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Why is the IQ of Ashkenazi Jews so High? - twenty possible explanations
Hank Pellissier   Jun 20, 2013   Ethical Technology  

Ashkenazi Jews are smart. Shockingly brilliant, in general. Impressive in brain power. How did they get that way? Ashkenazi Jews, aka Ashkenazim, are the descendants of Jews from medieval Alsace and the Rhine Valley, and later, from throughout Eastern Europe.  Originally, of course, they were from Israel. Genetic research from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine suggests that the Ashkenazi bloodline branched away from other Jewish groups there 2,500 years ago, and that 40% of them are descended from only four Jewish mothers.

 Approximately 80% of the Jews in the world today are Ashkenazim, with the remainder 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.

What does it mean that Ashkenazim have a high IQ, in terms of producing “geniuses”?  With their population so small - a mere 0.25 of the world total - does it make any serious difference?  The answer is YES.  A “bell curve” is used to illustrate IQ percentile in a specific group – in a “general population” where IQ average is 100 the curve assumes these proportions:

less than 70 IQ  - 2.5%

70-85 IQ - 12.5%

86-100 IQ - 35%

101-115 IQ – 35%

116-130 IQ – 12.5%

greater than 130 IQ – 2.5%

Applying the same bell curve for Ashkenazim, but with a 17-point upward lift in median IQ (using the From Chance To Choice digit) produces the IQ upgrade below:

less than 87 IQ – 2.5%

88-102 IQ – 12.5%

103-117 IQ – 35%

118-132 IQ – 35%

133-148 IQ – 12.5%

greater than 148 IQ – 2.5%

This shifting upward of the bell curve by more than a standard deviation (15 points) means that more than five times as many Ashkenazim are eligible for Mensa (minimum 130 IQ) and more than five times as many have the average IQ of an Ivy League graduate.

In reality, Ashkenazim are enrolled in the Ivies by a proportion ten times greater than their numbers; for example they represent 30% of Yale students, 27% of Harvard, 23% of Brown, 32% of Columbia, and 31% of Pennsylvania.

This suggests that either the “bell’s curve” is lifted for the Ashkenazi a bit longer at the high end or there are additional factors that enhance their ability to succeed. Regarding the first possibility, Charles Murray notes that “the proportion of Jews with IQs of 140 or higher is somewhere around six times the proportion of everyone else.” Harpending, Hardy and Cochran sport roughly the same equation; “4 out of every 1,000 Northern European is 140+ IQ, but 23 out of every 1,000 Jew is 140+.” Murray also relays a report from sky-high up in the genius range, when he notes that a 1954 survey of New York public school children with 170+ IQs revealed that 24 of the 28 were… Jewish.

 Now that I’ve established that Ashkenazi have superlative IQ scores, let’s observe what they’ve accomplished with their highly functional brains. 

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 a small fraction of humanity. Ashkenazi achievement in this arena is 117 times greater than their population.  This pace isn’t slowing down; it is accelerating. In the 21st century, they’ve received 32% of the total, and in 2011, five of the thirteen Nobel Prize winners were Jewish – 38.5%.

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.

Significant Figures”: In “Jewish Genius” by Charles Murray, the author tallies up important contributing individuals in a variety of vocations, noting how immensely over-represented Jews are compared to what could be expected due to their small population.  His conclusion in various categories is: Biology – “significant” Jews appear 5 times greater their population, Chemistry 6X, Physics 9X, Literature 4X, Music 5X, Visual Arts 5X, Math 12X, Philosophy 14X.2 

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, and 25% of the Turing Award winners. Plus, “Jews have made up 50% of the top two hundred intellectuals… 40% of partners in the leading law firms in New York and Washington… 59% of the directors, writers, and producers of the fifty top-grossing motion pictures…” 

Israel: In 1922 this swamp-and-desert land had an impoverished population of 752,000 inhabitants. Today there are 7,746,000 residents, with a large Ashkenazi population (3 million, and 60% of the workforce) that has elevated it into a high-tech entrepreneurial nation with the highest per capita income in the region. Israel rates 1st in the world in graduate degrees, 1st in museums, 1st in home computers, and 1st in publishing scientific papers.

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…

(Sephardic Jewish achievement is represented in many of the categories above, especially in Nobel Prize statistics. When this article was originally published - in a shorter version, on August 7, 2011 by the Institute for Ethics in Emerging Technology ( – Sephardic Jews expressed some perturbation that they were omitted from the essay.  I’d like to acknowledge the immense contribution of Sephardic Jews with this all-too-brief list of notables from their lineage:

Elias Canetti (Nobel Prize in Literature, 1981), Tobias Michael Carel Asser (Nobel Peace Prize, 1911), Rene Cassin (Nobel Peace Prize, 1968), Franco Modigliani (Nobel Prize in Economics, 1985), Francois Jacob (Nobel Prize in Medicine/Physiology, 1965), Salvador Luria (Nobel Prize in Medicine/Physiology, 1969), Baruj Benacerraf (Nobel Prize in Medicine/Physiology, 1980), Rita Levi-Montalcini (Nobel Prize in Medicine/Physiology, 1986), Emilio Segre (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1959), Claude Cohen-Tannoudj (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1997), plus philosopher Jacques Derrida, economist/philanthropist Bernard Baruch, painter Amedeo Modigliani, and Benjamin Disraeli, the British Prime Minister. 

In the medieval era, Sephardic achievements were also quite significant. In George Sarton’s Introduction to the History of Science, the author notes that 95 out of 626 scientists in the world from 1150-1300 were Sephardic Jews -15% - far exceeding their population proportion.

However, when Sephardic IQ is presently recorded, the sums are no higher than the northern European average, and definitively not as elevated as Ashkenazi.)

Let’s proceed. With the facts I’ve laid out, only the most obtuse reader can resist my pronouncement that Ashkenazi Jews are, on average, extraordinarily intelligent. I’m not asserting Ashkenazi cognitive specialness because I’m Philo-Semitic, or Zionist, or pro-Israeli. I’m pointing it out because it is irrefutably true. 

That said, the question that my essay seeks to unravel is… Why? Why is the IQ of Ashkenazi Jews so high? Is the reason due to their genetics, environment, culture, education, or a unique combination of multiple factors?  

In my initial publication of this essay, I provided eight reasons for high Ashkenazi IQ.  But then, I received a flurry of email suggestions (many from professors) providing me with additional information. Twenty theories are now listed in this expanded essay, and I’ve attempted to give my sources the credit they deserve, even though – in several instances - I don’t have their actual names, just their Internet chat-monikers. Here’s my new list – many related to each other - presented in roughly chronological order:

Babylonian Eugenics – In 586 B.C.E., Jerusalem was totally destroyed by the Babylonians, led by their monarch Nebuchadnezzar, who “carried into exile… all the [Jewish] officers and fighting men, and all the craftsmen and artisans… only the poorest people of the land were left.” (2Kings 24:10-14) The Indestructible Jews, by Max Dimont, defines the deported people as “the flower of Judah’s aristocracy and intellectuals.”

The exiled Jews of this first Diaspora became highly successful in Babylon. Dimont claims, “In the libraries of Babylon, intellectual Jews found a new world of new ideas. Within five decades, exiled Jews bobbed to the surface of the top echelons on Babylonian society, in business enterprises, in the scholastic world, in court circles. They became leaders in commerce, men of learning, advisors to kings.”

In 538 B.C.E., the Persian king Cyrus the Great granted Jews permission to return to their homeland. Wealthy Jews - who had established successful trade routes and businesses in Babylon - financed zealous returnees who wanted to re-settle Judah.  Initial attempts failed, but eventually, 1,760 settlers led by the prophet Ezra and the governor Nehemiah rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem and resurrected the nation. These “Babylonian” Jews returning to Israel discovered that their poorer brethren that were left behind a half-century earlier had slipped away via assimilation, vanishing into neighboring pagan creeds. Cyril Darlington, in his The Evolution of Man and Society, suggests that the temporary separation of the Jewish elite, and permanent removal of the uneducated and unskilled, provided a genetic intellectual boost to the creed.

The returning Jews also instituted two customs that enhanced the mental solidity of their culture’s future. A ban on intermarriage with Gentiles was enforced, and the first five books of Moses were canonized, as the Torah.

