Selection vs. differential allele flow

Source:  Selection vs. differential allele flow    Tag:  ashkenazi genetic diseases

The media is reporting (NYTimes; Economist) that there is a paper in press in The Journal of Biosocial Science that attributes the pattern of inherited diseases among Ashkenazi Jews to selection for intelligence. This hypothesis breaks not one but several taboos by talking about race, selection and intelligence, so I'm reluctant to say anything at all about it. However, I think that they missed something (I won't be sure until I see the paper, which is not out yet). Selection, "red in tooth and claw," need not be invoked. Differential migration out of the population could have a powerful effect and seems to have been overlooked. In a minority population with asymmetric gene flow (in other words, whenever the rate of assimilation into greater society exceeds the rate of acquisition of new converts) any genetic variation that disfavors assimilation will increase in frequency in the minority population. It is plausible that intelligence could be enhanced by this (for example, if intelligence improved one's ability to learn Torah or become a rabbi and those things made assimilation less likely). It is also plausible that alleles causing non-lethal genetic diseases could actually be favored within a minority population by reducing the probability that affected individuals would leave, which seems likely if the community provided care not available outside and not needed by healthier relatives who were therefore more likely to leave.