.  It seeks to take “culture” out of the equation.  I think a more accurate portrayal of history would be in a book entitled, “Brains, Books, and Schools” - that title indicates my belief - that literacy and education create successful societies.

I think EmbraceUnity and I are on the same wavelength.

I appreciate many Jewish people and things.

I was just listening to Regina Spektor, a Russian Jew, who writes hauntingly beautiful music.

I love bagels and lox. And kosher laws. Breaking wine glasses at weddings.

And Jewish geniuses. Wolfgang Pauli, Gregory Pincus, Murray Gell-Mann, and the list goes on and on.

What my last example was meant to illustrate was how easy it is to misinterpret these things without professional guidance from someone who is trained to do so (and even then…...)

Since the Ashkenazi are of German desecent, and the Ashkenazi are smart, we can make the correlation that the Ashkenazi must be smart because they are German, and therefore the obvious conclusion is that Germans are superior in intellect to other peoples.

I used this specific example to HIGHLIGHT that we all know where that leads.

Yes Hank, only you know your true intentions. However, having seen 100’s of studies like this, and importantly how PEOPLE react to them, I feel they only have one purpose: to advance some kind of socio-political agenda, simply because that’s all this is capable of doing.

I keep pointing out that intelligence is better studied on an individual level.

Here, a quote from you:

that title indicates my belief - that literacy and education create successful societies.

Again, isn’t this what I pointed out? Socio-political reasons?

What does successful societies mean?

The point I keep making is to stop looking at it on a collective level. It leads to hot water.

The Germans believed that collectively they were superior to other people.

I am not denying that the statistics you present are true, I am questioning the utility of them, and the ability of readers (including myself) to draw useful conclusions and inferences from it.

This is what your article doesn’t address. You don’t address the very nature of statistical analysis. You don’t address the perception that people may gain (and I also suggested that people from a diverse range of IQ’s would themselves interpret the statistics in a different light depending on what their IQ - that was intended to be a kind of meta-irony) from how they interpret it.

I am suggesting that attempting to rank cultures and societies using these methods is inherently flawed.

Celebrate diversity and intelligence wherever it is found in individuals.

What your doing is part of the 20th century paradigm of competition of cultures. That’s fine, I understand you are a generation older than me, and that’s how things have been done for a long time.

It’s time to change our outlook. It’s time to reign in this clash of cultures. It’s time to embrace unity.

As far as the Ashkenazi go, I think their multi-culturalism is probably the highest contributor to their intelligence.

It’s fairly widely known that learning multiple languages, being exposed to art, music, math, and science lead to great intelligence.

Polydidactism. Multi-lingualism. Opportunities for education and supportive nurturing parents will manifest whatever potential an individual may have.

It may be true that there is a hard limit to intelligence based on genetics. Nobody knows yet, but we do know from developmental disorders that there can be a lower limit in people with these disorders, so it’s natural to assume that there’s also an upper potential limit in people without them. The jury’s still out on that, as far as I know.

Regardless, it seems the most prudent thing to do, if you are a parent, is to follow the advice above:

Get your kids to learn several languages.
Offer them access to multiple forms of discovery and exploration, including art, music, philosophy, math, and science.

Encourage polydidactism. Let them travel to foreign countries so they become exposed to the widest diversity of human experience.

Anyone (with the resources) can do this, whether they are an Ashkenazi Jew, or a Native Amerind, or a Tibetan.

Intelligence has more to do with being exposed to the widest diversity of ideas possible.

In fact, of all the articles written at IEET on the subject of intelligence, I found Andrea Kuszewski’s to be the best.

She approaches the study of intelligence in the correct way.

She is brilliant, by the way, and I have immense respect for her (and kind of a little crush too - she’s beautiful as well as smart 😉

Here’s a quote from The Educational Value of Creative Disobedience”

Being a relentlessly curious child, I saw my father as my walking encyclopedia. My afternoon routine consisted of perching myself on a stool in his workshop, peppering him with random questions as he worked.

No matter how silly or trivial the question, he always had a generously detailed answer for me, thick with scientific evidence. I was perfectly content with this symbiosis until one afternoon—I must have been about 7 or 8 years old—when everything changed.

For anyone who accepts as valid a 117 median Ashkenazi IQ but considers it not to be particularly impressive, I think that a brief overview of the IQ distribution curve and standard deviations would reveal just how significant this is.

Assuming the same IQ distribution curve for Ashkenazim as for the general population (a bell-curve with 15-point standard deviation), a 17-point difference in the median has very significant implications for the number of superior- and genius-level IQs in that group. While there are probably myriad cultural factors that build on any heritable IQ advantage, a median measuring one whole standard deviation above the general populace goes a long way toward explaining disproportionate Jewish success in cognitively demanding endeavours and environments (e.g. ten-fold over-representation among Ivy League students and 116-fold over-representation among Nobel Laureates). However, as I’ll show, high IQs per se fall short of accounting for Ashkenazi over-representation in many areas, and due consideration has to be given to other culturally promoted traits like hard work, inquisitiveness, self-discipline and persistence.

In the IQ bell-curve for the general population, 70% of people have an IQ that falls between 86 and 115, with 100 being the exact median. IQ tests such as the Wechsler are re-normed every few years to preserve this median and the standard deviation ranges. (Interestingly, there is some evidence—the so-called “Flynn effect”—that non-normed raw performance on IQ tests has generally been improving over the decades, suggesting that people around the world have been generally getting “smarter” over the past two or three generations (perhaps attributable to better nutrition or greater parental sensitivity to and investment in children’s early developing minds, among other possible factors). In any case, the above figures are the normed range for “average” IQ in the general populace. Because it is an evenly distributed, symmetrical bell-curve, that 70% can be further bisected into 35% of people having IQs of 86-100 and 35% having IQs of 101-115. Outside of those 70% of people in the 86-115 range, 25% of people have IQs in the sub-85 range and in the 116-plus range; this 25% also can be symmetrically sub-divided into 12.5% on each side, so that 12.5% of people have sub-85 IQs and 12.5% of people have 116-plus IQs. This continues along 15-point standard deviations as you move farther from the median.

In other words, the general population’s IQ distribution looks like this:

69 and below: 2.5%
70-85: 12.5%
86-100: 35%
101-115: 35%
116-130: 12.5%
131 and above: 2.5%

ASSUMING that the same bell-curve distribution holds for Ashkenazim (15-point standard deviations from the median), a 17-point upward difference in median IQ would suggests the following IQ distribution across the Ashkenazi Jewish population:

87 and below: 2.5%
88-102: 12.5%
103-117: 35%
118-132: 35%
133-147: 12.5%
148 and above: 2.5%

If the above assumptions and calculations hold, this means that a randomly selected Ashkenazi Jew is five times more likely to qualify for Mensa than a non-Ashkenazi sampled from the general population (you can join Mensa with a 130+ on the Wechsler IQ test). The Wechsler IQ classifications eschew the “term” genius in favour of “very superior” for 130+ IQs, and there is disagreement among psychologists as to what IQ score might warrant the label “genius”; nonetheless, whether you set the genius threshold at 140 or 150 or 160 (the max possible score on the Wechsler), it is reasonable to extrapolate from the above that a randomly selected Ashkenazi Jew is several times more likely to be a genius than a random non-Ashkenazi.

To disentangle IQ from other factors behind Jewish intellectual achievement, it can be instructive to take as an example the phenomenon of Ashkenazi over-representation in the Ivy League:

If Jews make up 2% of the US population of 300 million, then there about 6 million Jews in the US; if 90% are Ashkenazi (the generally accepted figure) then that’s 5.4m. General age demographics in the US suggest that about 1 in 16 Americans is college-aged, so assuming these numbers also hold for Ashkenazis, there should be about 337,500 college-aged Ashkenazi. 50,000 of these kids have Mensa-calibre IQs of 133 or higher (in the 99th percentile of the general populace), which ought to be sufficient mental horsepower for Ivy League undergrad (a 2003 study found the average Harvard undergraduate’s IQ to be 130 (<>).
There should be about 460,000 college-aged non-Ashkenazi individuals with 130+ IQs in the US (294 million divided by 16, multiplied by 0.025).

