Monday, December 03, 2012

Not that theory again

I've noticed that the November issue of Scientific American magazine has an article in it by Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen about his assortative mating theory of autism and other things. Is the theory any more convincing now than it was when I wrote about it in September of last year? Doubt it.

Baron-Cohen is still asserting that there's a link between engineering and autism. You know, the smartest girl in our year when I was in high school went off to uni to study to be an engineer. I know another working-class engineer who came to engineering not through schooling or university, but by simply working with machines and making them work. Engineering is for smart people. Engineering is only for smart people. If you are going off to uni because your folks have lots of money and that is their expectation of you, despite you not really being the smartest kid in your year, maybe engineering is not for you, because when the bridge or road tunnel that you have designed collapses and kills lots of people, or the complicated machine that you installed and tested fails to ever work up to the required technical standard, you wont be able to bluff, talk or influence your way out of that little problem. Maybe a career in the arts or medicine might be more suitable, because no one can say with any certainty that an artistic venture failed, and doctors bury their mistakes. If you have an ancestor who made it as an engineer, you have a smart ancestor. Smarts run in the genes. You are more likely to be smart yourself, not just smart at making excuses or smart-looking or smartly-presented as the result of social advantages, but possessing genuine inborn smart. Kids with lots of inborn smart often become bored or impatient or disenchanted or openly contemptuous of their age peers who don't have the smarts. Gifted kids who don't get to meet other gifted kids can become loners or outsiders. They could even become so socially disinterested that they attract the label of "autistic", an autistic child or grandchild of an engineer or computer scientist or technician or academic....

Another Baron-Cohen autism-related theory looks like a real dog


Adelaide Dupont said...

You can have relatively little traditional literacy and still be an engineer, in some fields.

For example, the Solar Mamas from some of the least-developed nations, work on solar technology for six months and bring it back to their communities.

(It may have a relatively low barrier to entry).

And some forms of art are relatively precise, especially graphic design and architectural drawing (which is very connected with engineering).

If Hermoine didn't get her Hogwarts letter, would she be an engineer?

Lili Marlene said...

Sure enough, there is precision in visual art, but I think it's an aesthetic thing, not a mechanical thing. I don't think ideas or devices can be judged indubitably to have failed in art.

No point asking me about Harry Potter characters, Adelaide. Harry Potter is too much of a popular meme for me to want to have anything to do with it. All the same, it's nice to hear from you again. It's been a while. Hope you have a top festive season.