Debating Jewish intelligence

Dana Milbank:

The forum at the usually sober American Enterprise Institute yesterday started off with a bit of Borscht Belt humor. AEI adjunct fellow Jon Entine displayed a cartoon of a tablet-carrying Moses looking incredulously toward the heavens.

"Now, let me get this straight," the bearded figure says. "The Arabs get the oil, and we have to cut off the ends of our what?"

Don't get it? Must be your goyishe kop. For two hours yesterday, two AEI scholars and a visiting bioethicist kibbitzed about a pressing cause: Why Jews are so doggone smart.

Entine, author of the new book "Abraham's Children: Race, Identity and the DNA of the Chosen People," argued that genetic mutations gave Jews very high IQs. "If you had one of these mutations" -- such as those that cause Tay-Sachs disease -- "it probably could cause high intelligence," he asserted.

Fellow AEI fellow Charles Murray suggested that the rigors of Talmudic study drove out the dull Jews centuries ago. "If you were dumb and a Jew," said the philo-Semitic Murray, "it was a lot easier to be a Christian." Murray, best known for his incendiary book about race and intelligence, "The Bell Curve," explored Jewish smarts in an April article in Commentary titled "Jewish Genius."

Brought in to rebut the two scholars, Laurie Zoloth of Northwestern University floated an alternative notion: that "Jews are smart because we value learning."


There is more. Left out is the response to question of Jewish intelligence by Golda Meir. "Our people wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and landed in the only place in the Middle East with no oil. You call that smart?" In a way it was, because they learned to rely on their human capital and energies. That has led them to out perform those with a lot of oil.


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