If IQ were the sole criterion for Ivy League admission, then we might expect Ashkenazis to “fairly” comprise 10% of the 60,000 undergraduate seats in the Ivy League. As it is, they comprise double that (20%), so they would seem to benefit from some other factor/s that pull them ahead of their equally high-IQ non-Ashkenazi competition. IQ probably is, indirectly, a significant factor, given its high correlation with SAT performance and slight correlation with high school GPA (and given also the high IQ average seen at Harvard in the abovementioned study). And yet other factors must be at play, or else a fair distribution of IQs in the college population would predict half as many Ashkenazi Jews in the Ivy League as there currently are. These other factors doubtless include such personality traits as work ethic, strategic planning for the future, setting high goals for oneself, focus, self-discipline, self-sufficiency, curiosity, experimentation, critical thinking, persistence and all those other qualities that tend to have been enthusiastically promoted in Jewish households for centuries. Qualities like these—if particularly abundant among high-IQ college-aged Ashkenazis—would mean that these individuals are not only among the brightest but also have some of the most competitive applications all around.

The 116-fold over-representation of Ashkenazis among Nobel Laureates similarly defies explanation purely by high IQ. I do think that very high IQ may be almost a de facto prerequisite for the kind of out-of-the-box, paradigm-shifting, groundbreaking theorizing and research that garners Nobels, but significant elements are creativity, imagination, persistence and intense focus within a specialization. These are as much personality traits as anything (though they can be culturally transmitted, and may also have a hereditary streak within families).

Intellectually impressive achievements such as Ivy League admission and (at the truly elite end) Nobel Prizes, Turing Prizes, Fields Medals and chess world championships involve substantial factors beyond just IQ. It is quite possible that once a certain relatively high IQ threshold is reached in these and other endeavors, the factor of IQ itself provides diminishing returns and becomes less relevant than other factors. Certain extremely cerebral activities like theoretical physics and pure mathematics probably do reward ever-higher IQs, but in virtually all endeavors—even at the most elite levels—one is better off being a smart Stakhanovite than a lazy Einstein. Even the astonishingly brilliant Nobel Laureate physicist (and Ashkenazi Jew) Richard Feynman apparently scored just 125 on his grade school IQ test. When he returned home from the Stockholm ceremony he finally looked up his grade-school IQ score and laughed out loud, saying “To win a Nobel Prize is no big deal, but to win it with an IQ of 125, now that’s an achievement!”

NB: The values, ranges and categories discussed above (“bright normal”, etc.) pertain to the Wechsler, perhaps the “gold-standard” IQ test currently in use around the world, and with decades of research, analysis and application behind it. When it comes to IQ, people often talk about scores they way they would an absolute measurement like weight or height, but this is misleading. Far more meaningful than the IQ score is the percentile, because this indicates where a person’s “intelligence” (or whatever quality the test purports to measure under that term) ranks relative to the general population.

@ Paul - thank you immensely for your contribution to this discussion, with all the valuable information you have provided.  You have done a wonderful job in both describing the significance that an overall IQ 17 points higher makes, and in explaining that there still needs to be other factors to account for Ashkenazi achievement.  I am grateful for the info you’ve presented, and I’ll be including it in future articles.

@iPan - I think the IEET editor, Mike Treder, did a great job by putting Andrea’s article up next to mine - her advice to individuals balances out my ethnic-focused discussion of IQ.  However, I believe it is valid to examine and address the IQ of specific nations, because governmental actions can be taken to assist citizenry in building intelligence.  For example, leaded gas is still used in many parts of Africa - lead is detrimental to cognitive learning.  China has not sufficiently protected its residents from mercury poisoning, with the same result. Research indicates physical education and music training are beneficial to building intelligence - should it therefore be part of education curriculums? Also, Andrea’s article is excellent for anyone old enough to read it and utilize it, but enormous “intelligence” is created from age 0-6, and there are dozens of factors that can enhance or retard it.
But thanks, for your continued interest in this discussion.

Just to clarify:

“If IQ were the sole criterion for Ivy League admission, then we might expect Ashkenazis to “fairly” comprise 10% of the 60,000 undergraduate seats in the Ivy League.”

This expectation derives from the speculative math in my previous post that there are 460,000 non-Ashkenazi college-age 130+-IQ people and 50,000 Ashkenazi college-age 130+-IQ people. Adding them together leads to the estimation that there are 510,000 college-aged 130+-IQ individuals in the US (of all races/ethnicities/creeds/genders/etc.). Of these, 50,000 (10.2%) are Ashkenazi. Thus an exclusively IQ-based admissions model would predict a 10% Ashkenazi presence in Ivy League undergrad—only half the current number.

This suggests that even if the admissions process were wholly IQ-meritorious and strictly high-IQ-selecting, Ashkenazi Jews could still be seen as two-fold over-represented relative even to their numbers within the high-IQ college-aged demographic. This suggests the presence of some factor/s besides mere IQ when it comes to explaining Ashkenazi over-representation in the Ivy League. I think that this example evinces a principle (that other cultural/personal factors play a vital part) which extends to other realms of Jewish achievement (Nobel prizes, etc.).

And to correct:

“NB: The values, ranges and categories discussed above (“bright normal”, etc.) pertain to the Wechsler…”

I initially included clinical classifications for the IQ scores and percentile ranges (e.g. 116-130 is “bright normal” to “superior”), but then I deleted this from my already overly detailed screed.

I’ll just add that all my speculative extrapolations out of the 117 median figure utilize Weschler ranges as I assume that the study giving rise to the 117 median also involved the Wechsler. If it used some other IQ test, such as the Stanford-Binet, then of course that test’s ranges and classifications should be substituted; however, because all IQ tests show a bell-curve distribution and are normed with similar standard deviations, my overall arguments would basically still apply.


Hank, you were far too humble when iPan challenged you with the following: “Intelligence is multi-causal, not mono-causal….
I think you look at it far too simply. Your article here at IEET comes across as flat, 2-dimensional.”

Immediately, I thought of Hank’s eight theories: “Squeezed into Brilliance, Escape Plan, etc.” and wondered if iPan skipped this section.

Also, when iPan didn’t like Hank’s opening sentence: “You make blanket statements.” I thought that Hank’s “blanket statement” was nothing other than Hank comparing groups as a whole, which is a perfectly legitimate thing to do. It’s not as if Hank thought that all individual Ashkenazi Jews are smarter than all other individuals.

@ Hank - Glad to contribute something. I really enjoyed your article, particularly the though-provoking questions at the end. It got me thinking and I had some time to kill, so what started as some back-of-the-napkin arithmetic ended up taking a bunch of napkins. Most people think of an IQ number as like a pinball game score; they aren’t aware that its significance is as an indication of relative ranking within a population distribution curve. That’s why I thought that the 117 median figure that forms the empirical basis of the IQ claim in your article—along with its implications and limitations in explaining Jewish intellectual achievement—could benefit from some context and further discussion. BTW, your kids are lucky to have a dad so invested in their intellectual growth and development—in a hyper-competitive globalized knowledge economy, they need every advantage they can get. I for one do hope that within our lifetimes, at least some of the rhetorical questions at the end of your article will be answered affirmatively.

@Ronaldo - I have not always acted “humble” when my articles were attacked. I used to be rabidly defensive, but I’ve decided that approach doesn’t work. I have had a long relationship with iPan via past articles, with perhaps hundreds of emails back and forth.  We frequently disagree, but my overall emotion about it is that I am very grateful to iPan for his readership, for his participation in discussions, and for the careful, critical thought he gives to my proposals.  I have a number of readers like him, and I appreciate them all.

Also, I quite consciously write provocative opening paragraphs, with statements that will hopefully pique interest, and I anticipate that many readers will just be angry after reading the opening paragraph.
I was actually guilty of responding furiously regarding this very same topic, many years ago.  I met a young Jewish veterinarian at a brunch party one morning, who blithely asserted in the course of some discussion, that “After all, Jews are just smarter.”  I was quite pissed off at his statement, because it seemed to imply that he thought he was smarter than me, etc etc. 

@ Paul.  You have really done excellent work and I’d like to get permission from you to use your statistics in another article.  Can you get in touch with me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  ? I’d give you co-writing credit, of course.  FYI, the word limit on these IEET articles is 1500 - 2000, but my intention is to expand the article to 3000-5000 words and put it in my next e-book that I am calling “Let’s Elevate Global Intelligence.” 

Plus, Paul, I am very grateful that you are, I believe, the only commenter who seemed to notice the conclusion I wrote.  There is huge interest in H+ circles of creating artificial intelligence for a Singularity, but I’d prefer that we use social measures to create an “organic” intelligence explosion - earlier in the article I state “what if everyone had Ashkenazi intelligence?” with the result being 116 times more Nobel Prize caliber individuals.  I am thankful to you for noticing this, because my hope with the article was to elicit support for that notion.  I can also be reached via Facebook, Hank Pellissier.  I welcome your collaboration in this effort.

I have to admit Hank, that I have not been focusing as much on the end of your article.

That’s the range of explanations. My opinion is they’re all possibly correct, but what most intrigues me are the “environmental” factors—factors that are accessible to all humanity.

