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Norbert Wiener   Ex-Prodigy   1953   A comment on eugenics
Thus the biological habits of the Christians tended to breed out of the race whatever hereditary qualities make for learning, whereas the biological habits of the Jew tended to breed these qualities in.
The following passage is from the first volume of Norbert Wiener's autobiography, Ex-Prodigy: My Childhood and Youth.  Norbert Wiener is the descendant of Slavic Jews predominantly from Byelostock, Belarus.  He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard at the age of 18, and at 19 joined the Department of Mathematics at MIT where he served until his death in 1964 at the age of 69.  Norbert Wiener is particularly noted for his work in artificial intelligence, and is credited with being the father of cybernetics.

Norbert Wiener's observation below is of interest to the Ukrainian Archive because it touches on a topic that is of central importance to Ukraine in particular, and the Slavic peoples in general the topic being the effect of their brain drain on their chances of prospering, and even of their survival.  The argument has been made in the Ukrainian Archive that the migration of brains, talent, and competence lowers the viability of the regions of origin, and raises the viability of the regions of destination, and more importantly that it is impossible to doubt that when a nation is repeatedly gutted of its intelligentsia, the gravest economic and political consequences must follow.

What Norbert Wiener demonstrates in his life is the frequent observation that the Slavic world's loss is the West's gain, and often America's gain.  Were it the case that the Slavic world was blessed with a stronger commitment to enticing its intellectual capital to stay and fostering it to grow, then Norbert Wiener might have lived and worked in the Slavic lands, and enriched them with his learning instead of the United States.  And what Norbert Wiener reminds us of in his statement below is that migration is not the only means by which the average mental capacity of various peoples may be altered the habits of those peoples can produce similar effects, though not with the same rapidity; that is, their habits can tend to be eugenic or dysgenic.

Why certain peoples succeed while others fail may in large part result from differences in average mental capacity.  With this hypothesis in mind, one cannot help viewing the Slavic peoples as having suffered two devastating setbacks in recent times.  The first of these was Communism, which over the course of decades decimated the intelligentsia.  The second of these has been the brain drain, which has accelerated in recent years from a steady trickle to a debacle.  The Slavic peoples will prosper to the extent that they recognize that their success is in large part dependant upon the reversal of such dysgenic trends.  There exist within Slavic culture powerful eugenic forces, and the overriding goal of Slavic leaders must be to strengthen those forces.  As intellectual competence is necessary to viability, then the continuation of dysgenic trends guarantees the destruction of the Slavs.  However, as intellectual competence, though necessary, is not sufficient for success, then the reversal of dysgenic trends makes it possible for the Slavs to succeed and to survive, though it does not guarantee their doing so.

The mental paralysis which arises from subservience to political correctness clouds vision, and makes remedial action impossible.  Norbert Wiener was not prevented by political correctness from broaching the subject of eugenics.  I see no reason why anybody should be.

Ultimately, though, as a contribution toward the discussion of eugenic-dysgenic forces, Wiener's comment is an interesting place to begin, but by itself it is shallow.  In the first place, Wiener's attribution of superior Jewish accomplishment which I do not dispute to superior Jewish genes is gratuitous.  He appears to be unaware of the possibility that Jews pass along from generation to generation not only genes but a culture and an ideology, and that it may be the culture and the ideology that produce superior accomplishment.  This could be the case even if Jews were not genetically superior.  In fact, so strong might be the uplifting effect of the culture and the ideology, that it produces superior performance even in the face of genetic inferiority.  To seize on the first interpretation of Jewish accomplishment that springs to mind and to propose it as the only interpretation possible is not scientific thinking; rather, scientific thinking demands that all conceivable hypotheses be placed on the table, and that data be adduced to discredit whichever hypotheses are relevant.  In the absence of disconfirmatory data, any given hypothesis stays on the table, no matter how politically incorrect it may be.  This is the essence of scientific method, though it obviously is not a rule that governs either what gets said in the mass media or during polite small talk.  However, that a large group of individually mediocre people can organize themselves in such a way as to produce superior group performance is a hypothesis that is not disconfirmed by any data that I know of.

In the case of Jews, the higher fertility of the most intellectually gifted may indeed be a eugenic force as Wiener suggests; however, any group is likely to be subjected to a large number of genetic pressures, many of them eugenic, and many dysgenic, and having noted only a single one of these is hardly a place to stop.  Acting in the opposite direction one may note that Jewish communities, as for example the state of Israel, suffer devastating brain drains.  The balance of opposing genetic forces in these communities becomes precarious can the loss of the finest people be compensated by exertions in the opposite direction?  The answer must be, sometimes yes, sometimes no.  Observing the state of Israel today, one might be pulled in the direction of concluding, sometimes no to begin bringing my commentary to a close, I limit myself to pointing to the examples of Israeli judicial reasoning and the letter written by the deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Dov Ben-Meir.  Or, casting our gaze beyond Israel, the Ukrainian Archive has documented that a number of leading Jewish representatives prominent among these being Morley Safer, Neal Sher, Elie Wiesel, and Simon Wiesenthal are crippled with the habit of lying in so egregious a manner that it must be obvious to all who pause to reflect upon what they are saying.  These individuals do not at all give the impression of Jewish genetic superiority, but rather of having reached the high positions that they occupy through the support of their communities and despite obvious intellectual limitations.

And now here comes Norbert Wiener's statement.

Let me insert here a word or two about the Jewish family structure which is not irrelevant to the Jewish tradition of learning.  At all times, the young learned man, and especially the rabbi, whether or not he had an ounce of practical judgment and was able to make a good career for himself in life, was always a match for the daughter of the rich merchant.  Biologically this led to a situation in sharp contrast to that of the Christians of earlier times.  The Western Christian learned man was absorbed in the church, and whether he had children or not, he was certainly not supposed to have them, and actually tended to be less fertile than the community around him.  On the other hand, the Jewish scholar was very often in a position to have a large family.  Thus the biological habits of the Christians tended to breed out of the race whatever hereditary qualities make for learning, whereas the biological habits of the Jew tended to breed these qualities in.  To what extent this genetic difference supplemented the cultural trend for learning among the Jews is difficult to say.  But there is no reason to believe that the genetic factor was negligible.  I have talked this matter over with my friend, Professor J. B. S. Haldane, and he certainly is of the same opinion.  Indeed, it is quite possible that in giving this opinion, I am merely presenting an idea which I have borrowed from Professor Haldane. (Norbert Wiener, Ex-Prodigy: My Childhood and Youth, The M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England, 1953, ISBN 0 262 73008 1, pp. 11-12.)


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