There is something a little postmodern about the confidence with which the Amish believe they can bend human nature to their beliefs. But, unlike postmodern theorists who are all talk, the Amish are willing to walk the walk (or at least to ride the buggy).
Moreover, as farmers, the Amish aren”t ignorant of the role of biology either. Evolutionary theorists Henry Harpending and Gregory Cochran have recently argued that the Amish are in effect breeding themselves for “plainness.”
This is mathematically quite possible because there has been little gene flow into the Amish in many generations. They seldom proselytize, preferring to grow their own adherents. Large numbers of “English” tourists flow daily past their farms in Amish strongholds like Holmes County, but the Amish aren”t interested in converting them.
Not surprisingly, there’s a steady genetic outflow from the Amish (often into the only somewhat less strict Mennonites, whom certain Amish groups consider a respectable enough alternative to the Old Order that they won”t shun their loved ones who join the Mennonites). As Anabaptists, the new generation of Amish isn”t baptized into the church until young adulthood.
Overall, about 10 to 15 percent leave their Amish community for a less constrained existence. (With an average of close to seven children apiece, losing one to the outside world is less of a tragedy.) Strikingly, the rate of defection appears to have declined from the 18 to 24 percent range seen in the past.
Harpending and Cochran hypothesize that the Amish are genetically distinct not only because of “founders” effects””idiosyncrasies in the genes of the 200 original American Amish “ but also because they are increasingly becoming more Amish genetically due to “selection effects.”
First, they are likely getting more fertile. The U. of Utah anthropologists go on:
Second, and more interesting, the Amish have probably experienced selection for increased Amishness”an increase in the degree to which Amish find their lifestyle congenial, since those who like it least, leave. We have called this kind of differential emigration “boiling off”. Obviously, if some of the soup boils off, what is left is more concentrated.
They theorize the existence of an Amish Quotient:
One could, with difficulty and a lot of investment, identify dimensions of a hypothetical AQ. It would likely include affinity for work, perseverance, low status competition, respect for authority, conscientiousness, community orientation, and so on.
If the Amish community has typically lost the 10% of its population least Amish by nature, the average AQ would have increased by about 1 AQ point for each of the ten generations in America: that’s nine or ten points in total so far.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Ashkenazi Jews, whom Cochran and Harpending argued in their 2005 paper Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence have undergone Darwinian selection for traits conducive to success at white collar business, appear to average about ten IQ points higher than gentile Europeans.
Nicholas Wade’s New York Times article nicely summarized their theory of how Jewish congenital diseases like Tay-Sachs are likely tragic side effects of intense Darwinian selection for higher intelligence.
And that’s what the denunciations of Wade’s new book ultimately are about. Whether the critics recognize it or not, they are parroting a line of patter developed for ethnocentric purposes by various Jewish intellectuals, such as anthropologist Ashley Montagu (born Israel Ehrenberg).
There are no Amish intellectuals, and there aren”t even many black intellectuals anymore (note the embarrassing rise of Ta-Nehisi Coates due to lack of competition). But you can”t begin to understand the modern world without making yourself aware of Jewish intellectuals” predilections and biases. These tropes are mostly just funny, and we”d be better off if we could all laugh about them.
Unfortunately, noticing is not allowed.
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