Today the Lion of the Blogosphere published a fascinating post about nerdiness and autism (including aspergers) that I wanted to comment on. He writes:
I am rejecting an idea I previously had, and which seems common on the internet, that nerdiness is a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome, or that all nerds have that syndrome. The reason why there is a lot of overlap between nerds and Aspies is because they are both social outcasts, and as social outcasts they both fail to learn the correct behaviors of the popular kids, but the reasons for why they become social outcasts differ.
I agree that nerdiness is not a mild form aspergers (which itself is sometimes described as a mild form of autism). Nerds for example have high IQ’s. If nerdiness were a mild form of aspergers, then we should expect people with aspergers to have even higher IQ’s, and autistic people to have even higher IQ’s still. Instead, the opposite appears to be the case.
However I think the Lion’s wrong to conclude that the similarities between nerds and autistic/asperger types are only superficial. The fact that nerds are more likely to have autistic relatives shows that there’s a genetic relationship.One possibility is that aspergers people are just nerds with mild executive dysfunction, and autistic people are just nerds with moderate to severe executive dysfunction.
But what is a nerd? In my opinion, a nerd is just a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) oriented mind and personality. As I previously opined, in the last 200,000 years, there’s been an evolutionary trade-off: social-sexual traits have been replaced by technological traits. As the ice age emerged and we moved North, we’ve been evolving from the sexually active spirtiual artists with people smarts (i.e. charismatic religious and cult leaders), to stable, focused scientific virgins with machine smarts. However, because humans have lived in warm climates for so long, the topical traits are still highly prevalent. When someone with a more tropical personality suffers from executive dysfunction, it probably manifests as schizophrenia, not autism. This could be why scientists are confused about whether autism and schizophrenia are genetically similar, or genetic opposites. Both are the same disability (executive dysfunction) but in people with opposite emotional and cognitive profiles, causing very different symptoms.