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Genetic Testing For Geekiness? 861

Paul Johnson writes "MSNBC is carrying an article wondering about how to handle a possible future genetic test for autism. Raising a severely autistic child is a heartbreaking grind, and many people (and legal systems) consider termination to be a reasonable choice where the fetus carries other genetic disorders such as Downs Syndrome. But this might also prevent the birth of future geniuses too. The article flippantly uses Bill Gates as an example (Gates is widely thought to have Asperger's syndrome), although Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison are also thought to have been similarly "different". And there is some reason to believe that "geekiness" in general is actually the place where autism shades into 'normal'."
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Genetic Testing For Geekiness?

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  • by maharg ( 182366 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @04:53PM (#12687701) Homepage Journal
    Would you have allowed Bill Gates to be born?
    Advances in prenatal genetic testing pose tough questions
    • by dsginter ( 104154 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @05:00PM (#12687787)
      The Knack! [pibmug.com]
    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @05:17PM (#12687991) Homepage
      The whole "would you not have allowed X to be born" argument against abortion is somewhat of a fallacy: there's no way to tell in advance precisely what will become of a person in their lives, so if you want to create "geniuses", by the argument, you should spend your entire life having more children. So what if aborting a child has a 1/N chance of destroying a world-changing genius - having an additional child has that same 1/N chance of creating a new world-changing genius, so you better get started!

      There may be some truth in an argument that "culling all people with 'Gene A' before they're born" (with the natural assumtpion that there will be other people born in their place) may have downsides if 'Gene A' has some positive side affects that aren't widely considered. But "would you have allowed (insert person here) to be born?" is a fallacy.
      • There is a chance a given child will be the next Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Pot Pol, Jeffery Dahmer, or Charles Manson.
        • Furthermore, if free will means anything,
          a) the aforenamed are responsible for their actions
          b) equally mad men could have arisen in their circumstances; their elimination would not guarantee much
          In summary, omniscience would seem to be a requirement prior to making adjustments.
      • Genetic diversity. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by torokun ( 148213 )
        Because you can't predict any of these things, it's much better NOT to reduce our genetic diversity by artificial selection rules:

        1. how the gene may mutate in the future (i.e. it may produce beneficial effects - this is key.)

        2. how the gene will manifest in adulthood.

        3. the effect of the gene on the person's activity as a whole, and thereby, on society.


        The only cases in which I would support aborting babies with specific genes would be if so many people with a severe problem are born that it becom
      • One economist recently claimed [wikipedia.org] that legal abortion led to a drop in crime rates - which would favor the other side of this argument. It's an interesting question.
        • by MC68000 ( 825546 ) <brodskie AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @07:19PM (#12689165)
          It doesn't necessarily favor the pro-abortion argument if you realize that not everything that reduces crime is desirable. Certainly 24/7 government surveilance of every room in every house of every person in the world would reduce crime, but it certainly would not be desirable.

          Or, to extend the above economist's logic, why should we stop at merely encouraging abortions among those whose cultural and socioeconomic characteristics make their children more likely to be criminals? Sterilizing everybody in the inner cities would certainly reduce crime for the same reason that encouraging inner city residents to have abortions does. Should it be done?

      • by cagle_.25 ( 715952 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @06:57PM (#12689010) Journal
        No, no; you miss the point of the argument. The argument is designed to expose the fallacy behind the claim that "this life is not worth living."

        Suppose my wife and I have a medical test result which gives X% of a chance to have a child with autism -- no, that's too hard, since autism is a spectrum disease. Let's make it something genetically definite, like hermaphrodism -- are we then justified in deciding that "this life is not worth living", and killing off the baby?

        To do so places us in the position of arguing from the probability of a problem to a definite, terminal solution: kill the baby. But other possibilities exist, even if the problem is as severe as projected.

