Article on Scientific American website about Asperger's manages to attack atheists.

People with Asperger's less likely to see purpose behind the events...

The article covers a study done by a graduate student and an experimental psychologist where they interviewed people diagnosed with Asperger's about major events in their lives (an illness or meeting a significant other), trying to find their reasonings for the cause of the events. After interviewing Asperger's patients they interviewed atheists and found we had similar answers (i. e. natural causes) as Asperger's patients. Claiming that people that don't attribute things happening as part of a plan have an impaired "theory of mind."

I understand where they're going, but this is a ridiculous article.

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I heard a comment (can't remember who or where) to the effect.
It's sciences task to answer the question "how"; theologians and metaphysicians can muddle about with the question "why".
That's the standard NOMA dodge. It's an incorrect classification because of the above-mentioned confusion inherent in the word "why". Scientists have no problem examining questions of "why" when there is, in fact, an actor behind the phenomenon. Theologians stumble around questions of "why" where they simply don't apply. Their endeavors are a blind pursuit of the nonexistent. Blind because they put their conclusions in their questions, convince themselves they have proven their assertions, and then assume it's just a great "mystery" that God doesn't show himself.
"Why" is the single most damaging word in human discourse because of its unnoticed implications. "How" is always applicable.

I think I will have to change my FB permanent saying again, Jason. Maybe put it out as a 'status' and see what conversations it starts.
Well, that doesn't sound very permanent, Glenn. But I'm flattered.
I'm just replacing the previous quote of yours with the new one. I guess it's really the 'profile quote'.
What I took from the article is that NTs (neurotypicals) have a flawed causality engine, which is distorted by their need to socially interact. Aspies have a better causality engine, one that is shared by Atheists. NT Atheists come to their understanding of causality through reflexion and logic, whereas Aspies have an wired-in advantage.

The author wasn't attacking Atheists, he was attacking Theists. But then again, I would see it like that, since I'm an Aspie and an Atheist.
Denis, I wouldn't look at the non-Aspberger's brain as having a flawed causality engine. There is an evolutionary advantage to seeing intent behind phenomena, because there very well could be, and where there's intent, there's a potential enemy, competitor, threat. Theists fail to take the necessary next step of making sure there's an actor behind a phenomenon before accepting that there is one. It's more that theists are not bothering to be thorough than that their brains are broken. Neurotypical atheists just aren't satisfied with surface impressions.

I don't mean to offend, but I suspect it's more the Aspberger's folks who are at a cognitive disadvantage, at least socially (which seems to be the popular impression of Aspberger's). Not being inclined to see intent behind the impersonal workings of the universe is only an advantage in cosmology or the physical sciences. It's a disadvantage in the Machiavellian world of human interaction where we spend most of our time, and would make working in the social sciences more difficult, I should think.
Whether the socially-skewed causality engine of NTs created an evolutionary advantage for the human species has no relevance as to whether or not it is flawed. The NT causality engine IS flawed, in that it produces nearly as many false positives and negatives as it does true positives and negatives. Nor did I imply anything about the advantages or disadvantages of Autistic syndromes in terms of social interactions. Of course Aspies are at a cognitive disadvantage where it relates to social interactions; we lack the kind of social intuition that NTs are born with. But that, once again, is not relevant to the issue of whether or not the AS-native causality engine is inherently superior, not in terms of evolutionary advantage, but simply in terms of its results, to the NT one.

This is why we Aspies tend to fret at the idea that we are somehow broken; we are simply different. We represent a different "adaptation strategy" (the term is a still a little too teleological for my taste), not a flaw.
Hmm. I see your point, but I still don't think "flawed" applies to the neurotypical case. When you say "results", you're loading that with a particular meaning--scientific accuracy. But clearly, the typical hyperactive actor-detection mechanism has produced better safety results for individuals and thus for their genes. I think the results of the neurotypical case speak for themselves--better safe than sorry. At least getting your guard up until you determine there is no threat generally does little harm. It's the not bothering to determine whether there is really a threat that does the harm, in the case of unexamined religious or ideological beliefs, where people live in fear of things that aren't there. An over-active threat detector in itself is not particularly dangerous. Annoying maybe, like if a smoke detector went off twice a day when there was never any smoke. But as long as we double-check that the house is on fire before we call the fire department, it's just a minor nuisance compared to being burned alive. As another example, we tolerate dogs who bark at irrelevant noises because sometimes they bark at intruders. Non-optimal, perhaps, but I think flawed is too strong a word. Oversensitive, perhaps.

And just as a nit, I don't think theory of mind produces false negatives, the impression that there is no actor behind the phenomenon when there actually is one. It's pretty well tilted toward positives, false or otherwise.
Also being Aspie, I wouldn't say 'flawed' either way.

Like you say Jason, I can see an obvious evolutionary advantage to instinctively assuming an actor behind every strange sight, sound, rumble of the trees.

Fast forward to today and such a primal instinct has little use. But from an evolutionary standpoint, there's been almost zero time for that to be weeded out of the gene pool and lots of reasons for it to be kept in. Namely, that many civilizations are ruled/conquered through religion, so it stands to reason that the Atheists and freethinkers are the first to get burned at the stake rather than allowed to breed more freethinkers.

As to which brain chemistry is more advantageous today, I still wouldn't bet on either one. At the moment, we Aspies are wildly outnumbered by you NTs, and therefore our 'advantage' becomes a disadvantage. Being the best at the job means nothing when most bosses evaluate you on whether or not you would make a good drinking buddy.
Well, drinking buddy calculations aside, one thing society is super bad at is matching people to the job they are best suited to. I'd guess something like 90% of us are square pegs in round holes. If we spent a little more collective effort lining people up with what they're good at, Aspberger's and otherwise, society would be happier and more productive. As it is, you've got hiring managers insisting that eye contact is a necessary behavior for jobs where it doesn't matter, and very social people pressured to work in solitary positions.
How I read it, it was clearly written by someone thoroughly biased but who still got to the point without covering it in the thick slathering of opinion that I'm accustomed to having to dig through. That point--that people see gods in things because gods are social characters with social behaviors and characteristics--makes pretty thorough sense and complements the fact that religion grew in existence and complexity in tandem with human society; the two grew together because they are fueled by and made of the same stuff.

I would, however, have liked to have seen them recut that study with atheist and non-atheist aspie groups, 'cause cutting it like aspies are inherently perpendicular to religion is contrary to the facts.




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