According to the mainstream narrative about race, all groups have the same innate dispositions and potential, and all disparities—at least those favoring whites—are due to past or present racism. Some people who reject this narrative gravitate toward an alternative, anti-Jewish narrative, which sees recent history in terms of a Jewish/gentile conflict. The most sophisticated promoter of the anti-Jewish narrative is the evolutionary psychologist Kevin MacDonald. MacDonald argues that Jews have a suite of genetic adaptations—including high intelligence and ethnocentrism—and cultural practices that lead them to undermine gentile society to advance their own evolutionary interests. He says that Jewish-designed intellectual movements have weakened gentile identity and culture while preserving Jewish identity and separatism. Cofnas recently argued that MacDonald’s theory is based on “systematically misrepresented sources and cherry-picked facts.” However, Cofnas gave short shrift to at least three key claims: (a) Jews are highly ethnocentric, (b) liberal Jews hypocritically advocate liberal multiculturalism for gentiles/gentile countries but racial purity and separatism for Jews/Israel, and (c) Jews are responsible for liberalism and mass immigration to the United States. The present paper examines these claims and concludes that MacDonald’s views are not supported.
Mainstream moral/political discourse is built around the narrative that all groups have the same innate dispositions and potential, and all differences—at least those favoring whites—are due to past or present white racism. Establishment intellectuals and media ignore or misrepresent facts that go against the narrative. They trumpet a small number of exceptional, narrative-supporting incidents as if they represented general trends. The statistics they cite to support the narrative often have better alternative explanations.
Many promoters of the white-racism narrative are sincere, and they aren’t necessarily bad at reasoning in general. But narratives shape our expectations, which influence how we process information. In this way, narratives in politics are similar to paradigms in science. A scientist who sees the world through the lens of a paradigm is often blinded to certain facts—namely, facts that cannot be made sense of from the perspective of the paradigm (Kuhn 1962). If you think white racism explains everything, you tend to see it even when it isn’t there. When you do find a real example of white racism you may be inclined to blow it out of proportion. You glaze over facts that don’t jibe with the narrative, and dismiss anyone who confronts you with counternarrative facts (aka “hate facts”) as a racist.
Some degree of narrative thinking is probably unavoidable in politics, just as paradigm thinking is unavoidable (and may even be essential) in science. But narratives and paradigms can fit the facts better or worse. They can be more or less accurate. The mainstream narrative about race is untenable when certain facts are confronted honestly (see, e.g., Gottfredson 2005; Sesardić 2018; Warne 2020; Winegard et al. 2020), but that is not the topic of this paper and I cannot undertake a proper defense of that claim.
People who reject the anti-white narrative—especially those who consider themselves “race realists”—sometimes gravitate toward an alternative, anti-Jewish narrative, which sees recent history in terms of a Jewish/gentile conflict. The most sophisticated promoter of the anti-Jewish narrative is retired California State University, Long Beach psychology professor Kevin MacDonald. In his words:
Jewish-dominated intellectual movements were a critical factor (necessary condition) for the triumph of the intellectual left in late twentieth-century Western Societies….[I]ndividuals who strongly identified as Jews have been the main motivating force behind several highly influential intellectual movements that have simultaneously subjected gentile culture to radical criticism and allowed for the continuity of Jewish identification. (MacDonald 1998: 17, 213)
Advocates of the anti-Jewish narrative may disagree about some details, but they would all probably agree with the following core ideas: (a) the liberal multicultural ideology prevailing in the West was largely designed to serve Jewish interests related to group continuity, racial purity, and Israel, (b) in the absence of Jewish influence, the West would not have become liberal/multicultural (i.e., Jews were a “necessary condition”), and (c) there are some significant biological and/or cultural differences between Jews and white gentiles that explain why Jews were motivated—and how they were able—to impose a self-serving ideology on gentiles.
