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Her success continued in films such as Mata Hari and Grand Hotel They played an important role in the development of Arabic music in Umayyad Mecca and, especially, Medina, where they were numbered among the most celebrated singers and instrumentalists Pabst and co-starring Asta Nielsen. She may not be the best actress on the screen. Vi har Skandinaviens bredaste Riekersortiment. Jews are extravagantly overrepresented in every field of intellectual accomplishment.
As one would expect, they cover just about every important aspect of the topic. But there is a lacuna, and not one involving some obscure bit of Judaica. I have personal experience with the reluctance of Jews to talk about Jewish accomplishment—my co-author, the late Richard Herrnstein, gently resisted the paragraphs on Jewish IQ that I insisted on putting in The Bell Curve Both history and the contemporary revival of anti-Semitism in Europe make it easy to understand the reasons for that reluctance. Recent scholarship is expanding our understanding of its origins.
And so this Scots-Irish Gentile from Iowa hereby undertakes to tell the story. I cover three topics: F rom B. But what a pair they are. The first is the fully realized conceptualization of monotheism, expressed through one of the literary treasures of the world, the Hebrew Bible. It not only laid the foundation for three great religions but, as Thomas Cahill describes in The Gifts of the Jews , introduced a way of looking at the meaning of human life and the nature of history that defines core elements of the modern sensibility.
The second achievement is not often treated as a Jewish one but clearly is: Christian theology expressed through the New Testament, an accomplishment that has spilled into every aspect of Western civilization. But religious literature is the exception.
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The Jews do not appear in the annals of philosophy, drama, visual art, mathematics, or the natural sciences during the eighteen centuries from the time of Homer through the first millennium C. It is unclear to what extent this reflects a lack of activity or the lack of a readily available record. For example, only a handful of the scientists of the Middle Ages are mentioned in most histories of science, and none was a Jew.
But when George Sarton put a high-powered lens to the Middle Ages in his monumental Introduction to the History of Science , he found that 95 of the known scientists working everywhere in the world from to were Jews—15 percent of the total, far out of proportion to the Jewish population.
But this only exemplifies the difficulty of assessing Jewish intellectual activity in that period. Aside from Maimonides and a few others, these thinkers and artists did not perceptibly influence history or culture outside the confines of the Jewish world. Generally speaking, this remained the case well into the Renaissance and beyond. From to , only seven Jews are among those significant figures, and only two were important enough to have names that are still widely recognized: Spinoza and Montaigne whose mother was Jewish. T he sparse representation of Jews during the flowering of the European arts and sciences is not hard to explain.
They were systematically excluded, both by legal restrictions on the occupations they could enter and by savage social discrimination. As soon as Jewish children born under legal emancipation had time to grow to adulthood, they started appearing in the first ranks of the arts and sciences. During the four decades from to , when the first Jews to live under emancipation reached their forties, 16 significant Jewish figures appear.
In the next four decades, from to , the number jumps to During the next four decades, —, despite the contemporaneous devastation of European Jewry, the number of significant figures almost triples, to To get a sense of the density of accomplishment these numbers represent, I will focus on onward, after legal emancipation had been achieved throughout Central and Western Europe.
How does the actual number of significant figures compare to what would be expected given the Jewish proportion of the European and North American population? From to , Jewish representation in literature was four times the number one would expect. In music, five times. In the visual arts, five times. In biology, eight times. In chemistry, six times. In physics, nine times. In mathematics, twelve times.
In philosophy, fourteen times. Disproportionate Jewish accomplishment in the arts and sciences continues to this day. My inventories end with , but many other measures are available, of which the best known is the Nobel Prize. In the second half of the 20th century, when Nobel Prizes began to be awarded to people from all over the world, that figure rose to 29 percent. So far, in the 21st century, it has been 32 percent. You do the math. W hat accounts for this remarkable record? A full answer must call on many characteristics of Jewish culture, but intelligence has to be at the center of the answer.
