Saturday, September 20, 2008

Is Asperger's a Double-Edged Sword?

I just submitted the following letter to Phactum, newsletter of the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking.

In his recent letter to Phactum, David Leiter discusses anecdotal evidence that skeptics and atheists disproportionately suffer from Asperger syndrome. I considered for a while whether this diagnosis might apply to me, but ultimately concluded that it didn't fit. The therapist I was seeing at the time concurred. I hope it's not necessary to add that, whatever psychological correlates may be found for particular beliefs, they tell us nothing in themselves about those beliefs' validity or lack thereof.

Assuming for the sake of discussion that the correlation does exist, I don't think the hypothesis of Leiter's anonymous correspondent, which might be summed up as "arrogance attracts arrogance," holds water -- not only because no clear mechanism is proposed, but because to my knowledge atheists, agnostics, and skeptics have not been shown to be any more "arrogant" than the general population. I suspect this attribution may simply reflect that some people are offended by anyone's willingness to state their disagreement with prevailing opinion.

Instead, I conjecture the following: like any cognitive ability, recognition of social cues is most efficient and useful if it can function unconsciously. But this has the side effect of sometimes disadvantageous consequences. Since beliefs are a kind of social behavior that can be "mirrored" much like others, unconscious recognition of social cues may result in increased susceptibility to adopting other people's beliefs without perceiving any need to verify them independently, especially if they are beliefs that are prevalent in one's social environment (like theism). In this view Asperger's may be a double-edged sword, offering the advantage of reduced gullibility along with the drawback of greater difficulty in social interactions.

Eric Hamell

1 comment:

Kakuta said...


WELCOME TO THE TEMPLE OF BABA KAKUT AWHERE ALL PROBLEMS ARE SOLVED IN 3
DAYS WITH THE HELP MY MY GODS.

Below are my services:

MONEY SPELL
LUCK SPELL
LOTTERY SPELL
LOVER SPELL TO GET EX BACK
CURE SPELL
JOB SPELL
GET PREGNANT SPELL
SPELL TO GET YOUR CHILD BACK TO YOU FROM CPS

And lots more: Contact me via my email address: kakutaspellz@gmail.com
Mobile Number: +2349054872932
or visit my website
http://kakutaspellz.wixsite.com/kakutatemple