I dreamed again last night. More accurately, I awoke and still remembered the dream.
I was attending another university. The dream involved my trip there and the days of my first week in classes. The university was odd for three reasons. First, it was founded by one man who had earned his fortune in business. I think it was the movie business, sort of like a Walt Disney story. He still lived and worked on university grounds. Second, although the university was a secular institution, the policy there included a strong religious slant in order to acquiesce to the founder's own personal beliefs. Not quite like Oral Roberts University, but along those lines. Third, it was very cheap to attend. The costs were low because the founder insisted they be so, and that's the reason that I was attending; it was affordable to me.
I was going at my current age, so I was much older than other students. I got paired on campus with a roommate that I think was gay, but he was still too closeted to say so to anyone. That's when I noticed that nobody on campus was "out". Somehow this realization morphed into me confronting the founder of the institution about his beliefs on homosexuality. One male and two female students joined me, but they again were very closeted and would not even come out to me. I was the only one who spoke to the man.
We argued for a while and then I suggested that he attend one of his own Psych 101 classes to learn that homosexuality is an inherent condition rather than a moral failing. He ranted about how gay was evil. It was the usual and familiar tripe. We left the meeting without getting permission for a gay group on campus. I was left with a personal choice about staying or leaving before my first week was even up. And then I woke.
Nothing in the dream involved autism directly. There is the subtle similarity that autism is considered a universal "wrongness", never to be approved or desired. Yet I woke with a new theory about autism, and it specifically involves university campuses.
The CDC finally admitted
a few days ago that the incidence of autism is indeed rising, currently at about 1 out of every 110 children. People are wondering what environmental trigger (poisonous exposure) is causing this "epidemic". What if there is no chemical trigger for autism? What if the trigger is actually social?
We know that environmental conditions (health, stress, etc.) change which genes that a person has switched on and off. We know, through the wonders of epigenetics, that these changes can be passed along to offspring as "preset conditions" in their genetic machinery. In essence, epigenetics allows children to be prepared for the same environment that their parents faced, giving them a competitive edge in meeting those particular challenges.
During the last century, however, the environment that people face has changed dramatically. First, women entered the workforce during World War II. The demands placed upon the bodies and minds of women changed significantly. Second, the workforce began attending college in increased numbers. These days, college degrees are listed as job requirements for careers that (in my opinion) should not in any way require them. College has essentially become a mandatory experience.
What if these social changes caused two very significant biological changes?
- Epigenetics favored mental changes in individuals, more women were changed but also many men.
- Breeding opportunities changed, allowing more individuals with these mental changes to partner and produce children?
What if Mother Nature is trying to produce a new human suitable to the environment that we created for ourselves, and autism is currently one of its byproducts, one of the "tweaks" being experimented with to see if it is a suitable solution?
We already know about the engineering effect
and the Silicon Valley effect
. What if the same thing is happening on a grand scale, worldwide? What if the combination of "women's liberation" and the "technology revolution" together are helping to produce the next evolutionary change in humans, and we are just now beginning to see the side effects of Mother Nature's experimentation in how to produce Homo