I wonder, if the rest of the world really wants Ashkenazi-level achievement, why don’t we play chess with our children at night, instead of tossing them a violent video game? Why can’t we listen to their classical compositions on the weekend, instead of urging them to get concussions on the football field? Why can’t we provide them with excellent schools, entice them to learn oodles of foreign grammar, and convince them to believe in and expand their abilities, instead of forcing them to endure years of educational mediocrity and expecting nothing back but the same?

If all humanity adopted the best available characteristics of Ashkenazi culture, would we, as a whole, immensely benefit? Would we learn more quickly, more deeply, and produce greater wonders? Would we become over- instead of under-achievers?

If we promoted high IQ behavior to humans everywhere, globally, would we all become… enhanced? Better humans?

And I think this part: “If all humanity adopted the best available characteristics of Ashkenazi culture, would we, as a whole, immensely benefit? “

gets to the heart of my conclusion that multi-culturalism and polydidactism is the “secret sauce” of Ashkenazi intelligence (see my initial posts - much of the rest is getting side tracked into pointless details and responding to baiting by Ronaldo).

All along, I haven’t been arguing with the veracity of the statistics, but rather with *what is the take away meaning of them* (btw, Paul, very interesting and thorough examination of the stats).

In other words, what is the message. The numbers are just that: numbers. What we derive from them is not as cut and dry as we’d like it, and what I fear is overly simplified messages that your readers may get from it.

I fear the simple conclusions, like: Ashkenazi IQ = racial superiority. And I’ve tried to illustrate the dangers of that through my thought experiment about how we could also use association to conclude that since Ashkenazi are German descendants, we could just as easily pin their intelligence on being German, and then conclude that Germans are a superior breed of human.

The meta-irony in that is intentional.

But, but back to this interesting statement you made (and I admit it was probably slightly unfair to ignore the last part of your article, but I just kind of jumped in after reading the first part):

““If all humanity adopted the best available characteristics of Ashkenazi culture, would we, as a whole, immensely benefit? “”

If the intelligence of the Ashkenazi IS due to it’s multiculturalism, then by definition it is the best and most intelligent aspects of OTHER cultures. See my point?

Copying the Ashkenazi, IS copying all the other cultures that the Ashkenazi copied already.

It’s a hall of mirrors in a sense. So I guess I’m saying, follow their example, don’t copy them. Or, copy them by copying every culture (or more specifically those things that work the best in other cultures, while culling those things that do not work).

For example, politically and socially, I think we should be borrowing from the Scandinavian countries right now, something I know you are also interested in (and you may be interested to know - that I have a dying grandfather who is leaving my family a very large inheritance, possibly in the millions - and that I have decided to move to either Copenhagen, Oslo, or Helsinki in part due to your articles when this happens - I’m seriously considering buying property, most likely Copenhagen).

But the point isn’t to copy any one culture, but all of them, or at least their most effective aspects.

iPan, I prefer to view what I did as _rebutting_ you, not _baiting_ you. I think I did a fine job.

What I find even stranger is if these kinds of differences have any relevancy whatsoever in the face of the Singularity.

In particular, I’m talking about WikiMinds, and the Noosphere.

Just thought of something.


What if your paper had read, “Multiculturalism and It’s Contributions to Increases in Intelligence”, and as a subsection, addressed the Ashkenazi culture (including the statistical facts)?

How different would the article have been perceived in that light?

Maybe that makes my perspective more clear….maybe not…...

iPan - congratulations on your good fortune!  and the chance to move to Helsinki, Oslo or Copenhagen!  Yes, I visited all three of those cities just last month—and I would be happy to tell you my opinions on all of them.

I’d list them in this order, in terms of my preference:
1. Copenhagen
2. Helsinki
3. Oslo
I am highly in favor of Copenhagen, my feeling when I was there was that I wanted to move there.  I like the friendly Danes, the bike lanes, the canals, the architecture, even Tivoli was great fun.  Helsinki is a distant second, but quite likable as well.  I like the port atmosphere and the seafood and the way the Finns party outside when the weather is good.  Oslo is a very distant third.  I just don’t really like it, which is too bad because when I visited it 38 years ago, it was my favorite European city.  But now.. expensive and just not as interesting as the others.  Personality wise, I also prefer the Danes - they were the friendliest.  Be sure to look up Joern who I wrote the article with, if you get there.

Another city to perhaps consider is Bergen, in Norway.  Really a beautiful place. But I think you are best off in Copenhagen.  I don’t know how much money you have, but I do think it is expensive, though…

Hank et al:
I have read thru the entire thread here and would like to simply add a few points:
1) The discussion about IQ relevance is besides the point, as the data from so many other fields of life are overwhelming. The Swedes are not exactly known for their Philo-Semitism, but nevertheless (as Hank notes) the Nobel Prize numbers for Jews are way out of proportion. Thus, it is the CUMULATIVE evidence here that forms the rock-solid basis for the rest of Hank’s article.
2) An added cultural aspect that was mentioned by no one is the specific approach to Jewish learning: dialectic. The Talmud states, relating to a serious difference of opinion among the Rabbis: “both this and that opinion are the word of God”. The Jews developed from early on a mindset of being able to see different sides of the coin, and not get stuck in dogma. Indeed the Talmud itself is a huge compendium of ARGUMENTS and not a “Law Codex”—and it this work that Jews have been studying ever since. It hardly needs to be overstated how critical such thinking is for success in science etc. (This started much earlier: in the Bible they are called by God “A stiff-necked people” for arguing incessantly).
3) The Jewish Diaspora did not start in 70CE but rather in 586 BCE (600 years earlier). Indeed, by the time of the Second Temple’s destruction, about half of all Jews in the world lived “overseas”. Thus, Jews have 2500 years experience in “multi-culturalism”. Indeed, if one looks at the development of Judaism it is clear that the main changes (revolutionary indeed! from Biblical “literalist” Judaism to Rabbinic “humanist” Judaism) occurred precisely at the time the Jews began to seriously mingle with the Gentile world.
4) Israel has become so successful (hi-tech etc) precisely because of such multi-cultural intermingling of Jews from over 100 nations around the world with quite different mentalities and ways of doing things. The “Melting Pot” works well—and this is merely a continuation of the Jews “Melting Pot” experience over 2500 years of Diaspora.

2) An added cultural aspect that was mentioned by no one is the specific approach to Jewish learning: dialectic.

I specifically mention this at least once.


Judaism has a tradition of questioning. It is considered normal to question god, and god’s existence. It’s encouraged. Many other religions abhor this questioning.

That’s the right spirit, but a bit too narrow. Judaism encourages questioning EVERYTHING—the Law, the Rabbis’ logic, one’s own beliefs, as well as “secular truths”. Moreover, the Talmudic rabbis even developed a whole “system” for such questioning (i.e. argumentative principles) that Jews then used for 2000 years in both their religious learning and secular studies as well.
If already on the subject, I should point out that in large part this was NOT a Jewish “invention” but rather something they learned and adapted from the Greeks, a sort of “Socratic-Jewish” methodology. Traces of this influence can be seen in the traditional Passover Seder (festive meal) where the father of the family sits “reclining on a pillow” (as did the Greeks and later the Romans) while the youngest Jewish child is required to ask Four Questions (rather than learning about Passover by rote). This type of mentality was certainly unique in the Western world during the Middle Ages (after the fall of the Roman Empire), certainly within Catholic Europe that had a clear “authoritative” tradition.

@ Sam - thanks for mentioning the Talmud —I will definitely list it as a factor when I write about this topic in the future.

One commenter mentioned that South Koreans are interested in Jewish success, and gave me a link that led to an article that stated that many South Koreans read a version of the Talmud, and it is even taught in their schools! 

I bought the Talmud for myself,
a Kindle version that costs only 95 cents! here’s the link:

Hi Hank, it seems like you’ve got the very first English translation of the Talmud. You may wish to read a critique of Rodkinson’s translation here:

Whilst this is interesting from a statistical and historic point and has relevance when assessing the properties of past and present societies as a whole and who stood out and why, it means little in the long run. 

