Natural Selection And Unnatural Correction

Suzana Herculano-Houzel, in conversation with Shannon Odell about evolutionary hierarchy in mammals for Grow, on natural selection:

We have this expectation that everything in biology must serve a purpose. It got selected. But I believe that doesn’t need to be the case. Most likely it got to be that way simply because variation is the rule. Diversity is the rule. It’s not physics. Biology is never 100% efficient, nor 100% effective.

This passing remark made me think about my idea that what might have gotten selected for when it comes to autism in fact are the very things we pathologize about autism.

From a neurodiversity standpoint, it’s assumed that autistic people have existed effectively since there have been people, “because variation is the rule”.

It’s not, contra Aspie Supremacists, that autism somehow is being selected for as the Future of Humanity, but that autism is a natural—if impairing—variation of an atypical tendency toward stimuli overload/overwhelm, while maybe what’s been selected for are coping traits that mitigate the impairments: our purported “deficits in social communication and social interaction” and “restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities”.

It’s just that because those adaptive mitigations don’t make sense for neurotypical culture, they are deemed problems in need of unnatural correction.

What if the things they make us mask at all ages, the things they try to conversion therapy out of us when we are young, the things the medical model of disability call deficits, in fact simply are the very things we’ve evolved to manage our natural variation?