People of the Difficult Book: The Torah (the first five books of the Jewish Bible) and the Talmud (recordings of rabbinic discussions) are intellectually complex and sophisticated. Practitioners of Judaism are required to learn and study the extensive, mentally rigorous laws. Thematic content of the scriptural passages is not simplistic or literal, it is, conversely, designed for comprehension on multiple, abstract, metaphorical levels. Blind faith and slavish devotion, encouraged by other faiths, is not conducive to Judaism. Instead, worship in the ancient monotheism demands significant literacy skills due to the cognitive demands of the texts, with tradition maintaining that understanding the Talmud requires “study of seven hours a day for seven years.” Charles Murray notes that, “no other religion made so many demands upon the whole body of its believers,” with the subsequent analysis that, “Judaism evolved in such a way that to be a good Jew meant that a man had to be smart.”

Healthy Hygiene & Diet: Professor Sam Lehman-Wilzig of Bar-Ilan University in Israel provided me with this theory. His suggestion is based on the fact that - due to their customary practices - the Jews probably enjoyed better hygiene than Gentiles. He points to the Jewish washing of hands before every meal, the men bathing at least once a week in the “mikveh” (a purification bathhouse) and the women bathing at least once a month, after their menstruation was over. He also notes the restriction on pork prevented Jews from contracting trichinosis. (Famous casualties of this parasitic disease include Gautama Buddha and Wolfgang Mozart). With lower disease rates, Jewish bodies would not have suffered as much as Gentiles and this would have improved their mental capacities. 

This notion has been repeated elsewhere. In 1953, research by Johns Hopkins University pharmacologist David I. Macht surmised that all the dozens of meat items banned by Jewish dietary laws in Deuteronomy and Leviticus were, in fact, more toxic than the kosher flesh that was permitted. Additionally, in the recent book Survival of the Sickest, author Sharon Moalem suggests that Jews removing leaven from their homes during Passover helped keep out the rats that spread bubonic plague in the 13th century. Last but not least, wealthy Ashkenazi Jews dwelling in larger houses in eastern Europe would have survived epidemics easier because they didn’t suffer the same high multiple infection rate that occurred in smaller homes with greater crowding. 

Extensive correlation between high IQ, healthy diet, infectious diseases, sanitation, and home crowding, is examined via research studies in later chapters of this book, particularly in “Early Years.”

Education Emphasized, Way Back in B.C. – Jeremiah Unterman of Jerusalem informed me that the Torah instructs every Jewish father to teach the Torah to his children, and Marisa Landau notes on a 6/4/05 discussion that it’s forbidden by the Jewish religion to keep child illiterate. Additionally, Landau  reports that Jewish women learned to read and write, a phenomenon that was unique in the ancient world. Landau also mentions that it has long been a custom among Jews to provide a full pension - for up to 10 years – to an intelligent son-in-law who wishes to entirely devote himself to study. The Jews, it seems, invented the notion of “scholarships.”

In the medieval era, the French monk, Peter Abelard (1079-1142) penned this about Jewish education: “A Jew, however poor, even if he had ten sons, would get them all to letters, not for gain as the Christians do, but for understanding of God’s law.  And not only for his sons, but his daughters.”

Mandatory Schools For Males - In 64 A.D., the high priest Joshua ben Gamla issued and implemented an ordinance mandating schools for all boys, beginning at age 6. Within 100 years, Jews had established universal male literacy and numeracy, the first ethnicity in history to achieve this.

The progressive, demanding edict created a huge demographic shift. The high, oft-times prohibitive cost of educating children in the subsistence farming economy of the 2nd to 6th centuries prompted numerous Jews to voluntarily convert to Christianity, leading to a decline in Jewish population from 4.5 million to 1.2 million.

Natural “eugenics” favored two groups in this situation: 1) the sons of wealthier, ostensibly more intelligent Jews, who could provide greater funding for the schools that maintained their offspring’s membership as Jews, and, 2) the smartest boys who could quickly learn reading, writing and arithmetic at a pace at which they could afford to “stay Jewish.” 

Who was left out? Removed from the gene pool? Answer: the poorer, uneducated Jews, and/or those with the lowest IQ. 

Urban Upgrade – 80-90% of Jews were farmers in 1 AD.  But only 10-20% remained in agriculture by 1000 A.D. The education required by Joshua ben Gamla’s edict delivered verbal and math skills to Jewish boys, enabling them to move out of subsistence rural life into highly-skilled urban professions, involving sales, trade, and financial transactions. 

Moving from a pastoral environment into cities implements an IQ boost, due to urbanism’s increased complexity, literacy, and technology. A Hanoi National University study in 2006 showed a whopping 19.4 IQ difference between city and country students.  A 1970 survey in Greece recorded a difference of 10-13 points. Other studies note smaller discrepancies of only 2-6 points, but unanimously, urban residents always score higher, and Jews are one of the world’s longest-urbanized ethnicities.

Dialectic and Rational Thought – Dr. Sam Lehman-Wilzig informed me that one of the noteworthy approaches to Jewish learning is “dialectic.”  The Talmud itself is not a “law code” but instead, a huge compendium of ARGUMENTS. Jews are encouraged to see different perspectives of an issue, and they’re taught to question everything, including the Law, the Rabbi’s logic, and one’s own belief system. Rabbis developed argumentative principles, an entire system of questioning that the Jews have utilized for 2,000 years in both religious and secular debates.

Dialectic was not a ‘Jewish’ invention: it was a learning technique that Jews borrowed and adapted from Greek philosophy; the synthesis is a ‘Socratic-Jewish methodology.’ Traces of the Greek influence are evident in the Passover Seder where the Jewish father reclines on a pillow (similar to the Greeks) while the youngest Jewish child asks Four Questions. This method of learning was unique during the Middle Ages, compared to Catholic Europe’s ‘authoritative’ traditions.

Dr. Sanford Aranoff, Professor of Science and Mathematics at Rider University, conveyed to me a similar message. In his opinion, Judaism is based on principles of rational thought. (Rational thinking begins with clearly stated principles, continues with logical deductions, and then examines empirical evidence to possibly modify the principles.)

The analytic, strategic skills developed in both Jewish dialectic and critical thinking are an important component of IQ tests, and they’re essential in legal, academic, science, and engineering careers.

Clever Clerics Propagate: A major difference between Catholicism and Judaism is that priests have been celibate since the 4th century Council of Carthage decreed that they abstain from conjugal relations, whereas Jewish rabbis have always been encouraged to marry and multiply. In the Middle Age this resulted in massive IQ depression for Catholics, because their brightest, academically gifted boys were usually locked up in seminaries that wasted their gene pool. Meanwhile… sage, scholastic Jewish rabbis were marrying smart women and creating large, clever families. Three tomes that examine this phenomenon are Robert Novick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia, Ernst Vandenberg’s The Jewish Mystique, and Paul Johnson’s A History of the Jews.  

Breeding for Brains:

Our Rabbis teach, Let a man sell all that he has and marry the daughter of a learned man. If he cannot find the daughter of a learned man, let him marry the daughter of one of the great men of his day. If he does not find such a one, let him marry the daughter of one of the heads of the congregation, or, failing this, the daughter of a charity collector, or even the daughter of a schoolmaster; but let him not marry the daughter of an illiterate man, for the unlearned are an abomination, as also their wives and their daughters.”   P’sachim, fol. 49, col. 2.

Judaic texts like the one above emphasize repeatedly that knowledge and intelligence are supreme virtues, with ignorance the grossest liability.  Following this dictum, the Jews enhanced their gene pool for smartnesss. In A History of the Jews, author Paul Johnson notes that, “among the Jews the most intelligent people have always been very valued and sought after as husbands, so they procreate and spread their good genes.” Charles Murray observed another matchmaking tendency, when he notes that “by marrying the children of scholars to the children of successful merchants, Jews were in effect joining those selected for abstract reasoning ability with those selected for practical intelligence.”

Meanwhile, Catholics were marrying for “class” reasons, angling for blue-blood aristocrat gains that had no link to intelligence.  Physical strength and valor was also desired, via brave knights on the battlefield - this exaltation of brawn over brains likewise did nothing to advance that religion’s collective IQ.