        The "would you have allowed (X person) to be born?" argument simply exposes the fallacy of arguing from a probability of lower quality of life to a definite conclusion: "terminate" the life.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @04:54PM (#12687718)
    No doubt this will be modded down, but on a similar note when the genetic test for homosexuality comes out, who wants to bet the current foes of private health care decisions will be first in line to abort their fetuses? They would have aborted Alan Turing and let the Germans win.
    • People already kill babies because they're inconvenient; why not kill them because they're even less convenient?
    • And what makes you think there IS a gay gene in the first place?
      • There is a faction that would very much like to define homosexuality as a genetic trait rather than a choice. Like some people are born with brown hair or red hair, etc. And some people are born gay. There is quite a bit of supporting evidence for this. But personally I'm not convinced (nor do I really care about other people's sexual orientation unless I actually plan to have sex with them)
        • by Adult film producer ( 866485 ) <van@i2pmail.org> on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @05:32PM (#12688163)
          *shrug* I don't know if there is a gene for homosexuality. What I do know is the gay kids in high school were showing signs of their sexuality long before puberty. Everybody knew they were a bit different, by the way they acted, dressed, just behaved in general... Then guess what happened, some of them admitted they were gay during high school... I imagine others hid their secret.

          A lot of people say it's a choice.. Well, I never made the choice to be hetereosexual, that's just the way it was. And for those few gay kids that I went to school with, it wasn't their choice either, that's just the way they were. A gene causes this? No clue, I don't think it matter except to the religious & bigotted.
    • Uhh you have a genetic predisposition to be gay? Isn't that like being genetically predisposed to enjoy, say, oranges over raspberries, or a genetic condition where you simply like the color aqua best? I don't think that's something you're born with.

      Me? I was genetically programmed to prefer Duracell over Energizer.
  • Parents will tend to choose the jocks with five year lifetime careers who contribute nothing to humanity instead, dooming us to a world of know-nothings and really really boring parties - I've been at a bunch of them, and let me tell you, they'll bore the paints off you ...

    Genetic testing will probably cause more harm than good - we need to have it screened for medical uses only, such things as fatal diseases, not What's Hot This Week ...

    • I've been at a bunch of them, and let me tell you, they'll bore the paints off you ...

      In my experience, any party that ends up with me not wearing pants is generally a good one.

    • Ah, a minority person who doesn't have any social skills. Have you thought that rather than working on your superior attitude that perhaps it is you with the problem and that it is you who was boring everybody else?
    • My father was a ..yes.. a for real..."Rocket Scientist" working for the Air Force back in the 60s. Back then he said the Officer's Club hated to see him and his work buddies coming and loved the pilots. Why? Because the pilots order Beer by the tanker load. Scientists order one beer and used up all the napkins writing down equations. To any jock, a group of nerds talking must be super boring, but then, that is not a measure of the conversation but rather of the jock mental faculties.
      -In a related note
    • by John Seminal ( 698722 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @05:06PM (#12687866) Journal
      Genetic testing will probably cause more harm than good

      I agree.

      Next, genetic testing before an insurance company will sell you health insurance.

      Science is not perfect, it never was. I remember 20 years ago the HUGE butter scare. Scientific test after test came out saying butter caused heart attacks, and to switch to margerin. A few years ago, studies came out saying that margerin is unhealthy, and butter is better? If people listen to science or their studies, they will be eatting eggs one year, avoiding them like the plauge the next year, and then drinking them raw the next.

      And like the above example, it was the margerin industry that funded those early scientific studies. They wanted to increase their sales, so they labled butter unhealthy.

      Now extend this one step further. Someone HATES jews, there are tons of people out there who are racist. They decide that certian genes, only found in the jewish population, lead to certain disorders. They then use this as an excuse for terminating these pregnecies.

      Next... "We think your baby has an abnormally high chance for sickle cell anemia, we reccomend termenating your pregnancy".

      Meanwhile... "Yes Mr. Forbes, we agree, if we lighten the shade of your babys hair, it will bring out his eyes, and we'll make sure to add the genes which increase muscle mass, and the genes that increase IQ".

      Now, which one will be the more ethical and better human being? That is something science is incapable of prediciting.

