Tuesday, March 24, 2009

An immodest proposal

In a forthcoming issue of 'Human Nature' is an article 'Mathematical talent is linked to autism'. It includes discussion of the Viennese pediatrician Hans Asperger, for whom the condition is named. The syndrome, to various degrees, appears to be common in those successful in art and science, including mathematics.

Given that there is a great social need for such talent, and that it appears to be strongly genetic in origin - should we start a breeding program?

9 comments:

wildgoose said...

Just to pre-empt any stupid comments you may get, Autism Spectrum Disorders (inc. Asperger's) are primarily a disorder of social communication. The social cues such as body language, phrases used, etc., do not get picked up and understood by those with ASD. They tend to be very literal minded - which of course may be an asset with regards to mathematics.

Communication obviously involves both parties. The "Disorder" of the person with ASD not understanding the subtleties of human relationships is also matched by those "normal" people who are unable to understand how autistic people communicate - both are at fault.

Finally, judging by the rise in ASD, which cannot simply be down to better reporting, we appear to already have a breeding program in place. "Geeks" (inc. Computer Scientists like myself) are now more successful and more likely to meet, marry and procreate with geeks of the opposite sex, which is reinforcing whatever genetic proclivities they already have.

Finally, my son has Asperger's. So unlike some of the comments you may get I actually do know what I am talking about.

Anonymous said...

I've been trying to start a breeding program for ages, but I find most women are un-cooperative.

Anonymous said...

As someone who was a) pretty good at maths at school, and b) is borderline Aspergers (or certainly has tendencies that way), I wouldn't wish that sort of life on anyone. So much of life is social interaction and if you struggle with that it makes life hard work.

Ironically, if you are the opposite, and good with people but crap with things and concepts, you can always pay for people to fix your PC, car or whatever. You can't pay someone to deal with your social life!

James Higham said...

I'm autistic but I'm not mathematical.

Paddington said...

For what it's worth, I have mild Asperger's, and moderate mathematical ability.

In my case, I am very over-snesitive to other's emotions.

Anonymous said...

you want to start an in-breeding program. my sis, she so hot

Paddington said...

Anonymous - as disquieting as that is, I would also point out the dangers of in-breeding.

dearieme said...

A friend of mine married a Computer Scientist. She said that until she met him she had had no idea that anyone could be so inadequate at attempting to catch a ball. Happily they seem to be a very fond couple, which only goes to show. The kids can't catch either, mind.

Paddington said...

My natural reflexes are dreadful, which was bad in the days when everyone had to play rugby. In addition, I simply didn't care who won, and wouldn't go out of my way to get hurt to prevent someone scoring. However, when I took up judo, I found that the contact made the game relevant. I still don't take karate sparring as 'real' until I've been hit.