Trading Tongues: Ashkenazi merchants plied their wares over a vast area, originally to Islamic regions, but later internationally - 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 in adopted lands with their neighbors that spoke German, Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Russian, Ukrainian, French, Dutch, etc. 

The Ashkenazi developed a “fusion” tongue: Yiddish (German, Hebrew, Aramaic, plus other Slavic languages and a touch of Romance). At its height - before World War II - Yiddish was spoken by 13 million. The polyglot language produced exemplary culture in literature, theater, and film.

Neurologists today recognize that multiple language learning enhances memory, mental flexibility, problem solving, abstract thinking, and creative hypothesis formulation. Explanations of the benefits abound; I recommend listening to the video, “Bilingualism Will Supercharge Your Baby’s Brain.” 

Squeezed Into Brilliance: Jews in Europe were officially excluded from “common” occupations such as agriculture from 800-1700 A.D. Indeed, they were usually not allowed to own land. The restrictions forced Ashkenazim for 900 years into urban vocations that were cognitively more demanding, such as trade, bookkeeping, commerce, sales, and investment. The frequent Christian prohibition against charging of interest in money lending - prohibited as “usury” – assisted in opening up financial banking occupations for Jews. Historical records reveal that 80% of the Jews in Roussilon, southern France, in 1270 were money-lenders.

Later, after they were evicted from Western Europe, Ashkenazim were welcomed in Poland as urban investors and initiators of trade who could help modernize the nation. They were also in great demand in middle management positions because they had mathematic and business administration skills.

Ashkenazim who weren’t mathematically and verbally adept enough to succeed in these “white collar” 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.  

Winnowed By Persecution: The most intelligent and/or wealthy Ashkenazim were better equipped to escape 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.

The repeated annihilation, expulsion, and flight of the Jewish people is universally known. The first Diaspora to Babylonia has already been mentioned. A second Diaspora is popularly regarded as a series of dispersals from Israel after the failure of Jewish revolts against the Roman Empire from 70 C.E. – 135 C.E. In 629 C.E., King Dagobert of the Franks ordered the Jews to convert, leave his land, or face execution. The First Crusade, 1096-1099 C.E., cruelly slaughtered thousands of Ashkenazi, an estimated 25%. Jews were expelled from England in 1290, France in 1394 and parts of Germany in the 15th century. Pogroms in the Russian Empire in the 19th and early 20th century murdered substantial numbers of Jews, and the Holocaust, instigated by Adolf Hitler, led to the genocide of approximately six million, primarily Ashkenazi.

Whenever and wherever persecution began, Jews were more likely to escape if they could pay their way out, or were wealthy enough to have horses, carriages, employees as guards, rich relatives to flee to, and friends in “high places.”  High IQ has frequently been correlated with economic success.

Sick Genius: Ashkenazim are prey to about nineteen debilitating genetic diseases, and it’s been surmised that several of them might have cognitive “side effects” that can enhance intelligence. Many of the disorders can kill or severely weaken those who have two copies of the gene, but if you inherit just one, you get a “heterozygote advantage” that can include neuron growth promotion and accelerated interconnection of brain cells. For example, having just one of the allele in Tay-Sachs and Niemann-Pick – GM2ganglioside - could moderately increase dentrite growth.

Another Ashkenazi ailment is Gaucher’s disease, which seems to promote axonal growth and branching.  A survey discovered that out of 255 employed patients of Gaucher’s disease at Shaare Zedek Medical Centre in Jerusalem, were in occupations that require IQs over 120, and 15% were scientists. Another survey of Ashkenazim with Torsion Dystomia revealed an average IQ of 121.

I interviewed Gregory Cochran via email; he’s the University of Utah co-author of the 2005 research report, “Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence.” In his words, “any IQ boost due to Gaucher’s [would be] a good deal less than 10-15 points [but] It may be that big for Torsion Dystonia: everyone who has treated them marvels at how sharp they are… [However] only a fraction [of Ashkenazi IQ elevation] is due to particular mutations like Gaucher, in our opinion.” In another interview, Cochran pinpointed the fractions as, “One in two thousand Askenazi, at most, carry a Tay-Sachs mutation and a Gaucher mutation, the two most common.”

Ashkenazim are not an isolated ethnicity, after residing with Eastern European neighbors for over a millennium.  While many observers suggest that they’re 30% European, an Emory University study concluded that researchers “were able to estimate that between 35 and 55 percent of the modern Ashkenazi genome comes from European descent.”

Positive Thinking – Aubrey Max Sandman, PhD, an electrical engineer in London, sent me an email asserting that positive attitude is what counts, not genetics. His opinion is that non-Jews do not work as hard as Jews, to attain their full potential.

In actuality, “positive thinking” actually does elevate IQ.  2011 research at Michigan State University revealed that a subject’s “mind set” makes a difference in intelligence because their attitude determines if they react productively, or self-destructively, to their mistakes. The report will soon be published, hopefully with specific data charting IQ gains, in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science.

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 are 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. Admittedly, these benefits are not hereditary, but youngsters who practice the game can elevate their memory storage, strategic planning, and IQ.

Additional information about the benefits of chess can be found in my later chapter, “School Years.” 

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. 

Additional information about the benefits of musical training can be found in the following chapters: “Early Years” and “School Years.”

Comfortable Supportive Families, With High Expectations: Success promotes success, on the neurological level. Victory provides a rush of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that activates motivation for further accomplishments. Ashkenazi children generally understand they are capable of high achievement, and they’re urged 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.

Available income that allows offspring to study and develop intellectually is also important; wealth also permits access to elite schools. Surveys indicate that American Jews earn about twice the income of non-Jews, plus they have 2.5 times more capital assets. The result?  The average American Jew receives 2.5 more years of education. Even during the Middle Age many Jews were upper and middle class in economic status, a condition that secured good education for their children.

 Untermensch Go Elsewhere? A 40+-year old Jewish commenter from New York City with the nomenclature “ASAMATTEROFFACT” informed me that - in his opinion - Ashkenazi who lack high intelligence and creativity end up feeling inferior.  He believes this eventually leads to the “untermensch” marrying outside of the tribe. Only the ubermensch remain to reproduce. His point of view was echoed by another poster - Efox” - who stated that less intelligent Jews incapable of being their own “Priest” inevitably left Judaism to join another religion. 

Empathetic Rabbis – A commenter who identified himself as “zeev from jew york city” informed me that many rabbis were “Einsteins of Empathy” – amazingly kind, patient, loving and understanding of other humans. The high-level “empaths” impacted their congregations, making their lives better and promoting their ambitions and enterprizes.

In later chapters (“Early Years” and “School Years”) I discuss the IQ-boosting benefits of “Emotional Support” and “Teacher Effectiveness” – two gifts that were undoubtedly provided by compassionate rabbis.

Fear of Anti-Semitism? – Commenter “Morris Wise” stated a paranoiac position after reading my original article on the website.  In his opinion, Jews are driven to attain high academic success, career achievement, and wealth, because they want to feel safe, protected and insulated from anti-Jewish feelings in the outside community.  This point-of-view can, of course, be justified by the long history of resentment and persecution that Jews have experienced.

Twenty explanations for high Ashkenazi IQ!  My opinion? Regarding the fourscore? They’re possibly all correct, and valuable to contemplate. However, what I find most intriguing are the “environmental” factors that are accessible to all humanity.

I wonder: if the people of the world really want high-level intellectual 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? Isn’t a “dietary code” actually an excellent idea, in American culture with its 33.5% adult obesity? Why can’t we provide them with excellent schools, entice them to learn 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 successful cultures like the Ashkenazi, 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?

Hank Pellissier (author) is available as a speaker on this topic.   @ hankpellissier

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


Considering the very small number of mothers they can be traced to, couldn’t another explanation be ‘random chance’? Isn’t it possible that the four women who happened to account for a huge percentage of Ashkenazim were just coincidentally very intelligent, and passed that along?

Hank, does IQ have anything to do with compassion, altruism, peace, love, and empathy?

Kris - I think the answer to your question can be found in Steven Pinker’s “The Better Angels of Our Nature.” Global rise in IQ correlates with empathetic social gains. Nations with the highest IQ are also less violent (and less impoverished).

That doesn’t necessarily indicate causation - traumatic poverty and violence damages mental health.

