Is there really such a thing as Jewish genius?

14.10.2011                      16.Tischrei. 5772                       Sukkot 2

Jüdische Genies?:

Is there really such a thing as Jewish genius?

The truth is that Einstein did not formulate the law of the photoelectric effect in the Yeshiva, and Freud did not develop psychoanalysis in the synagogue.

Many Jews in Israel and around the world will be patting themselves on the back this week, indulging in another round of self-congratulation and communal pride. The occasion: a fresh batch of Jewish Nobel Prize winners. Saul Perlmutter and Adam G. Riess are among the three recipients of the prize in physics, Ralph M. Steinman and Bruce Beutler make up two thirds of the three latest laureates in medicine, and Dan Shechtman claimed the prize in chemistry all by himself. This leaves us with a total of just under half of this year's winners, and precisely half if we do away with the unscientific Nobel Peace Prize. An impressive tally by any standards, but are we right to attribute it to some sort of special, Jewish genius?
Not quite. It is undeniable that the gamut of evidence marshaled by proponents of "Jewish genius" is remarkable. Jews have not only picked up an inordinate share of 2011's Nobel Prizes: they account for roughly twenty percent of all Nobel Prizes ever awarded, and this while constituting only one fifth of one percent (0.2%) of the global population. Jews are similarly overrepresented in academic publications of all descriptions, in science, in the media, in business, and in other fields of human endeavor. There's clearly something going on here….