Why is it that a disproportionate amount of physicists are Jewish?

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From what I, and many others have observed, an extremely disproportionate amount of physicists are Jewish (comparing it to how many Jews there actually are). Does anyone have any explanations for this?

Please don't rspond with "I'm a physicist and I'm not Jewish."
 

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  • #2
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I'm a physicist and I'm not Jewish. -_-'

And I don't really know. What I -do- know is that I read somewhere that Jewish people have on average the highest IQ of the population. Perhaps this leads more Jewish people to go into the sciences.

Ooooh, racism! No, people, this is SCIENCE! *kicks people with methodology*

But the truth is, a.) I'm not even sure whether there actually ARE relatively more Jewish people in physics, and b.) I'm too lazy to start looking for that IQ-related study, so you might as well ignore that remark.
 
  • #3
DavidSnider
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I wonder if this is just a product of the late 19th century.. Historically I don't think this phenomenon held true for science.
 
  • #4
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Well, we've only really -had- science the way it is now since approximately the 19th century, so that might not be all that weird. Seriously though, OP, sources, sources, sources! How am I even supposed to know whether there are relatively more Jews in physics than there are in other fields? Since I'm not into the field of research myself (yet), I can't say I have observed this yet.
 
  • #5
DaveC426913
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Hobin is correct. It would be folly to try to explain something before even knowing if it is true. Or maybe you live in Israel.
 
  • #6
Evo
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From what I, and many others have observed, an extremely disproportionate amount of physicists are Jewish (comparing it to how many Jews there actually are). Does anyone have any explanations for this?

Please don't rspond with "I'm a physicist and I'm not Jewish."
Please post the statistics that show this.

There was a similar thread posted not too long ago and that person was wrong about the numbers.
 
  • #7
arildno
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  • #8
Evo
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Well, according to this site, at least 163 out of about 750 Nobel prizes have been awarded to Jews.

From the physics list, of the roughly hundred or so prizes awarded in physics, well over 30 has been awarded to..Jews.
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/nobels.html
That was what I was referring to. Not all in physics and nothing to do with "recent number of total physicists". Times have changed.
 
  • #9
arildno
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I guess a more synchronic statistic, rather than diachronic one as I posted, would be more to the point of affirming or denying OP's assertion.

For example, whether Jews are over-represented in today's national academy of sciences, or something like that.
 
  • #10
Evo
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I guess a more synchronic statistic, rather than diachronic one as I posted, would be more to the point of affirming or denying OP's assertion.

For example, whether Jews are over-represented in today's national academy of sciences, or something like that.
My question to the Op is why would he ask such a question? Are we going to break down scientists by religious beliefs? For what purpose?
 
  • #11
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I'm asking the question simply because I'm curious as to why! There could be some fascinating explanation that I would like to know. Or there could be no explanation. In no way am I dividing people up based off of beliefs.

A better question maybe is why a largely disproportionate amount of revolutionary, or 'leading' physicists were Jewish? Einstein, Bohr, Feynman, Susskind, Gel-mann, Schwinger, Bloch, Bethe, Witten, Pauli, Swarschild, the list goes on.
 
  • #13
Evo
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Why are 80% of Nobel winners non-Jewish?

Jewish people have a long history of pushing their children to excel, we are now seeing more Indian and Asian scientists, but it's irrelvant how many are Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, etc...
 
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  • #14
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Why are 80% of Nobel winners non-Jewish?

Jewish people have a long history of pushing their children to excel, we are now seeing more Indian and Asian scientists, but it's irrelvant how many are Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, etc...
Perhaps you shouldn't ask about "Jewish" scientists, but scientists with Israeli origins.
 
  • #15
arildno
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Why are 80% of Nobel winners non-Jewish?

Jewish people have a long history of pushing their children to excel, we are now seeing more Indian and Asian scientists, but it's irrelvant how many are Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, etc...
Why is it "irrelevant", Evo?
The most repressive culture on Earth has just about zero achievers; Abdus Salam belonged to the "heretical" and heavily persecuted sect of Ahmadiiyah.
Ambient culture DO have a lot to say about how their children excel.
 
  • #16
Evo
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Why is it "irrelevant", Evo?
The most repressive culture on Earth has just about zero achievers; Abdus Salam belonged to the "heretical" and heavily persecuted sect of Ahmadiiyah.
Ambient culture DO have a lot to say about how their children excel.
I don't like separating people this way. I don't want this to get into a "this group is smarter than that group" discussion.
 
  • #17
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I'm asking the question simply because I'm curious as to why! There could be some fascinating explanation that I would like to know. Or there could be no explanation. In no way am I dividing people up based off of beliefs.

