[extropy-chat] fiction and autism

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Tue Apr 24 21:00:55 UTC 2007

At 10:02 AM 4/24/2007 -0700, Anne wrote:


>And I would also like to state for the record that I am not opposed to the 
>existence of a "cure" (e.g., a way to make autistic people nonautistic) -- 
>I think that people should be able to choose their configurations 
>according to their own, nonduressed goals and aspirations.  If someone 
>wants to be neurotypical I wouldn't stand in their way, just as I wouldn't 
>feel threatened if I knew someone who wanted gender reassignment surgery 
>(e.g., FtM transpeople don't make me feel devalued as a woman).
>But a lot of this whole debate starts to go very interesting places when 
>you start getting into the concept of what the self is, what identity is, 
>and to what extent a person can change how their brain works whilst 
>retaining what they think of as "the person" -- in other words, totally 
>on-topic for extropy-chat.
>I'm concerned that if a "cure" existed right now it would not be applied 
>under conditions of informed, nonduressed consent, and I am extremely 
>concerned that autistics who don't mind being autistic would be forced to 
>take this treatment on economic or social grounds.  And I'm also concerned 
>about the idea that some people would gladly "cure" their children even if 
>the net effect of that "cure" would be that you had an entirely different 
>person than you had before.  Is that ethical?

Back to the part I snipped, the person with the "cure" sticker may well 
have had an autistic child.  Do you know people with a seriously autistic 
child?  Have you ever tried to take care of one?  (For me, two couples and 
I took care of one long enough to get a feel of how exceedingly difficult 
it must be for parents.)  For a social animal like humans being autistic is 
worse than being blind.  Most blind kids can grow up and take care of 
themselves.  Few seriously autistic kids manage that and virtually none of 
them have children.

Let's take another kind of mental disability, trisomy 21.  It is an 
interesting fact that 90% of those detected by testing are aborted.  There 
are sill about 5000 a year being born, a number that has been close to flat 
for a long time in spite numbers of those being aborted rising to about the 
same level.  (Effect of older mothers.)  There are thought to be 250,000 in 
the US--which accords with a short life--few of them live past middle age.

Last, consider people in coercive cults.  It is now rare, but parents, 
friends even, used to kidnap people out of cults and deprogram them.  Years 
later almost all of those people think their deprogramming was a good 
idea.  There is no question they are substantially different people from 
the brainwashed zombies who were in the cult.  (Disparagement intentional, 
and given my experiences in the last ten years I have a right to do it.)

Are any of these ethical?

This is a hypothetical question.  I don't have public answers and your 
answers are very unlikely to change this situation.  Even discussion of 
practical approaches to one of these cases has earned me much flame.

However, due to constant exchanges of memes, mental stability, sanity if 
you will, is a group endeavor.  So is insane behavior in a lot of cases.


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