Secular Right | Reality & Reason

May/10

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Are There Enough Jews on the Supreme Court?

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There has been some muted comment about the religious composition of the U.S. Supreme Court after a Kagan approval: 6 Catholics, 3 Jews.

Is this enough Jews, though?  Let’s crunch numbers.

First permit me to switch from religion to self-identifying ethnicity, which is closer to how this stuff actually works.  Less than two percent of non-Hispanic white Americans are religious Jews, but around five percent have Jewish ancestry and consider themselves to some degree Jewish.  Let me just take, as round numbers, 220 million non-Hispanic white Americans, ten million of them self-identifying (to some degree) Jewish.  You can of course rework the following with different numbers if you like.

There are nine seats on the U.S. Supreme Court.  By general agreement (it seems to me) there is one quota-seat for an African American, one for a Hispanic.  That leaves seven seats available for non-Hispanic white justices.  How many of those seven would we expect to go to Jewish nominees?

Leaving aside the obvious temptation to carry out a 5,000-word analysis on that word “expect,” let’s drastically simplify: let’s pick ‘em by IQ.   Supposing non-Hispanic white Gentiles to have mean IQ 100 and Jews mean IQ 112 (the figure usually cited, though again you can re-crunch with a different number if you like), with standard deviation 15 in both cases, here’s what I get for various cutoff minimum IQs:

Min IQ         Gentiles         Jews         Seats    
110     53,023,433     5,530,351     0.66
115     33,317,603     4,207,403     0.78
120     19,154,356     2,969,014     0.94
125     10,035,974     1,930,623     1.13
130     4,777,528     1,150,697     1.36
135     2,061,219     625,969     1.63
140     804,380     309,741     1.95
145     283,479     139,034     2.30
150     90,103     56,492     2.70
155     25,802     20,741     3.12
160     6,651     6,871     3.56
165     1,542     2,052     4.00
170     321     552     4.42
175     60     133     4.82
180     10     29     5.19
185     2     6     5.51
190     0     1     5.80

You get three Jewish seats round about cutoff IQ 153, which is pretty darn smart — only 43,000 non-Hispanic white Gentile Americans are that smart.  At cutoff 165 you’d expect four Jewish seats; at around 178 you’d expect five.

That’s all highly abstract, of course.  It assumes up front that anyone actually wants justices as smart as possible, when what presidents usually want is justices that (a) are on their side, lib-con-wise, and (b) are sufficiently bland & unimaginative never to have said or written anything that will raise an eyebrow from the drones on the confirmation committee.

It also assumes that a 180-IQ nominee would be better at judging cases than a 140-IQ-er.  That’s not obvious to me.  I favor the “sweet spot” notion of IQ, where cognitive ability+sense/wisdom max out around 125-135, the sense/wisdom component then dropping off steeply in higher IQ numbers.  If that’s right, we may have one Jewish justice too many!

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41 comments

  • John · May 16, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    According to Half Sigma, there does seem to be a “sweet spot” for conservative IQ

    http://www.halfsigma.com/2006/06/democrats_may_n.html

    The sweet spot seems to shift over time. It doesn’t always stay at the same number.

  • Le Mur · May 17, 2010 at 5:59 am

    From what I’ve seen, “judging” isn’t a very g-loaded activity – any evidence that it is?

  • J. · May 17, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Or, just replace the Black Robe posse with programs–Lex-bots, pre-set with Constitutional parameters–. Input the case data, and you get a response, free of pompous rhetoric or bias (eliminating the “Scalia factor”). And like the Constitution, it’s set for a certain moderate politics–not too leftist-populist (ie, accounts for merit, skill, even IQ perhaps, perserves some property), yet avoiding a Tory-royalist extreme as well (allows for taxation of various sorts). Works for legislation as well! A Rawls-bot.

