I stumbled upon a blog post by Jessica Ruvinsky autism as the next step in evolution. First of all, I want to say that I can’t stand what I call neurelitism, that is, the view that autistics are somehow superior to neurotypicals. This view dismisses the fact that autistics actually do have serious problems. Some of these believe that autism is the next stage in evolution. Really, if any autistic believes that they personally are the next step in human evolution, maybe they should consider getting fifteen children to make sure their genes get passed on. After all, if you don’t have children, you play absolutely no part in evolution at all.
Ruvinsky correctly states that there is no reason why any individual autistic should be the next step in evolution. Evolution, after all, doesn’t play on individuals, but on species. Genetic mutations happen spontaneously, and get passed on through the generations if people get children. Therefore, if people with one particular genetic mutation, are more likely to reproduce than others, it is likely that this mutation will increase in the population.
It is, however, highly questionable that autism is increasing at all, and if it is, that this could be some kind of mass genetic mutation. It is far more likely that autism diagnoses are increasing as a result of more awareness, broadened criteria and more people with the autistic neurology getting stuck in a rapidly complicating society (in western cultures at least). If the autistic neurology is truly increasing, it is far more plausible that environmental factors are at fault than genetic factors. Autism is far too complex a genetic construct to be able to have evolved spontaneously within the last, say, two or three decades. It is possible that, as a population, we are slowly getting more “geek genes”, which may in an increasing number of cases (due to diagnostic factors) be referred to as Asperger’s Syndrome or autism. But it is pretty much impossible that the genetic make-up of autism truly involved out of the blue since the 1980s.
There is one more premise behind the next step in evolution theory: autistics have a reproductive advantage. I honestly don’t see any reason to believe this. Even people with mild forms of autism are statistically less likely than NTs to be in intimate relationships. I don’t know how they magically get all these children that will account for an evolutionary leap, somehow, in the course of many generations. Of course, it is possible that some genes that occur in autistics are reproductively advantageous – I don’t know which or why, but it is possible -, but I don’t see any reason why the complex genetic make-up of autism should be in any way advantageous in evolution. And even if it were, at some point, in so many centuries, that is not a reason to start calling autistics the next step in evolution now.