    • Now all we need to do is see if there is a particular gene common to people who want to be ultra-selective when it comes to picking the genetic makeup of their children, and we can just weed these people out before they are born?
    • Like it or not, society *needs* jocks.

      1) Who else will punish and ostracize the geeks? If I wasn't ostracized in high-school, I'd never have learned to program, or have done my homework. I'd have been getting stoned, and having sex. Things which rightfully belong to my college years.

      2) Who will distract the TV watching, Dorito-stuffing, SUV-driving masses? I mean, we all could be rioting on Pennsylvania Ave right now, fighting for our rights, but, wait, TheBigGame/Sitcom81-g/MovieWithExplosions#2118 is o
    • Genetic testing will probably cause more harm than good - we need to have it screened for medical uses only, such things as fatal diseases, not What's Hot This Week

      And how are you going to do that? The technology is not that complicated. Are you going to prohibit people from owning a PCR machine (which is really just a precisely controlled hotplate)? Or make thermostable polymerase an illicit substance? Pretty soon, anybody will be able to test for any gene sequence they choose.

  • by Pope Benedict XVI ( 881674 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @04:56PM (#12687737) Journal
    Many people believe that "God" alone should determine how many and what sort of babies we have, but I really think that is stupid. Serious matters like this should be decided by the State.
  • This is wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by John Seminal ( 698722 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @04:57PM (#12687747) Journal
    Raising a severely autistic child is a heartbreaking grind, and many people (and legal systems) consider termination to be a reasonable choice

    So, science is so good now that we can predict with 100% accuracy if someone will be able to contribute OR OR OR live a happy life?

    I know so many people with IQ's over 110, well educated, well employed, good citizens who are miserable. I also know one girl who is in a wheel chair, she has some genetic disorder, and she lights up a room with her smiles and laughs.

    • That's XOR. Obviously you fit in the second category. ;)
    • Re:This is wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

      It doesn't have everything to do with whether or not the autistic person in question is going to lead a "happy" life or not, it also has to do with the time, effort, and $$$ spent on said person by the people who become legally responsible for him or her upon birth.
    • Re:This is wrong (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geekoid ( 135745 )
      I know so many people with IQ's over 110

      probably not as many as you think, or as many as they think.

      As someone who sas scored over 160 on IQ tests many times, I can honestly say IQ is crap.
      Motivation is the key to innovation and success.

      I find it interesting that just because she is in a wheel chair you assume her IQ is less.

      • As someone who sas scored over 160 on IQ tests many times, I can honestly say IQ is crap.
        Motivation is the key to innovation and success.
        - and I can attest to that.

    • Re:This is wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 01000011011101000111 ( 868998 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @05:10PM (#12687908)
      That's not surprising. The higher the IQ, the more of the crappyness of the world you actually *understand*. And the more you understand, the more miserable it makes you.
      • Re:This is wrong (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @05:25PM (#12688094)
        Actually smarter people tend to be better adjusted than most folks. It is a myth that intelligence leads to misery.
        Also this entire topic is hilarious. Linking autism to geekiness?
        I can only assume most people have never genuinely encountered an autistic or person with aspergers.
        They don't function well, and if newton or einstien had it, it is to their credit they achieved what they did, inspite of their condition.
        • Re:This is wrong (Score:5, Interesting)

          by shadow_slicer ( 607649 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @07:16PM (#12689148)
          Have you ever met someone with autism?
          My mother is a special education teacher. I've met her students.

          You're right, autistic people tend to be less functional in society (loud noises or changes to routine cause them to freak out). On the other hand, they tend to be amazingly knowledgeable about a few specific things. They may not be able to carry out a conversation, but they could write research papers on dinosaurs or whatever their personal interest is (and this is in elementary school).

          Autistic people have an extremely strong and narrow focus and tend to think logically. This gives them an advantage in scientific fields.