But still - have you ever heard of an improved educational system ... leading to a Crime Wave?

so… my answer is Yes.  Pinker, interestingly, also says Literature leads to less violence, greater understanding, etc. Good Literature enables you enter into the minds of other people and share their experiences; it can profoundly increase your empathy. Historic examples are “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and Les Miserables.

What data does Pinker use to correlate IQ with reduced violence? The historical record contains countless examples of organized butchery from the supposedly highly intelligent groups. Western Europeans and East Asians - two groups noted for their IQ scores - killed millions in the WWII and Cold War eras. It’s difficult to blame such horrors on insufficient IQ. Presently, high-IQ nations presumably run by high-IQ people continues to do terrible things. Specifically in relation to this article, the Ashkenazi Jews dominant in Israel administer a settler-colonial state and dispossess the Palestianian people. Even assuming there is some correlation between IQ and empathy/peace/etc, I’m skeptical IQ as a hueristic device has any merit in relation to violence - or at all, for that matter!

Hi Summerspeaker - I really recommend Pinker’s book. I found it very persuasive. I hope you enjoy it. It is very long and full of statistics… if you disagree with him, we’re at an impasse.

His basic premise is that humanity is getting increasingly less violent, especially in the last 150 years. And I wholeheartedly agree with that - there’s less slavery, torture, murder, etc.

You’re blaming high IQ Ashkenazi Jews for violence in Israel? Sorry, I’m not going to discuss that with you - I regard it as off-topic.

My paper explores conditions a sector of humanity has utilized to elevate Mental Health -  IQ is just the measurement used.

Do you regard any of the 20 as invalid?

I’m familiar with The Better Angels of Our Nature. Pinker goes to remarkable lengths to generate numbers to match eir Hobbesian ideology. The violence figures ey uses as the human prehistoric baseline come from twentieth-century, non-hunter-gather groups. Read my more lengthy critique here: suffice it to say that statistics from the medieval era and earlier are dubious in the extreme. Against Pinker and Hobbes, the archaeological evidence indicates that agriculture either negatively or negligibly influenced the health of vast majority of the human population until approximately the nineteenth century. See Health and the Rise of Civilization by Mark Nathan Cohen.

My point in citing the intense violence in Palestine administered by an Ashkenazi elite is to undermine the claimed connected between IQ and peacefulness. It comes in response to your citation of Pinker that national average IQ correlates with lower violence. Like members of any other group, Ashkenazi Jews do both horrific and wonderful things. I’m arguing that a complex web of social, historical, political, economic, and other such factors lead to violence or the lack thereof, and that looking at group IQ constitutes more of a dangerous distraction than a useful heuristic.

You mention the colonization of Palestine in your article as an example of Ashkenazi achievement, Hank, so it’s directly relevant. Israel’s wealth comes significantly from the dispossession of that land’s previous inhabitants and the exploitation of its resources. Settler colonialism may be an example of intelligence, but surely not of empathy or any morality I want a part of.

Summerspeaker - let’s be truthful, shall we? - I didn’t remotely claim that “colonizing Palestine” was an “Ashkenazi achievement.”

I said the accomplishments of Israel are impressive, and they coincide with the remarkable accomplishments of the Jewish people in general, and Ashkenazi in particular.

I have read your dismissal of Pinker’s book. I disagree entirely with your opinion, I side with the many critics who find it consistently accurate and important. This list includes IEET’s Russell Blackford, who reviewed it here:

We’re still off-topic. I wrote an essay about high IQ, not empathy.

I wrote it largely because I have children - I want them to succeed academically and assist human advancement via their careers, if that is something they wish to do.

Examining the historical background, educational methods, and lifestyle habits of the hugely-contributing Ashkenazi provided me with valuable parental advice. My kids are now in music classes, and they play chess, for example. And their math grades have gone up.


You implicitly attributed to Ashkenazi intelligence the progression from impoverished marshes to economic and technological prowess while omitting how all of this relied on Palestinian dispossession. Such transmutation of violent colonization to benign development constitutes a classic settler-colonial narrative. We see it habitually for the United States as well. Regardless of your intentions - and you’re a well-known supporter of Israel - your words to bolster the Zionist state.

I’ve modest affection for music and chess myself; I’m certainly not making any specific objections to those recommendations. I do find the whole concept and valorization of achievement problematic even as I sympathize with some of it. Not all of us necessary want to be award-winning scientists with giant IQs or whatever other normative definition of success you can think of. I wish you the best in following your dreams, but fear this process in part reinforces oppressive discourses and dynamics. (Needless to say, the same applies to most if not all dreams to some extent. As a humanities scholar, I’m trained to point baleful resonances out.)

The suggestion that Yiddish’s provenance as a syncretic tongue gives its speakers the benefits of bilingualism is flawed beyond the first speakers of it who still had knowledge of the separate constituent tongues, as it subsequently settled into one tongue. Highly unlikely that such a statistically significant genetic outlier would be preserved for that many generations, due solely to the genetic makeup in question.

@Summerspeaker: While it’s pretty undeniable that jewry has benefited materially, and thus likely for their IQ, from a pretty monstrous occupation effort, it’s implausible that this is the key explanatory factor, as the data in the article demonstrating anomalous IQ stretches back centuries before said occupation. It is, however, a plausible contender for explaining the acceleration of said anomaly in recent years, coupled with the amplifying effects of recent technology.

I’m certainly not trying to suggest that the occupation of Palestine causes high Ashkenazi IQ scores! By my understanding most of the tests have been of folks living elsewhere anyway. My point is that describing Israel, Australia, the United States, Canada, or any other settler state as a triumph of the intellect of the settler group reinforces settler colonialism.

@Summerspeaker: you may not be trying to suggest this plain fact, though it persists regardless of your suggestion. I grant you the point about the triumph of the intellectl of the settler group reinforcing settler colonialism. Now what?

Summerspeaker claims that “the intense violence in Palestine administered by an Ashkenazi elite”. How’s that?
When there was a small Jewish community in Jerusalem in 1921, Arabs committed a Jewish pogrom in that city. In 1936-1939 Arab uprising resulted in about 2000 deaths.
In 1948, right after declaration of State of Israel, five Arab armies started a war against Israel. It repeated itself in 1967 and 1973.
Tell me please, Mr. Summerspeaker, how many Jews all around the world are sitting in jails for murder? How many Jews have exploded themselves in a bus full of people, in a cafe or at a market?
The unfortunate fact is that many non-Jews look at the Arab-Israeli conflict in the same way as Mr. Summerspeaker.
What can we do? The Bell curve speaks for itself. Not everybody belongs to its far right side.

“My point is that describing Israel, Australia, the United States, Canada, or any other settler state as a triumph of the intellect of the settler group reinforces settler colonialism.”

Settler states are intellectually triumphant; moral surrenders. North American states, Mexico included (the Mexican-American War was one settler state fighting another), Australia, N. Zealand, have been economic successes; moral failures. There is no connection between morality and commerce.. commerce being what the West has done best.
When I wrote IMO Native Americans are not generally progressive it was not to judge them by Western standards, yet it is to judge them by 21st century progressive notions. The West has represented gross materialist values beginning on a large scale with mercantilism—whereas 21st century progressive values would tend to be less violent/grossly materialistic. No one at IEET wants to invade third world nations to build fast food restaurants and or sell the natives alcohol and tobacco.

The future?: perhaps less violent, but not moral. No evidence exploitation will end while we are still human.

“My point in citing the intense violence in Palestine administered by an Ashkenazi elite is to undermine the claimed connected between IQ and peacefulness”

We are in agreement on this; in fact the most genocidal men have possessed 140+ IQs: Stalin, Hitler, Goebbels, Pol Pot, Mao.




Mr. Summerspeaker pushes again his ridiculous claim that “the intense violence in Palestine administered by an Ashkenazi elite”. He ignores my post that counts the numerous facts regarding the Arab violence that started the bloodshed in Palestine. Without any Israeli involvement the civil war in Lebanon resulted in 200,000 fatalities, and the Iran-Iraq war left one million people dead.
I believe that Mr. Summerspeaker has an agenda, probably rooted in his deep anti-Jewish sentiments. I was born in Russia, and in my long life I met many people like Mr. Summerspeaker. Their commonality is that you can bring up 1000 facts and reasons, and they stubbornly continue ignoring all the facts.

