Mark Flinn a eugenicist?

Mike Lieber (U28550@UICVM.BITNET)
Mon, 7 Nov 1994 11:46:41 CST

Andy Freija accuses Mark Flinn of spewing eugenics in his forwarded post on
Jewish "brilliance." I think Andy mistakes a parenting strategy with a
selective breeding strategy. Research in Ashkenazi parenting strategies
goes back at least to the 1970s. Barry Chiswick, an economist at the
University of Illinois at Chicago, has done a good deal of work on this
beginning with available data on Jews in the labor force and expanding from
census data to finer grained studies. His point is almost sociobiological in
its explication--A. Jews tend to have fewer children and to invest heavily in
terms of time and income in those few. What keeps this from being a eugenics
or sociobiological argument is that there is little in the way of genetic
implications that direct these studies (other than the relatively high
frequency of lipoidosis--Tay Sach's disease, Gaucher's disease, Schiller
disease, etc., among A. Jews) in terms of goals or results. These are
parenting, not mate selection, strategies.

There is some very interesting recent work by Patricia Jeffery in North India
that has found much the same thing, though in a different cultural context.
She compares a Hindu village with a nearby Muslim village with a goal to
find whether increased education for women results in smaller family size
(which is the assumption that WHO and other agencies have made as a dogma).
In neither case was this true, as increasing the years of schooling for women
in both villages had noeffect whatever on the number of children women bore.
The Hindu case was a high caste village that traditionally attempted to limit
the number of children in each family in order to maintain control over
government jobs and prevent fragmentation of land holdings. What increased
education did was to increase the value of a woman as potential wife by
upping the dowry (in order to attract better educated husbands with better
jobs). The higher dowry gave a family an advantage in the marriage market, but
that depended on limiting the number of children for whom investment had to be
made. [The Muslim villagers, meanwhile, see programs to limit births as a
conspiracy to further disenfranchise or even annihilate them.]

The two cases are different in detail but not in process. The genetic outcomes
of this sort of parenting strategy follow from local conceptions of class and
whatever people define as social success. Oneof the things that may make
A. Jews look like geniuses is a penchant of these folks for not advertizing
what they consider to be their 'failures' or closet cases or whatever you want
to call them. My son the junk dealer just don't sound as good as my son the
doctor. But the parenting strategies seem to be much the same for both. Thus,
one should find the same genetic variability among A. Jews as one finds in the
general population. One ought not to confuse eugenics with a tradition of what
used to be called "achievement motivation."

Mike Lieber