          "Geekiness" does have certain common characteristics with autism (especially milder forms like aspergers). Autistic people have trouble recognizing social cues, causing them trouble socializing normally. They also can adhere to either excessive cleanliness, or its opposite.
          They also show a certain social apathy, not showing appropriate interests in other people.
          • Re:This is wrong (Score:3, Interesting)

            by gim_alelen ( 803393 )
            This is also wrong in some parts. As a former special education teacher and currently a social worker working with autistic children, I can tell you that most autistic children do not show the "genius" for one or two things. That is a stereotype. What most people are referring to when they speak of this is neither Asperger's or autism, but a related disorder on the PDD spectrum referred to as savant syndrome.

            Your description of the difficulties in social functioning for PDD spectrum children was spot on.

        • Re:This is wrong (Score:5, Informative)

          by Dormann ( 793586 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @07:18PM (#12689160)
          Also this entire topic is hilarious. Linking autism to geekiness? I can only assume most people have never genuinely encountered an autistic or person with aspergers.

          Current estimates place someone with Asperger's Syndrome in every few hundred people. TFA doesn't do a good job of pointing out that Asperger's is what they call "high functioning autism", meaning that most of those with it can function and blend in with society if they choose to.

          The correlation seems so reasonable to me, it's barely worth mentioning. I would speculate that a typical layperson definition of geek would be "An intelligent, but socially awkward person. A loner." Autism literally means self-ism. "One who is drawn into one's self."

          Given the site you're reading now, I'd say odds are pretty good that you're working with someone that has some form of autism. They probably forgot to mention it to you.

      • Re:This is wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

        by c0d3h4x0r ( 604141 )
        Someone needs to mod this up, because it's absolutely true. In my experience, the more intelligent and observant and thoughtful someone is, and the more realistic they are, the less foolishly optimistic or happy they are about the world in which they live. The old saying, "ignorance is bliss," is quite true.
  • Where? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Malc ( 1751 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @04:57PM (#12687750)
    "Raising a severely autistic child is a heartbreaking grind, and many people (and legal systems) consider termination to be a reasonable choice where the fetus carries other genetic disorders such as Downs Syndrome."

    The parents I've meet with Downs and autistc children have commented on how rewarding it is. "Hearbreaking grind" is very judgemental and not necessarily true (although for some it might be).

    Anyway, what legal systems consider termination to be a reasonable choice? Do they actually spell out different reasons for abortion?
  • The Problems.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sammykrupa ( 828537 )
    It is thought that Einstein had ADD. What would have happened if we gave him drugs?

    Einstein: Leave me alone, i'm depressed!
    • He would have been able to put it all together in one nice formula?

      Who knows what would have happened, but shying away from druges just becasue Einstein didn't take them is fool hardy.

      Not I am not saying you shuld take drugs willy nilly, and without research, I am saying the Einstein anolgy is crap.
  • Stop their being born? If the "normals" can't handle us, just send us to boarding school [marveldirectory.com]. Why waste our time thinking down to their level, anyway?
  • by the_rev_matt ( 239420 ) <slashbot&revmatt,com> on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @04:59PM (#12687770) Homepage
    What drives me crazy is all the programmers I've known who make the connection "I'm socially awkward and like computers, so I am a misunderstood genius and I'm better than everybody!"

    And this goes hand in hand with every kid who can stack blocks by the age of 3 being 'gifted'. Of course, there's a whole industry dedicated to 'helping' (read: profiting off of) parents who believe their child is gifted.
    • Speaking as someone who is socialy awkward and classified as agenius(I cant spell ,do not take that into account .. )I know all too well the misfits who get thrown into the catogry .
      All too often folks who are clearly of genius level inteligence are ignored in favour of quick witted kids who can make trucks with lego at age 2 .
      Genius though is an off title in many terms ,high IQ is not equalto genius.
      Einstein was not your model High IQ student , the same can be said for many .\
      Austism is not a mesure of IQ
      • I think you're mixing up "high IQ" with "straight As." Einstein certainly had a very high IQ, but no, he wasn't a great student. Lots of people with high IQs are not great students, mainly because our educational system is deisgned such that they learn next to nothing for a couple of years and then give up on ever learning anything.