In the past humans were geographically, culturally (in a tribal sense) and technologically inhibited from communicating with those that are different, thus largely facilitating homogeneity, cultural preservation and respectively forming a unique mentality and even abilities. Hence It’s the tribal minded, ego driven beings that mostly populate this world that still over concern themselves with aspects of their own culture and race on a personal, non scientific level, compare it to that of others, experiencing pride and or anger in the process. However in the modern world the truly informed and intelligent, whom irrespective of race and cultural background have one common language: (ethics & logic) without any egocentric/tribal, dogmatic and cultural primitives present and this universal culture will hopefully only spread and prevail.
Please do not mistake the above paragraph as a promotion of multiculturalism, it is not, in fact I believe that prosperous countries should most certainly not flood themselves with 3rd world refugees and any other poorly educated, overzealously religious and unskilled migrants. This only hinders progress.
Humans given the freedom/conditions will naturally segregate themselves into casts/classes, for the uneducated and simple minded majority the decisive filters are still culture/religion and race with respective sub-cultural and socio-economic divisions within. But the demands of the evolving, scientifically focusing world have formed conditions that reward skill and education, this in combination with the propagation of advanced data communications allows almost anyone access to higher learning and should this someone have the capacity to understand intellectually demanding material and standout they can always come forward to reap the benefits. It is these individuals who get the best jobs,  helm companies and will eventually run all countries and have far higher iQ than any single ethnic group sample, Jews included. Eugenics is still part of this world in a non direct sense, accept in this case it’s not institutionalized by a particular government, unintentionally a product of religious doctrine but rather the product of one’s own choice and performance in life.         

Regarding Phil’s comments:
“Tribalism” (or Group Identity) is built into our genes and is part and parcel of human psychology stemming from hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. That does not mean it is “good” but rather that it “is”—and will not disappear for a very long time (unless we start to genetically engineer ourselves to neutralize this proclivity).
However, the real point is not (as Phil claims) that we are living in a “new world” today with data access for everyone etc. After all, in theory, such access was available to all cultures in the past as well. The question is what cultural tendencies, beliefs, and practices ENCOURAGE THE BEST USE OF THE EDUCATIONAL TOOLS AT HAND? It is here where (perhaps) we can learn much from Jewish culture—the openness to new ideas, the emphasis on education, the propensity to disagree in civil fashion, the encouragement of hard intellectual work from an early age, etc. No one is arguing that only Jews can be at the top; the idea here is to ask “what have Jews done that the rest of humanity can emulate in order to encourage higher IQ?” This is certainly NOT a “religious” question but rather a cultural one in the broad sense of the term.

“Those who have adopted the vile philosophy of Herzl zionism use both to further their own agenda. And with an intelligence greater than those around them, they’ve been quite successful.”

Prussians were by far the worst, ever; Prussia wasn’t a state with a military, it was a military with a state.
BTW, it isn’t that you or anyone is bitter, not more than virtually all others; the reason is the need for a scapegoat, a need that can be traced back to when real goats were the scapegoats. Today blacks and Jews cannot be scapegoated as readily, so gays are being picked on. They always were, but now they are the easier targets. You can say ‘gay agenda’ and it will get rightist votes.

You can also say “Christian agenda” and it will get leftist votes.

Humanity sure can be depressing at times :(

“You can also say ‘Christian agenda’ and it will get leftist votes.”

The Christian agenda in America is far more smarmy than the gay agenda, how could gays possibly smarm the public as much as Christians unless they tried to French kiss us? I talk to Christians everyday, living in the Midwest you tend to do so; Christians are not representing their faith in a sincere way, Ronaldo. Now, there is a way to accept/tolerate what Christians do, and that would be to lose all self-respect, be a puppet—just go along with Christian idiosyncracies by swallowing one’s pride. But such is asking too much for most people, esp. men.
Per topic, I wonder if the diet of Jews has had any effect on their IQs. Perhaps the carnitine in the Gefilte fish and chicken soup? 😊

@ post-post—interesting idea!  carnitine is indeed a brain booster,
Ashkenazi are also known for their very long life-spans

Or maybe it is the antioxidants in Manischewitz wine preserving their brain cells? 😊
Curious about something, Hank: aren’t Western IQ measurements biased towards Westerners? since Jews are considered part of our Western heritage, are we unaware that other races/ethnicities may be even smarter?
if we did an objective study of the IQs of other races/ethnicities might we possibly discover such? Someone might have commented on the above, but I don’t recall seeing such a comment.

Actually, IQ tests today are quite culturally-neutral. If language isa problem (new immigrant) they try to give it in the mother tongue of the person. This problem was recognized when IQ tests were given for the first time in mass fashion—to determine who was draftable (in the U.S.) for the army towards World War I. The group that came out having the LOWEST IQ was… you guessed it—the Jews! That’s because most of them were new immigrants from Eastern Europe and had no idea what questions like these meant: “if a baseball diamond has 4 bases…” So today the tests are pre-tested for cultural bias.
If already on the “food issue”, I offer this admittedly VERY speculative food for thought. Because of Jewish customary practices from time immemorial, they had far better hygiene than the Gentiles. Some examples: washing hands before every meal, men bathing at least once a week in the “mikveh” (a purification bathhouse) and women at least once a month (after menstruation was over), no pork (so no trichinosis) and other foods that carried diseases, etc. Indeed, durting the 14th century Black Plague that killed off 1/3 of Europe, Jews died in much lower proportions—so of course they were accused of spawning the disease! My point is that with lower disease rates, Jewish “bodies” may not have “suffered” as much as others which could have had some influence on their mental capacities (for example, we know today that nutrition in the first years of life is critical for intelligence—and certainly what happens to the mother’s body, carrying the fetus, has huge implications for the fetus). So again, this is a CULTURAL-BIOLOGICAL explanation, and it is “genetic” only in the sense that it enables the proper development and heredity of natural intelligence, that everyone (Gentile and Jew) has potentially.

@ post-post—good question about the so-called “cultural problems” with the IQ test.  I think ProfSLW has answered that question quite well.  The “bias” in IQ testing now seems to be a myth.  Although I did hear recently about an anachronistic flaw - a friend of mine in NYC had her son tested and he had no idea what an ironing board and iron were, and why should he?

People who persist in saying that IQ tests in the USA are biased towards the white population need to explain why East Asians do well on the test.  But, truth is, there is a lot of hostility to IQ tests, and claiming “cultural bias” is just one of the ways people seek to discredit it.  IMO.

Hey IQ experts, i’m fed up being censored just for saying “unconvenient truth” ; ok, i have strong feeling that “feeling psychologically strong enough to try to love your enemies” makes you smarter, isn’t it ? Also, i feel like in some situations, IQ is dependant from ability to cope with that situation (for example I’m unable to kill my horse) can anyone help ?

@ etienne..

The reasons why you “should not or cannot bring yourself” to kill your horse are most likely down to Empathy and EQ - whereas the reasons for your “inability” to kill your horse may merely be down to IQ, skills set, creativity, experience, (of horse killing), logistics, disposal worries, technique or even available time etc.

hope this helps?

no, i don’t understand such english.. not not at all but well..

BUT : i think most people don’t kill their horse cause they don’t understand how much “he” suffers and should be killed (and not the opposite)

ABOUT ME : i think i have one of the greatest empathy but total ruined EQ, is it possible ? also, i have to mention, i saw in the news a 13 years old girls raped by three men in marseille france, in the middle of a street during the day : maybe not important compared to somalia or syria, but those men should be “killed” as far as, if and only if… Were they those shy-excentric that all people associates to perverts ? Also, girls should be allowed and encourage to ask out men in a girly “non already seen” fashion, that would help a lot social relations, and change both much more and much less than they expect, imho -

shame on those three guys - what’s funny, in france we are so hypocrital that media are not allowed to say if yes or no those men were from “non-norwegian” origin -

yes Mike, I know I’m not always “PC” (but i don’t think there is a problem in saying i wish to have a kissbot - and sorry for the bad words..)

My issue with IQ tests is that I do not feel they actually measure the full range of ‘intelligence’. They are incomplete.

They were, in fact, designed to measure only those skills that would help someone go to college and become a docile worker bee.

We barely understand what intelligence is (if you don’t believe me, then just check out any modern debate over AI and consciousness).

I do not feel, though, that IQ is inaccurate. What it measures, it measures accurately. However, what it measures is not the full range of human intelligence.

Some Friday Afternoon Albert Einstein quotes..

“It’s not that I’m so smart,it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”

“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”

“Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.”

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

“The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. The more I realize I don’t know, the more I want to learn.”

“He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he receives.”

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”


I like your comments, Etienne; you do better with our language than many of us do with your language—and that is something to reckon with. BTW, here is a song about you:


I have a proposition (infrench ahah) :

(it’s for the next poll)

pensez-vous que les gens se parleraient dans le métro si c’étais entendu que les filles qui ont le feeling doivent engager la conversation ?

(translation :  do you think people in the paris’ tube would talk to each other if girls were “expected-supposed” to talk to strangers too ?

well, why this on IEET, because i guess that’s the first big cultural shift towards singularity !

First of all Ashkenazi Jews are not “children of Abraham”, cause they are of an Khazar origin, so Ashkenazi are really Turks and not Jews.
Only Sephards are really children of Abraham.

