Science: August 2005 Archives

I've (sort of) blogged about the view that autism is basically an exaggeration of typically male strengths and weaknesses (and corresponding lack in typically female strengths and weaknesses) before. It isn't really new. But the major bloggers and news outlets seem to be just getting around it now, so I thought it would be good to give a few links for those who are interested.

Todd Zywicki at The Volokh Conspiracy links to a New York Times piece by Simon Baron-Cohen, one of the most prominent defenders of this thesis. There's an excellent critial discussion in the comments of Todd's post.

Ann Althouse says a little more about it than Todd Zywicki's post does, and the comments there are just as active. I haven't even finished reading them yet.

There's a link amidst the discussion to an interesting piece in Wired about the extremely high incidence of autism in Silicon Valley, land of the nerds and home of the geeks. I haven't finished reading that yet either. I'm only a little over halfway through.

Finally, Joanne Jacobs has some thoughts on the whole matter, most notably catching an incorrect and unflattering description of Lawrence Summers' statement in the Baron-Cohen piece. [I didn't catch this one until I saw Sam's post.] The editors should have pointed this out. I wonder if it's that they simply hadn't paid enough attention to what Summers really said in the first place and just accepted the deceptively simplistic account people were constantly giving of what he said or if they knew but just didn't care if someone misrepesented him. Either is pretty sad. I have to laugh at the first commenter on her post trying to connect this with gay marriage, as if two gay men are going to be able to produce a kid in the first place.

I've seen quite a few claims that Bill Frist has abandoned his pro-life principles by proposing federal funding for using stem cells from embryos that will be discarded anyway. See IntolerantElle's post and the links from there for examples. This post started as a comment on her post.

I think this argument goes too far. Frist isn't necessarily inconsistent on this. It's not clear at all that he's contradicting his pro-life stance. What he's proposing is that it's no more wrong for someone to kill these embryos by extracting stem cells than it is simply to throw them away. They will be destroyed. There's no way to prevent that given the current law that these embryos are the property of parents. He's suggesting that in destroying them the stem cells should be retained so that at least this immoral action can have some good consequences.

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