        You're right, though, IQ is not equal to genius. (Which makes me wonder how you were "classified as a genius" except via an IQ test - unless you're a MacArthur recipient.) G

    • by Prien715 ( 251944 )
      I think one could make a connection in a sense. How many people do you know who are simultaneously piano, cello, and trumpet virtuosos? None?

      Learning anything requires time. Geeks are notorious for spending their time doing "geeky" things which are also notable because they generally fail to cultivate social skills (but do cultivate a different skillset, just like the music analogy).

      While I don't necessarily disagree (there are activities which seem to do nothing (mindlessly playing solitaire for hours
  • gates has only a single gene in his entire body that i envy - the one that gave him THIS [gizmodo.com]. O_o
  • Hey. (Score:3, Funny)

    by captnitro ( 160231 ) * on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @05:00PM (#12687781)

    tending his private logs of baseball statistics

    That is perfectly normal for a four year old, so back off!

    /gonna get my gumdrops yet, I tell you

  • IIRC, we had here on /. an article about Bram Cohen [slashdot.org] (bittorrent author) having Asperger's syndrome.

    Guess the Asperger has a light and a dark side, too...
  • Asking the question in terms of "Gates, alive or dead?" in this forum, is engaging in a variant of Reductio Ad Hitlerum [reason.com].

    Clearly most of us would be happy if he didn't exist, right?

    Gates eats food. I guess food is bad. He lives in a house. I guess houses (at least, houses that look like giant crappy convention center/shopping malls) are bad too.

    Using Gates as the lead-in to an article is likely to lead to a flamefest.
  • Newton was clearly autistic (judging by historical accounts) and so was Edison. I'm not sure about Einstein.

    He didn't show any typical traits such as repetetive behaviour or social oddities. He was a loner, but that doesn't necessarily make him autistic.

  • My understanding is that autism is caused by a wide variety [sunderland.ac.uk] of factors. It's unlikely a single gene will be discovered that causes it. Even then, there's a good chance that a trigger of some sort to cause it to occur (virus, environmental factor). Finally, even if a child becomes autistic, there's a range of autism from mild to severe.

    Deciding whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is a complicated thing, made even more difficult when the best a genetic councilor can say that there's a chance that th
    • When our little girl was born the doctors fairly broke our hearts with the sad news that test results showed severe brain damage. She's almost 3 now, and on the "you ask way too many questions, girl" side of normal. Had that diagnosis been prenatal, and given to a different set of parents, she might have ended up as medical waste.

      And that's enough to make me spitting mad.

      Executive summary: don't kill your children. They are more important than you.
  • I just don't think that as a society we have the moral maturity or sophistication to be even thinking about this sort of stuff. We have done a really poor job of doing ethical/moral analysis of past technologies, and I don't see any reason to think that we'll do a good job in the near future. That said, I don't think we should totally stop innovating and trying to come up with new stuff. I just think that we've got some pretty basic no-dispute moral problems (e.g. extreme poverty) that we should be worry
    • There's always a catch whenever you're able to get more information about a possible big decision. Driving a car around is easy. Learning about all the environmental consequences of doing so makes getting behind the wheel a more difficult choice.

      The catch is that people have to make decisions. They can choose not to have all the information, which makes things simpler but more likely to be the "wrong" decision.

      I err on the side of giving as much information as possible to people, hoping that they'l
  • Gates is widely thought to have Asperger's syndrome

    Why? He doesn't seem that antisocial to me. He seems to be able to understand things outside the literal. He seems to be able to excel in more than one specific area (programming *and* business)...

    He came from exceptionally intelligent and wealthy stock. Just because he was able to get into computers and ride the first "boom" means that he could only do so because of some syndrome?