Secondly, those statistics doesn’t prove anything else than the Jewish political influence in the world and NOT their higher brain power.

So this is just another Zionist text, which you don’t even deny.

And yeah, I’m a member of Mensa, so I don’t have a problem with my IQ.

Have a nice day.

Boris, your theory about all Ashkenazi Jews all coming from the Khazars is hogwash. Time for you to do some _real_ research.

And this “Zionist text”—what in the world are you talking about?


Hey, would you mind providing some links on the true origins of the Ashkenazi?

I’m not endorsing wiki here, but they do refer to some good sources:
One such source is:

I know, iPan, that you’re curious as to the true origins of the Ashkenazis, and not just a refutation of the theory that the Khazars are that origin, but that’s all I’m presenting for now.

Here’s my theory Ronaldo:

Each era see’s a different group of people who use the Jewish “label” as they see fit.

Judaism has always been “crypto” and always will be “crypto”. Who’s to say which demographic will call themselves Jewish 100 years from now?

Whether it’s the Ashkenazi, the Sephardim, or the Mizrahim, it appears “Jewish” is whatever people want it to mean.

I’m a Judeo-Discordian. Can you refute that? Is it possible to challenge that claim?

Whatever the origins of the Ashkenazi, my struggle is with Statism, Authoritarianism, and Violence.

I’m not particularly pleased with the US or Israel, particularly it’s ultra right wing elements.

I’ve read those Wiki’s. I got as far back as the Cimmerians and the Scythians, and the I gave up because history is ridiculously murky. No one really knows.

What I do know, is that the Ashkenazi are white people.

hank , baby , boobeleh,

where to begin. i love the comments on these threads. exceptionalism, especially jewish exceptionalism brings out so many comments.

my ashkenaz sister married an iraqi jewish engineer in tel aviv. i know he would resent these exceptionlist theories as far as they apply only to ‘ashkenaz’. he’s a pretty smart guy i might add 😊.

i would add one theory—with a genetic and environmental factor—- to your pretty comprehensive list.

the rabbis. the rabbis were an essential part of the ashkenaz communities. there were many different types of rabbis. traditionally, we like to focus on the scholar, the gaon, the litvacks.
of course, the smartest always had the most opportunities, the most children and the best resources, so genetically they passed on their attributes and culturally they forced this upon their kids.

but there is another aspect to the rabbis. natural empathy. some human beings are gifted , genetically, and are taught culturally, ( both together and separately) to be PATIENT and LOVING and understanding of other human beings . some people call this emotional IQ. i call it what it is, empathetic. there comes a long a person once in a while who is an einstein of empathy. maybe they are never truly famous but they impact other human beings and make life better. and some rabbis, were very good at empathy, some of them even geniuses at it. now, high empathic ability is not necessarily exclusive from high intellect , but it’s not necessarily correlated either.
perhaps it relates genetically to certain levels of hormones or to certain patterns of preferential brain growth ( or lack of growth ) in certain areas like the amygdala or other parts of the limbic system.

but the point is, maybe some of the rabbis were high level empaths, and from them, springs a pattern of promoting people who are good

we think of chess , a game of intellectual war, and art making ( the isolated arts where art is not inherently and directly social in its composition—like acting in a play, rather than writing it—-

i think there is a distinct intellectual quality in empathy and that this too has been promoted down the line of rabbis, and or , writers, actors, comedians,bards,  etc….over the years. but in particular , some of the rabbis.

ultimately people had to make a living . and it’s hard to feed a family on empathy unless you are a rabbi, or unless you can find a playhouse or some other way of making money via entertainment ( not making music but empathy based , social based, entertainment)

@ zeev - thanks for the info—I am going to be including this essay in an upcoming book and I am glad to have your insights, much appreciated - if you want credit my email is .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) - I have gotten quite a few additional reasons for high Ashkenazi IQ sent to me, some on the thread as well

interesting that you mention Empathy - I believe one brain center for that is located in the left frontal lobe, behind the left eyeball.  Researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison did MRI scans of Tibetan Buddhist monks - recommended by the Dalai Lama - and they found empathy activation lit up there.

Thanks again for your help, do contact me, I have another project I am working on that perhaps you could help me with.

I am not sure I completely buy into this idea that these Jewish poeple from a certain region are somehow far smarter than anyone else.IF the average for this group is say 117 iq,is that really that high?.The average in US is around 100,if you take away the black average which is thought to be far lower then average white persons iq would rise to around 104.105.Then if you excluded the lower class white people and only included the middle class white poeple I am pretty sure the average would be around the same as 117.On a personal level I am far high supposedly than 117 and I am certainly not the msart person in my family.This idea of Jewish p[eople being so much smarter just seems like a ready made excuse as to why so many Jewish people dominate certain industries in America like banking and law when it could equally be argued or more so to be simplyhardwork and nepotism.Even if there is a high number of Jewish people with iq’s of 140+ there must be say 100 times more Christian white poeople with the same 140+ iq aswel.So can someone explain this discrepancy please?.

@ David—I read some interesting information regarding this just yesterday, in a book called “The Israel Test” - the author claims that in the USA. when a group of over 170 IQs was examined, about 70% of them turned out to be Jewish.  That is bizarrely impressive.

You are right, among readers of this site, for example, 117 IQ does not seem that high. I don’t know why you brought “race” into the equation, I am not at all in agreement with that—but I am in agreement that upper class wealth can, and does, create higher IQs, via better education.

read my other article, if you wish - it is titled “Let’s Increase Global IQ”

Hank obviously thats rubbish 70% of the 170+ IQ’s are not Jewish thats just silly how would you even measure that as not everyone has taken an official test.Also how can you define someone as being genetically Jewish,if say your father is non-Jewish whats to say he was’nt the smarter out of the 2 parents,Its far far more likely that Jewish success in certain fields is to do with a very strong work ethic that other genetically White Europeans lack primarily because of European JEws history,and with this unique history comes an understandable and maybe extreme form of nepotism,I’m sure I read somewhere that Israel’s average IQ is quite low and pretty similar to the rest of that region of the world btw.

I brought Race into the Equation because this Jewish group of people are also White Europeans are they not,I was making the point that I don’t see any facts that shows these Europeans are any smarter than other Middle Class Europeans.You have chosen to group together these Jewish Europeans and give them a name,I am just saying if I grouped together say Middle Class Italians and gave them a name I am sure the results would most likely be similar.

Just out of interest I am sure I read somewhere of a group of people in or around Asia who converted to Judaism to avoid trouble from both Christians in the west and Muslims in the east,are they not the ancesters of the people we now call the Azhkenazi Jews?

@ David, to be precise, and we should be precise, “I” didn’t say the statistic you question, I was just passing it on from the book entitled “The Israel Question.” So you can direct your disbelief to that author.

Regarding Israel’s IQ, good question.  I believe it was estimated at 94 in one survey, but the methods used to arrive at that digit caused controversy.  You can research the debate, it’s not hard to find. But Israel’s IQ has to be broken down into 3 major categories, Ashkenazim, Sephardim, and Arab.  So it is possible for the first group to be high, but Israel’s to be much lower, due to averaging in the other two groups.  But I advice finding the debate about methods used, if you really want to investigate it.

I would be interested in looking at other group’s IQs if they demonstrated anything similar to the success that Ashkenazim have had in certain categories like Nobel prizes. Or Ivy League entrance.  For example, I don’t believe Italian-Americans are entering Ivy League universities in a percentage way beyond their demographic. Nor are they getting 100X their population in Nobel Prizes.  I am interested in the phenomenon of Ashkenazim achievement because it is phenomenal, not because it is Ashkenazim.  I think high cognitive achievement should be studied, especially by transhumanists.

Regarding your last question, that is also an interesting point of contention.  I first read about it in another book called The Indestructible Jews.  There was a Central Asian “tribe” that adopted Judaism many many centuries ago, their name starts with a K and it should be easy to find - anyway, this tribe was religiously “Jewish” for a couple of centuries, and then they became… Christian, I think.  But the rumor, or theory, that they were the forebears of the Ashkenazim is not generally accepted.  Quite the inverse. It is, to the best of my recollection, just a rather wild idea that is generally ridiculed.  The theory is that these Central Asian Jews moved west into Russian and then into Central Europe.  But that is not the mainstream opinion.  Mainstream opinion seems to be that Ashkenazim (who are, according to an Emory University study, and my imperfect memory, around 35% “European”) evolved out of Jews living in Alsace and the Rhine Valley, and then spread further East.

Thanks for your curiosity.  I am sorry I only have incomplete details in my brain at this time.  Please research it further if you wish, I am sure you’ll find that what I am telling you is accurate, it’s just incomplete.