According to MacDonald, Jews have a suite of genetic adaptations and cultural practices that constitute a “group evolutionary strategy.” Their genetic adaptations include high intelligence (he estimated mean Ashkenazi IQ to be 117, though recent studies suggest 110–112; Cochran et al. 2005; Lynn and Kanazawa 2008) and ethnocentrism. He argues that intelligent, ethnocentric Jews created liberal intellectual and political movements to promote Jewish interests at the expense of gentiles.
In 2018 I published the first academic critique of MacDonald, in which I proposed the “default hypothesis” to explain Jewish overrepresentation in liberal intellectual movements: Jews are overrepresented in all intellectual movements and activities that are not overtly anti-Semitic primarily because they have high mean IQs. In recent history, Jewish involvement in politics has skewed left because a higher proportion of right-wing than left-wing movements were overtly anti-Semitic. But Jews have also been overrepresented in the leadership of non-anti-Semitic right-wing movements (Cofnas 2018).
The default hypothesis provides a single explanation for why Jews are overrepresented in intellectual activities that have nothing to do with politics, like mathematics, medicine, and chess, and why they are often the leaders of political movements with violently opposing aims. Plenty of socialist leaders are Jewish, but almost all of the most prominent libertarian leaders are Jewish, too (Friedman, Mises, Nozick, Rand, Rothbard, etc.). The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is leading the charge to censor politically incorrect speech, but the most prominent pro-free speech organization in the US—the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)—was founded by Jews (Alan Charles Kors and Harvey Silverglate). Right-wing movements in the twentieth century were disproportionately anti-Semitic, so it’s no surprise that Jews were less well-represented in leadership positions on the right.
Consistent with the default hypothesis, I found that Jewish intellectuals have not been especially concerned with their ethnic interests compared with gentile intellectuals. The influential movements discussed by MacDonald were not designed to advance Jewish interests, and in fact many of them opposed Jewish interests (as conceived by MacDonald). The roots of modern leftism go way back in European history, and the influence of gentile intellectuals and activists was more than sufficient to drive recent political trends.
A lot of my debate with MacDonald focused on the motivations of specific, influential Jewish intellectuals such as Freud, Boas, and the Frankfurt School theorists. In many cases, MacDonald’s evidence that these people were “strongly identified” Jews who “saw their work as furthering specific Jewish agendas” boils down to little more than insinuations based on the fact that they were Jewish and perhaps condemned the Holocaust. MacDonald never mentions that many of them opposed Jewish interests (as he conceives them) by advocating open borders for Israel, calling for the dissolution of the Jewish community, and so on. Occasionally he imagines evidence based on nothing at all, as when he falsely says that Karl Marx held that “Judaism, freed from the principle of greed, would continue to exist in the transformed society after the revolution” (MacDonald 1998: 54). As I observed, Marx never said anything like this, and in fact he said the opposite, namely, the Jew would be “impossible” in a socialist society that “abolish[ed] the preconditions for huckstering” (Cofnas 2018: 149). (MacDonald (2018b) acknowledged that his claim about Marx was inaccurate, but responded by pointing out a typo in Cofnas (2018), which he apparently sees as a comparable error.)
Here I want to approach this topic from a different angle. My goal is not to make a comprehensive case that the anti-Jewish narrative is wrong, but to point out some counternarrative facts and to highlight the biased way in which Jews are portrayed by MacDonald and other anti-Jewish commentators. I focus on three specific issues:
Are Jews particularly ethnocentric?
Do liberal Jews hypocritically advocate multiculturalism for gentiles/gentile countries but racial purity and separatism for Jews/Israel?
Are Jews responsible for liberalism and mass immigration?
My answers to these questions are (a) the evidence suggests Jews are not particularly ethnocentric, (b) liberal Jews typically advocate similar policies for Jews/Israel and gentiles/gentile countries, and (c) the West was on a liberal trajectory with or without Jews, and Jews were not responsible for mass immigration to the US.
