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CTDL 051: Elephants, Evolution, and Auspergers

I came across this article on Elephants evolving shorter tusks the other day. It got me thinking about my current hypothesis on Ausperger’s Syndrome and Autism spectrum disorders. One of my favorite on-line personalities is Merlin Mann who is quick to point out that when something is a “first world problem”. This idea of a “first world problem” spurred my current hypothesis that Autism and Ausperger’s syndrome are not only “first world problems” (you don’t hear about many Masai warriors with Sensory Processing Disorders), but are actually first world evolution.

Now, I’ve also found an article on DNA gene deletion being linked to Autism which seems on the surface to support my hypothisis in some way. The percentage of those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders that have the gene deletion is only about one percent, but it’s apparently statistically significant enough to warrant further study.

I’m going to try and explain my thinking on this. Some of the first articles I read on Auspergers were about the “plague” of Silicon Valley nickname. It seems readily obvious to me if you mix two introverted nerdy parents you shouldn’t really be surprised that you have children with anti-social tendencies coupled with parents ill-equipped to teach them needed social skills. That’s the crux of the simple part of the argument, but it’s not the whole of it.

First world people, in first world jobs, doing “knowledge work” are going to succeed (and to some degree success is going to map to an ability/propensity to mate and breed( are, in my opinion, more likely to succeed in spite of certain tendencies. Nerdy tendencies will make for better programmers, which makes for more successful programmers, which means they make money and can pick up breeding partners based on success and the “Bill Gates is the richest man in the world” and “Revenge of the Nerds” factors. So where an anti-social introspective person in the 1800s may have had problems finding a mate due to the social awkwardness and lack of means to “succeed” with those predispositions, their 2000s counterparts (and 1970s-1990s as well) are more likely to succeed and breed. With the compounding of both parents with these traits doing more intermingling in areas like Silicon Valley, the likelihood goes up, but it’s not necessary for these genes to “breed true.”

I wish there were more people on this blog to discuss this with as I’d be very interested to hear the viewpoint of people with a real education and not just my “sounds good to me” ruminations.

CharlesP

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