Wendy sent me a link to an interesting post on Echidne of the Snakes, which critiqued Simon Baron-Cohen's theory that assortive mating has led to the rise in autism.
In a nutshell, Baron-Cohen believes that women who have the autism gene find men with the gene in the workplace, and they make babies. They find each other in the halls of the university or in the lunch room at Microsoft. In the past, smart women were not marriage material. Hell, the nerdy type of guys who are making a bazillion dollars at Mircrosoft were not marriage material back then either. Now, not only are smart, nerdy people rich, but they are hanging out together and making babies. Babies who have problems.
Echnide finds this theory full of sexist assumptions and has an underlying criticism of smart, career driven women. I'm not sure about that, but I also don't like where this latest trend in genetic research on autism.
I'm quite sure that autism is a genetic disability. It may have environmental triggers, but nobody has really identified what those triggers might be. But beyond that, nobody knows what's going on. The scientists can't identify which genes are the autistic genes, because there are probably different genes or different combination of genes that lead to autism. Actually, autism may not be one particular thing at all.
Baron-Cohen came up with a lame test to determine if you have a systemizing type of mind. Systemizer people carry the gene for autism, but don't have the disability themselves, he believes.
This test is silly and horrible, not because it implies some criticism of career women. It's silly and horrible, because it makes parents feel bad about themselves.
A couple of weeks ago, some friends came over for a visit with a bottle of red red wine in one hand and mixers for margaritas in the other hand. The most social, fun-loving couple in the world. They love to tailgate at Jets games and go deep sea fishing with their gang. They also have two boys with autism. The mom is deeply concerned that her bad gene pool harmed her kids.
Baron-Cohen's test is a witch hunt for autism. It doesn't provide any useful information. Should people with systemizing personalities not reproduce? It piles guilt and shame on parents. So, I'm halfway with Echnide on her criticism of Baron-Cohen.