  • James D · May 17, 2010 at 10:41 am

    I’d love to see a similar analysis for Protestants/Evos/Fundies. :-)

  • Steve Mitchell · May 17, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    “Supposing non-Hispanic white Gentiles to have mean IQ 100 and Jews mean IQ 112″

    That’s not a very reasonable way of going about things. Why assume that there exists a generic “white gentile” population, and that its mean IQ is 100?

    The “Jewish” IQ of 112 is based on a selective sample of Jews. Why not look at a selective sampling of high IQ non-Jewish whites? Episcopalians, for instance.

    “Less than two percent of non-Hispanic white Americans are religious Jews, but around five percent have Jewish ancestry and consider themselves to some degree Jewish”

    Again, you’re stacking the deck in favor of the outcome you wanted to arrive at by using this “one drop rule” for Jews and nobody else.

  • Zimriel · May 17, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Le Mur, I think you are right that judging isn’t as g-loaded as lawyering.

    It is the same reason being a monarch (historically) wasn’t g-loaded. Once the judge is in place, s/he has sovereignty: whatever s/he decides is good, righteous, and legal because s/he defines what is good, righteous, and legal.

    Or, if you like, the same reason blowing smoke on one’s own blog isn’t g-loaded. Any shlemiel can write an opinion.

  • Chuck · May 17, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    “That’s not a very reasonable way of going about things. Why assume that there exists a generic “white gentile” population, and that its mean IQ is 100?”

    Is this guy kidding? Maybe he’s one of those whites that doesn’t realize he’s European. Or that European Americans are largely inbred. Or he doesn’t realize that the mean average IQ, in the discussion, is standardized at 100 for gentile whites, regardless of the reason and that other groups either deviate around this or do not.

  • Dog of Justice · May 17, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    This analysis is missing hypothesis tests. (Result, assuming a 125-135 IQ is optimal: no statistically significant pro-Jewish bias, but the lack of Protestants is more concerning…)

  • Mork · May 18, 2010 at 4:08 am

    I like this post a lot.

    The 140 cut-off for SC Justice strikes me as too low. That is actually below average for the students at top law schools, but Kagan and Roberts, to take two examples, were both near the top of their classes.

    155 is a better cut-off. That’s about what you’d need, together with a good work ethic, to get the high grades needed for a supreme court clerkship, which most justices have done.

  • Narr · May 18, 2010 at 7:14 am

    Episcopalians are high-IQ? The things you learn here.

  • hmm · May 18, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    think the “sweet spot” may be different for each race?

    Say, super high IQ black people have truly different minds than super high IQ jews

  • J. · May 19, 2010 at 8:14 am

    Mork’s sort of correct. Rational democracy requires that we choose the best and brightest, as measured by standardized tests. “Proportional representation” of any sort–even the WASP sort, ie so many baptists, so why not more g*d*mned baptist justices, Bubba– implies hiring via quota, which has little or nothing to do with skills.

    However, any provable connection to an organized religious racket–jewish, catholic, protestant, muslim or otherwise–should, in the Logocracy, result in demerits and/or lowered scores, if not rejection–(tho’ Aristotelian follies might be superior, at least in principle, to those of the old testament).

    (the secularist Madison may have attended church on occasion, yet he protested religious people– such as protestant chaplains– working for the govt. The Framers roll in their graves considering a theocratic court led by Scalia, Roberts AND/or Breyer)

  • Steve Mitchell · May 19, 2010 at 8:45 am

    ” Rational democracy requires that we choose the best and brightest, as measured by standardized tests.”

    There are no standardized tests to measure the qualities important for leaders in a democracy: honesty, integrity, conscientiousness, loyalty – what used to be called the “civic virtues”.

  • TrueNorth · May 19, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Interesting post. The general rule seems to be that given a set A of persons and a subset S of A that has a higher IQ than the average of A then eventually as you progress up the IQ ladder you will come to a point where members of S outnumber members of (A-S). This assumes both the set A and the subset S are normal distributions with the same standard deviations.

