01 September 2005

Natural selection and the prevalence of autism – take 2

I’ve had a chance to read Origins of Autism and the work it is derived from, Human Evolution: Evolution and the Structure of Health and Disease.  In fact, I’ve read them twice; just to make sure I didn’t miss anything (though I’m sure I missed quite a bit).  

The bulk of the two articles address the theory/science/history of natural selection, sexual selection, and Lamarckian selection (or pangenesis) as espsoused by Charles Darwin, as well as a bit of cultural history of the human race.  The author, Andrew Lehman, then looks at autism and other related ‘disorders’ from those perspectives.  

[As a quick caveat:  I’ve not had a chance to check into the credentials of the authors of these papers or their citations in support of their work.  That’ll be the next step.  For now, I was really interested in their conclusions.]

The bottom line of the lengthy paper can be summarized in a couple of sentences:

  • Autism is “normal” in the right cultural context; it is just “wrong” for the cultural context we live in today, i.e. hierachical patriarchies.

  • The return (yes, the return) of autism is in large part due to the increased “agressiveness” of women in society and the transfer of control of procreation from men to women.


Yep, you read that last one right.  Here’s the paragraph from the paper (emphasis is mine):
Two cultural characteristics, female infanticide and several wives for a single husband, both behave as functions of sexual selection in a patriarchal culture, reinforcing sexual types. Remember, with fewer women procreating, the male furthest from the cultural ideal fails to have children, his genetics unable to continue. Now imagine a culture whose boundaries have broken down, where infanticide has ended, the selection for specific traits within a culture has ceased and women have the power to pick procreation partners using whatever criteria they choose. This is the world we live in. No one way is being preserved. All ways are open. For the first time culture is undefined and open ended. It is no coincidence that in the United States so much that is new has been and is being created. It is the first place in the world characterized by a complete breakdown of a specific cultural criteria for the ideal man. Women in contemporary western culture are choosing mates based on a new criteria [sic], their own idiosyncratic ideas based on the hodgepodge of cultures that comprise their background combined with the American ideal of independence. This new criteria is now becoming the cultural criteria, as women and culture together, form a new understanding of what they want in a mate. In our modern world, it is not the family or the male that chooses a mate, but the female. Only she decides who the father of her children will be. Women are no longer chosen exclusively for their tendency to cooperate with the ideals of patriarchal culture. The result: more and more higher testosterone women are having babies in modern culture. A wider and wider variety of males are presented with procreation opportunities, particularly the maturationally delayed males formerly often unable to find a mate in patriarchal culture. The return of the 'nerd', so to speak.
Here are a couple of other paragraphs that really stood out for me (again, the emphasis is mine):
For the last few thousand years males have been selecting the females least likely to stray and so provide them with male heirs. Males have been selecting females less likely to wield authority, females who are willing to cooperate with a patriarchal agenda. Females have been selecting males most likely to accumulate wealth, who can stay alive long enough to provide babies and provision a large brood in a relatively monogamous society. Revered features of the ideal male in a matrifocal society are disparaged by patriarchy. But it is these features, and the characteristics of the individuals that thrive in that kind of world, that is the world of the autistic child.Without constant exposure to the primary features of the matrifocal world, the neurological structure of a child organized physically, mentally, and emotionally to experience the world in that way will languish. Unceasing interactional music with highly evolved rhythms and constant touch with sophisticated dance are essential to a child inclined toward maturational delay. A diet familiar to the physiology of tens of thousands of years ago is appropriate for the facile functioning of that physical system. Their brains crave highly sophisticated pattern in sound and physical space. Their bodies crave protein, vegetables, fruits, nuts, natural oils, roots. How sad and ironic, that a brain created to perceive and appreciate subtle nuances in relationship in space and time, understimulated by a society relatively devoid of song and dance, and a diet characterized by wheat, dairy and other unfamiliar substances, ends up in relationship with itself only, unable to cross bridges to other human beings.
A lot to think about.  I’ll write more on this again, I’m sure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

WOW. I am the mother of a 14 yo autistic son. I am lesbian. His father was delayed in his maturity for sure, and certainly not a domineering, "man's man" type at all. I will think long and hard and comment more in the future on this blog. Please, by all means, write more!!!!!
Tammy J.