Jews have been found to have an unusually high mean intelligence as measured by IQ tests since the first Jewish samples were tested. The widely repeated story that Jewish immigrants to this country in the early 20th century tested low on IQ is a canard.
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Exactly how high has been difficult to pin down, because Jewish sub-samples in the available surveys are seldom perfectly representative. But it is currently accepted that the mean is somewhere in the range of to , with being a plausible compromise. If the Jewish mean is , then the mathematics of the normal distribution says that the average Jew is at the 75th percentile. Underlying that mean in overall IQ is a consistent pattern on IQ subtests: Jews are only about average on the subtests measuring visuo-spatial skills, but extremely high on subtests that measure verbal and reasoning skills.
The key indicator for predicting exceptional accomplishment like winning a Nobel Prize is the incidence of exceptional intelligence. Consider an IQ score of or higher, denoting the level of intelligence that can permit people to excel in fields like theoretical physics and pure mathematics. Of those 28, 24 were Jews. Exceptional intelligence is not enough to explain exceptional accomplishment.
Qualities such as imagination, ambition, perseverance, and curiosity are decisive in separating the merely smart from the highly productive. The role of intelligence is nicely expressed in an analogy suggested to me years ago by the sociologist Steven Goldberg: The heaviest offensive tackle is not necessarily the best. Indeed, the correlation between weight and performance among NFL offensive tackles is probably quite low.
But they all weigh more than pounds. The other things count, but you must be very smart to have even a chance of achieving great work.
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A randomly selected Jew has a higher probability of possessing that level of intelligence than a randomly selected member of any other ethnic or national group, by far. N othing that I have presented up to this point is scientifically controversial. The profile of disproportionately high Jewish accomplishment in the arts and sciences since the 18th century, the reality of elevated Jewish IQ, and the connection between the two are not to be denied by means of data. And so we come to the great question: Here, the discussion must become speculative. Geneticists and historians are still assembling the pieces of the explanation, and there is much room for disagreement.
I begin with the assumption that elevated Jewish intelligence is grounded in genetics.
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It is no longer seriously disputed that intelligence in Homo sapiens is substantially heritable. In the last two decades, it has also been established that obvious environmental factors such as high income, books in the house, and parental reading to children are not as potent as one might expect. Even the very best home environments add only a few points, if that, to a merely okay environment.
To put it another way, we have good reason to think that Gentile children raised in Jewish families do not acquire Jewish intelligence. Hence my view that something in the genes explains elevated Jewish IQ. That conclusion is not logically necessary but, given what we know about heritability and environmental effects on intelligence in humans as a species, it is extremely plausible.
Two potential explanations for a Jewish gene pool favoring high intelligence are so obvious that many people assume they must be true: I too think that both of these must have played some role, but how much of a role is open to question. In the case of winnowing through persecution, the logic cuts both ways.
Yes, those who remained faithful during the many persecutions of the Jews were self-selected for commitment to Judaism, and the role of scholarship in that commitment probably means that intelligence was one of the factors in self-selection. The foresight that goes with intelligence might also have had some survival value as in anticipating pogroms , though it is not obvious that its effect would be large enough to explain much.
But once the Cossacks are sweeping through town, the kind of intelligence that leads to business success or rabbinical acumen is no help at all. On the contrary, the most successful people could easily have become the most likely to be killed, by virtue of being more visible and the targets of greater envy. Furthermore, other groups, such as the Gypsies, have been persecuted for centuries without developing elevated intelligence. Considered closely, the winnowing-by-persecution logic is not as compelling as it may first appear. What of the marrying-for-brains theory? The combination could have been potent: Once again, however, it is difficult to be more specific about how much effect this might have had.
Arguments have been advanced that rich merchants were in fact often reluctant to entrust their daughters to penniless and unworldly scholars. Nor is it clear that the fertility rate of scholars, or their numbers, were high enough to account for a major effect on intelligence.
