Some days I take an hour or two just to review opinions (and that’s what they are) about Asperger’s and related “brain” conditions. I have previously posted on basic epigenetic processes, which seem straightforward in theory, but of course, it ain’t so. One of the “facts” in epigenetics is clear: the actual DNA does not change; “epigenetic tags” change how a gene is expressed, basically turning the gene on and off.
First thing this morning, I came across a study that says, contradictorily, that the DNA itself is changed. Sloppy language, or serious mistake?
Again, there are other contradictions. Some studies say that although genetics is believed to underlie conditions like Asperger’s, no one has yet to prove it with concrete identification of specific genes. And, when a gene or genes are identified in a particular case or group of people, these genes are specific to a small group of people “on the spectrum ” and cannot be extrapolated to any significant number of autistics.
This can be explained by the sweeping up of many different people into a spectrum – there is no “disease” of autism; that would require a medical definition: testable by medical means and present in all “autistics.” It simply doesn’t exist. Autism is a vast (and growing) bucket of mostly vague symptoms: the best on could do is to say that Autism is a subjective and arbitrary group of symptoms; not a disorder or mental illness or brain disease in itself.
In fact, more and more as I read and learn, it is apparent that “autism” is a useful cover up for real medical mistakes during pregnancy, birth and neo-natal “care” especially for premature fetuses. Drastic interventions, caesarian sections as a convenience for doctor and mother, and brutal insistence on “saving” nonviable babies because of possible “legal consequences” is routine, without regard for long term consequences. Today, like so much of American life, reproduction is utterly irrational; divorced from both logic and feeling.
In practice, information from genetics, brain development, and human behavior are being applied without discrimination except by specific researchers in their area of expertise. In public discussions, it’s all stirred into one pot – a murky stew at best. Psychologists in particular tend to “borrow” results from neuroscience and genetics to bolster theories derived from philosophical and religious traditions, which have no basis in science.
Since psychologists have much more contact with, and influence over the public, these theories become popular in the social arena. Is it any mystery why individuals, parents and schools are utterly confused?
Childrens’ behavior is being used to “back-prove” theories; to diagnose non-existent disorders, syndromes and mental illnesses, that are being churned by committees without valid science to support them. Now epigenetics is “coming to the rescue” of those who believe that genetics explains everything.
A paper I read this morning begins with the statement the everyone knows that autism and Asperger’s have a genetic basis; with the contradictory escape clause: “No, specific genes have not been found to prove this, but it is hoped that epigenetics will now identify the cause.”
Is this true? I don’t know. What I do know is that the explanatory circle comes back around to abuse of various types in childhood that can and do damage children – as if we didn’t know this already through hundreds of years of observation. The assertion is that the epigenetic tags that result can be “removed” and be replaced with “healthy copies.” Also that tags can be inherited – which seems a doom-filled message.
This brings up the ethical challenge of “screwing around with” a person’s private, and I would say, sacred right to be. We already know that humans are terrible at predicting the outcome of technologies and their applications: defiance of nature has created a planet laid waste by egomaniacal identification with God.
Social pressure will of course make drastic decisions; the individual voice has been lost.
I have had to ask myself the pointed question: Would the world be better off without people like me? Always there are two answers: I am here, and it’s my goal to live the best life I can. Pain is inherent in being alive; billions of other humans live with their challenges, most without questioning whether they deserve to live or not. And, I’m not God, or nature, or whatever brought life into existence, so it’s really not up to me to take an arrogant point of view that allows me to judge life, even my own. Specific human behavior – that’s another game. The more proper question is, Should my parents have had children? The “signs” were not good, but they believed that “doing the right thing” by having their own children would “fix” their abusive pasts. Of course it didn’t, and thus it’s my fate to ask, What were they thinking? Pointless: Logic has little to do with human behavior, but desperation is a powerful mover of minds and bodies.
Nature is conservative: evolutionary processes keep churning out myriad life forms; the environment tests individual performance; chance is the wild card.
A few people now have the power to “design” life going forward. I’m not optimistic that they will question their power or doubt their decisions.