Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Controversial Subject of Curing Autism Without Ruining the World

Most likely you have seen literally thousands of ad campaigns, posters, "awareness" events and so on advocating for the eradication of Autism. What you may not have considered is what this means to not only a portion of the population who is gifted with Asperger's but also what implications could arise for humanity as a whole. That's a big statement so let's talk a moment to understand the concept here.

Of course we now understand that Autism is a spectrum, some individuals fall far on one end and others fall to the opposite end, those ends basically being the level of functioning in daily life an individual has from virtually no ability to communicate or have control over motor skills all the way up to a high level of autonomy and ability for self care for the rare "genius class" of Autistic individuals.

Clearly are instances where curing Autism would be welcomed in many families. One example that comes to mind for me, being an avid gearhead (automobile enthusiast) is Wayne Carini, dealer and restorer of high end collectible automobiles and host of the TV show "Chasing Classic Cars." In the show Carini has featured his daughter on occasion who has Autism and he is also an outspoken proponent for Autism Speaks, an organization dedicated to awareness and finding a cure for Autism. I do not for an instant feel there is any harm in their efforts but what I do have concern for is the new reclassification of Asperger's in the DSM-5 medical reference manual as no longer a stand-alone diagnosis but rather folded into the general label of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). along with several other conditions that previously enjoyed a separate classification.

I'd ask, how will the new classification differentiate Asperger's individuals? You, however, might ask why it matters? It matters because Asperger's is now simply ASD under the new classification and when the medical and research communities do eventually come up with a cure how will it be applied and by who's decision? Will fetuses be examined in-utero to determine if they have Autism and begin a course of treatment before birth or immediately after? Will genetic engineering simply make it impossible for a child to be born with Autism?

If we apply a blanket cure for every Autistic individual then we would no longer have Asperger's and one can only wonder what our culture and history would look like without them. Let's consider that many of "The Greats" in science, technology, and the arts are today suspected of having Asperger's with the benefit of retroactive examination of their behaviors, thoughts, writings and in the case of more modern thinkers, film, video or audio of them in the flesh from the period. I've heard it said once (I am paraphrasing since I cannot find the original reference) that the world would still be made up of tribes of war-waging cavemen fighting over territory and resources if it were not for Asperger's, tho some would argue the world is little more than that today. We likely would not have had the myriad advances from folks like Einstein and Tesla, we would be deprived of the film works of Kubrick and the political acumen and eloquent speeches of a President named Lincoln.

Taking the issue from an even more abstract angle one could ponder what would happen to our ability to defend ourselves when technological think-tanks like NASA and DARPA, considered by many to be largely populated by Aspies, when they no longer have the sort of completely-out-of-the-box thinking that is truly only evident in the Aspie brain.

This is not trying to deny the world a cure, there is terrific merit in that noble aim, but I firmly believe that our national defense and sovereignty could eventually be at stake in a world without Aspies. That may sound dramatic but again, consider the countless contributions from those in the list below and tell me if you think the world would look the same today without them. Next, consider what the world will be like if we suddenly, willfully, and foolishly erased the single largest contributor to modern civilization. Am I overreaching? Suspected Aspie's have contributed things that we also could never have imagining as even being possible, everything from space travel to the atom bomb. Yeah, they're not all winners. :)

I'm not questioning if there should be an effort to cure Autism, that would be wonderful, but rather how we will handle the conversation when the day comes that a cure is in our hands. There are also surely many individuals who would prefer to be cured of Asperger's, and that would be within their rights. The time is now for the legal, medical and yes, even defense sectors to give this careful consideration while we still have the luxury of time.

Famous Aspies
Andy Warhol
Vincent van Gogh
Leonardo da Vinci

Jane Austen
Isaac Asimov
Virginia Woolf
Charles Dickenson

Jim Henson
Woody Allen
Stanley Kubrick
Sir Alfred Hitchcock

Actors & Television
Michael Palin
Daryl Hannah
Robin Williams
Jamie Hyneman
Keith Olbermann

Gary Numan
Elvis Presley
Craig Nicholls (The Vines)

Scientists, Inventors & Tech
Bill Gates

Henry Ford

Isaac Newton

Albert Einstein

Thomas Edison

Charles Darwin
Craig Newmark
Mark Zuckerberg

Benjamin Franklin

Historical Figures
Peter the Great
Catherine the Great
King Louis IV of France

Presidents & Politicians
James Garfield
Andrew Jackson
Andrew Johnson
Teddy Roosevelt
Abraham Lincoln
George Washington
John Quincy Adams

Disclaimer:  While in most cases it is impossible to say with certainty that these individuals have or had AS (even today it can be difficult to accurately diagnose) the names presented here are those commonly speculated in psychology papers, online reference and in other public forums as showing strong traits of AS individuals.  AspieArt.org makes no determination as to the the validity of these speculations and all information presented here is put forth as a matter of initiating a discussion on the topic of Asperger's Syndrome, not to make judgments about any one individual.