of the University of California, Berkeley. He calculated that if there had been two bottlenecks in the Jewish population, at AD 70 following the destruction of the temple, and at sometime after AD 1100, the founder effects caused by these two population reductions could explain how the Ashkenazic disease genes had gotten to be so common. Slatkin's calculation did not rule out natural selection, but since a founder effect was possible, that provided the most economical explanation, in his view.
But a new and substantially buttressed case for natural selection, with the need for extra intelligence posited as the driving force, has now been advanced by Gregory Cochran, a physicist turned population geneticist, and Henry Harpending, an anthropologist at the University of Utah.^^^ They agree with Risch that all the diseases arose from the same cause and at about the same time. But the cause must have been natural selection, not founder effects, because in testing other, non-disease causing Ashkenazic genes, Cochran and Harpending could see no evidence for any of the reductions in population size required to cause Risch's founder effects. Nor is there any clear historical evidence, they say, that the Ashkenazi Jewish population ever dwindled to the low numbers needed to generate a founder effect.
Having argued that natural selection must therefore have been the reason that the Ashkenazic mutations became so common, Cochran and Harpending next ruled out disease as the agent of selection. The Ashkenazic population, they note, lived in the same cities as their European hosts and suffered from the same diseases, yet Europeans show no similar pattern of mutations. But there was a significant difference between Ashkenazim and Europeans, Cochran and Harpending argue, and it lay in the special range of occupations to which Ashkenazi Jews were restricted by their Christian hosts. The origin of the Ashkenazi Jews is obscure but they were established in northern France by shortly after AD 900. Most had become moneylenders by AD 1100 because Christians forbade usury, and this continued for several centuries. Moneylending was an intellectually demanding profession, not least because the Indian numerals in use today, and specifically the concept of zero, did not become widespread in Europe until around 1500. Figuring out xvii percent of cccl, without the use of zero, is not a straightforward computation. Jewish communities became subject to particular persecution after the First Crusade, launched in AD 1095. They were expelled from England in 1290, from France in 1394, and from various regions of Germany in the fifteenth century. Many migrated to Poland, where they lived first as moneylenders and then served as the managerial class for the Polish authorities, particularly in such roles as tax farming. (The tax farmer would pay a nobleman the tax due, then try to recoup the sum, with profit, from the peasantry.) Being frequently uprooted and forced to start over again, there was continual pressure on families to survive and find ways of being useful to their unpredictable hosts. "From roughly 800 AD to 1650 or 1700 AD, the great majority of the Ashkenazi Jews had managerial and financial jobs, jobs of high complexity, and were neither farmers nor craftsmen. In this they differed from all other settled peoples of which we have knowledge," Cochran and colleagues write. Restrictions on Ashkenazi employment were lifted around 1700, bringing to an end a period of some 900 years during which most of the population would have had to earn a living in occupations requiring more mental ability than most. Given what is known about the heritability of intelligence, the Cochran team calculates that even in as little as 500 years there would have been time for the intelligence of the Ashkenazi population to have been raised appreciably. The authors cite evidence suggesting that sphingolipid mutations serve to foster the growth and interconnectedness of neurons, sometimes by lifting natural restraints. They believe that all the Ashkenazic disease mutations, in ways that remain to be discovered, serve to promote the extra cognitive skills that the Ashkenazic population needed in order to survive.
The outcome, they say, is that Ashkenazim have an average IQ of 115, one standard deviation above that of northern Europeans, although some measurements put it at only half a standard deviation higher. This is the highest average IQ of any ethnic group for which reliable data exist. Such an advantage may not make much difference at the average, where most people are situated, but it translates into a significant difference at the extremes. The proportion of northern Europeans with IQs greater than 140 is 4 per thousand but the figure for Ashkenazim is 23 per thousand, a sixfold difference.
This may have something to do with the fact that Ashkenazim make up only 3% of the U.S. population but have won 27% of U.S. Nobel prizes. Ashkenazim account for more than half of world chess champions. "Jews and half Jews, who make up about 0.2 percent of the world's population, have won a total of 155 Nobel prizes in all fields, 117 in physics, chemistry and medicine," writes the
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