Re: Fwd: Evolving Geeks?

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Tue Jan 22 2002 - 11:55:17 MST

Chen Yixiong, Eric wrote:

> Autism is genetic: it runs in families. But whereas in 1970 the rate
> of autism was 4 in 10,000 people, today it is 1 in 200 people. The rate has
> gone up more than twelve-fold.

That is much too fast an increase to occur in hardly more than a
single generation. There have to be other factors involved if
these statistics are valid. Also these semi-autistic nerds
aren't exactly in the happy of dropping huge broods of babies.

> Twelve-fold? Is this an epidemic? Some have rashly thought this might
> be because of some pollutant or even vaccine damage, but the evidence for
> this is thin. Certainly, the increase in autism is in part because of better
> detection and awareness, thanks to the tireless work of autism charities
> throughout the world.

I can suggest one possible factor: much more electronic
information consumed from a very young age and in relative
isolation. It is not at all impossible that such tends to grow
the wiring of the young human brain a bit differently than more
conventional social early-childhood pastimes. If true, this may
have good and bad consequences.

> But could it also be that this has also been a result of the most
> rapid evolutionary change to the human brain that we have witnessed? A

No. Evolution cannot account for that fast a change as I
understand it.

> recent issue of Wired Magazine in December 2001 reported that the rate of
> autism was hitting record rates in Silicon Valley, where a new evolutionary
> niche was opening up for people to fly in from around the planet, sell their
> mathematical and systemising talent, and find reproductive success which
> would otherwise have remained beyond reach. Our experimental research is
> consistent with this interpretation, and warrants further testing.

Again, we don't drop a lot of babies. Insufficient in any case
to account for the numbers given.

- samantha

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