Thursday, August 12, 2010

Do Bram Cohen and Craig Newmark have Asperger's?

One of the many items in neurodiversity's bag of dirty tricks is to trivialize autism by alleging that various historical figures have autism or Asperger's syndrome. Therefore, they claim that these people can serve as role models and that anyone diagnosed on the spectrum has the potential to do just fine. Also, the argument against doing scientific research to find a cure for autism is supposedly bolstered by claiming we are depriving the world of the next Albert Einstein or Bill Gates.

Most people who have read my writings know that about six years ago or so I wrote a fairly lengthy article (originally a book chapter in a book I was working on at one time) in which I attempted to debunk the diagnoses of autism for Bill Gates, Albert Einstein and Thomas Jefferson, three of neurodiversity's favorite role models.

Nobel prize winning economist Vernon Smith is also lauded as an example of a spectrumite whose gifts allowed him to make great contributions to society. However, upon a less superficial examination, we find that Smith's basis for claiming he has Asperger's at age 78 came from a self-administered autism quotient test and no clinical diagnosis.

Award winning mathematician Richard Borcherds is also touted by the neurodiversity ideologues of having Asperger's syndrome. We find that on further examination, the truth that the ND movement wishes to suppress is that Borcherds sought a diagnosis from psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen who would not give him one. Cohen wrote in book The essential difference:

One might question whether Richard Borcherds really merits a diagnosis at all, given how well adapted he is. Certainly he is not currently severe enough in his symptoms to warrant a diagnosis in adulthood, as his symptoms are not interfering with his daily functioning. In the jargon of the diagnostic criteria, he is not "suffering any impairment in his daily life"........

In my previous post, I discussed the autism speaks funded Talk TV video that was produced by Wrongplanet creator Alex Plank and Jack "Cubby" Robison. They interviewed Wired magazine writer Steve Silberman who stated that he was planning to write a book which in part would extol the gifts of the autistic spectrum to society. Two examples that Silberman used in the interview was the creation of Bram Cohen's computer program, Bittorrent which is a computer program that makes it easier to download large files and Craig Newmark's creation of the well known website Craig's list. Both of these individuals are given as examples of successful persons with Asperger's syndrome.

In a private email to Mr. Silberman, I bemoaned the fact that my disability is often trivialized by stories such as these and I felt he should note this. In a nice reply to me he explained that he agreed autism could cause problems for those who have it and that I had a one-sided idea of the book he planned to write. When he felt I was implying in my last post that he had commercial motivations for granting his interview to Plank and Robison, he posted a comment on my blog claiming that was not the case and that the book had not even reached the proposal stage yet and that he was just beginning to do research on it.

Well perhaps since he seems to plan using Cohen and Newmark as examples of persons on the spectrum who have made great contributions to society I'll try to be helpful to Mr. Silberman in doing his homework.

According to an article in business week about Cohen's alleged Asperger's
. He was someone who was able to go to college, get married and have a child and set up a very successful software venture. The notion that he has Asperger's syndrome came about when he was out with his girlfriend Jenna and Jenna's young daughter at a restaurant and they were talking about empathy and Cohen's lack of it. Jenna, who had worked with autistic children, suggested that Cohen have Asperger's syndrome. The article goes on to state that Cohen never sought a professional diagnosis of Asperger's.

yet another article questions whether or not Cohen really does have Asperger's. Some of the commenters on this article take umbrage (as do I) that Cohen would trivialize ASD's by claiming that he has one without bothering to obtain a clinical diagnosis.

Craig Newmark has also written about Asperger's However he just states the symptoms are familiar to him and he gives no indication that he was actually diagnosed or any evidence that he indeed has this condition. One of the most telling sentences:

However, psychologist friends berate me when I indulge my (mostly suppressed) hypochondria in this area.

It would seem that once again neurodiversity gets it wrong on two more of their role models. I also can't help thinking that after Mr. Silberman does some more research, his book may be shorter than he actually anticipated.


Socrates said...

I think Mr. Silberman needs to talk to me, too.

If he just concentrates on Ne'eman, The Plank and Cubby then it's going to be a pile of bulls---.

And he needs to read the DSM.

jonathan said...

Socrates: You might want to lay off the Jack Daniels for a day or two before you talk to Silberman. It might look bad if you weren't sober on a video.

I agree he needs to read the DSM. Also, he needs to read stuff on the internet about Bram Cohen and Craig Newmark before embarking on writing a book, talking up their ASD traits and what they have contributed to society.

Anonymous said...

read this too:

Walt said...

