The higher average intelligence of East Asians compared to Europeans is well documented. The question is: why do East Asians -- despite their intelligence -- lag behind Europeans in measures of creativity, particularly over the past millenium?
Dennis Mangan recently looked at differences between thought styles of Asians and Europeans in this posting
. Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics and Political Science provides the grist for discussion:
The first four Euro-American nations are overrepresented among the Nobel laureates by a factor of 5 to 10; Switzerland is overrepresented by a factor of 28! In sharp contrast, all Asian nations are underrepresented among the Nobel laureates. Japan, for example, has been a major geopolitical and economic power for most of the 20th century (Small and Singer, 1982). Yet it has produced only 12 Nobel laureates, the same number as Austria, which has one-sixteenth of Japan's population.
This problem has long been known to East Asian specialists as the "creativity problem" (Eberts and Eberts, 1995, pp. 123-127; Taylor, 1983, pp. 92-123; van Wolferen, 1989, pp. 89-90). Some argue that the ideographic Asian languages curb abstract thinking and creativity among Asians (Hannas, 2003).....Whatever the reason, it is evident from Table 1 that some combinations of cultural, social, and institutional factors combine to stifle basic science in Asia.
A similar story is told in Charles Murray's classic compilation "Human Accomplishment
." While Murray went to great lengths to include as strong an Asian componentas possible in the history of human accomplishment, the cumulative list of Asian accomplishments up to the present fell short.
Q. You pay a surprising amount of attention to Asian culture. Does that stem from the six years you lived in Asia beginning as a Peace Corps volunteer?
A. Put it this way: There are aspects of Asian culture as it is lived that I still prefer to Western culture, 30 years after I last lived in Thailand. Two of my children are half-Asian. Apart from those personal aspects, I have always thought that the Chinese and Japanese civilizations had elements that represented the apex of human accomplishment in certain domains.
When I began the book, I actually hoped to give Asian accomplishment a still larger place than it wound up getting.
Q. Why did you end up with mostly Dead White European Males in your inventory of 4,002 significant figures?
A. That's what happens when you employ the methods I used. And as I spend many pages in the book describing in perhaps excessive detail, those methods are not skewed by Western sources that are unfairly oblivious to non-Western accomplishment. _Charles Murray Interview
So, how does one explain the lagging of East Asians behind Europeans in the creativity race? La Griffe du Lion suggests that East Asians have such high visuospatial ability, that their overall IQ score is lifted higher than all others
except for Ashkenazi Jews. But while visuospatial / mathematical ability is quite important in many fields of hard science, mathematics, and engineering / technology, deep creativity and radical innovation appear to spring from yet other parts of the cognitive neural assemblage beyond mere visuospatial ability.
Part of the reason why Asians cannot think for themselves and make original and creative contributions to science is because they are too conformist. One of the factors that Miller identifies as a possible obstacle to the Asian future of evolutionary psychology ("academic conservatism") is actually fatal. Scientific revolutions happen by challenging the established paradigms. No conformists have ever brought about a scientific revolution. _Kanazawa PDF
A conformist culture will certainly lend toward an anti-innovative conservatism, which can leave life-long imprints in the brain of a growing child. On the other hand, culture does not spring out of nothing. Culture is strongly influenced by the genetic complement of a population. For example, communist totalitarian conformity was forced onto several nations of Eastern Europe at roughly the same time that China was forced into communism by the victory of Mao's PLA. But communism did not last in most of the European populations, whereas in China the CCP is still the locus of one-party rule.
Long ago, inventors in China devised gunpowder, printing, paper money, the magnetic compass, and probably other wonders now lost to history. But even millenia ago, entrenched Chinese conservatism prevented the constructive uses of most of these inventions. It was left to Europeans to expand and innovate on these ancient inventions around the time of the "renaissance." Has there been a fatal "lack of curiousity" in Chinese culture?
This lack of curiosity extended into science. While ancient China was in many ways more technologically advanced than ancient Greece, knowledge for its own sake was never valued. The ancient Greeks in contrast wrote and debated tirelessly about abstract ideas that had no connection to the real world. _HBDBooks
Similarly, Hindu mathematicians devised advanced arithmetic notation and algebraic logic, as well as other advanced mathematical concepts for the times. These ideas moved along routes of trade and conquest to Islamic centers of thought in Persia, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Andalusia ... where the Hindu ideas were combined with ideas from ancient Greek mathematics, and a synthesis of sorts was created. But it was left to Europeans to take the Hindu - Islamic - Greek synthesis along with rediscovered Greek ideas, and turn them into the modern mathematics upon which modern technology is based.
East Asian scientists and technologists certainly have the brilliance to maintain and advance the modern technologies that Europeans are bequeathing to them. The question remains: what will be the pattern of advance? Will we see a plodding, step by step elaboration and revising of science and technology centered on current fields of study, from the new "Asian renaissance?" Or will we see the sort of radical creation of entirely new foci of science and technology of the sort we have become accustomed to over the past few centuries, from European inventors and researchers?
There is much to be learned about the cultural -- and genetic -- reasons why different populations seen to have different habits of thought. Rather than shying away from such research as somehow "racist" or "not PC", we should get busy understanding all aspects of this universe we live in.
Labels: Asia, conformity, creativity, invention, paradigm