[extropy-chat] fiction and autism

pjmanney pj at pj-manney.com
Mon Apr 23 22:46:21 UTC 2007

Anne, did you actually read my essay?  While claiming "the jury is still out" and wishing to disregard it, you have instead defended many of my points with your own life experience and theories.  Curious...

Also, all the neuroimaging and other research about this subject over the last several years have done nothing but reinforce this idea of mirror neurons, imitative behavior and empathy creation as a linked system in primates.  Like us.  They even think they've found it in rodents.  If it isn't linked in autists, that alone is interesting, since diminished imitative behavior and 'empathy' (as defined in the majority of humans) is a part of autistic behavior and autist's mirror neuron system does not fire (as seen on an fMRI).  The picture is far from complete, but no one has found anything contrary to the underlying hypothesis yet and I see new research all the time.  The UCLA people (Iacoboni and Dapretto, etc.) have done a good deal of work on this subject.  Also see the ideas of Ramachandran, Restak, etc.

The only thing I can think of is that maybe not all behaviors considered 'autistic spectrum' manifest the same way or are created the same way.  (I still think we'll find out that autism is like cancer or diabetes, in that there are multiple triggers and causes for a similar symptomatic outcome that has been given a single, all inclusive name.)  But no one has done the Aspergers vs. Autism mirror neuron comparison yet.  So if you self identify as an Aspie, you may be right, in the sense that you don't have Autism, but a different situation.  But that's not what I'm writing about.

And autism is actually a hot fiction topic.  See "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time," etc.

You've got a chip on your shoulder and I completely understand why.  But not all non-autists throw rocks and the world doesn't always ignore autists or how they think.  Please don't think that research into this subject is demeaning or degrading to autists.  It's all about trying to figure out how the brain works and that means generalizing about the majority of brains (but we've had this argument about generalization before).  If someone could explain to me why I'm different, with a dyslexic, male-centric, wacky brain that makes some pretty crazy connections at times, I wouldn't take it personally.  It would be illuminating.  My daughter's thoughts generate music in her head throughout the day.  If you met her, you'd hear her humming and singing it (although she's learned not to do it while having conversations or in the classroom and she knows she's unusual).  She doesn't take it personally and would like to know why, too.

Please don't take this the wrong way, because I have enormous respect for you and your writing, but may I suggest less defensiveness and more trying to see both sides of the same issue?  Autism may be your subject.  But empathy is mine.  They are two sides of the same coin of human interaction.  Maybe if we put our heads together, we could come up with something illuminating.

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