Monday, October 29, 2012

Gadfly mentioned in New York Magazine

There's an interesting article that just came out in New York magazine.  A well-written article, it makes a number of valid points about the number of people being diagnosed with Asperger's for trivial reasons as well as self-diagnosis.

About four months ago or so, I was contacted by the author, Ben Wallace, who was interested in interviewing me.  He asked me about my opinion of Simon Baron-Cohen and I explained why I was not exactly enamored of a number of the good professor's ideas.  These included his notion that because autism has stayed in the population in spite of the fact that most autistics never have children suggests autism has some sort of genetic evolutionary advantage.    Also, his offensive (at least to me) essay in which he wrote that high functioning autism should not be regarded as a disability.

In addition to his one sentence mention of my belief  that Baron-Cohen does not understand the rudiments of genetics, he also wrote about the stories of Craig Newmark's and Bram Cohen's self-diagnosis which I originally wrote about in my blog.
 
Unfortunately, no context was really given for my observations of professor Baron-Cohen's possible ignorance of genetic principles.  So, I will briefly present it here.  Genetic mutations can occur spontaneously for a variety of reasons without being inherited.  There is at least some research that suggests that a number of mutations associated with autism are de novo, i.e. can occur spontaneously.  Thus, these are not inherited so autism could conceivably stay in the population without either autistics producing their own offspring or due to an evolutionary advantage.

I suppose I'm being a bit irrational about my enthusiasm about a one sentence mention in a national magazine, but I guess it may be part of my autism. 

6 comments:

Jake Crosby said...

You're not being irrational at all, Jonathan. You're probably the first autistic to have criticized Simon Baron-Cohen's scientifically unsound work in a metropolitan magazine. Well done.

Autism Reality NB said...

"Gadfly mentioned in New York Magazine"

About Time!

jonathan said...

@Jake thanks for the kind words.

@Autism Reality NB Actually this isn't the first time I've been mentioned in New York magazine. In a 2008 article about neurodiversity I was mentioned as an autistic who blogged against neurodiversity and they printed some excerpts from my essay "neurodiversity, just say no".

Anonymous said...

"...These included his notion that because autism has stayed in the population in spite of the fact that most autistics never have children suggests autism has some sort of genetic evolutionary advantage..."

Has he never heard of recessive genes?

I mean, Tay-Sachs disease (see http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/genetic/tay_sachs.html ) has stayed in the population in spite of the fact that, according to the article at the link, "Death usually occurs by the time the child is 5 years old."

Jake Crosby said...

With two NY Mag interviews and an article in LA Mag, Jonathan Mitchell is quite the gadfly. You say I'm coming up in the world, Jonathan, but I still have yet to catch up to you!

jonathan said...

@Jake: Thanks for the kind words. Considering how much younger you are than I am, you've got plenty of tim to catch up with me.