Speaking about Israel, it’s a well known fact that the Sephardi (out of Arab countries) population there is much more militant than the Ashkenazim. The violence we observe in Arab countries and in Africa (Sudan, for instance) definitely shows that murderous behavior is associated with low, not high, IQ. In general, the claim that high IQ somehow causes violent behavior is ridiculous.

It’s well known that Stalin was poorly educated man with limited speech skills. Anyone who has read Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” knows that the book is primitive in its style and essence. There’s no data about Pol Pot’s and Mao’s IQ. Some of their sayings are out of touch with reality.
On the other hand, were Einstein, the discoverer of immunity Dr. Mechnikov, poet Boris Pasternak and 177 Jewish Nobel Prize winners (21% of all recipients) violent? The vast majority of those Nobel laureates are Ashkenazim.

Jeffny—Very well put!  Thanks!  I’ve noticed in anti-Israel commenters like Summerspeaker that they often seem very uninformed about the actual history of Israel’s formation. This doesn’t keep them from expressing their opinions, in erroneous generalities, with words like “colonialism”  “imperialism”, etc.

Jews who moved to Palestine from 1880-1948 purchased peacefully hundreds of thousands of acres of land from Arabs.
The land the Jews purchased could not have been “stolen” later by them from Arabs - the Jews already legally owned it.

Previous to 1948 there was not an independent Arab nation in Palestine - it was Turkish (Ottoman) controlled from 1880-1922, after that it was British-controlled.

The nation of Israel was formed by a majority vote in the United Nations.

Basic facts like this need to be known and recognized by people who want to argue about Israel’s right to exist.

The violence we observe in Arab countries and in Africa (Sudan, for instance) definitely shows that murderous behavior is associated with low, not high, IQ.

Valid.. yet do not forget the most effective murderers have been highly intelligent dictators who got others to do the killing at their behest. Hitler never killed anyone save possibly during WWI. Goebbels was a creampuff, a pussycat, in his personal life. Stalin never personally killed anybody in the Gulags. Same is true of Mao and Pol Pot.

In general, the claim that high IQ somehow causes violent behavior is ridiculous. It’s well known that Stalin was poorly educated man with limited speech skills. Anyone who has read Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” knows that the book is primitive in its style and essence.

As a Hitler/Stalinologist I can tell you they both had IQs circa 140, and the primitiveness of their rhetoric was an asset not a liability in swaying proletarians and simpletons: the masses were crucial in realising demagogic schemes.

There’s no data about Pol Pot’s and Mao’s IQ. Some of their sayings are out of touch with reality.

Their IQs were high; Pol Pot studied in Paris. BTW, some of the most famous criminals were v. smart. Manson was uneducated though extremely bright and capable of manipulating flower children to kill for him. The vicious but brilliant law student Ted Bundy could have been a judge. The craftiness of Breivik and McVeigh indicates high intelligence. We could go on ‘n on with a laundry list of criminals with IQs above, say, 125.
Speaking of law student, the avatar of white nationalism is David Duke, who studied law and has a PhD in something or other—unless he faked his doctorate (which might itself be considered a sign of intelligence)
As for Summerspeaker, he did write he was trained to be quote baleful unquote; probably to let us know he is an arch dialectician/gadfly. Summerpeaker may be right about Pinker although I’m not such a geek as to look up what Pinker wrote about Medieval and ancient/prehistoric history. Am sure the following is a good read, but it would take hours to digest:
Am not biased against Arabs, Shiites, either, would like to travel to an Arab and or Shiite nation: difficulty isn’t going to those countries, it is getting out in one piece.. ditto for parts of America and Mexico as well—so it isn’t fear of foreigners; it is fear of death- being politically correct ends at the tip of a sword.

Before getting below to the topic of Israel and Jews, am going to stick to writing that since 1945 violence has diminished.. and it appears unlikely we could have survived this long unless violence had diminished post-WWII. Plus there’s more evidence: wars since ‘45 have gotten smaller though it is true violence has been diffused rather than lessened. As Sakharov pointed out, alienation and criminality are everpresent—we filter alienation/criminality out of our minds to function properly. Would definitely write—would guess—war has been transformed into widespread anomie. However, better anomie than outright violence because one nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day.
Something about America I can never forgive is how so many men were conscripted to be sent to Vietnam; thus I wont praise Israel until it ceases drafting its citizens. Besides, too many chickenhawks in Israel as everywhere. The first ‘E’ in IEET is Ethics, and if one accepts conscription, ethics becomes expediency at best, which is amorality. At the v. least, no one who calls himself or herself technoprogressive/progressive can advocate the Draft. The line has to be drawn somewhere: and conscription by Israel is the place to draw it:
it is a sign of quite bad use of intelligence.

The European Jewish settlement of Palestine after the Balfour Delcaration came in the context of explicit and convert designs for the political and social transformation of the region. Various Zionist thinkers prefigured the dispossession and expulsion of Palestinians that in fact happened. The details of land purchase don’t change the settler-colonial dynamics involved. Recognizing this dynamic in no way entails support for Arab/Muslim nationalism in general or in any of specific manifestations against Jewish settlement/immigration/colonization or against the Israeli state. That’s a broad and complicated question. Nor does Israeli settler colonialism diminish the horrific suffering the Jewish people in the Holocaust, Ashkenazi intellectual accomplishments, or anything like that.

The charge of antisemitism is of course inevitable in any criticism of the state of Israel. Note that here the same person who hurls it attributes violence in Africa and Arab countries to the supposed low IQ of Africans and Arabs. Pay careful attention to whom you’ve got on your side, Hank.

As far as violence and IQ goes, regardless of Hitler’s scores, the Nazi state involved many successful scientists and technicians. My claim is not that IQ is positively associated with violence, but that IQ is a poor heuristic for violence.

P.S. I’m not a “Mr.” or a “he.”

P.P.S. Please don’t misquote me or wildly misread my comments.

Hi Summerspeaker - I don’t think I misquoted you - if you are referring to me?

IQ is IQ, violence is violence, I am largely in agreement with you that high IQ doesn’t translate as peacefulness, and low IQ doesn’t guarantee violence.

I went to a Bar Mitzvah last weekend… It is a very demanding ceremony for a 13 year old!  It should be listed as explanation #21 - ! there’s nothing that’s the equivalent for non-Jews…

I argued a bit with people I met there. I’m not Jewish, I’m an atheist - one of my questions was “How can Jews believe in their “God”, at all, after the Holocaust?” Their answers quite surprised me…

The majority of Jews there were also “anti-Israel.” The general opinion seemed to be embarrassment about Israel and a willingness to not have it exist.

It’s interesting to me that “progressives” can have wildly different opinions on this topic.



No, I wasn’t referring to you, Hank. Yes, lots of Jewish people of course oppose the occupation of Palestine, including both folks I know personally here in my local community and prominent intellectuals like Noam Chomsky.

Hi Summerspeaker - I am quite aware of Noam Chomsky’s opinions etc….. What surprised me in my discussions was the immense amount of Self-Criticism that many of the Jews I talked to expressed…

This essay below defines it as the “masochistic omnipotence complex” - the notion that “yes, we Jews are to blame for everything”

I wanted to talk them out of these feelings, because, as you note above, that attitude aligns them with dangerous ideologies.

Summerspeaker: “The charge of antisemitism is of course inevitable in any criticism of the state of Israel.”
You are wrong, my friend. A constructive criticism of Israel is not just accepted, but is also highly needed. But your claims don’t hold water. Next, I expect you to tell me that “some of your friends are Jews” or another cliche.
Now regarding opposing “the occupation of Palestine”. 
Mark Twain’s visited Lebanon, Syria, and the Holy Land in 1867. His report was published in “The Innocents Abroad”, where he described Palestine as follows:

  “..... A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds… a silent mournful expanse…. a desolation…. we never saw a human being on the whole route…. hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.” (The Innocents Abroad, p. 361-362)

If somebody thinks about “occupation of Palestine” he should refer to Arabs who came there from near countries after Jewish settlements started to flourish. The native Arabs in that land are bedouins.  They don’t see Jews as occupiers. Bedouins in Israel even serve in the army which fights the Arab occupiers.

Summerspeaker - my social circle here in San Francisco has always included many UC Berkeley graduates. The ones I know are invariably anti-Israel, even if they are Jewish.