A better question maybe is why a largely disproportionate amount of revolutionary, or 'leading' physicists were Jewish? Einstein, Bohr, Feynman, Susskind, Gel-mann, Schwinger, Bloch, Bethe, Witten, Pauli, Swarschild, the list goes on.
I believe it's because of their tradition of scholarship that goes back, not just centuries, but millenia. For thousands of years Jews have maintained a tradition of intense daily study of their religious texts, and also of discussion and debate about them. This leads to them cultivating sharp, inquisitive, logical minds. The most religious of them respectfully debate fine points of religion daily with each other and are constantly examining the centuries-old commentary on the Torah by generations of great Rabbis, called the Talmud.

When Jews leave their faith and become secular they tend to plug all this scholarly intensity and facility for logic of any kind into equally demanding fields and that traditional discipline can last in families for a few generations, even removed from the initial religious demand for it. Jews are said to be disproportionately represented in many fields: medicine, law, music, commerce, film, to name some.

As far as science and medecine we see the Asians in the US becoming the new Jews. Same reason: they have a longstanding tradition of respect for math and medicine that is imparted and maintained by the family, not just in schools.
 
  • #18
arildno
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I don't like separating people this way. I don't want this to get into a "this group is smarter than that group" discussion.
Well, some cultures are more amenable than others to produce achievers.

That is abundantly clear as different cultures have extremely varying results in that respect.
I do not think those differences are wholly explainable in terms of differences in genetics.
Do you?
 
  • #19
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That's not what we're doing, Evo. We're talking about cultures, and how they encourage education compared to other cultures.

I think I have an explanation for my question after thinking for a little bit. Having grown up in a jewish family, (I am completely non-religious and atheist by the way), I have noticed that in Hebrew school/ temple, they encourage questioning the torah, and thinking about these very deep questions, which I believe sparks off an interest in finding the answer to these questions.

Any thoughts on this?
 
  • #20
Evo
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That's not what we're doing, Evo. We're talking about cultures, and how they encourage education compared to other cultures.
No, you were specifically asking why jews prevailed in physics.

Don't forget that we can still see your first post and the <cough> thread title. LOL

From what I, and many others have observed, an extremely disproportionate amount of physicists are Jewish (comparing it to how many Jews there actually are). Does anyone have any explanations for this?

Please don't rspond with "I'm a physicist and I'm not Jewish."
 
  • #21
Evo
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Well, some cultures are more amenable than others to produce achievers.

That is abundantly clear as different cultures have extremely varying results in that respect.
I do not think those differences are wholly explainable in terms of differences in genetics.
Do you?
No, I think it's mainly upbringing, re-enforced by the same ethics in the entire community.
 
  • #22
arildno
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No, I think it's mainly upbringing, re-enforced by the same ethics in the entire community.
Indeed. So different "cultures", perhaps PARTICULARLY in differences in the typical micro-life of the family can have significant effect on the childrens' capacities to achieve (in some particular field)

For example, the Asian "tiger moms" are instrumental in their childrens' successes in today's USA..
 
  • #23
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As far as science and medecine we see the Asians in the US becoming the new Jews. Same reason: they have a longstanding tradition of respect for math and medicine that is imparted and maintained by the family, not just in schools.
this is a very important point. in his book The Jewish Century, Yuri Slezkine makes the point that all societies have their own "jews". and what this amounts to is a sort of division of labor. Slezkine refers to the two groups as Mercurians and Apollonians. Apollonians are generally the warriors and farmers, and represent the indigenous population. Mercurians deal in trades that are easier for strangers to perform for various reasons, such as taboos, but tend not to be arts that are more labor-oriented.

i've also noticed a lot of sharp students here that are indian (continental), so for years i had a pretty high opinion of them generally. but i think perhaps what i might be seeing is simply a subculture of people that find their way here. same may be true of say, chinese. jumping across an ocean into a strange land is still a significant hurdle for most folks, and so i'm not sure it's good to read too much into the achievements of those who make it here, other than that they probably also represent high achievement in their lands of origin.
 
  • #24
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Don't forget that we can still see your first post and the <cough> thread title. LOL
That cough was for "amount" instead of "number", right?
 
  • #25
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That's not what we're doing, Evo. We're talking about cultures, and how they encourage education compared to other cultures.

I think I have an explanation for my question after thinking for a little bit. Having grown up in a jewish family, (I am completely non-religious and atheist by the way), I have noticed that in Hebrew school/ temple, they encourage questioning the torah, and thinking about these very deep questions, which I believe sparks off an interest in finding the answer to these questions.

Any thoughts on this?
See my post, #17.
 

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