Saturday, August 4, 2012
The Olympics and Genetics and Aspergers Syndrome
I had a fascinating conversation with a work colleague yesterday about why we keep breaking records in the Olympics. I said that surely we've reached the pinnacle of our human abilities and that any improvements have more to do with better timing mechanisms, technology and drugs. He disagreed and cited the case of Australian, Jessica Fox whose parents were both medalists at earlier Olympics. Surely that combination of genes gave her a distinct advantage over her competitors.
He also talked about a hurdlist who due to some difference was able to bend her foot slightly differently to cut off a few centimetres with each jump. Sadly I can't remember who it was. I joked with my colleague and suggested that maybe there's a gene for all of this and jokingly suggested that his parents might have worked in the same field as him, in this case finance. Amusingly, he said that they had.
So how does this all tie back to Asperger's Syndrome?
We all carry genes which adapt our bodies for certain situtations and clearly those adaptations make us more suitable for certain types of work, while making us less suitable for others. The athelete who has a different foot may find that her foot is great for hurdles but not suitable for football. Nothing is entirely positive, it's simply "more suitable for a given purpose".
Charles Darwin's theory of evolution gives the impression that these changes occur on a massive scale and affect life going forwards. The edict, "survival of the fittest" suggests that the weaker species perishes.
This isn't necessarily the case. What if evolution occurs on a much smaller and faster scale? What if our adaptations are not life-threatening but are career-defining? What if they could happen over only a small number of generations?
Perhaps this is an important part of understanding the differences which come with Asperger's Syndrome. It makes us particularly suited for specific types of careers such as Information Technology, Engineering and Writing while making us less suitable for others such as hospitality.
Perhaps we're all evolving independently towards the ideal specialization.