    Most people with AS are of *normal* intelligence but they have extrem
    • by Ann Elk ( 668880 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @05:20PM (#12688041)

      Many years ago (early 80's), I worked for Tandy Corporation. We had a meeting with Bill and a few other folks from Microsoft. Bill spent most of the meeting sitting sideways in his chair, rocking back and forth, chewing on the leather band of his wristwatch. He seemed to not be paying any attention, but it was obvious from the questions he asked that he was listening to everything.

  • so sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskett&gmail,com> on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @05:03PM (#12687825)
    consider termination to be a reasonable choice where the fetus carries other genetic disorders such as Downs Syndrome

    That makes me very, very sad. My wife and I are expecting our first child, a girl, to be born in the next 4 weeks. There is a strong chance she will be born with Downs Syndrome.

    Our doctors wanted to advise us about our "options". They wanted to run all kinds of tests, including amniocentesis and genetic testing, in order to be sure one way or another,so we could make an "informed" decision.

    So, so sad. I just can't imagine anyone wanting to do such a thing - especially since we've seen her in full motion 3D video on two seperate occasions - smiling when we stroke her head, sucking her thumb, yawning when we wake her up after a nap - things that any baby would do.

    My point of view -- not a political statement really. It's just heartbreaking. I fear for any culture that so highly values convenience, pride, and "perfectness" that it would cast aside those who we should be called to love and care for even more than the "perfect" little baby everyone hopes and prays for. And for the worst shame of all, doctors who repeatedly promote termination of even marginally defective babies and are constantly harping about options -alternatives! - to life.

    I am under no illusions about how painful, difficult, and disappointing raising my daughter maybe if she turns out to have Downs, but believe me, I will love her and treat her as my daughter till I draw my last breath.

    I really hope our culture doesn't continue to devolve into one that values only designer, perfect, genetically correct babies.
    • Re:so sad (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PIPBoy3000 ( 619296 )
      I feel for you. I have two nephews who had birth defects, one mild and one serious. They're great kids and generally happy. Caring for them was very hard on the parents, likely leading to their divorce and a lifetime of constant medical care. I have a second cousin who was born with Down's Syndrome and it's fairly mild. His parents love him very much and he's gotten great support.

      We were in a situation with our second daughter where there was a one-in-twenty chance she might be born with Down's Synd
    • Re:so sad (Score:5, Interesting)

      by utexaspunk ( 527541 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @05:37PM (#12688203)
      don't be so quick to judge those who don't make the same decisions as you. in other cultures a child born with such a defect would be left in the woods, or similarly cast out. there are many of us who would rather invest our parenting efforts and limited time raising a child who will grow up to be independent and able to carry on our genetic line.

      not all of us believe that that cluster of cells which has implanted itself in a woman's uterus has a soul, or is even yet a human being with all the rights that accompany such status, and would rather stop a frustrating and problematic situation before it develops into an irreversible one.

      don't get me wrong- i respect your choice. it's noble, and all that. but nobody should be forced to live with an avoidable anomalous situation and accept it as "god's will", as not everyone believes that.
      • Re:so sad (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timeOday ( 582209 )
        would rather stop a frustrating and problematic situation before it develops into an irreversible one.
        Legalities aside, how does birth make the situation any more or less reversible?
      • Re:so sad (Score:4, Informative)

        by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskett&gmail,com> on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @06:47PM (#12688932)
        it's noble, and all that. but nobody should be forced to live with an avoidable anomalous situation and accept it as "god's will", as not everyone believes that.
        I said nothing about "god's will", I believe. Niether of us are overtly religious.

        it's noble, and all that. but nobody should be forced to live with an avoidable anomalous situation and accept it as "god's will", as not everyone believes that.
        Make no doubt about, people who abort because of a Downs Syndrome diagnosis are not doing so at 8 weeks, they are doing so at 22, 24, 30, even 32 and 34 weeks, when the child is developed to an amazing degree, and in many cases could survive outside the womb with no medical care, no life support, and no special treatment. My daughter is 33 weeks, coming up on 34, and without much of a doubt could survive handily with only minimal extra-care at this point. We are well past a "clump of cells".

