Well I see pop psychology icon Simon Baron-Cohen is at it again. In a recent article He states his concern about the development of a prenatal test for autism, claiming that it is not very far off in the distant future and claiming there is some relationship between math skills and autism and that if we had a prenatal test and autistic fetuses were aborted we might be depriving the world of math skills or certain gifts. Previously I wrote about SB's nonsense in my essay about autism genetics and whether my suffering is necessary to society. In this piece he states that there is an increased incidence among autistics in the relatives of mathematicians than in the general population. I know that Baron-Cohen did some sort of study about autism being more prevalent in the family of engineers than in the general population but I am not aware of any empirical evidence that included mathematicians that he has produced. Interestingly enough my father is an engineer. However, on my mother's side of the family there is a family history of depression ADHD and possibly other things connected to autism. Also, my mother feels that her uncle was probably autistic based on his family history, though a child born prior to 1900 would not have had a diagnosis, so it is very possible at least some of the genes for my autism may come from mom's side of the family.
Also, I wonder about physicists which is a profession somewhat related to mathematics, computers and engineering in terms of aptitude. If Baron-Cohen's reasoning is true, then physicists must also be included under this rubric. I wonder how SBC would explain the fact that my brother-in-law is a Ph.D. physicist, his father is a physicist as his his younger brother. I am fairly certain there is no family history of autism in my brother-in-law's family and thankfully neither of my nephews has autism. SBC certainly has some explaining to do in this regard if he feels that preserving autism is necessary to society because of these genes.
Further, Baron-Cohen, does not explain the fact that in the majority of cases autism is a disorder involving multiplex genetic etiology, the interaction of many different genes on may different chromosomes being associated with autism. Most of these genes are autosomal, i.e. not the X or Y sex genes. Autism is also X-linked for example Fragile X may account for like 5% of all cases of diagnosed autism. Also one must consider based on the fact that the concordance rate for autism is not 100% in identical twins as well as the fact that the concordance is higher in fraternal twins than in siblings who share exactly the same genetic makeup that there must be something else operating other than genetics in the etiology of autism. It is true we have a prenatal test for Down's syndrome which involves an abnormality of one chromosome but due to the fact that autism is not exclusively genetic, involves many different types of genotypes producing a similar though maybe not an entirely identical phenotype it is not an apt comparison. Therefore, I really question his five year timeline that he presents in the article.
It is possible that at some point in time a prenatal test will be developed for Fragile X before other types of genetic disorders that could cause autism. But considering the severity of most persons with Fragile X, if Fragile X fetuses are aborted, would this be aborting math skills? Again, there is no basis for SB's reasoning.
From my correspondence with autism researcher Matthew Belmonte, who at one time was a postdoctoral fellow working in SBC's lab, I think Baron-Cohen has read my essay in which I questioned the premises that he makes about genetics as well as Temple Grandin. I did not seem to change his mind.
Interestingly enough, Matthew Belmonte also got a grant from CAN while working in this lab. In one correspondence I had with SBC he seemed to think that some persons with autism should be cured if their autism was severe enough and he said that he supported CAN and their research funding.
As many people know, SBC has also written an essay questioning whether or not high functioning autism is really a disability. He consulted with alleged autistic David Andrews on this essay and others whose functioning level would be much greater than mine. I resent SBC claiming that what I have is not necessarily a disability. If he had an autism spectrum disorder that is as severe as mine is, he never would have been able to get married, go to graduate school, get his doctorate or write or publish his books or have a platform for the exposure of his warped and uninformed opinions.
To sum up, it seems quite improbable that there will be a post-natal test that can reliably tell whether or not a person will become autistic anytime in the foreseeable future. It is most likely many decades off. Also, for the reasons I have given above it is unlikely it would affect math skills or any other positive traits, even in the unlikely event that even a portion of most types of autism could be detected in utero.
I am sick and tired of SB's BS but I suspect I will have to hear more of it in the future, but hopefully someday I can apply myself better and find as good factual information as possible to dispute it.