This should not be misinterpreted as a claim that Jews are exactly the same as white gentiles, or that they’re just like high-IQ, urban white gentiles. All groups differ from each other in interesting ways, reflecting their evolutionary and cultural histories. But, in general, anything unusual about Jewish political behavior is mostly a predictable reaction to their historical circumstances, and can be explained without positing a conspiracy or “group evolutionary strategy.” For example, given that they were the victims of genocide, it was inevitable that some Jews would exploit their victimhood status to advance their personal interests or political agenda. It was inevitable that there would be an Abe Foxman (the Jewish Al Sharpton) and an ADL to capitalize on guilt about the past. We also do not need to posit a group evolutionary strategy to explain why Jews tend to be less well represented in political movements that are anti-Jewish, which call for Jews to be second-class citizens, expelled, or killed.
Why Does it Matter?
It is important to come to terms with and think through the moral implications of human diversity (Cofnas 2020). The conflation of legitimate science on race differences (Winegard et al. 2017, 2020) with pseudoscience about Jews is a major barrier preventing this from happening. The former can seem discredited through its association with the latter. People who are taken in by the pseudoscience, despite thinking of themselves as “race realists,” end up with a picture of the world that is not “realist” at all. A clear distinction should be made between scholars like Arthur Jensen and Linda Gottfredson on the one hand and Kevin MacDonald on the other. Jensen et al. have a long track record of making successful predictions and claims that are supported by multiple lines of evidence (Winegard et al. 2020). MacDonald has made exactly one empirically testable prediction, which turned out to be wrong (more on that below).
I’m addressing this question—did Jews create liberal multiculturalism to advance their ethnic interests?—from a neutral scientific perspective. I’m not commenting on whether or in what ways this ideology is good or bad, or what the moral implications of group differences might be.
The anti-Jewish narrative assumes that Jews are more ethnocentric than white gentiles, and that the purpose of liberal multiculturalism is to undermine group continuity among gentiles while cultivating it within the Jewish community and in Israel. MacDonald and other anti-Jewish commentators misrepresent or ignore all the counternarrative evidence showing that liberal Jews have little interest in group continuity, and generally support the same multicultural policies for white gentiles/gentile countries and Jews/Israel.
The only empirically testable prediction MacDonald ever made concerned Jewish demographic trends. He wrote in his book, The Culture of Critique: “An important consequence—and one likely to have been an underlying motivating factor in the countercultural revolution—may well be to facilitate the continued genetic distinctiveness of the Jewish gene pool in the United States” (MacDonald 1998: 318). This prediction makes sense if you assume that Jews are a singularly ethnocentric group living in a society designed specifically to promote Jewish continuity and racial purity. But it did not pan out. As MacDonald (2018b) wrote in his reply to my paper: “I acknowledge very high intermarriage rates for Jews in the U.S. and that my projections of the Jewish demographic future in America, made 20 years ago on the basis of my reading, are not holding up.”
What are the “very high” intermarriage rates? Jews have the highest intermarriage rate of any religious group in the United States (Riley 2013). Jews who avoid intermarriage—the Orthodox—are mostly right-wing extremists with little interest in national politics. The vast majority of Jews who promote radical ideologies are either Reform or religiously unaffiliated. According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2013, 50% of Reform and 69% of unaffiliated Jews report being married to a gentile (Pew Research Center 2013: 37). Some unknown number of Reform marriages are between Jews and gentiles who underwent nominal Reform conversions, so the real intermarriage rate is higher—probably considerably higher.
