Sunday, July 10, 2016


The nerdy/geeky types have two obsessions - intelligence, and their self-perceived lack of social skills.  It is therefore a common theme with them that they have self-diagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorders; that autism is also somehow correlated with high intelligence; and that many great minds of the past had some or other Autism Spectrum Disorder. This somehow is very comforting to them.

Then there are the conservative anti-government types, who want to find a genetic basis (and so supposedly immutable) for difference in intelligence - and intelligence to them is a one-dimensional IQ score; they pay lip service only to the idea that intelligence is multi-dimensional, such as Howard Gardner's musical–rhythmic, visual–spatial, verbal–linguistic, logical–mathematical, bodily–kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic dimensions. All achievement in life is highly correlated to this IQ according to these theorists. The idea is that immutable genetic differences make all government programs to help the less intelligent poor quite pointless.

Some of these themes come together in this recent paper:
Autism As a Disorder of High Intelligence

The abstract begins (emphasis added):
A suite of recent studies has reported positive genetic correlations between autism risk and measures of mental ability. These findings indicate that alleles for autism overlap broadly with alleles for high intelligence, which appears paradoxical given that autism is characterized, overall, by below-average IQ. This paradox can be resolved under the hypothesis that autism etiology commonly involves enhanced, but imbalanced, components of intelligence. This hypothesis is supported by convergent evidence showing that autism and high IQ share a diverse set of convergent correlates, including large brain size, fast brain growth, increased sensory and visual-spatial abilities, enhanced synaptic functions, increased attentional focus, high socioeconomic status, more deliberative decision-making, profession and occupational interests in engineering and physical sciences, and high levels of positive assortative mating.

For the highlighted part, e.g.,
Compared to What? Early Brain Overgrowth in Autism and the Perils of Population Norms

Elsewhere in the paper we see this:
However, a suite of recent studies, described in more detail below, has demonstrated that alleles “for” autism, that is, common alleles that each contributes slightly to its risk, overlap substantially and significantly with alleles “for” high intelligence (Bulik-Sullivan et al., 2015; Clarke et al., 2015; Hill et al., 2015; Hagenaars et al., 2016). To a notable, and well-replicated, degree, then, many “autism” alleles are “high intelligence” alleles. How can these paradoxical observations be reconciled?

When I chase the citations, I go, oh really? If I find the enthusiasm, then you might see more about it here.