Abortion, Violence Against Women, and Autism

Cell block at Alcatraz prison

Modern society is changing in many ways that increase the autistic population.  Andrew Lehman touched on one of them in a November post discussing the practices of sex-selective abortion and female infanticide in patrifocal societies, which by reducing the number of women available as potential mates, reduce the chances of autistic men and other less socially competitive males being able to procreate.  In these cultures, brides historically have been won by aggressive warrior-type males who sire highly competitive sons.  By contrast, where females are equally valued and are just as likely to survive to adulthood, an autistic man has a much higher chance of finding a wife and fathering children with autistic traits.

To continue this line of thought, another factor tending to increase the reproductive advantage of autistic males has been the passage of laws preventing violence against women.  In traditional patrifocal societies, beating one’s wife was an effective way of ensuring her obedience and sexual compliance.  Now it lands a man in jail; and with the easy availability of divorce and equal-opportunity jobs for women, chances are his wife won’t be waiting for him when he gets out.  Thus, an aggressive high-testosterone man is less likely to reproduce in modern society unless he can control his tendency toward aggression in domestic situations.

This effect is even more pronounced in the context of rape.  Throughout much of human history, the most successful reproductive strategy from a Darwinian perspective was to become a powerful warlord and to go marauding across great distances, taking one’s pleasure with many of the women captured along the way.  A widely reported DNA study suggests that millions of people in Asia are descendants of Genghis Khan.  And it wasn’t just warlords who passed on their genes for sexually aggressive behavior; even common soldiers considered rape one of the perks of war.

In today’s society, however, sexual violence has diametrically opposite consequences.  Rape victims who become pregnant usually have abortions.  A man convicted of a sex offense will receive a long prison sentence.  The rapist may be indefinitely committed to a mental institution as a sexual predator after he completes his sentence.  If he is released, he will have a permanent criminal record and will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life; as such, his chances of ever marrying are slim to none.  Moreover, “three strikes” and other sentence enhancement laws are designed to remove the most violent criminals from society.

 In short, the modern criminal justice system is effectively removing from the human gene pool the most violent and sexually aggressive males, who would in the past have reproduced most successfully.  The effects of millennia of Darwinian selection are thus being reversed in only a few generations.  We can expect that autistics and other less aggressive individuals will become a significantly larger percentage of the population; that war and violent crime, already at the lowest levels in recorded history, will continue to decrease; and that tomorrow’s society will be one of cooperation and playful exploration.

on 04/21/10 in featured, Society | 3 Comments | Read More

Comments (3)


  1. Socrates says:


    We are probably only 2-3 years away from the beginnings of routine screening for Autism-implicated genes.

    There are many large and well-funded organisations working to eliminate Autism entirely - they have the ear of governments world-wide and are having a direct impact on social and health policies.

    The Flowering you envisage is a cruel mirage.

  2. Gwen McKay says:

    As the ancient curse says, we live in interesting times, Socrates. I am not going to dispute your view of the situation, but I’ll say that politics, like many things in life, is above all a matter of perception. Almost anything can be used for either good or evil purposes, including autism research, depending on what choices people make. The future, as always, has yet to be decided; and as Mark mentioned not long ago, it’s possible for multiple and contradictory views to reflect different facets of reality.

  3. I’ll disagree with you both.

    Firstly Socrates is wrong, there are no autism implicated genes, it’s far too complex.

    Gwen you are wrong to be so optimistic, nothing was ever gained without a fight.

    The truth is that never mind science, it is the perception of it that will lead to our demise in that those genes imputed to lead to our particular way of being will be used in a Gattica like scenario to prevent our being, and there will be a lot of collateral damage with that.

    Heck I would have to say that present day humankind is more like Disney’s mythical lemming than the inheritor of a rich. productive and prosperous future.

    But we shall see, Well comme dit Groucho, include me out, I shan’t live to see it, but my memes might :)

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