    But are these assumptions justified? For instance, is a Jewish child born with a condition like Downs Syndrome still 12 IQ points on average smarter than a non-Jewish Downs Syndrome sufferer? Are the standard deviations really the same?

    I am thinking of a counterexample. Consider A=Americans, S=Asians and J=Jews. Assuming that Asians have a higher IQ than average, but not quite as high as Jews, the general result would imply that:
    a) Eventually, there will come a point where Asians outnumber non-Asians (including Jews) from that point up;
    and also
    b) There will also come a point where Jews will outnumber non-Jews (including Asians) from that point up;

  • Steve Mitchell · May 19, 2010 at 8:48 am

    “Episcopalians are high-IQ? The things you learn here.”

    I guess the cheerfully ignorant athiests at Secular Right don’t pay a lot of attention to the study of IQ. I’m happy to have enlightened you.

  • Steve Mitchell · May 19, 2010 at 9:05 am

    “Consider A=Americans, S=Asians and J=Jews. Assuming that Asians have a higher IQ than average, but not quite as high as Jews, the general result would imply that …”

    The problem with this whole line of argument lies in the sets being postulated. “Jews” is not a set in the same sense that “Asians” or “Americans” are.

    “Americans” in the sense being used here means “an agglomeration of all non-Jewish whites”. And “Asians” encompasses a few billion people with nothing in common other than general physical proximity to each other.

    “Jews” on the other hand is being used to refer to a very specific subset of the American population, and also to a very specific subset of the Jewish population. Any conclusion based on such sloppy thinking is going to be unreliable.

  • Narr · May 19, 2010 at 9:08 am

    I guess I know the wrong Episcopalians. But I’m genuinely curious about the notion of ranking IQs on the basis of religious affiliation. Is there a good brief discussion of this you could refer me to, for my spiritual and intellectual betterment?

  • J. · May 19, 2010 at 9:19 am

    There are no standardized tests to measure the qualities important for leaders in a democracy: honesty, integrity, conscientiousness, loyalty – what used to be called the “civic virtues”.

    Virtues, like…a conscience, perhaps?? Paraphrasing Antonio in The Tempest, Ay, sir; where lies that? if it were a kibe,
    ’Twould put me to my slipper; but I feel not
    This deity in my bosom.
    A fine maxim for the anglo-American judiciary–not to say sympatico with St. Darwin.

    Seriously, virtues, whatever they are, manifest themselves in actions, deeds, decisions. And given the decisions of supposedly religious SC justices (say the overturning of Feingold/McCain legislation re campaign financing), they are more akin to Anthonio’s than to Gonzalos anyway.

  • Steve Mitchell · May 19, 2010 at 9:19 am

    “I’m genuinely curious about the notion of ranking IQs on the basis of religious affiliation.”

    What do you think this whole discussion of Jews and IQ is, if not a discussion of ranking IQ by religious affiliation?

    I have not posted a link here before. Let’s see if this works.

    The point is that by “Jews” we mean a subset of European whites, and this is logically compared not merely to whites in general but to other subsets of whites.

  • Steve Mitchell · May 19, 2010 at 9:23 am

    Stop emoting, J. If you have some rational argument to make, then make it.

  • J. · May 19, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Funny I was thinking the same of you. I said standardized tests for judges, and no quotas, and you bring up “virtue”–ergo, you’re the emoter here.

    Let’s hear your argument for virtue (and the Bard, however quaint, does have a point to make in the Tempest, having to do with shall we say machiavellian politics)–or maybe a street address for Virtue Street! (see Hume, ie the real one, not SR person– on that issue as well–not that/s he’s necessarily right, but buena suerte proving him wrong). Either way, judges like most professionals do have to prove themselves via standardized tests– (LSAT, for one, or bar exam). Indeed, the law school curriculum’s probably too qualitative and not sufficiently quantitative.

  • Steve Mitchell · May 19, 2010 at 9:37 am

    “I said standardized tests for judges, and no quotas”

    Then there must be some other J posting here who’s quoting Shakespear and St Marton and complaining about SCOTUS decisions he does not like. My remarks were directed at him.