Usually a failed prediction is a mark against a theory, but not for MacDonald. Although he described intermarriage as “defection” in the 2002 preface to The Culture of Critique (MacDonald 2002: xxii), he now says that high intermarriage rates support his theory, and may even be part of the group evolutionary strategy: “intermarriage and conversion have benefits for the Jewish community…, including the advantages of marrying into prominent non-Jewish families, such as the families of presidents Trump and Clinton” (MacDonald 2018b). But even if it’s theoretically possible that Jews could benefit as a group from some strategic marriage alliances with powerful gentiles, like Esther marrying King Ahasuerus in ancient Persia, this could not explain intermarriage rates of well over 50% (possibly upwards of 70% among liberal Jews) (see Cofnas 2019). And it’s silly to think that most of these marriages are strategic. Jared Kushner married Ivanka Trump in 2009, long before anyone expected his father-in-law to become president, and his brother, Joshua Kushner, married a Victoria’s Secret model who (like Ivanka) converted to Judaism. In a defense of MacDonald, Dutton (2020: 266) argues that, while “[i]t is true that ethnocentrism motivates people to marry within their identity group,” we should compare intermarriage rates with what would be “expected if mate choice were random.” Since Jews are 1.9% of the American population, “for Jews, the probability of meeting another Jew, assuming even distribution of religions [is] 0.036 percent.” By “dividing the actual in-marriage rate by the rate expected by chance,” Dutton concludes that “Jewish ethnocentrism was 49 times that of mainline Protestant ethnocentrism.” (Actually, if marriages were random, the probability for Jews of meeting another Jew would be 1.9%, not 0.036%. 0.036 is the percentage of all marriages in the population that would be between two Jews.).
Members of all human groups are ethnocentric to varying degrees. The question is not whether ethnocentrism exists in Jews at all, but whether it exists to a significantly greater degree than among white gentiles, and is a major motivating force for liberal Jews. There are surely a number of reasons why Jews marry each other at a rate greater than chance: they are concentrated in some of the same areas, are disproportionately represented at some of the same universities and in the same professions, share similar cultural experiences and (probably) personality traits, often share religious beliefs, and they are not necessarily favored as marriage partners by all gentiles. In addition, some Jews prefer to marry other Jews because they are ethnocentric. But, again, the anti-Jewish narrative says that liberal Jews are highly ethnocentric compared to other groups, particularly white gentiles. This claim is not supported by Jews having an intermarriage rate that, combined with low fertility, will lead the liberal Jewish population to nearly disappear in another generation or two. Although MacDonald, Dutton, and others have come up with post-hoc explanations for this phenomenon to square it with the theory of high Jewish ethnocentrism, no one thought such high intermarriage rates would be a sign of ethnocentrism before the fact.
According to the anti-Jewish narrative, Jews want multiculturalism for thee, not for me. In reality, liberal Jewish leaders enthusiastically promote multiculturalism and multiracialism within the Jewish community and in Israel (Cofnas 2019: 146–147). An article published on the Union for Reform Judaism’s official website explains:
We’re a global, multiracial people that’s growing more racially and ethnically diverse through interfaith and interracial marriage, conversion, and adoption. In the United States, February is Black History Month. It is one among many opportunities for us to acknowledge and reflect upon our collective racial and ethnic diversity, and learn more about the experiences of Jews of African-American descent in particular. (Baskin 2016; quoted in Cofnas 2019: 146)
It only takes a few minutes browsing Reform Jewish literature to discover that “diversifying” the Jewish community is one of the movement’s main priorities. This is routinely ignored or distorted by advocates of the anti-Jewish narrative. For example, MacDonald (2002: xxii) wrote that “Recent guidelines for Reform Judaism emphasize traditional practices of conversion, such as circumcision, that are likely to minimize converts, and proselytism is explicitly rejected.” As I pointed out, this is a complete misrepresentation (Cofnas 2019: 146). Circumcision was recognized as an optional practice. According to MacDonald’s own source for his claims about the guidelines:
Rabbi Shapiro [chairman of the conference’s committee on conversion] said the guidelines were important for ending the traditional requirement that a rabbi discourage a potential convert. Still, conference officials said the guidelines were meant to emphasize the movement’s receptivity to converts, not an interest in proselytizing.