Case for Genetic Study Remains Under Debate
As a scientist and author who served for 35 years as a professor of engineering and physics at Drexel University, I believe I can add some perspective to the Ashkenazi gene study reported in the Jewish Exponent (Cover story: "Smarter, but Sicker?" June 16).
First, "the researchers say they had difficulty finding a journal that would publish their findings." The context of your quotation implies that it was because Jews find any possible connection to eugenics to be repugnant.
However, it has been my experience that such difficulty derives from the inadequate or incomplete contents of an article. Peer reviewers of scientific journals are recognized experts and researchers in related areas who are aware of and sensitive to weaknesses of data, analysis and conclusions, and they'll reject a report they consider not strong enough to enter the public domain.
Second, there is a subheading in the middle of the article: "Real Science, Real Potential."
We must be careful how we interpret "real science." The article points out that the study is based on the observations that Ashkenazi Jews appear to have higher I.Q.s and be more affected by some genetic diseases than others.
These are not new observations. Even if we accept them to be meaningful facts, their coincidence does not necessarily mean that they are causal - or even related.
Genetic inheritability is very complex, and different genes contribute to many unrelated properties. Does the study really establish "a reported link?" Is it clear that the I.Q. difference, if real, is purely genetic? The article indicates only a coincidence of Ashkenazi characteristics.
The piece seems to go off the steep end, and quotes many of the conjectures that have been proposed over the years - none of them proven.
The Immigrant Mentality: Have We Lost It?
I was interested in the Jewish Exponent's editorial comment that "it's hard to argue that the overwhelming level of Jewish achievement in the last century is mere happenstance" (Editorial: "I.Q. and Illness," June 16). It called to mind a recent experience.
Last week, I was privileged to attend two award ceremonies - one at Gettysburg College and one at Johns Hopkins University, at which a select group of seventh- and eighth-grade students from the United States were recognized for having received top scores in SAT exams given under a special program for middle-school kids. My grandson was the highest-scoring boy in the country, and only one of his parents are Jewish.
By my rough count, between two-thirds and three-quarters of the recipients were Asian. On the other hand, a very small number had recognizably Jewish names. My guess is that a couple of generations ago, those numbers would have been reversed.
Have we Jews suddenly gotten dumber - and Asians smarter? Relatively speaking, that would seem to be the case.
As your editorial notes, these results cannot be mere happenstance, and I don't believe they are. Rather, I think they reflect a typically American phenomenon.
New arrivals to this country - who bring with them a need to pull themselves up from poverty, a cultural bias toward education, demanding parents, and a burning ambition to succeed, given the opportunities America provides - will do so.
Their children and grandchildren, on the other hand, having been provided by their parents' efforts with more luxuries than they can wisely handle, become soft, lazy and take the good life for granted. Result: a regression to the mean.
It has nothing to do with their race - or what house of worship they do or do not attend.
Silver Spring, Md.
White House Policy Now Seems to Reward Terror
Jonathan Tobin is correct in his analysis about the rapprochement between President Bush and the Palestinians (A Matter of Opinion: "Spin-Cycle Blues for GOP," June 16).
Having voted for Bush, I am overwhelmed with the seeming naivété of the White House.
The question that should be asked is: Does anybody believe for a minute that creating a terrorist state be interpreted in any other way other than as a reward for suicide bombing?
Why Does One Group Favor Arabs Over Jews?
The news article "A Case in Point" (City & Suburb, June 16) referred to Peter Edelman of the New Israel Fund and the organization's role in getting the Israeli Supreme Court to rule that it was illegal to prohibit Arab Israelis to buy land in northern Israel.
He is proud of his longtime work to promote democracy and equality among Israeli citizens. Plain speaking, it means promoting the rights of Arab citizens who are represented in the Knesset and enjoy governmental benefits. They are not friends of Israel, and they back the Palestinians.
While all Jews were expelled from the mislabeled "occupied" lands in 1948, Israel treated Arabs who stayed as friends after the 1967 war. They live in the country and receive all types of benefits.
Yet they do not serve in the army. Is this fair?
Why is the New Israel Fund so oriented toward the desires of the Arabs? Is it to make Israel a non-Jewish state? Why don't they use their money - $130 million dispersed since 1979 - to make life better for Israelis, who have been victims of war and terrorism by its Arab neighbors since 1948.