I remember way back when our POVs differed. It was that Edward Said book, Orientalism, that Everybody Read. That book seduced college students in the 1980’s, but I didn’t like it at all.

Perhaps I am in a rare category? - a progressive who doesn’t feel a need to apologize for being white, western, male, hetero, etc.

@Hank: Are you suggesting that to be among those demographic categories while not supporting the Israeli occupation is tantamount to apologizing for them?

SHaGGGz - hey!  I’m not walking into that trap!  No, I didn’t mean that, and when I say “progressive” I am referring to much more than just one’s stance on Israel.

I am usually not remotely proud to be an “American” especially in the last two weeks, although I was very proud when Obama was first elected. But… I am not apologetic about being male, white, Western, hetero…

@Hank: Well, what did you mean then? I’m not trying to trap you, but am trying to figure out what it is you mean when you connect those things. I know what you mean by “progressive” - I count myself among that camp, as well as white male western hetero, but am not so compromised as to equate any criticism of Israel with antisemitism. In fact, I resent such overreach all the more as it fuels ignorant bigots.

ShaGGGZ - There are many components to being a progressive, and not every progressive has the same priorities. For example, I regard Israel as important in the region because it is more gay-friendly and feminist than its neighbors. Gay-friendly and Feminist are big progressive priorities for me.

However, Israel’s “progressiveness” in these categories isn’t valuable enough for many American progressives - they disregard it’s success in these categories because Israel offends them in other ways.

Does that answer your question?  There are “progressives” who prioritize ... egalitarian wages (Denmark), lax drug laws (The Netherlands), right-to-die policies (Switzerland). health care (France), democratic participation (Norway) etc. There’s a cocktail of “progressive” markers and many nations have some, but not all. Singapore is “techno-progressive” but they’ll execute you for selling drugs.

Israel has many aspects of “progressiveness” but not enough to satisfy all progressives.

Me? I compare it’s behavior in “progressive” categories to it’s neighbors and find it quite commendable.

No, that doesn’t answer my question, which was regarding the supposed need to apologize for being white male etc. if one doesn’t fully support Israel. I don’t apologize for any of those things when I question Israel’s policies. I think it’s possible to recognize that Israel is a far better exemplar of our cherished progressive values than its neighbors in the region (which I do), while also not shying away from the cavalcade of human rights abuses it engages in in pursuit of its geopolitical objectives. Being a victim for millennia doesn’t make being an oppressor suddenly okay - we either apply moral strictures universally, or we don’t.

SHaGGGz - my original statement:

“Perhaps I am in a rare category? - a progressive who doesn’t feel a need to apologize for being white, western, male, hetero, etc.”

I didn’t write that statement to be about Israel.

It refers more to this - I’ve noticed when Summerspeaker writes, he often lumps nouns together like:  white western settler colonialist imperialist mentality… etc.

even though he is of course white and western himself.

In doing so, he blames “his own people” for many or most historical evils, and he would, I assume, feel .. genetically guilty in association?

I have of course, been occasionally, especially when younger, asked to apologize in my life - by “progressives” for being white western male hetero… 

I don’t. Apologize. I didn’t do anything wrong, and I do good things myself.

I hope that clears it up.


regarding what you said above about Israel’s behavior, I will have to get back to you later in the day about that. Just off-hand, I’d say that I am deeply sympathetic of Israel due to persecution of Jews throughout history and that I cut them more slack than you.



SHaGGGz, can you give us an example of what you call “being an oppressor” in case of Israel? Keep in mind that we are not dealing with Monaco or Riviera. It’s an area were killing some 10-20,000 people is no big deal (like in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq). Even the USA with its human rights obsession uses torture to save its citizen’s lives.
So I would’ve been thankful for describing Israel’s “oppression”.

SHaGGGz - for example, regarding Israel - among progressives there is often an outcry that there shouldn’t be a “Jewish state” that this is non-democratic and they won’t support it.

But… do these same outraged progressives complain as vociferously about Saudi Arabia, an Islamic state of 27 million, that has far far less religious freedom than Israel?

No, they don’t. But… why not? It baffles me that progressives are fixated and outraged by what they regard as Israel’s failings, but they permit other “religious states” to execute apostates, ban Bibles, deeply discriminate against women, etc.

I am a “progressive” Danish supporter and admirer of Israel, and I’d like to declare my support for Hank and Jeffny also. I’m saying “progressive”, as I am ever more disenchanted with the term, and I should probably label myself a Liberal instead.. - Liberals, it seems to me, tend to do what they find to be right, whereas “progressives” do what they think is correct.., - consider, for instance, political correctness.., -

but hey, that is another discussion, and what I really wanted to say here is..

Well, - I have a friend who blogs about Israel, and he informs me that Israel is a world leader in humanitarian aid. Don’t take my word for it, but consider, for instance, that Israel has 29.000, twenty-nine-thousand ! humanitarian, non-profit organizations. - Now, - don’t give me crap about Israelis only tending their own, - for starters, watch this video:

In short, I totally reject the mean insinuations that Israelis / Jews are not empathetic. Not only are they highly intelligent, Ashkenazi Jews in particular, they are also highly empathetic. I’ll leave it to each one of you to decide for yourself whether or not there is a connection..

The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is a Palestinian-led organization which uses non-violent direct action against the occupation of Palestine. ISM was a prominent organization in the globalization movement.  ISM became well known amongst people in the left when Rachel Corrie, a 24 year old girl from Olympia, WA was killed by an Israeli bulldozer operated by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) while she was acting as a human-shield against the destruction of a Palestinian home.

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Amnesty International is very respected human rights group with over 2.2 million members and subscribers. It campaigns all around world against human injustice.

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Is a website dedicated to inform people about the wall being build around Palestine and Israel dubed the apartheid wall by many activists around the world. The website contains pictures and reports about the walls construction, its impact on the lives of Palestinians and actions against it.

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The Guardian is a well known news paper from England which was started in 1821 and is known for truthful and in-depth coverage.

(6)http://english.aljazeera.<wbr >net/focus/arabunity/2008/02/<wbr >20085251908164329.html
Al Jazeera is a moderate news station of the Middle East.  It became well known to the public of the United States after 9/11.  CNN and other news organizations will sometimes use footage from Al Jazeera.

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BBC News is a news corporation stationed in England.  News coming  from the BBC seems to not be biased like news stations we have in the United States.  It can be compared to CNN.

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Z Communications is a media group founded in 1986 by Michael Albert and Lydia Sargent. Its publications include Z Magazine, ZNet, Z Media, and Z Video, most of its content is leftist-liberal in nature.

(9)<wbr >wiki/Jerusalem_Riots_of_1947
“Wikipedia is [a website] written collaboratively by volunteers from all around the world. Anyone with internet access can make changes to Wikipedia articles. Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has grown rapidly into one of the largest reference web sites, attracting around 65 million visitors monthly as of 2009.

(10)http://www.<wbr ><wbr >commentary/israel-palestine-<wbr >obama-holds-all-cards
Israel Policy Forum is a U.S. led organization that believes the conflict between Israel and Palestine cannot be cured without the U.S. helping in diplomatic issues and policies.  IPF is for a two state solution to the conflict and works towards goals to this end.

The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network is a anti-Zionist Jewish organization dedicated to bringing about peace to Israel and Palestine.  They have members world wide who support the use of non-violent direct action to get their message across.

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The American Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook is an online information site which contains information about 266 world states and regions.</p>

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions is a Israeli run group which uses non-violent direct action against house demolitions similar to ISM.  ICAHD is dedicated to the education about what is really going on between Israel and Palestine.  The founder of ICAHD, Jeff Halper routinely gets arrested when he chains himself to Palestinian houses before they are about to be demolished by the IDF.  He invites people from all around the world to participate in these important actions.

Joern Pallensen - who commented earlier - has written a proposal that would end the Palestinian problem. Here it is:

Another article, very well-researched, on the same topic as above -

To respond to Hank’s white-western-male-hetero pride parade - this reinforces to me why Dale Carrico calls IEET “White Guys of ‘The Future’” - note that I don’t view resisting oppression as apologizing or driven by guilt. Furthermore, I consider whiteness a political rather than genetic category and I favor abolition. Much the same goes for straightness.

