What Do You Think the Higher Purpose of Autism Is?

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starcats
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21 Oct 2017, 9:56 am

What do you think the purpose of autism in current society is?

I like the HSP model that says those who are highly sensitive to sensory info (20% of people and animals) are the ones who keep watch, act as advisors and visionaries, while the not sensitive people go off to make war. I also like knowing that the role of an autistic person in many traditional cultures would be to be the healer or shaman.

What is our role now? Lie detectors to keep everyone else honest?



AspieSingleDad
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21 Oct 2017, 10:08 am

I'm not sure that there's a "purpose" for autism. I think that eventually they'll find a cause of autism, and it will be clear that autism is a disability, not a new evolutionary trait. Of course, I also believe that human consciousness and life in general occurred by mere mathematical chance, so that'd mean I also don't feel "neurotypicals" have a specific role or purpose either.

Since I believe the world is what we make of it, and autistics can influence the world as well as anybody, I guess we should work towards helping the world to become better. I'd love to see autistics of like mind work towards showing the irrationality behind so few people hogging such a large portion of the resources available in the world. We should be able to point out the obvious, that there are abundant resources on this earth for all people if we'd change our view on property and ownership and work towards being cooperative.

I also think the biggest thing against us is the perception that human nature doesn't allow for cooperation and sharing. I think that's more of an attitude than a reality, and that perception needs to be challenged. We are learning so much scientifically, and advancing so quickly with technology, it would be in our best interest to collectively work together to find ways to utilize what we have learned and developed to find solutions to major challenges we all face as humans.



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21 Oct 2017, 11:23 am

starcats wrote:
What do you think the purpose of autism in current society is?


I'm not entirely sold on the idea that there is a higher purpose to autism. That is, I don't think anyone said, "The universe is out of balance; I shall introduce autism." OTOH, I do think all the elements that make up autism are necessary for humanity. Humanity needs people who do not instinctively "go along to get along." Humanity needs considerable variation in sensitivities of all kinds. Humanity needs people who question and challenge social norms. Humanity needs people who can hyperfocus. And so on.

I think one way autism could function in current society is as a challenge to collectivist ideas that present conformity in the pursuit of one particular "good life" for everyone as the solution to all our problems. Any solution to our "big problems" that doesn't recognize that different people want different things out of life, and that doesn't give them the freedom to pursue these different things, is not a solution, and autistics make this fact obvious. Autism also serves as a challenge to people who believe that "your skin/race/sexual preference/whatever" defines your life, because autism is invisible, yet has a huge impact on someone's life. Autism proves that we are not entirely formed by society, and that individuals have unique personalities and can develop their own approach to life, whatever the exterior influences.



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21 Oct 2017, 12:40 pm

No higher purpose just "s**t happens"


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21 Oct 2017, 12:43 pm

Recently I was thinking about not the purpose exactly but rather the place in different cultures of those with autism. I did not come to a conclusion.


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21 Oct 2017, 1:14 pm

Personally, I don't feel there's a higher purpose but I like to think I can offer an alternative view of things sometimes.


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21 Oct 2017, 2:05 pm

starcats wrote:
What do you think the purpose of autism in current society is?

I like the HSP model that says those who are highly sensitive to sensory info (20% of people and animals) are the ones who keep watch, act as advisors and visionaries, while the not sensitive people go off to make war. I also like knowing that the role of an autistic person in many traditional cultures would be to be the healer or shaman.

What is our role now? Lie detectors to keep everyone else honest?


I too cringe a bit at the use of "higher purpose" in this context. It makes me think you're asking something theological, but based on everything else you've said, I don't think that's really at the heart of what you are getting at.

I think what we really need here are some BUG FACTS!! ! Honey bees (Apis melifera) have the ability to turn up the heat in their hives by collectively twitching flight muscles, and can cool down the hive by fanning together. A study by Jones et al. (2004) showed that colonies that had more uniform temperature sensitivities were more prone to dramatic shifts in hive temperature than those with a diversity of temperature sensitivities. Why? Well, when temperature changes, it's usually gradual, and if all of the bees in the colony react to a small increase in temperature from ideal by fanning, then the colony cools far beyond the ideal target, then twitches, then fans, then twitches, etc. In a colony with a diversity of bee temperature sensitivities, small deviations from ideal are responded to by a relatively few individuals compared to large deviations. This creates stability at the colony level.

Now, we as a human society aren't a literal giant hot ball of bees, but I do think that there are plenty of opportunities for us to stand apart from mass hysteria effects on issues in this modern day world. What were shamens and visionaries in societies way back when, are the social equivalent of the scientists and inventors and artists of today. They do the jobs that need group coordination. We do the jobs that can't be done by the masses. While this is kind of a just-so story, I would buy the idea that some realms of the autism specrum are an adaptive, yet density-dependent phenotype.