        My point is and was that viewing a birth defect in your child or a handicap in someone as a "problematic situation" that needs to be cured is really not right in my view, and that it's a sad thing when a culture gets to the point that a life is worthless and not worth living without being physically perfect from the day you are born.

        And it can only lead to more and more depravities.

        Especailly with Downs Syndrome, of all things, which allows people to still live healthy, happy, productive lives.
    • He's a great kid. My sister says he's about as hard as two kids, because of his 'special needs' but she also tells me that it's at least twice as rewarding to see the results. He was 2.5 Yrs old when he learned to walk. They REALLY celebrated when he crossed that milestone. It was a big deal because it was the culmination of months of physical therapy, long labors and battles of will with him. Was it worth the work? She says, undoubtedly!

      Today he's a sixth-grader working at grade level in all subject
  • social intelligence is far more important than iq, and doesn't get the press it deserves.

    an average iq kid who has a high social intelligence will go on to make $40 million, and the high iq, low social intelligence asperger type we're talking about here will wind up working for him for $30K/ year.

    if the point of this slashdot story is to bring attention to the preciousness of autism/ asperger's and its role in high iq people, then i respond with a big "so what".

    genius doesn't matter if it can't be communicated.

    a mediocre idea well-communicated is worth 10,000x more than a genius level idea that stays locked up in someone's skull.

    so enough of the cult of asperger's. it's overrated. social intelligence is the real deal.
  • Future whoevers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Council ( 514577 ) <[rmunroe] [at] [gmail.com]> on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @05:06PM (#12687862) Homepage
    Just want to note -- I have a lot of experience with autism and specifically Asperger's. And before it gets too involved, I want to mention this:

    The argument "in doing this, you might stop the next genius from existing", whether applied to medication or abortion, is not simply the last word. It is something to take into consideration.

    The parents who have to raise the child are the ones making these decisions. It's true, "he just might be the next Einstein", but it's much more likely that his parents will go through their lives not being able to speak to him, having him attack you for no reason, and not being able to see him ever live on his own.

    Asperger's, a mild variety of autism, is a mixed bag. It breaks my heart to see my cousin's family torn apart by their son's inability to control himself, and he's relatively high-functioning. A test for autism would be a tremendous boon for parents facing the prospect of raising a child who will be forever locked away from them, and they from him. High-minded ideals about future genuises are not what they want to hear.

    Summary: Serious autism is terrible. Only a small fraction of autistic children are able to lead productive lives. Borderline cases like [famous person here] are extremely high-functioning, if in the spectrum at all, and probably wouldn't fall under any test in the near future.
    • When I say "Only a small fraction of autistic children are able to lead productive lives" I was referring to the end of the spectrum down past Asperger's, low-functioning autism, which is what a test would most likely be aimed at.
  • Because that's what you are if you think there's going to be a test for geekiness. While Asperger's syndrome is a circumscribed and very possibly monogenic entity, what we currently group under "autism spectrum" definitely is not. Geekiness, defined as possibly socially awkward or not interested in acquiring social skills because there are better things to do such as writing papers on General Relativity is not a single gene thing. It's polygenic and I seriously doubt whether, even if we find the genetic va
  • Gates a genius? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    He bought DOS and seems to have stolen most of the best parts of Windows. The man didn't see the potential in the internet, was late to the game on search engines and music downloading. By what standard is he put in the class of these other great visionaries? His success is largely due to shady business practices, other people's work and a fair amount of luck. I personally hold the word genius to a higher standard.
  • Einstein, Mozart, Ghandi would have been more appropriate to make me think twice.
  • by Vile Slime ( 638816 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @05:11PM (#12687918)

    Am a decently successful human being, I run my own business, have held numerous significant jobs, have an advanced college degree.

    But, I was born with a small level of Cerebral Palsy.

    Just enough to make me limp and trip occasionally.

    And other than constantly overhearing 4 year olds asking their parents why does that man walk that way in public I am just as "normal" as the next guy. Ok, normal might be too nice:-) But I'm trying.