    “you bring up “virtue”–ergo, you’re the emoter here”

    You’re talking incoherent nonsense. Virtue and emotion are quite different things. Honesty, integrity, etc, the things I cited, are not emotions. Perhaps you should consult a good dictionary if you want to be able to communicate with people.

  • J. · May 19, 2010 at 11:05 am

    your usual emotional response, Steve. You’re probably a fundamentalist, and apparently unaware of the problems of defining mental entities such as “virtues”–even if they “exist” there’s a rather involved story explaining them. Besides, there’s no law saying a virtuous or honest judge (however you define that) will always be a virtuous or honest judge.

    Even given your colloquial def. of virtue, is it virtuous for 5 men to overturn legislation–representing the will of thousands, if not millions–, and allow unrestricted campaign financing, as the SC did with the overturn of Feingold?? SRsters might not have a problem with that, but it seems rather undemocratic, not to say un-virtuous.

  • Narr · May 19, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    To Steve at 9:19: Thanks for the link. I visit Sailer’s place from time to time, but haven’t been there in a while. But I’m not at all sure that the notion that Episcopalians are of high-IQ is proven beyond cavil, based on the results of a ten-item vocabulary test. The other rankings given there, based on SAT and ACT scores, do not present as clear a picture. I acknowledge that you made your comment in good faith, and that it was based on something.

    As to what this whole discussion is about, yes, it is about IQ in relation to religious affiliation. But I think in this case “religious affiliation” papers over a lot of cracks. The “Jewish” atheist is almost a cliche, but nobody talks about “Episcopalian atheists”–that is, Jewish is often more an ethnic, genetic, or heritage designation than strictly a religious one, while Episcopalian logically has only one definition. And as someone suggested in the comments there, Episcopalians were the cream of WASPdom for much of this country’s history, attracted for a long time the upwardly-mobile and ambitious, and still tend to be well-educated. (This still goes on, of course. A cousin of mine ditched the Methodism we were raised in for Presbyterianism, which he then ditched for Episcopalianism. But he’s considered a bit of a dimwit in the family, anyway.
    N.B. He’s not the only Episcopalian I know ;-).)

    And in the interest of full disclosure, I don’t know my own IQ. I do know what my friend Bobby C. said it was, when the educrats let him work in the school office back in junior high school circa 1966, and I know what my GRE and MAT scores were. SATs and ACTs were so long ago . . .

  • Steve Mitchell · May 19, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    The “Jewish” atheist is almost a cliche, but nobody talks about “Episcopalian atheists”

    I don’t think you should base your own conclusions what “nobody” does or does not do. That said, “Episcopalian atheists” is almost a redundant term.

    “Jewish is often more an ethnic, genetic, or heritage designation”

    It’s not, really. Not an ethnic or genetic designation at any rate.

    “as someone suggested in the comments there, Episcopalians were the cream of WASPdom for much of this country’s history, attracted for a long time the upwardly-mobile and ambitious, and still tend to be well-educated”

    And that differs from Jewish-Americans, how?

    “I acknowledge that you made your comment in good faith, and that it was based on something.”

    That’s good of you. Now, if you’d return the favor, we could have a fine old debate.

  • Steve Mitchell · May 19, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    “your usual emotional response, Steve.”

    Pointing out that honesty, for example, is not an emotion counts as emotion to you? I’m starting to think you’re not worth my time.

    You’re probably a fundamentalist, and apparently unaware of the problems of defining mental entities such as “virtues”–even if they “exist”

    a) I’m not a “fundamentalist”.

    b) You think that certain mental “entities” (is English your native tongue?) such as IQ both exist and are virtuous. Or as you put it, “exist”.

  • Steve Mitchell · May 19, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    ” Jewish is often more an ethnic, genetic, or heritage designation than strictly a religious one, while Episcopalian logically has only one definition. And as someone suggested in the comments there, Episcopalians were the cream of WASPdom ..”

