Their contribution to humanity is enormous, unique and exceedingly difficult to explain. From Moses to Maimonides, to Mahler, Marx, Freud, Einstein and some 197 Nobel Prize laureates, the stunning social, scientific and artistic accomplishments of the Jews raise an obvious question. How do they do it?
The story of huge overrepresentation at the top is the same wherever you look. How does 1/500th of the world’s population produce so many prominent musicians, architects, lawyers, doctors, journalists, comedians and directors? A third of the medical faculty at Harvard is Jewish, as are nearly 40 per cent of history’s world chess champions.
In 1954, New York State school tests revealed 28 students with IQs over 170. Astonishingly, 24 of them were Jewish.
“The numbers are bizarre. They make no sense at all,” says Montreal rabbi Reuben Poupko. For Harvard professor Steven Pinker “Jewish achievement is obvious; only the explanation is unclear.”
Calling Jewish success “colossal” and “extraordinary,” renowned British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins recently speculated that “something about the cultural tradition of Jews is way, way more sympathetic to science and learning and intellectual pursuits.”
Recent writings focus on wildly speculative hypotheses. Some suggest that Jews have been winnowed for success by pogrom and Holocaust. Others posit that Jews developed their minds in challenging professions after abandoning agriculture in the first Millenium. Still, others see a link between Ashkenazi genetic disorders and high intelligence.
Jewish genius remains a giant elephant in the room, today. “Jewish intellectual superiority is rarely if ever discussed in Jewish publications,” writes author Lewis Regenstein. “To some, these facts are awkward and even embarrassing, feeding stereotypes of ‘crafty’ Jews good at making money and flaunting their superiority to non-Jews.
”A good reason not to make the film? Perhaps. But we take the bolder approach of Prof. Pinker who noted recently: ‘In every age, taboo questions raise our blood pressure and threaten moral panic. But we cannot be afraid to answer them.'”
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