Thursday, August 25, 2016

Lili's reality check for the day

Did you hear the celebrity "aspie" John Elder Robison on the radio (Life Matters, Radio National, ABC, Australian publicly-funded broadcaster) this morning, raving on about the time he had his head zapped by some quacks and the empathy button in his autistic brain was switched on? The whole unlikely story rests on some very shaky premises. The closest one to Robison is the assumption that autism or Asperger syndrome is or includes a deficit or complete absence of a normal ability to read the emotions of others just by looking at them or listening to their voices. The assumption that that assumption rests upon is the assumption that "normal" people actually possess such an ability. Problem is, they don't.

Think about it. If most people, the vast majority of adults, had the ability to read the emotions of others just by looking deep, deep into their joyful or sorrow-filled eyes, or observing their posture or gestures or listening to their voices, then it follows that no one would ever be able to get away with having an affair undetected (their spouse would easily be able to read a set of unaccounted emotions in their partner, and figure out that something was up). It also follows that every suicide would be entirely predictable and possibly preventable, but we know, in the harsh world of reality, that even psychiatrists with many years of training and university education and presumably buckets of empathy cannot read the minds and the intentions of their patients like a book. If practically everyone could read emotions, I'd also suppose that secrets would be very difficult to maintain, as at least the emotions associated with the concealed knowledge would be on public display, as though the name of the emotion was written on one's forehead in black marker pen.

So I call "BULLSHIT" to Mr Robison, to the people at Life Matters (who gave Mr Robison a run today that had no pertinent questions nor any note of skepticism), and the Australian Broadcasting Commission as a whole, which is most selective about which matters fall under their investigative eye. Bullshit, y'all!

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