    If Episcopalians can be described as “the cream of WASPdom”, that looks amazingly like an “ethnic, genetic, or heritage designation”.

  • Narr · May 19, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    “Episcopalian atheist” is almost a redundant term? Now -that- requires some proof.

    And Episcopalians differ from Jewish-Americans by this at least–Judaism as an affiliation did not attract many of the upwardly-mobile and ambitious throughout most of American history, and Jews were not considered the cream of WASPdom. Other than that, why, they’re almost exactly the same!

    Try to keep the insults and unearned assumption of superiority to a minimum, please.

    Let

  • Steve Mitchell · May 19, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    “Jews were not considered the cream of WASPdom”

    Golly! Really? But what about being well-educated, upwardly-mobile and ambitious?

    “Try to keep the insults and unearned assumption of superiority to a minimum, please”

    I like the way you combine an insult with an injunction against insults.

  • J. · May 19, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    You’re not worth my time.

    I claimed judges should be selected on objective, measurable criteria–tests, grades, even IQ scores. Not religious factors, even in a quota sense. You brought up something called “virtue,” which I suspect you want to relate to christian values of some sort.

    The Shakespeare example which bothered you was merely substantiation–i.e. even in S’s time, some doubted something like objective virtues or ethics existed (google ‘er–as in substantiate, ie, verify your claim that “virtues exist”). Indeed most of what is taken to be virtue is merely observation of some pattern of behavior–like Judge X seems honest most of the time (as far as we can tell)–he tells the truth. That has no bearing on whether he will be honest in the future (or if he really is all the time. maybe he’s just very clever)

  • Casual Observer · May 19, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Steve Mitchell,

    Stop and re-read your your posts. You started out making some defensible points… and quickly devolved into silliness. J and Narr are clearly your intellectual superiors – your are not worth their time.

  • catperson · May 20, 2010 at 5:16 am

    “The 140 cut-off for SC Justice strikes me as too low. That is actually below average for the students at top law schools”

    Actually the average IQ at Harvard law school would be about 133. Higher if you judged them based on the LSAT from which they were selected, but if you sat them down to take a neutral randomly selected IQ test, strong evidence suggests that the average Harvard law student would clock in at 133.

  • Narr · May 20, 2010 at 5:43 am

    Steve, I haven’t called you anything but wrong. If that’s an insult, I guess we have different dictionaries. I trust any fair-minded observer to go through the thread and see who started slinging vitriol.

    As to the specific question of why Jews weren’t and aren’t considered the cream of WASPdom despite being well-educated, upwardly mobile, and ambituous, just parse the term in it’s commonly accepted meaning–I give you the W, but they aren’t AS (for the most part) and they’re not P at all.

    Accepting for the sake of the original argument that Episcopalians are high-IQ, I was speculating about why that might be by referring to their elite status, and that status’s attractiveness to non-Episcopalians in the last several centuries. Many ambitious and upwardly-mobile people converted from their family faiths to Episcopalianism; very few people have converted to Judaism as a route to status. The high IQ of Jews (again for the sake of the original argument) must have a different origin. That’s how they differ. Do you propose that conversion -to- the Jewish faith has ever been a route into the elite for the ambitious and upwardly-mobile in America?

  • Narr · May 20, 2010 at 8:59 am

    In line 5 of my comment at 5:43, please read as “ambitious” and “its”.

    That is all.

  • Steve Mitchell · May 20, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    “Steve, I haven’t called you anything but wrong. If that’s an insult, I guess we have different dictionaries.”

    I guess we do. In mine, saying that somebody has an “unearned assumption of superiority” counts as an insult.

    Back on topic – you’re not addressing my point, which was that it’s not logical to compare a subset of Europeans to Europeans in the aggregate and draw the conclusions which Derb has drawn.