Just by doing abit of research it seems in term of historical achievements and facts the smartest people of all time in the world,taking into account modern day aswel as historically are the British.In terms of inventions,empire building and the arts the British I feel are the smartest and have done the most to push the envelope of whats possible for mankind.From Faraday to Newton to Shakespeare,Bell,Darwin to Berners-Lee and Fleming to name but a few.Just in terms of invention the British have apparently invented around 50% of all modern things we use,and for a people among the British who are even more impressive are the Scottish,having 0.1% of the global population they have invented an INSANE ammount of things.Then maybe followed by the Italians and the Chinese.Its all well and good being able to answer multiple choice questions but if you hav’nt even got harnessed electricity or the Internet whats the point.Thats not to say the Jewish people as a race dont go on to super-sede these peoples acheivements as they also have alot of money and power today just like the British Chinese and Italians have done in the past, but it has’nt happened yet and unless they get a move on before the Chinese start to grow again it wont happen anytime soon.

@ the achievements of Scots scientists and engineers have been admired and noted, particularly because they are also a small population group, like the Jews. I think I might investigate that sometime in the future, the phenomena of Scottish and Scottish-American inventors interests me, in part because i have ancestors who are Scottish-American Stanford and Caltech PhDs who invented and engineered.

I don’t know how the British and Scots are performing today, in Nobel Prizes, etc. I think their heyday of invention is partly in the past, but they continue to have important figures.  Thanks for pointing it out to me.

David writes: “if you take away the black average which is thought to be far lower then average white persons iq would rise to around 104.105.Then if you excluded the lower class white people and only included the middle class white poeple I am pretty sure the average would be around the same as 117.”

Sure, lets just conveniently drop these people out of the equation.

@ David—here’s a good link for you.  The “Khazars” are the Central Asian group that was Jewish, and there have long been suppositions that Ashkenazis descended from them.  The conclusion from this research - based, I believe, on DNA evidence - is that the Khazars were NOT the ancestors of Ashkenazi.  Enjoy reading this:

As an Ashkenazi Jew,with an IQ of 135, I have some thoughts as to why we have a higher relative IQ than other ethnic groups.
1.We are intolerant of ignorance,and lack of creative ability.Those Jews(even our own family members) who lack intelligence/creativity
are made to feel inferior.I have witnessed this personally in my own family and others many times.Eventually these untermensch marry
leaving the core of ubermentsch to reproduce.
2.We are"Masters of Self-Interest"our every thought and action is geared to self-improvement/advancement.This self-improvement obsession causes our brains to become more functional.A sort of “Flynn Effect compression”
3.Historical persecution caused over time,a purity in the gene pool.The dumb Jews were killed off,and the smart Jews were able to avoid death through superior intellectual ability,and were able to pass these genes to on their offspring.
I did not write the preceeding comments because I am anti-semitic or a self hater,they are based on 40+ years of experience living and working with many Jews and being a Jew.

@ ASAMATTEROFFACT - I have a question, regarding #1 - do you mean that the “untermensch” marry outside Judaism and leave the tribe?  Your sentence looks incomplete so I’m not sure what it means.
Thanks for your illuminating admissions!

- )Just stumbled upon your page, very informative, well-written and exceptionally interesting. That confirms what I had always thought.

- ) I do think that we should all live according to the Ashkenazi’s standards and that the Ashkenazim ethnicity should be promoted.

-)@ASAMATTEROFFACT. Since your IQ is well above our average ( I am an Ashkenazi myself ) could you solve the following basic arithmetic question for me ? 

You’ve got a bottle, fill it with water ( density = 1, meaning 1 dcm3 of water wil weigh 1 Kilo ), it weighs 950 grammes, fill it with alcohol ( density = 0.8 ) it weighs 800 grammes.
Weight of bottle ?
Volume of bottle ?
Weight of both liquids ?

You are of course not allowed to resort to an equation.Pure intelligence only.
I resolved it while taking a nap.

Good luck mate 😉

Fascinating.  I see that some of the comments deny inheritance in favour of the environment.  Another take is that the environment suffered by the Ashkenazim selected for IQ and the latter is (of course) inherited, like any other characteristic.  Those who would deny that may care to read the compelling evidence on the Future Generations site here: .  Unfortunately IQ and the idea of inherited abilities have been so politically incorrect these last 70 years as to make debate impossible.  As of now, the Ashkenazim will be losing their IQ, unless, the clever have the larger number of children.  At any rate the rest of us we are, according to that site, losing at the rate of 0.9 points a generation – a slow moving disaster if ever there was one.
PS being brought up with maths I could only solve France’s by equations albiet in the head and got a volume of 750 cc which upon substitution will give the right but boring answers of weight 200, liquids 750 and 600 gms - spoil sport.
Could France elucidate what he or she means by “pure intellegence”.  Surely one would have to and subtract this and that to get anywhere and that would be tantamout to using equations would it not?

ASAMATTEROFFACT writes: “The dumb Jews were killed off,and the smart Jews were able to avoid death through superior intellectual ability,and were able to pass these genes to on their offspring.”

On what do you base this theory?

All of this will be obsoleted by the Global Noosphere.

I tend to look at this cultural competition as nothing more than a twisted cheerleading game.

Can’t compete with the sum total of human knowledge at the disposal of every individual, now can we?

Yes we can, iPan, because we’re talking about current reality and you’re talking about the distant future.
Besides, a dumb kid with the internet has vastly more knowledge at his disposal than a brilliant scholar without the internet, but I’m going to learn tips from the scholar, not the kid.

Not so distant.

@Paul Francis.

France is not my name but my country !

I put this amusing artihmetic question to Asamatteroffact because he seems to think very highly of himself.

By “pure intelligence” I mean reasoning on the magnitudes per se and how they relate to each other.
-The solution is in fact very simple, you know that the ratio of the densities is 0.8 : 1 which is a 1.25 ratio. From that you can get the answer:
For 1 grm of alcohol you get 1.25 grm of water, in 1 cm3.
-Since 1 and 1.25 < weight of liquids 1 and 1.25 grms are parts ( or rather part and parts ! ) of the numbers making the weights of the liquids, which part(s) have the same ratio as the weight of the liquids; 1 and 1.25 ( or any numbers bound by a 1.25 ratio ) will go into the leading numbers ( weights of liquids ) an equal number of times.
-So you just symetrically subtract any number bound by a 1.25 ratio from 800 and 950( the smaller from the former, the bigger from the latter ) until you find a common measure.
That common measure is the weight of the bottle.

-Personally, while I was napping I took 150 grms ( because I was seeing 800 and 950 floating around ! ) as the smaller number and 150*1.25 = 187.5 as the bigger of the numbers having a 1.25 ratio.
-I subtracted 150 from 800 four times, and, symetrically I subtracted 187.5 from 950 four times.
-That gives us 800-150*4 = 950-187.5*4 = 200, which is the common measure and the weight of the bottle.
-Weight of liquids is 150*4 = 600 grms and 187.5*4 = 750.
-Volume of bottle 600/0.8 = 750 cm3.


@XwB Sorry for confusing you with France.  If I could follow your explanation I, like “Asamatteroffact” would think ever so highly of myself.  I simply subtacted the weights and divided by 0.2,  the difference in densites, to get the volume, namely 750 ccs, but I suppose you would say that that is cheating.

I am not sure about 80% of Jews being Ashkenazi.  I can’t recall where I read this but in Israel the majority of Jews are Sephardim.  And as an anecdote, growing up in Brooklyn I encountered allot more Sephardim then Ashkenazim.  If I’m correct and the Askenazim population is smaller, then this would make your point, Hank, even more pronounced.  And I agree with you that there is a lesson to be learned for the rest of us.  There is no shame in borrowing ideas that work.  If playing violin helps then great, if playing chess helps then great too.  We all need to learn to do more to prepare our kids to be more successful.  Looking at the Ashkenazi and borrowing the successful parts of their culture is a great idea.

As far as genetics go, it would be interesting to follow Askenazis in Israel.  Certainly, there is no longer genetic pressure on them to produce intelligence, plus there is a big Slavic genetic component now in Israel being added to the Askenazi gene pool.  If they regress towards the medium then it was not cultural, it was genetic.

I thought you’d appreciate this:

It includes some helpful references.

@ Rabbi—thanks for the link!  I am expanding that article into a “book” and I am grateful for the additional information!