The attractiveness of brains in prospective marriage partners surely played some role but, once again, the data for assessing how much have not been assembled. A gainst this backdrop of uncertainty, a data-driven theory for explaining elevated Jewish IQ appeared in in the Journal of Biosocial Science. In the analysis of these authors, the key factor explaining elevated Jewish intelligence is occupational selection. From the time Jews became established north of the Pyrenees-Balkans line, around C. Economic success in all of these occupations is far more highly selected for intelligence than success in the chief occupation of non-Jews: Sephardi and Oriental Jews—i.
But the authors cite evidence that, as a rule, they were less concentrated in occupations that selected for IQ and instead more commonly worked in craft trades. The suggested selective process explains the pattern of mental abilities in Ashkenazi Jews: Verbal and mathematical talent helped medieval businessmen succeed, while spatio-visual abilities were irrelevant.
The rest of their presentation is a lengthy and technical discussion of the genetics of selection for IQ, indirect evidence linking elevated Jewish IQ with a variety of genetically based diseases found among Ashkenazim, and evidence that most of these selection effects have occurred within the last 1, years. N o one has yet presented an alternative to the Cochran-Hardy-Harpending theory that can match it for documentation. But, as someone who suspects that elevated Jewish intelligence was a not confined to Ashkenazim and b antedates the Middle Ages, I will outline the strands of an alternative explanation that should be explored.
It begins with evidence that Jews who remained in the Islamic world exhibited unusually high levels of accomplishment as of the beginning of the second millennium. These were not Ashkenazim in northern Europe, where Jews were still largely excluded from the world of scientific scholarship, but Sephardim in the Iberian peninsula, in Baghdad, and in other Islamic centers of learning. I have also mentioned the more diffuse cultural evidence from Spain, where, under both Muslim and Christian rule, Jews attained eminent positions in the professions, commerce, and government as well as in elite literary and intellectual circles.
After being expelled from Spain at the end of the 15th century, Sephardi Jews rose to distinction in many of the countries where they settled. Some economic historians have traced the decline of Spain after , and the subsequent rise of the Netherlands, in part to the Sephardi commercial talent that was transferred from the one to the other.
Centuries later, in England, one could point to such Sephardi eminences as Benjamin Disraeli and the economist David Ricardo. In sum, I propose that a strong case could be assembled that Jews everywhere had unusually high intellectual resources that manifested themselves outside of Ashkenaz and well before the period when non-rabbinic Ashkenazi accomplishment manifested itself.
The logical inconsistency disappears if one posits that Jews circa C. Recent advances in the use of genetic markers to characterize populations enable us to pursue such possibilities systematically. I offer this testable hypothesis as just one of many possibilities: T he next strand of an alternative to the Cochran-Hardy-Harpending theory involves reasons for thinking that some of the elevation of Jewish intelligence occurred even before Jews moved into occupations selected for intelligence, because of the shift in ancient Judaism from a rite-based to a learning-based religion.
All scholars who have examined the topic agree that about 80—90 percent of all Jews were farmers at the beginning of the Common Era, and that only about 10—20 percent of Jews were farmers by the end of the first millennium. No other ethnic group underwent this same kind of occupational shift.
Education, Restrictions, or Minorities? Rejecting the explanation that Jews became merchants because they were restricted from farming, Botticini and Eckstein point to cases in which Jews who were free to own land and engage in agriculture made the same shift to urban, skilled occupations that Jews exhibited where restrictions were in force. Instead, they focus on an event that occurred in 64 C.
The ordinance was not only issued; it was implemented. Within about a century, the Jews, uniquely among the peoples of the world, had effectively established universal male literacy and numeracy. If you remained a farmer, your education had little or no value. Over the centuries, this basic economic reality led Jews to leave farming and engage in urban occupations. So far, Botticini and Eckstein have provided an explanatory backdrop to the shift in occupations that in turn produced the selection pressures for intelligence described by Cochran, Hardy, and Harpending.