    When I entered pre-school I was automatically placed in the "special education" (that's what it was called then) class. Not one question was asked of my parents as to my cognitive abilities, etc. My Dad was livid to say the least.

    But, what if I had been diagnosed in the womb with my CP would I even exist? Would a doctor have "convinced" my parents to abort?

    The kind of testing described should be outlawed as far as I'm concerned.

    We have already seen what happened in China, I believe it was, or was it India, when people started getting ultrasounds to determine if they were having a girl or a boy, then aborting the girl fetuses.

    It's just a place society shouldn't go, at all.

  • Why wouldn't anyone want an Autistic child?

    Everyone knows, Autistic kids ROCK!

  • Yeah so I most certainly remember reading this article FOUR YEARS AGO. Thanks for the new news!
  • Pretty soon you would have a lot of good-looking, athletic types banging sticks on rocks and wearing ill-fitting loincloths, scratching their lice-ridden scalps.

    Or, something bad could happen.
  • ...of having Asperger's, but frankly I just don't get it. Sure, I have had the typical social problems that most "geeks" have had, but I'm not a geek, I'm an artist. I am also pretty singly obsessed with only a few non-social activities (computers and composing music). But I also happen to like sex a whole lot. So, to all those who think I lack social skills, get a grip. I just like being sarcastic and snarky and I don't like most people. If that gets me classified as having a disorder that needs to b
  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @10:18PM (#12690463) Homepage Journal
    The numbers say that while autism has a genetic component, the reason it has exploded in recent years isn't a population explosion among geeks, it is a pre-existing genetic susceptibility an environmental insult brought into the West by south Asians. It might be an intestinal bug spread in Indian restaurants by low caste workers or it might be something less obvious.

    Of the thousands of 2-variable combinations involving biologically relevant variables, the combination with the highest Pearson correlation with autism (60%) rates was the one I predicted based on my experiences observing children developing autism in Silicon Valley:

    Finns Percapita * Immigrants from India Percapita [laboratory...states.com]

    (Please note that "autism spectrum disorders" is a poorly standardized diagnostic category whose reproducibility may be little better than 60%. Even if one identified the specific pathogenic agent causing autism, to which a specific set of genes were susceptible, and were able to test the entire population, it is quite plausible that present diagnostic standards would be little better than 60% at predicting who would have those factors and who wouldn't.)

    Furthermore, both of these demographies, alone have a Pearson correlation of only 42%(+-1%) which is again what one would expect if the conjunction of two variables were required for the etiology of autism.

    See this link [laboratory...states.com].

    (Oregon and Massachusetts are excluded as data points due to their being the States with the highest and lowest autism percapita rates respectively. Failing to exclude these datapoints creates the impression that the best correlation is with nonWestern immigration to industrial regions, rather than immigration from India per se to regions of Finnish ancestry.)

    Adding economic data there was only one combination of variables that exceeded this and it did so by just 1% (r=61%). It is weakly supportive of the "refrigerator mother" hypothesis. It is not strongly supportive due to the fact that while working parents percapita was one of the 2 variables, the other variable was public education expenditure per student which had, by itself, a Pearson correlation of 54% whereas working parents percapita was only 25% -- indicating the vast majority of the variance in autism rates was explained by public education expenditure per student rather than working parents. There are a number of possible explanations for why public education expenditure per student would be correlated with autism percapita, among them the most obvious being simply that a high cost of education is associated with autism spectrum disorders.

    See this link [laboratory...states.com].

    MMR vaccination rates show virtually zero correspondence with autism rates [laboratory...states.com]. When viewed in combinations with other demographic variables, it came in combinations far from the top -- far enough from the top that it is plausible that such correlations are due to chance or due solely to the other variable.

    Mercury has also been hypothesized as a factor in autism, however data from the Environmental Protection Agency on percapita water-way mercury pollution by State fails to show a significant correlation with autism [laboratory...states.com].

Beware of Programmers who carry screwdrivers. -- Leonard Brandwein