I found this article while researching because I recently received my National Geographic Genographic Project test results back. My genetic code qualifies me as an Ashkenazi Jew. It was quite a shock to my poor, midwestern, Christian farming family. I was raised with what they could afford to provide which wasn’t much, yet tested in the low 160’s for IQ as a child, aced the SAT and ACT, landed a $100,000 scholarship to an Ivy League school and graduated with a perfect GPA. I studied Linguistics and specialized in ancient languages, since expanding to my knowledge base to 12 modern languages. I taught myself piano and chess at a young age, read every book I could find, and slept through most classes as they bored me. No one had any explanation for my learning aptitude and no, I wasn’t adopted though my family often jokes that they don’t know where I came from. My intelligence, I assure you, is not a product of my environment.

Somewhere in the ancestral lineage, our cultural identity was changed and forgotten. This article is helpful because I see now that I do have a genetic predisposition for intelligence. I also know now why studying Hebrew and the Talmud on Saturday nights for the last decade is more than just an eccentricity. So back to the original question, why are the Ashkenazi so intelligent? Perhaps the answer is in the DNA coding.

@ Amma—thanks for your email.  If you want more info on this topic, let me know via Facebook and I can provide you with some recent references to genetic research studies on the topic.  Also, I ended up writing a book on the same topic that’s coming out soon so I can make sure you get a copy. Your case is interesting and I’d like to talk to you more about it.  There’s also a genetic testing service called 23andMe which is inexpensive and you could probably use it to trace your ancestry to specific living Ashkenazi. I did the National Geographic test as well, but the 23andMe provides far more knowledge. I hope to hear from you!

The obersavations made by the author are consistant w/ what I have seen and read about , too. The correlation between smarts/ high achievement and ashkenazi seems pretty obvious to me. And it is not simply achievement. my good friend is what most wd call a bum since he is an anti achiever of sorts, but is smart as a tack and talks and argues up a storm. I understand, however,  Dev’s point that this singling out can encourage otherness and otherness can breed the violence seen throughout the Jews’ existence, and most recently , in Nazi Germany.

On the latter, while the Holocaust is beyond revulsion what one human can even CONCEIVE to do to another human, much less actually carry out , one the reasons I have wept for the Jews that perished in that episode is for the loss of all that good that could have come from them - that is, all the Nobel prizes and cures for cancer and other diseases that will not come to us as a result of this horrific action.

Curiously, if you do accept the ‘otherness’ of the ashkenazi, and the distinctions listed are ‘good otherness’ - Nobel prizes, entertainment etc - that make the world a much better place,  then the mass killing of all this ‘exquisite dna’ , if you allow me to be reductionist, was the crime against all of humanity since all of us who follow will not have the benefit of those who perished and their offspring’s contributions to this crazy caravan called human life.

I am not jewish, but I am glad for the jews’ existence; I love it that they and their religion -more precisiely,  their behavior and ethos of enlightened rationality (since some of the most productive jews had renounced formal judaism such as marx and trotsky for example) are around; it makes us humans better and provides a standard for all of us to follow; jon voight called judiasm the conscience of the world.

and, While Paul was arguing that there is something more than IQ involved in all that distinctive achievement, let’s not get bogged down in ‘IQ’, let’s just call it ‘exquisite dna’ since there is so much more going on than we know right now. Amma’s post kinda reveals this, too. 

Lots of behavioural consequence from innate ‘smarts’ : Inquisitiveness verbal function seems mostly a function of smarts ; same with discipline; the more you ‘get ’ something , the more likely you can hang in there with the problem; indeed, the more likely you might be attracted to solving the problem.

also, Feyman’s 125 is still pretty darn high, too, btw. -per Paul’s stats in the 88 pctile.

couple of other points:

Feynman’s minimizing his supposed working class iq of 125 is one of the sterotypical traits of jewish culture. It is a variation on the proverbial jewish mother who exhorts her kids to be a doctor or lawyer, anything else would be awful.

I have seen this up close in my wife’s famly, where there is some ashkanezi intermarrying (more on this later). A certain full jewish relative would constantly come up and ask this poor(happened to be part jewish)  cousin why he was nt an engineer (he was a welder). This would happen in front of people at family gatherings so it was not subtle at all - there is probably a yiddish word for this type of immodesty, I suspect. and yes, this jewish guy used to be a principal of a high school, a job of professional distinction.

the other point that no one has brought up is the jewish notion of sitting shiva when someone leaves the tribe, or marries outside the jewish faith. My wife’s forebear did just that and she was basically disowned for marrying a gentile - this is where I learned of this word .

we also saw this , of course, in fiddler on the roof ; my wife’s relative was probably not too long from that timeframe, btw.

People have touched on previously how the jew ish people were exposed to a variety of ideas and cultures since they were sort of migratory (yeah , the ‘wandering jew’ - ouch), but this cocktail gets a singular blast when the jew s are not allowed to intermarry outside the group. So in combination with exposure to different ideas, early literacy and book learning (of the torah), and staying inside the tribe made a sort of uberman , to cautiously use this phrase.

This is one reason Fiddler on the Roof is such a good work to watch and think about - it represented a sort of apex for the jews , after this, in the modeern era there would be a dilution of the ‘exquisite dna’ that was carefully husbanded over 5000 thousand years in a sense.

side comment - What is odd and at least ironic that this type of thinking smells like the nazi way of thinking, but stupid gentiles that they were, they were actually killing the ubermencsh.

I know amma’s post is anecdoatal - and also with anonymity of this page , the source is quite suspect - but the claim is quite wild 160 iq , knowing 12 languages etc. One almost wonders if it were a caricature.

But this exagerated set of data is seen all the time in the world. Look at Facebook founder zuckerberg - he was expert in several ancient foriegn languages; he coded the whole system on his own in his spare time while going to harvard etc etc.

I just learned from the wiki bio of the late chris. hitchens, that he was technuically jewish since his grandmother was a full ashkenzi jew. he did not know of this til very late in his life. this tends to support the bias to nature vs nurture theory.

But to summarize - in jewish people nature and nurturing methods is / was combined over the millenia to create this unique group.

@ idic5 - thanks for your comments and insights, I really appreciate them—I expanded this essay into a book that I just finished—Yes, I just found out today that Hitchens was part Jewish.  And I really must see Fiddler on the Roof again - it has been a while.

This article is ridiculous. I live with an Ashkenazi and a Sephardic Jew and they’re both dumb as bricks. The Ashkenazi is only slightly smarter than the Sephardic and I think it’s only due to the age difference. The Ashkeanazi has a smart half-sister but that comes from her redneck Christian father who is an actual rocket scientist.

I live in a city with a high concentration of Jews and I’ve never noticed any significant difference in intelligence. The only difference I have noticed is some of them work significantly harder than others because it is pushed upon them by their parents. Others, I’ve noticed are extremely lazy and just expect the world and others to magically take care of them.

If I was to put it down to a race, which is ridiculous, it’s the Asians in LA who tend to work the hardest and be the smartest and be the most successful at whatever they pursue, and do it to perfection and beat themselves up if they don’t. The Jews mostly use their connections while the Asians work from scratch.

The only thing I’ve found that is relevant to being ‘smart’ or successful is by the amount of pressure they receive from their culture, as a whole, to succeed. And, of course, their connections and tendency to stick together and help each other.

In fact, all the intellectuals I meet are Christian, Asian and Indian. I only know a few Jews I would say have above average intelligence, including the successful ones.

I actually had a white Christian racist once try to tell me that white people have more creases in their brain that make them more intelligent than Blacks, Jews, etc., and had a very scientific theory to back it up. This article does not sound much different.

And by the way, all the dumb Jews I know like to tell me or talk about how smart they are. Really, that’s the only dividing difference; the smart people I know never talk about how smart they are, while the Jews I know who aren’t smart like to tell me how smart they are…and I can guarantee they’re barely breaking a 100 IQ.

Every race is smart. Some cultures just stick more together which garner better opportunities for their particular group.

As Mr. T once said, great people don’t have to tell you how great they are ‘cause they already know it. You might want to take his advice. 

When discussions touch on Jews I see the subject as a Rorschach test. Everyone sees in it what they think they see. That’s why opinions on Jews differ so widely. In Europe pre- and during WW II, anti-Semitism was rife, and Jews were labeled as foreign to Europe, and incompatible with Europeans. The Nazis took this to the furthest, most unspeakable, extreme.

Nowadays when being non-European is in many ways admired Jews are attacked in certain quarters as being Europeans. Jews seem always to be cast onto the opposite side of whatever the world considers desirable. That makes Jews less prone to go off on the macro tangents the world is prone to. If they try they will end up regretting it. Soviet communism certainly proved that to be true for the Jews.

The amount of mis- and disinformation on Jews is staggering. They are by far the most defamed and lied-about group on the planet. Someone like xenon is the best example. He speaks authoritatively; yet what he writes about Jews is bizarre and idiosyncratic. It certainly isn’t true.

