On Flinn and Jewish success

Michael Forstadt (forstadt@HUSC.HARVARD.EDU)
Fri, 4 Nov 1994 07:05:02 -0500

Mark Flinn's commentary on Ashkenazi intelligence has (unfortunately) not
been carefully worded, since it is unclear whether or not he explicitly
dismisses a genetic explanation for Jewish success. This lack of clarity
places him in danger of being classified alongside Rushton, Hicks, et al,
who have argued for the genetic predetermination of certain groups with
regards to intelligence, etc. As we have seen, that line of reasoning has
gotten us nowhere. If however, Flinn argues that social factors have been
the prime mover in the success of the Jews generally, then this is an
excellent example of why certain groups outperform others in standard IQ
tests, and why such performance has nothing to do with the genetic makeup
of any socially-defined racial group.

I'll just take issue with one point. Flinn wrote that the lack of similar
performance on the part of Sephardic Jews:

>resulted from the long-term effects of anti-Semitic policies in
>Muslim countries which generally prevented the development of a
>highly intelligent, entrepreneurial Jewish elite.

Anti-Semitic policies were probably much worse in Europe than in the
Muslim countries. Because Europeans are "white," we often don't like to
admit the extent of the horrors for which they were responsible. Perhaps
the longterm repressive policies of the Europeans, along with the
cultural situation of Europe and the sorts of occupations that Jews were
forced into, had more to do with Askenazi success than any supposed "lack
of persecution."
Michael S. Forstadt
Harvard University