Summerspeaker - I have watched you in the last 1.5 years move towards thinking very much like Dale Carrico, which is quite disheartening. I hope your ideas in the future, and about the future, can evolve independently of his influence.

Summerspeaker talks about straightens.  I visited many political forums where I met people with whom I disagreed. But I never met a person with such a twisted mind as that individual has. He possesses what may be called an “intellectual cowardliness”: when he meets an argument that he’s unable to refute with reasoning or facts, he just hides in his nutshell. and then, after sticking out his head, continues the old melody. 
OK, white - western - male - hetero pride people, you were put to shame!
Feel guilty for being white - western etc. Why did he forget other stigmas: imperialistic, exploiting, racist, homophobic, oppressing, greedy, unjust?

Dale and I share various critiques of transhumanism as well as certain political orientations and academic language, but we still disagree enough to always get in extended arguments whenever we substantively engage one another. I do find myself growing more and more sympathetic to Dale’s dismissal of transhumanism, but it’s a mixed bag.

Summerspeaker, isn’t your decision to regard whiteness as “a political rather than genetic category” part of the problem? To me it’s obscurantist. To me, whiteness is a description of skin colour. Nothing more, nothing less. Semantically associating it with a political category (defined how, by the way?) seems to me to be reinforcing the phenomenon you claim to oppose. In other words, it’s unhelpfully polarising.

Summerspeaker - I am glad you still argue with Dale Carrico.

I think it would be very wrong-headed for you to dismiss transhumanism because you see it as white, male, and hetero.

Dale and you are both “queer-identified.” But… so what? I don’t see how it’s relevant, except that you both frequently demonize “white, male, hetero.”

Which is rude.

Why is bashing transhumanism because you see it as white, male, and straight - any more intelligent than me deciding to not read Alice Walker because… she’s black, bi and female?

Don’t be a bigot. Don’t dismiss philosophies just because the thinker has a different sexual orientation than you… and… Peter Wick’s right - skin color can just be skin color, why heap politics on it?

we’re not talking about politics or history… we’re talking about science, technology, futurism.

@Jeffny: I consider guilt generally a misdirection. The point is destroying domination, not making those implicated in oppression feel good or bad about themselves.

@Peter: Whiteness isn’t a particularly accurate description of skin color for any white-privileged person I’ve met. While light skin serves as one of the markers of whiteness, the category comes out of the history of European colonization and the need to unite those of European descent against colonized Indigenous people and enslaved African laborers. In the United States, whiteness meant - and to varying degrees still means - the legal benefits of citizenship and comparative social prestige. In today’s era of neoliberal multiculturalism, the status of multicultural world citizen arguably offers some the privileges formerly tied to whiteness. Race in this view is a technology of social stratification rather than unchanging biological characteristic. Remember that boundaries of whiteness have shifted dramatically over the years. Benjamin Franklin, for instance, excluded most Germans from the club, which ey mainly limited to the English.

@Hank: Historically and presently privileged statuses like whiteness and masculinity aren’t the same as historically and presently oppressed ones such as blackness and queerness. I don’t believe it’s possible to talk about science, technology, or futurism without involving politics and history.

Yes Summerspeaker, whiteness has historically had that connotation, and to varying degrees that persists today. So what? My point was about our semantic choices. Is it better - as you seem to be suggesting - to actually build that into the definition of whiteness, and then seek to ‘abolish’ it, or to reclaim the word so it refers to colour - bearing in mind, of course, that when referring to skin it is used to distinguish paler skin from darker skin, as with coffee or chocolate - and then get on with fighting oppression?

It’s not that I particularly wish to take sides with regard to the article or Middle Eastern politics. On the latter subject I suspect the future depend in any case more on events in Cairo, Ankara, Istnabul and Damascus than those in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. As in Northern Ireland and the West Balkans, Palestine will stabilise once the sponsors of the warring sides normalise their own relations. But it does seem to me that you stepped over the line from pointing out ‘baleful historical resonances’ to making them yourself. Let’s just agree to make white a colour again, shall we?

I assure you the continuing importance of whiteness as a social category - one not strictly tied to skin color - isn’t my doing. Here in the United States membership in the club correlates with notable economic advantages. For example, using U.S. census categories, on average white families have eighteen to twenty times the wealth of black or Hispanic families. I draw my understanding of whiteness and what to do about it chiefly from the works of Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin, Zeus Leonardo, Noel Ignatiev, and David Roediger. I recommend these authors. Where to go from here remains a difficult problem, but I doubt you can make a white just a color again merely by assertion. The materialist account of race demands far more reaching changes to end white supremacy.

This from my favorite ‘conservative’ (rightist) article; it alludes to the negative of intelligence, that smart individuals and groups will use their intelligence to exploit others:

“inequalities are likely to be greatest in the personality traits, such as intelligence and ambition, that are related to acquiring property… since human beings have brains whose cognitive aspects are developed to an extraordinary degree compared to those of other animals, one would expect the human brain’s inheritable capacity to be highly variable. This theory is confirmed by recent studies suggesting that measurable personality traits are to a large degree inherited rather than shaped by the environment—and that intelligence is the trait most conserved through generations.”

The above is a universal observation, transcending discussion if race/ethnicity, it does hint at the dark side of business, intellectualism, academia.

I agree that we can’t make white “just a color again” merely by assertion, but the way we use words - and the assertions we use them to make - do make a difference, so it’s important in my view, especially for someone who likes to point out ‘baleful historical resonance’, to ensure that such efforts make things better, and not worse. Yes, I can very well believe that whiteness (and here we ARE essentially talking about skin color, no?) correlates with various privileges, both in the US and globally. Some of us worry about these things, and it’s why we have things like affirmative action. But to go all the way to affirming whiteness as being a political category, seems to me to be nudging things in the wrong direction, rather than the right direction.

Anyway, I’ve now read more carefully the context within which you made that statement. The suggestion Hank was making was that you tend to bundle everything into this anti white-western-hetero-imperialist-colonialist narrative. You responded by referring to Carrico’s “White Guys of the Future” slur, and it’s true that the discussions we have here tend to be very white- and male-dominated. I also used to think of that as a problem, but now I’m not so sure.  Different strokes for different folks, and if the kind of discussions we have here are of the type that mainly attract white men, does that matter? I certainly don’t see how it invalidates anything we write here. Of course we are not going to self-identify as White Guys of the Future - I would still welcome more diversity, other things being equal - but if that’s the reality, then really I don’t have a problem with it.

And this is related somewhat to Hank’s point about feeling we have to apologise for being white, male and hetero. The fact that Carrico thinks he’s being clever and insulting by referring to us as White Guys of the Future, and you introduced this into the discussion, indeed betrays the very conflation that I am complaining about, namely that you (and apparently he) fail to make the distinction between the various attitudes and inequalities historically (and to some extent still) associated with ‘white-male-hetero’ and the mere fact of being white, male, hetero. And I think that makes things worse, not better.

More than one can be baleful.
Notice Summerspeaker doesn’t emphasise the male in white male hetero: surely related to his being male. Plus his photo shows him to be caucasian. But will concentrate on gender. Woman is subordinate to Man in a manner undeniably greater than race/ethnicity (and sexual-orientation)—such is clear-cut. Living near Mexico Summer is aware Mexican men control women to a degree unparalleled in 21st century America. Matriarchies may be apochryphal.
Also Summer neglects the important problem of super opportunists; the Jesse Jackson-types race baiting almost exclusively for their own personal benefit. Not good at all.
You have to cover all these factors to be comprehensive, otherwise it eventually becomes purely.. academic.

@Peter: A key point of the Introduction to Race, Class, and Ethnicity course taught in my department is to stress that race isn’t just about skin color. Skin color indeed serves as an important marker for the social classification system of race, but it’s one factor in the equation. For example, here in New Mexico, Spanish/Hispanic and white sometimes function as mutually exclusive racial descriptions. Some folks who identify as the latter have skin as light or lighter than some folks who identify as the former. That’s not the only narrative at play, of course, and others talk of white Hispanics. Race is complex, socially determined, and shifting. Another example would be whiteness or lack thereof of Arab and Iranians, which remains hotly debated in both cases.