The fact is that people apparently are interested in Jews, even fascinated by the subject of Jews. Why? Is it because Jews are a witness to all world cultures because they have wandered amongst them all? Is it because they are a witness through time to the origins of the Christian and Muslim religions yet they did not embrace them? That has angered some people. 

Jews survived, and still know who they are, after millenia in hostile environments, even keeping the ancient language still on their tongues. Then taking it up again just like that as their national language! There are people who hate that.

But Jews as a group don’t seem to be deterred.  They try and live their lives in the best way, like everyone else. Jews have had to be super-vigilant because of all the attacks throughout history. It appears the Jewish psyche was formed even before getting to Israel in ancient times. The long, difficult history thereafter only accentuated these tendencies. The Jewish psyche tends to not automatically accept the conventional wisdom. Jews have an ability to imagine the new and the different. That is the essence of creative thinking.

Modern Israel, btw, is a beautiful country with wonderful, warm people. Many Israeli Arabs do very well there, make good livings, own businesses, and speak excellent Hebrew. They are free to travel all over and have full Israeli citizenship, which they do not want to give up. I have visited the country and spoken with the people. 

Those who stay up late writing hateful words about Jews should embrace them instead. Jews are a great positive force in the world.

My father had a 5th grade education, my mother graduated high school.  They expected no less of their children than to go to college.  Their insistence that their children receive more than a high-school education was unusual for our neighborhood.  My family was predominantly Irish-Christian and my marriage to an Ashkenazi Jewish engineer several years older came as a shock to both his family and mine.  He had an IQ over 150.  Our 2 kids have high IQ’s too. One is a college professor who speaks several languages.  I believe your article has merit.

Of the eight given mechanisms that might help explain the observed higher intelligence of the Ashkenazim, none has been since disproven in the discussion. Therefore there is no reason why all these mechanisms might not be contributing, in varying degrees, to the outcome we see. We may be seeing a synergism of all these mechanisms.

Whilst Hank takes an interest in the environmental factors, others take an interest in the genetics, and I think the genetics her have been a little underplayed: there must have been Darwinian forces that have led to this tendency to higher intelligence, and these must have been active where Ashkenazim lived rather than Sephardics.

Might I raise that, for centuries, usury was illegal between christians. Consequently, for these centuries, any merchant or entrepreneur in Western Christendom who sought finance for any venture had no choice but to seek the financial services of a nonchristian and therefore a Jew. By the same token, Jews were disallowed participation in many trades, and so had to either take up the role of merchant or banker or starve.

Banks, today, are not popular institutions, but are at least governed by innumerable regulations within societies that have written constitutions and independent judiciaries. Go back 700 years, and try to imagine the skills required to negotiate life as a banker to a population that sees you as an infidel, without courts, without police, without a constitution. Without impressive mathematical skills and rhetoric skills one can easily imagine a very short lifespan, cut down in some Medieval back alley. So, coming back to Darwin, to explain this genetic shift to intelligence one has to infer substantial “natural selection” against the ungifted - that is widespread persecution and murder.

Furthermore, imagine for a moment one finds oneself slender and bookish in the year 1350. Disinclined to military, dissuited to farm work - wouldn’t you be tempted to convert to Judaism and go into banking?

The intelligence trait in the Ashkenazim is just too impressive and has emerged too rapidly and definitively to be due to purely cultural factors and environmental factors. There needs be a Darwinian mechanism - and any way you cut it that means ordinary-brained Jews in Europe were killed off in times past.

This shocks the 21st century reader - unless such a reader is already familiar with the gross carnage of the Crusades and the Reformation and CounterReformation, The Maryan persecutions, and the like, and appreciates how spectacularly violent those times were. It is inconceivable that unwary and guileless Jews of that time were not subject to similar levels of violence.

I suggest Ashkenazim intelligence was bought at a great and terrible price

The fact that all Ashkenazi jews are descended from a relatively small number of individuals is proven by the large number of genetic disorders they share.  These disorders, for the most part, like their superior IQ’s, are not shared by Sephardic jews, although they are genetically similar in many other ways.  So imagine a very very small community of jews emigrating to the Rhineland in the tenth century.  Now imagine if the only caucasians to emigrate to North America in the seventeenth century were Isaac Newton, Edmond Halley, Robert Hook and John Locke, along with their wives.  (This is theoretically possible, since they all knew each other and Halley carried out the first scientific naval expedition.) Imagine that they and their descendants now continued to live as a separate community within a large and thriving native American population.  If you believe that intelligence is inheritable - which has certainly been proven to my satisfaction - you would now have a minority group with a remarkably high IQ who shared a large number of genetic diseases.

There are some that think these facts about Ashkenazi IQ will increase hatred of Jews. I am quite familiar with countering hatred of Jews. It is libel based on lies and it is countered with truth.

Anti-semites would often look at the fact that Jews are disproportionately successful, and say Jews are conspiring to do that. This could be countered in a number of ways. For one thing it’s worth noting the 30% Nobel Prizes and in proper subjects like Science(would the anti-semite allege that Jews are controlling that - some do allege that). But a more obvious explanation of why Jews are disproportionately successful is that one would -expect- them to be, given the on they have a higher IQ. An anti-semite may have tried to deny this, but cannot now.  So the lies/libels of anti-semites, are countered better by this truth.

Similarly, when anti-semites have tried to say Jews are Khazars, we now have genetic studies showing Jews all over the world share common DNA, whether in Yemen or France, so that hypothesis anti-semites loved, can be kicked down now (wiht the anti-semite) given facts revealed by science.
The fact that it is now accepted as fact, that Ashkenazi Jews on average have higher IQs,  goes with the nobel prize fact, and helps to explain why Jews are disproportionately successful.

Another point, which I know and have read and hasn’t been mentioned here.

It’s not as simple as Sephardim are average. In fact, in terms of IQ, Sephardim form or at least used to form, distinct communities where for example, one from Morroco wouldn’t have met one from Egypt, a morrocan jew would’ve tended to marry a morrocan jew, for geographic reasons. 

Sephardim that trace their routes to old Spain, if I recall, have an average IQ almost as high as the average ashkenazi IQ.

Sephardim nowadays tend not to be the big scholars, but in medieval times they were doing amazing things, extremely scholarly, and I believe, successful too. For example, Maimonides/RAMBAM(one of the greatest rabbis in jewish history), was Sephardi and a Dr.  Nachmonides was one of the greatest rabbis, and Sephardi and a Dr.  There are many other giants in rabbinical scholarship, from that time period and a bit before. Saadya Gaon. (Gaon means genius in hebrew).

Nowadays Sephardim don’t have the scholarship that they did, but how they did!

One may find that Jews of Gibraltar are often exceptionally intelligent. They are Sephardim.

One problem if interested in the IQ of Ashkenazim and Sephardim, is the opportunity for the better times to have done the test, have gone.  Ashkenazim were I suppose in distinct communities. We know this because there are variant pronunciations for the Cholam in Hebrew, where one was from in Europe, made a difference. And so they were different communities among Ashkenazim.

Similarly, Sephardim were in different communities. Some from Morroco. Some from Egypt e.t.c. About a million in the middle east and outside Israel,  But around 1948 and 67, they were made refugees by their not so friendly neighbours and almost all live in Israel now, all sephardim mixed together not in the distinct communities they were in. So all you get now is a Sephardi average(which apparently is not very impressive), and you won’t see specific communities with an exceptionally high IQ as they’re all mixed together now. Ashkenazim and Sephardim also mix now in Israel of course, and the distinction between ashkenazim and sephardim applies less and less in Israel, as Israel has succeeded in taking some of the diaspora, out of the Jew.

My 60-something cousin joined us for dinner Wednesday night.  He recently had his DNA tested.  On the side we share (our maternal sides, with our mothers being sisters) he confirmed what I already knew—we are of German, Dutch, and Swiss ancestry. He then surprised me with his newfound knowledge of our shared, Ashkenazi Jew DNA.  The discovery of a possessed Ashkenazi Jew genome at my age is—well—shocking!  Without overstating the case, and with humility and gratitude in my heart, I am fortunate to come from a family of highly-intelligent and creative, high-academic achievers.  A natural aptitude for math and science is a gift within my family.  Not sure if that’s the Ashkenazi coming out, but that’s my anecdote as a “new” Jew.  Oy!

Hank, in one of your comments above (July 19, 2011) you say “Studies have indicated that non-religious believers have a higher IQ than believers.” What do you mean by “non-religious believer”? Seems to be a contradiction in terms.

side - to answer your question—I should have just said “the non-religious”—sorry to have bene confusing. I will change it!

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