Autism & the pod-people

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This article in Newsweek is pretty interesting, it focuses on how boys are more prone to autism and affiliated diseases like Asperger’s Syndrome. This old article in Wired suggests that assortive mating between people who have some tendency toward this disease is causing the emergence of a whole sub-section of society where Asperger’s is not only endemic, but accepted as something of a norm. The Bell Curve concerned itself with assortive mating by g, but it seems today’s America as depicted by David Brooks is being further segmented along lines of ideology and a host of myriad preferences (race, religion, etc. still being important, but being joined by a constellation of identities and orientations). In The Blank Slate Steven Pinker points out that many beliefs that we assume are based on conscious thought and logical analysis have psychological underpinnings that are heritable. Twins raised apart studies seem to suggest that religious faith, political orientation and other subsets of human personality begin with a genetic substrate.

How these traits are confounded, which are just correlated vs. causatively linked, perhaps via a common factor, is an academic debate. But, back to the initial thrust of the article, how do we deal with the coming sociological diversity? American schools are designed to produce citizens, so despite district & state differences, our goal is to inculcate all children with the same values that will foster the continuance of our democracy. But in the case of children with autism, or boys vs. girls, or even white vs. blacks, it seems that some groups respond positively to different stimuli and environments. How is our society going to respond to this? Certainly Brooks seems to be pointing to one answer-we are segregating into values & personality enclaves, adding more dimensions to our prior self-conceptions based on race, religion and geography. And you thought one hyphen was a bit much…..

2 Comments

  1. Lehrke wrote a book a few years ago called the “X Factor” where he made a pretty good argument that cognitive abiliites (and its derivatives) are transmitted via X-chromosomes, which helps explain why males have more variability in cognitive abilites, and why cognitive disorders (i.e., autism) and “orders” (i.e., genius) are more frequently seen in them.

    That being said though, one must be careful in nosology. Learning Disabilites were “popular” a few years ago, then came AD/HD, and now it seems to be Autism Spectrum Disorder. Not that these disorders do not exist, but their prevelance (in either gender) is rare, and students who do not do so well in school are often given a diagnosis even when there is not enough evidence of the given disorder.

    Moroever, from the article, it appears as if the authors are trying to make (obvious) innate Male/Female differences sound as if they are due to a disorder in the male. Heaven forbid that males and females actually think differently (on the average) and have different penchants (on the average) with the environemnt or pathology having little to do with it.

  2. Lehrke wrote a book a few years ago called the “X Factor” where he made a pretty good argument that cognitive abiliites (and its derivatives) are transmitted via X-chromosomes, which helps explain why males have more variability in cognitive abilites, and why cognitive disorders (i.e., autism) and “orders” (i.e., genius) are more frequently seen in them.

    so then to make calculations of heritability & regression to of the mean of g you should look at the mother-not the father for a male and both parents for a female (since men only get their X from moma)??? i know that regression to the mean is usually more often done with the female parent as the baseline because of fetal development issues and what….

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