My response to Hank could have been clearer. Hank’s comment implies that most white, male, Western, and/or heterosexual progressives feel the need to apologize for who they are. I read this as part of the discourse that presents straight white men as unfairly beseiged and in need of rejuvenation. I consider this whole line of thought misguided and politically pernicious, as I do the equation of white and black or straight and queer. Queer pride comes as a specific response to the history and present of shame, silencing, and violence. Straight pride is a reactionary defense of privilege. While blasting IEET for lacking diversity in reductive terms has some merit, I’m more interested in critiquing white, masculine, straight, and settler ideology.

“That’s not the only narrative at play, of course”

Of course, which is why no reason to bring it up- virtually everyone at IEET knows.

“I read this as part of the discourse that presents straight white men as unfairly beseiged and in need of rejuvenation.”

What is lacking is a wider discussion on many strands of racism/ethnicism. Your focus is too balefully narrow. Merely for starters the destructive role of race-baiters—of all ethnicities—isn’t gone into. For instance MLK was not an opportunist whereas Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and others of their ilk, are. Women’s issues are somewhat neglected in your presentations.
Such is outside your scope here.. yet shouldn’t be (IMO, it goes without saying). You naturally write about what you wish to write on—so can the rest of us. Appears you have trouble comprehending others’ priorities are different than your’s. Part of being baleful?: two can play that game.

“I’m more interested in critiquing white, masculine, straight, and settler ideology.”

But you’re not doing a good job of critiquing.

“But you’re not doing a good job of critiquing.”


And to add to Intomorrow’s remarks, “Straight pride is a reactionary defense of privilege” is also an unhelpful (indeed baleful) overstatement. It CAN be that, for sure - and very often is - but it’s becoming less so (even Fox News will catch up eventually), and to imply that it is by nature is balefully counterproductive - as baleful, in fact, as actually buying into (rather than merely identifying and critiquing, which of course has merit) the idea of whiteness as a political category.

By the way, on Pinker and whether intelligence correlates positively or negatively with violence, I suspect that being more intelligent (and/or better organised, and/or culturally more sophisticated) than rival groups tends to make the more intelligent group more violent, essentially because it has the means to do so - and the less sophisticated groups, being less sophisticated, clumsily goad the more intelligent groups into being violent. But that’s entirely conpatible with overall violence decreasing as intelligence/sophistication increases overall.

So, to come back to the article, it’s good to explore why Ashkenazi Jews appear to do so well in IQ tests. The lessons we learn might help us all to become smarter, and that should reduce violence - especially if we also focus such intelligence-enhancing measures on less developed/privileged groups, and take measures to deter the smart from bullying the unsmart.

Summerspeaker -  I think you’re mistaken in a wide variety of ways, but right now
I’d like to say… I think it’s inaccurate to tag on “settler” at the end of your list of “oppressive mentalities” - i.e. white, male, hetero… settler…?

“Risk-taking” is the primary characteristic of settlers, pioneers, explorers, trailblazers… and “risk-taking” is increasingly linked to biopolarism, schizophrenia, and even toxoplasmosis, the cat parasite.

These conditions appear in all people, not just white, male heteros.

@Hank: I think the characteristic of settlers he was focusing on is the tendency to treat the “settlees” as unpeople, obstacles to be wiped from the map or, if they’re lucky and/or willing to compromise themselves, assimilated into the settler culture.

Yes, the settler mentality is crucial in the U.S. psyche and has been analyzed at length in works such as Andrea Smith’s Conquest and Richard Slotkin’s Regeneration through Violence.

Partially on-topic for once:
agreed Israelis are settlers- however the original culpability rests with the Axis nations that did in fact create Israel as much as Israel created Israel. Until this is addressed, to hell with you.

At the risk of violating the the standards of the politically correct world, it must be noted that Israelis are definitely not settlers in any way whatsoever.  The correct perspective is they are indigenous returnees.

Israel was one of only a few nations that sent a medical help unit to the region of the Philippines devastated by Typhoon Yolanda, the most powerful typhoon in recorded history. It was a military unit of the State of Israel!
On intelligence related to violence: No commenter has considered the fact of emotional illness, neurosis/deranged thought processes/brainwashing of young with antisemitism; as a causative factor in the extreme violence exhibited by Nazis, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. It is, and if not should be well-known that more highly intelligent people are also more sensitive and more likely to develop extreme emotional illness than those of lower IQ. The Nazis were sexually ill, emotionally sick people; from the highly intelligent nation of Germany, with an Austrian descent Hitler at the helm. Warped sexuality is most vulnerable in intelligent people and may be used as a barometer of emotional illness; neurosis, ranging up to even psychosis, schizophrenia, delusion. I equate the extreme violence that humanity’s despots become capable of with mental illness! Other than protecting my family from violence up to murder, there isn’t a violent bone in my body, nor have I seen it existing in the great majority of my Jewish friends, family, associates. Given the history of non-Jewish (Christian and Moslem) treatment of Jews, Israel’s total behavior must be viewed as protection of family in an environment of being surrounded by murderous religious fanatics, all of whom are emotionally mentally ill, and scapegoating Jews in personal warped misguided vendetta for the ills that plague their societies and families; for which Israel is not remotely responsible! Arab nations kept Palestinians in concentration camps, refusing to allow them to emigrate and become part of their nations, not wanting them; therefor creating the Palestinian fanatic of today. Many terrorist groups are seeking revenge for the Christian Crusades of the Middle Ages. And they are all largely composed of very young mentally maleable “brainwashed from childhood” people led by religious fanatic clerics or military men. But it is obvious that Arab nations war against each other in genocidal ways and that without the existence of Israel there would be war amongst Arabs in the region. It is my opinion that stupid, unthinking, people are most capable of violence and murder. Reasonable thought as to the personal consequences of their actions is largely non-existent. Fanatic terrorists who cut off people’s heads in the 21st Century can hardly be viewed as civilized! For me, violence, murder, war, perpetrated by instigators, not defenders, is always a product of stupidity and mental illness of some degree and in some combination; whether for land, greed, revenge, or otherwise. In sum: Israel’s complete behavior must be viewed as defense of their family and their right to exist. They are in a fight for their lives as no other nation has ever been, and under incredible stress as no other nation has ever been; as Arabs have vowed to kill them all. Given this all Israeli actions must be viewed as self defense.
Despite this, Israelis have contributed and continue to contribute to humanity in the uniquely Jewish ways involving excellence in science, math, physics and humanitarian endeavors. Israel is a boon to mankind, as Jews have been throughout history! I view it as strange indeed, that the nation which produced the one god, and Jesus, providing a god for millions who preached Jewish philosophy of life and behavior, that was attractive and supposedly is followed by Christians around the world (not); and that was also a precursor of Islam, is viewed with anger, distain, jealousy, envy, and al the other negative emotions and attitudes exhibited by the Christian and Islamic worlds towards Jews. Ultimately, I can only attribute it to a basic lack of high intelligence that allows non-Jews to blame Jews for their failings and unhappiness rather than celebrate Jews for their contributions to their personal lives that add to their well-being and enjoyment of life; and that to this day are unappreciated by huge numbers in the non-Jewish “civilized” world!
To those who would view my comments with enmity or see them as arrogance, I rest my case. I am unapologetic. I am 72 and see what I see, know what I know. I am not Israel, that must walk a fine line in the international arena, as it is ultimately dependent upon the good will of civilized nations for its survival! [And it must do so with fanatic religious archaic orthodox groups of Jews among them.]  Yet, antisemitism continually rears its ugly head among those who are stupid and violent by nature around the globe. Yes, I view antisemitism as a product of ignorance and stupidity! It is a product of a lack of ability to fully comprehend and put into use, the gifts given to them by Jews.
I was a pacifist as a young man, until I was attacked and injured by an associate, a stupid and violent man in a jealous rage. It then became easy to realize that I would defend my life and family with every means at my disposal in the future, up to and including killing enemies.

Pacifism is a luxury small entities cannot survive. Ghandi and Martin Luther King notwithstanding, Israel and every human on earth has a right to defend itself against murder, and to use every means at its disposal to do so! My greatest fear is that stupidity, lack of high intelligence, will ultimately spell doom for Israel, or at the very worst, force them to use the weaponry they have. I hope not! Israeli restraint and intelligence is a hallmark of their survival and existence. Lack of restraint and lack of intelligence, violence and murder, is a hallmark of the enemies of Jews throughout history!

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