Peter Frost, author of Fair Women, Dark Men. The Forgotten Roots of Color Prejudice, has a post discussing recent selection in proto-industrial Europe. He discusses the ideas of Greg Clark, Charles Murray and Greg Cochran and differences in selection by region and occupation. It seemed to me that his representation of Charles Murray’s view of the evolution of jewish intelligence was inaccurate. In his Commentary article Murray claims that the jewish religion had always placed high intellectual demands on its adherents. Greg Cochran and Henry Harpending sent a letter to the editor
disagreeing with Murray’s view, saying that pre-diaspora jews were not considered especially intelligent and modern Sephardics have considerably lower IQs than the Ashkenazi, bolstering the case for recent selection in Europe due to their restriction from less cognitively demanding occupations. Frost claims, contra “Murray”, that 19th century Algerian jews did not seem to significantly differ in their occupations from 18th century Polish ones, but this seems more a critique of the Cochran/Harpending position.

Frost’s position is that occupations can differ in their effect on selection in different situations. He points to the “Yankee” farmers of New England, who were regarded as quick-thinking and possessing of literacy and education. Albion’s Seed noted that these people generally came from a small Puritan dominated region of England around East Anglia, while the Scots-Irish rednecks of the Appalachians came from the uncivilized borderlands of northern England and Scotland and northern Ireland (my own Scot ancestor from northern Ireland immigrated well after the Scottish enlightenment and arrived in the Minnesota, sparing me from any redneck relations) and the “Cavaliers” of the gentlemanly south came from southern England (the last group in Fischer’s book is the Quakers who came from the Scandinavian settled industrial midlands of England and settled in the Mid-Atlantic regions and later the Midwest, along with a sizable number of Dutch and Germans). I note this distinction here because Frost goes on to say that

In Western Europe, these cottage industries were located in areas like Ulster, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Brittany, Flanders, Alsace, Westphalia, Saxony, the Zurich uplands, the Piedmont and Lombardy. In Eastern Europe, they were concentrated among Ashkenazi Jews. Selection for intelligence among the Ashkenazim may thus have been part of a larger European-wide selection for intelligence among cottage industry workers.

I already knew that in America IQ increases with proximity to Canada (this isn’t a simple red-state blue-state thing, the northern mountain states have better standardized test scores than California) . This got me thinking about whether that difference preceded migration to America, to what extent it has developed since then, and if people in the regions Frost mentions currently have higher IQs than their neighbors. Also, is DNA testing good enough to tell you if you came specifically from those regions? Sure, you’re less likely to find genes affecting IQ comparing Zurich uplands to lowlands than you are comparing Japanese to Aborigines, but inquiring minds want it studied anyway.

And now for something not completely but significantly different:

Richard Lynn has claimed that males have higher mean IQ than females, but most of what I read takes the position that males just have higher variance and that they tend to be more visuo-spatially oriented while females more verbally oriented. Interestingly enough, the two standout high IQ populations are east Asians and Ashkenazi jews, with the former being more gifted visuo-spatially and the later verbally (which is why there are surprisingly few jewish cinematographers in Hollywood). Now Chris at Mixing Memory has a post discussing a study that raised female performance in visuo-spatial tasks to parity with males by having them play first-person shooters (my preference for text-adventures is I suppose just another way in which I am a disgrace to my gender). Chris mentions that the female disadvantage in visuo-spatial ability may account for their underrepresentation in math. That struck me as odd, because Ashkenazi jews are considerably over-represented in math with their verbal IQs apparently sufficient to boost them to the top. I’m sure there are plenty of geeks who will clamor for encouraging girls to play FPSs with them, but I don’t think it will increase representation of women at the top tiers of math/science fields in academia.