Autism and Evolution: I Stand Corrected
A recent article discussing autism research, however, suggests that such rapid evolutionary adaptation may indeed be possible because some genes connected with autism are located in a part of the genome where mutations can occur much more quickly than average. Here's an excerpt from the article:
Consider a mutation on chromosome 16 recently tied to autism. The glitch is in a DNA region containing so-called "morpheus" genes, which changed very rapidly as evolution produced ever brainier apes. The genes may well help shape cognitive capacities specific to apes and humans, including ones affected by autism.
Since fast mutation goes hand in hand with fast evolution, it's likely that the new autism-linked gene lies in a DNA "hotspot" prone to spontaneous mutation. In short, the same phenomenon that helped to rapidly evolve our braininess may contribute to autism.
Unfortunately, the article then goes on to quote a spokesjackass for Autism Brays on how to cure and prevent evolution. Some people seriously need to get their cognitive dissonance sorted.
But anyway, even if it turns out that we really are fast-evolving mutants, which I have to admit is a pretty cool sci-fi-ish idea, it doesn't mean that we are cognitively superior to everyone else or that the entire human species will eventually become autistic. It may mean, at most, that we are better adapted to certain niches in the modern environment; and, like the X-Men, we don't need a cure.
Labels: brain evolution