“Autism is hardwired into the brain.” – Alex Durig, Ph.D.
Kriss Hoffman recently wrote a great essay about curing Autism. I wish I wrote it. I suggest you read it before reading this essay. (That essay is located here.)
Make the unrealistic assumption that a person is capable of only two types of thought, A & B. We could arbitrarily say that A is autistic thought and B is social thought. However, we could split it up into auditory versus visual thought or sexual versus non-sexual thought. The categories for the purpose of this essay are completely arbitrary.
Some people more efficiently process “A” type thoughts than “B” type thoughts. Others process “B” type thoughts more efficiently than “A” type thoughts. This is just like saying Sally is good at learning math while David is good at learning art. David might eventually become more skilled at math than Sally due to regular practice. Still, at some fundamental level, Sally will always learn math more easily than David. Sally’s brain is hardwired for math and David’s brain is hardwired for art.
The current fashion in popular psychology is to talk about how a brain can be rewired through the magic of neuroplasticity. I agree that brains benefit from mental exercise just like our bodies benefit from physical activity. Yet, some bodies are more readily trained for long distance running while other bodies are more readily trained for lifting heavy weights.
This same rule applies to brains. Some people naturally learn type “A” thought processes more easily than type “B” thought processes. We might teach type “A” people to act like type “B” people and type “B” people to act like type “A” people. Yet, changing the behavior will never change how a person’s brain was originally hardwired.
A cat has a brain that was wired for being a cat and a dog has a brain that was wired for being a dog. The cat will perceive the world through the eyes of a cat while a dog will perceive the world through the eyes of a dog. No amount of training will make a dog think like a cat or visa versa. An extremely smart dog will never think like a retarded human. Likewise, a retarded human will never think like a dog.
Can you imagine taking a cat to a veterinarian and saying, “My cat is disabled because she is asocial. I want you to cure her by making her act like a dog.” The veterinarian would probably tell you to get a dog. You tell your veterinarian that you love your cat Fufu so much that you could never replace her with a dog. Thus, you beg your veterinarian to cure Fufu of her cat like behaviors.
Your veterinarian decides that he really needs the extra money because his business has suffered recently as a result of the recession. He prescribes some powerful drugs that make cats crave more attention. He might even perform a lobotomy on the cat to make her more docile. The drugs and surgery successfully of eliminate the worst cat behaviors. The drugged and lobotomized cat is in no position to complain. Consequently, you feel happy because Fufu was cured.
We will now jump one thousand years into a dystopian future. You take your beloved Fufu to the veterinarian to cure her of her cat like behaviors. The vet removes part of Fufu’s brain and inserts a little bit of dog brain and maybe part of a brain from an aborted human fetus. Fufu now behaves better than any dog and even acquires some charming human characteristics.
Everything is fine for the first couple months. Fufu learns concepts and ideas at a startling new pace. She even figures out what you did to her. To your dismay she tells you that she would rather be the old Fufu than her new self. Of course, no surgery exists to return her to her previous state of being a cat.
If this was a science fiction movie, then Fufu would do one of the following things:
01. Kill you for changing her for the worse.
02. Force you to make a male version of herself so she can breed.
03. Figure out how to overthrow the human race.
04. All of the above.
The question is not whether we can cure autism. The question is whether we should even attempt to cure autism in the first place.