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21 Oct 2017, 3:05 pm

People are getting hung up on the term 'higher purpose' which isn't really what the OP is talking about in the rest of the post, I think a more appropriate term and in line with what she's actually asking is 'social role'.



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21 Oct 2017, 3:07 pm

I don't think there's a higher purpose for anything that wasn't first grafted onto it by humans. The questions, "what unique traits does the autistic mind have that could benefit the world?" or "How can people on the autism spectrum be accepted as uniquely qualified for certain societal roles?" (like the shaman example) are interesting ones.

I wouldn't want a world where there was a limited selection of roles, just one where employers knew they were getting a unique advantage in some cases vs. hiring strictly allistic.



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21 Oct 2017, 9:42 pm

Artistically and emotionally speaking, Behold! The cosmic force hath sent us to walk among the naked ape, that we might debunk and destroy the hive mind and all abominations that are born of that base thing. We will slay the vile marketing ploy dragon and the myriad evils and stupidities that the Aspie mind doth see so clearly, even though such wickedness the neurotypical seeth not. And it shall come to pass that multi-tasking will also in this way be vanquished from the Earth. And forget not the curse of the white lie, nor feigned affection and its false smile, nor the pain of compulsory eye contact, for from these also shall ye be delivered at last. And those who have bullied and otherwise judged us, and found us lacking and needy of intimidation, chastisement and correction, so shall they be judged, and great shall be their shame.

Realistically though, I don't think there is any higher purpose, I think that life is just a messy accident that we happen to be stuck with.



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21 Oct 2017, 10:16 pm

I'm with Temple Grandin on this one: “What would happen if the autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool?
You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.”
― Temple Grandin, The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism & Asperger's

And yes, the irony of posting this quote here on an autism chat board is delicious :-)


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21 Oct 2017, 10:46 pm

It makes perfect sense to me that everything has a purpose. Yet how this all gets played out is beyond my thinking minds ability.

I find it dull and completely void of imagination that one would identify with their intellectual capacities over their intuitive nature. As Einstein (who many believe was in the spectrum) so beautifully said :

"I didn't arrive at my understanding of the fundamental laws of the universe through my rational mind."



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21 Oct 2017, 11:46 pm

There is no purpose. It's an anomaly.


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21 Oct 2017, 11:55 pm

Fern wrote:
I think what we really need here are some BUG FACTS!! ! Honey bees (Apis melifera) have the ability to turn up the heat in their hives by collectively twitching flight muscles, and can cool down the hive by fanning together. A study by Jones et al. (2004) showed that colonies that had more uniform temperature sensitivities were more prone to dramatic shifts in hive temperature than those with a diversity of temperature sensitivities. Why? Well, when temperature changes, it's usually gradual, and if all of the bees in the colony react to a small increase in temperature from ideal by fanning, then the colony cools far beyond the ideal target, then twitches, then fans, then twitches, etc. In a colony with a diversity of bee temperature sensitivities, small deviations from ideal are responded to by a relatively few individuals compared to large deviations. This creates stability at the colony level.

Now, we as a human society aren't a literal giant hot ball of bees, but I do think that there are plenty of opportunities for us to stand apart from mass hysteria effects on issues in this modern day world. What were shamens and visionaries in societies way back when, are the social equivalent of the scientists and inventors and artists of today. They do the jobs that need group coordination. We do the jobs that can't be done by the masses. While this is kind of a just-so story, I would buy the idea that some realms of the autism specrum are an adaptive, yet density-dependent phenotype.


This is fascinating. I had no idea about the variation in bee sensitivity but it makes perfect sense.
I do think that sensitive types (including autistics) might act as society's "weather-vanes".

I have no data, but have been wondering whether autism in a child might be an epigenetic reaction to a mother's stress, particularly in situations of high population density. Simply because it would make evolutionary sense, that at these "pressure-cooker" times, society would need more of the people who can step away from the crowd and think independently. Modern society seems to generate such high levels of mental and emotional stress, I was wondering whether that may be partly related to the high numbers of autistics being diagnosed.

But, as I said, this is just my personal musings, I have no idea if there is any evidence for or against.



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22 Oct 2017, 12:23 am

I think that both autism and ADHD traits are valuable from an evolutionary perspective. Tony Attwood pointed out that these genes must have evolutionary benefit, otherwise they would die out, yet here they are, generation after generation.

I read about some study on the Masai, where as far as I can remember, in groups that had a nomadic lifestyle, people with ADHD genes were better fed than those who didn't.

Just yesterday we were doing the potato harvest. As I've seen over and over again, nobody in my family can match my eye for detail. Picking out dirt-covered potatoes in a field full of dirt can be tricky, and I consistently find the ones that the others don't see. I'd say I have an extreme 'gathering' ability.

It's reasonable to think that groups which contain one or two members with heightened sensory perception might have a better survival rate than groups which are less diverse.


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