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But selection pressure in this classic form was probably not the only force at work. Between the 1st and 6th centuries C. About 1 million Jews were killed in the revolts against the Romans in Judea and Egypt. There were scattered forced conversions from Judaism to another religion. Some of the reduction may be associated with a general drop in population that accompanied the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. But that still leaves a huge number of Jews who just disappeared. What happened to them? Botticini and Eckstein argue that an economic force was at work: As time went on, they drifted away from Judaism.
I am sure this explanation has some merit. But a more direct explanation could involve the increased intellectual demands of Judaism. Both mark the moment when Judaism began actively to transform itself from a religion centered on rites and sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem to a religion centered on prayer and the study of the Torah at decentralized synagogues and study houses. Rabbis and scholars took on a much larger role as leaders of local communities.
Since worship of God involved not only prayer but study, all Jewish males had to read if they were to practice their faith—and not only read in private but be able to read aloud in the presence of others. In this context, consider the intellectual requirements of literacy. People with modest intelligence can become functionally literate, but they are able to read only simple texts.
The Torah and the Hebrew prayer book are not simple texts; even to be able to read them mechanically requires fairly advanced literacy. To study the Talmud and its commentaries with any understanding requires considerable intellectual capacity. What happened to the millions of Jews who disappeared? It is not necessary to maintain that Jews of low intelligence were run out of town because they could not read the Torah and commentaries fluently.
Rather, few people enjoy being in a position where their inadequacies are constantly highlighted. It is human nature to withdraw from such situations. I suggest that the Jews who fell away from Judaism from the 1st to 6th centuries C. Even before the selection pressures arising from urban occupations began to have an effect, I am arguing, the remaining self-identified Jews circa C.
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Is it the case that, before the 1st century C. Are we to believe that the Bible, a work compiled over centuries and incorporating everything from brilliant poetry to profound ethics, with stories that speak so eloquently to the human condition that they have inspired great art, music, and literature for millennia, was produced by an intellectually run-of-the-mill Levantine tribe?
In The Evolution of Man and Society , the geneticist Cyril Darlington presented the thesis that Jews and Judaism were decisively shaped much earlier than the 1st century C. The biblical account clearly states that only a select group of Jews were taken to Babylon. In effect, the Babylonians took away the Jewish elites, selected in part for high intelligence, and left behind the poor and unskilled, selected in part for low intelligence. By the time the exiles returned, more than a century later, many of those remaining behind in Judah had been absorbed into other religions.
The returned exiles, who formed the bulk of the reconstituted Jewish community, comprised mainly the descendants of the Jewish elites—plausibly a far more able population, on average, than the pre-captivity population. I offer the Babylonian captivity as a concrete mechanism whereby Jewish intelligence may have been elevated very early, but I am not wedded to it.
Even without that mechanism, there is reason to think that selection for intelligence antedates the 1st century C. From its very outset, apparently going back to the time of Moses, Judaism was intertwined with intellectual complexity. Jews were commanded by God to heed the law, which meant they had to learn the law.
The law was so extensive and complicated that this process of learning and reviewing was never complete. Moreover, Jewish males were not free to pretend that they had learned the law, for fathers were commanded to teach the law to their children. It became obvious to all when fathers failed in their duty. No other religion made so many intellectual demands upon the whole body of its believers. Long before Joshua ben Gamla and the destruction of the Second Temple, the requirements for being a good Jew had provided incentives for the less intelligent to fall away.
Assessing the events of the 1st century C. By way of an analogy, consider written Chinese with its thousands of unique characters. It is possible, I suppose, that their high visuo-spatial skills have been fostered by having to learn written Chinese; but I find it much more plausible that only people who already possessed high visuo-spatial skills would ever devise such a ferociously difficult written language.
This reasoning pushes me even farther into the realm of speculation. Why should one particular tribe at the time of Moses, living in the same environment as other nomadic and agricultural peoples of the Middle East, have already evolved elevated intelligence when the others did not? At this point, I take sanctuary in my remaining hypothesis, uniquely parsimonious and happily irrefutable. Enfin la terre promise?