Here we go again.
Prior to 1973 homosexuality was listed as a psychiatric disorder in the DSM. Are you suggesting that people who were attracted to the same gender and engaged in sexual relations with that same gender could not declare themselves homosexual without receiving psychiatric diagnosis?
ASD, as it is currently called by the psychiatric community, is defined in the DSM by a grab-bag of symptoms most of which are behavioral. If one wanted to adopt the current in-vogue DSM definition of Aspergers (separate from autism this year, but, probably, magically autism next edition) then one is free to read it and draw one's conclusions about its applicability to one's own condition.
However since I believe that 1) psychology and psychiatry is a mush of pseudo-science and 2)that Aspergers is defined by the DSM as a disorder, why would I, or anyone who believes, as I do, that they do not have a disorder seek a "professional diagnosis?"

Oh, and when homosexuality was removed from the DSM in 1973, did all those people who had been diagnosed as homosexuals instantly stop being "disordered?" If so, what was the exact minute their disorder disappeared?

Anonymous said...

This letter is associated with the following article:

Sunday, April 26, 2009 04:24 PM ET
"I am not a puzzle, I am a person"
People with autism don't need to be "cured," argues the burgeoning "autism culture" movement. Not all parents or medical experts agree.


"Would they rather be seen as just plain jerks?

"So these people with Autism don't want to be seen as having a disability?

"Okay, I will think of them as normal people who are just rude, self centered jerks!..."


Socrates said...

"Lay of the JD"

Why? Would the Truth be too much for him?

I suggest there are Autistic traits - hyper-fine focus, attention to detail, visuo-spatial differences that exist widely and totally outside of any pathology...

I have these - I also have DSM autism - it's a f'ing disorder that's f'ing up my life. It's bad, and a f'ing PhD in something no-one else understands or cares about is no f'ing compensation.

And yes, I'm drunk.

jonathan said...

Socrates you are always taking the ND stance with me that it is not autism that has fucked up my life that it is me and you have agreed with your geriatric hatemongering pal clay adams that i could get married, serve in the navy, etc, if not for my attitude.

But is okay for you to blame all your troubles on autism and claim it is a pathology and then drown your sorrows in booze? interesting

Kent Adams said...

"pathology and then drown your sorrows in booze? interesting"

Quite common Jonathan in AS from my experience. Most in my support group of a couple of dozen folks are either self medicating or on prescription medication. Lots of medication is prescribed for depression, obsession, anxiety etc. Some, who have little to know medical support or don't have the inertia or means to meet with medical personnel result in self medication. Many folks we serve in my state's mental health association are people with AS that are homeless and have medicated themselves with alcohol. Perhaps you have a better support system than Socrates. Typically those with better support systems don't tend to self medicate as much. Its one of the reasons I joined the MHA board in my community. I want to help others form a more substantial support network.

Anonymous said...

I get so tired of people who have never met Bram, questioning his diagnosis (which has since been acknowledged by our CBT therapist who specializes in ASD's. True Bram is extremely functional now, but he had to overcome numerous extreme difficulties before he could manage a relationship, and found someone who actually had a special love for people on the spectrum, and had worked with people on it for many years. He still struggles with serious sensory integration problems, and other tertiary traits common on the Autism Spectrum. To say he's not autistic simply because years of hard work enabled him to overcome most of his severe social difficulties, and achieve some modicum of a normal life is absurd. It took years of analysis, practice, and pain for him to become as functional as he is, and many people on the spectrum can also eventually achieve success without compromising their unique talents. Its a SPECTRUM.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand I DO share some of your frustrations with many people in the Neurodiversity movement, who get angry at anyone who believes that looking for cures and treatments is evil and unaccepting! When our son who is heavily traited started having seizures around 2, I was very worried he would come out of one and be non-verbal and lost to us. Who would want that? Even "high functioning" or "Asperger's" is no walk in the park. Though I believe people on the spectrum have a special perspective on the world and a unique temperment that does not need to be "cured" or changed, there are many things that go with it that are miserable and debilitating. Bram has recently started taking anti-convulsant herbs on the theory that they could control micro-seizures in the frontal lobe, and it seems to be helping at least sensory issues and touch sensitivity. Its hard to have a relationship when touching hurts, and its annoying to have to use special silverwear, and find clothes that don't rub against your skin, and not be able to deal with sounds, etc. He has concentration issues, and extreme sleep disturbances, and atypical physiology that makes it difficult for him to do physical things that he'd otherwise be good at. He has selective impairments in certain cognitive things, like judging the passage of time in any reasonable way, and trouble visually scanning for something that borders on a form of near blindness. He can't pick out a needed object from a group of objects without touching each one and picking them all up, sometimes. Not to mention the fact that he was horribly lonely well into his twenties and still gets very misunderstood socially. None of this is fun, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to fix or even "cure" these things. I can see why, suffering from what you do, that you would get angry when people marginalize you for admitting that there are things that go with being spectrum that are not merely different, but a form of suffering that needs to be taken seriously.