    If you want to compare Jews to anyone else, the proper comparison is to other high achiever subsets of the population. It’s absurd to postulate a generic “gentile” population. For example, anyone familar with IQ studies knows that Greece, Germany, Ireland and Norway have markedly different average IQ’s. And that’s a high level example. Within those counties IQ is not equally distibuted either.

    “Do you propose that conversion -to- the Jewish faith has ever been a route into the elite for the ambitious and upwardly-mobile in America?”

    In America, “Jew” does not refer to a faith. It refers to a heritage. So no conversion to the Jewish faith is neccessary to get the result you describe. Jewish intermarriage with other smart people would have the same effect.

    “The high IQ of Jews (again for the sake of the original argument) must have a different origin.”

    We’re talking here about a subset of Jews – a subset of Euro-Americans, not Jews in the aggregate. I see no reason why that subset should have arrived at a high IQ via a different mechanism from all the other high IQ subsets of the population.

  • Steve Mitchell · May 20, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    “You brought up something called “virtue,” which I suspect you want to relate to christian values of some sort.”

    Neither your ignorance of the English language nor your anti-Christian bigotry is very germane to the topic at hand. But I’ll do you this one small favor.

    “A virtue is a character trait or quality valued as being always good in and of itself.” No Christian bogy-man is hiding behind the nasty word. It wasn’t my intent to frighten you with it. If it makes you happy you may think of high IQ and good grades as being a type of virtue.

  • m.d. · May 20, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    I’m pretty sure the original post here was tongue in cheek & meant as a send up of Pat B. Maybe more than a send up, since as we’ve seen our two sweet boys stand in opposing camps within the- what, community? movement?- on the jewish question.

    So the comments here may be missing the original point, among other things. But I acknowledge that the careful reader must give my own posts little consideration what with me not being “realist” and all.

  • INFIDEL · May 20, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    IQ sweet spot…? WTF?

    Higher IQ means more brain firepower, such a person is more likely to read and think more, also higher intelligence means a better ability to learn, these super-high IQ people would make more out of their experiences in life (whether it’s a book they read or dealing with people) than those with lower IQ.

    Maybe people here mean ‘my ideology’ by wisdome/sense.

  • Mork · May 21, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    A couple of additional points:

    – Non-jewish whites have an IQ of slightly less than 100 since the aggregate is 100. The effect would be very small, my calculation based is the non-jewish white average is 99.375. So Derb’s estimates could be slightly off. This might be offset by the fact that I think a 115 estimate of Jewish IQ is on the high end of the various estimates out there.

    – Independent of IQ, I think Jews are attracted to the law as a profession, so you could even argue that they are somewhat underrepresented on the SC relative to the very top of the legal profession.

  • Steve Mitchell · May 22, 2010 at 7:27 am

    “Non-jewish whites have an IQ of slightly less than 100 ..”

    It’s like talking to … well, like talking to a bunch of low IQ people.

    One more time – it’s logially nonsensical to divide the world into Jewish whites and non-jewish whites while assuming the latter are some homogenous mass. As in “non-Jewish whites have an IQ of 100″.

    Perhaps an analogy will help. It’s like saying, “The white IQ (including Jewish whites) is X while the Asian IQ is X+5, therefore the lack of Asians on the court means that the highest IQ people are not getting on it.”

    The conclusion may or may not be correct, for other reasons, but it does not logically follow from what was said before the “therefore”.

  • Mork · May 22, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Steve, my statement does not imply that non-jewish whites are homogeneous. This is a simple mathematical identity. If the average man in my family is 5-10, and you remove Dad who is 6-1, then the remaining men average below 5-10. If the white American IQ is 100, then the white non-Jewish IQ must be below 100.

    I don’t think Derb’s argument applies to Asians given that (1) their higher IQ is limited to areas not too useful to lawyers* (2) opposite of Jews, controlling for IQ they are less likely to become lawyers.

    *The two most important skills for lawyers is the ability to write and argue well, and salesmanship in bringing in paying clients, aka rainmaking.

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