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Study: Change in morality 100 kya enabled autism sufferers to integrate into society

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From ScienceDaily:

A subtle change occurred in our evolutionary history 100,000 years ago which allowed people who thought and behaved differently – such as individuals with autism – to be integrated into society, academics from the University of York have concluded.

The change happened with the emergence of collaborative morality – an investment in the well-being of everyone in the group – and meant people who displayed autistic traits would not only have been accepted but possibly respected for their unique skills.

It is likely our ancestors would have had autism, with genetics suggesting the condition has a long evolutionary history.

Okay, so morality emerged and people who were different were not just cast out. But…

Many people with autism have exceptional memory skills, heightened perception in realms of vision, taste and smell and enhanced understanding of natural systems such as animal behaviour.

The incorporation of some of these skills into a community would play a vital role in the development of specialists, the authors of the report, which is published in Time and Mind, suggest. Paper. (public access)  – Penny Spikins, Barry Wright, Derek Hodgson. Are there alternative adaptive strategies to human pro-sociality? The role of collaborative morality in the emergence of personality variation and autistic traits. Time and Mind, 2016; 9 (4): 289 DOI: 10.1080/1751696X.2016.1244949 More.

It’s true that some autists might help the tribe by becoming specialists. But many autists do not possess even normal life skills. Morality would, however, mean that even they were not murdered or exiled. As the authors admit, we don’t know much about autism 100 kya ago. We really don’t know anything like what we should about it today.

Question: What was the moral change that enabled the survival of people who don’t help others survive physically? Were they recognized as helping others survive spiritually? Bill Dembski gives some sense of this when he writes,

Another thing that has put things in perspective for me is the autism of my son John. My good wife and I have been dealing with this for well over a decade now. We are still working on getting him well, but there’s a lot that has to change for that to happen. My son is now 15, not fully potty trained, needs to be showered and dressed, and still doesn’t speak (though he continues to try). I’ve never had a conversation with him and don’t know if I ever will, this side of eternity.

See also: from the world of useless answers that sound like science:

Controversial study links atheism to autism

“Natural selection selects for autism” thesis revisited

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5 Replies to “Study: Change in morality 100 kya enabled autism sufferers to integrate into society

  1. 1

    A couple of things here:
    First, it seems an enormous stretch to ascribe a change in morality — for whatever reason — in times so distant. And at the same time many of these dismiss as myth real morality changers such as the Ten Commandments.

    Second is an encounter with a man on a cruise ship mid-Atlantic in recent days. Fred presented a series of lectures on astronomy that were, in my opinion, brilliant — both in content as in presentation style. Fred has a self educated wide and deep knowledge of astronomy and his lectures were well received by others we talked to.
    We sat with Fred shipboard several times, and he claimed to be borderline autistic.
    He fit very well with the above description “Many people with autism have exceptional memory skills, heightened perception in realms of vision, taste and smell and enhanced understanding of natural systems such as animal behavior,” but with astronomy rather than animal behavior. And Fred is a retired Naval officer, and very well spoken.

    I thought conversation with Fred was at an end when I suggested that the “Drake Equation” (he presented it during a lecture) is missing a term estimating the probability of life arising only by natural means. At that point Fred walked away seemingly upset.
    But later he and a friend joined us for hours in conversation — about the Navy, Systems Engineering, cruising, astronomy and more.

    An interesting encounter.

  2. 2
    EvilSnack says:

    I think it was more like this:

    “Hey, chief, that guy who doesn’t talk did this trick that got him a deer.”

  3. 3
    mahuna says:

    Do ANY of these idiots who invent from whole cloth CRAZY ideas about ancients humans EVER talk with Anthropologists?

    Has ANYONE done a study about how autistic or otherwise mentally handicapped members of a modern primitive tribe are treated by the other members of their manpacks? My guess would be that any juvenile who can’t progress to shouldering an adult’s responsibility is deemed more trouble than he’s worth and dies young. There aren’t a lot of excess resources available for “welfare programs”.

    A person who is crippled (mentally or physically) from birth is surely treated differently than Grandfather Thog who got kicked by a musk ox at the ripe old age of 35. Thog will be given an honored place at the campfire because of his past service and current wisdom. On the other hand, an infant who doesn’t respond like other growing children is absorbing resources (starting with demands on the time and attention of his mother and aunts) that would clearly be better invested in a new infant born next year.

    A girl who can’t take care of her own infants might help entertain the guys, but her sisters and cousins have their own children to worry about. And at some point Banishment, as sure a death as a whack on the head, would logically follow.

    But I’d like to see a survey of documented customs of primitive people.

  4. 4
    J-Mac says:

    What I’m wondering about is why Somali kids develop autism at much, much higher rate when they immigrate to the western world? In Canada and in other western countries Somali kids have 3-4 times higher rate of autism than other kids. Why such a drastic change within such a short period of time? Is it because now they are forced to eat BMO corn that is a staple in their diet?

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