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natural history of ashkenazi intelligence - Henry C Harpending ...

natural history of ashkenazi intelligence - Henry C Harpending ...

natural history of ashkenazi intelligence - Henry C Harpending

J. biosoc. Sci. (first published online 2005) 00, 1–35 � 2005 Cambridge University Press doi:10.1017/S0021932005027069 NATURAL HISTORY OF ASHKENAZI INTELLIGENCE GREGORY COCHRAN, JASON HARDY and HENRY HARPENDING Department of Anthropology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, USA Summary. This paper elaborates the hypothesis that the unique demography and sociology of Ashkenazim in medieval Europe selected for intelligence. Ashkenazi literacy, economic specialization, and closure to inward gene flow led to a social environment in which there was high fitness payoff to intelligence, specifically verbal and mathematical intelligence but not spatial ability. As with any regime of strong directional selection on a quantitative trait, genetic variants that were otherwise fitness reducing rose in frequency. In particular we propose that the well-known clusters of Ashkenazi genetic diseases, the sphingolipid cluster and the DNA repair cluster in particular, increase intelligence in heterozygotes. Other Ashkenazi disorders are known to increase intelligence. Although these disorders have been attributed to a bottleneck in Ashkenazi history and consequent genetic drift, there is no evidence of any bottleneck. Gene frequencies at a large number of autosomal loci show that if there was a bottleneck then subsequent gene flow from Europeans must have been very large, obliterating the effects of any bottleneck. The clustering of the disorders in only a few pathways and the presence at elevated frequency of more than one deleterious allele at many of them could not have been produced by drift. Instead these are signatures of strong and recent natural selection. Introduction Albert Einstein is reputed to have said that ‘Things should be described as simply as possible, but no simpler.’ The same principle must be invoked in explaining Einstein himself. In this study, the hypothesis that the high intelligence test scores observed in the Ashkenazi Jewish population are a consequence of their occupation of a social niche over the last millennium that selected strongly for IQ is evaluated. The evidence of high intelligence test scores in this population, approximately one standard deviation higher than the north-western European average, is summarized, and then the relevant social history. We suggest that there was an increase in the frequency of particular genes that elevated IQ as a by-product of this selective regime, which led to an increased incidence of hereditary disorders. 1

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