Friday, June 03, 2005

No Amish Autistics!!!! It's a Conspiracy!!!

At this point, I suppose I should link to the relevant articles:
here's one and another.

Ok, here's my spiel on the matter: Dan Olmstead desperately needs to research animal breeding (heck, plant breeding would work too) before he starts jumping to conclusions. It is true that the Amish live a relatively simple and less industrialized lifestyle than most of us (although we tend to romanticize and exaggerate this fact: the Amish actually do have washing machines in many cases....just not your standard on the grid machine). I'm sure that quite a few of them also don't go to doctors unless absolutely necessary. Their life is far less inundated with the sort of noise and chaos that drives an aspie to their wit's end. The schools are smaller and less overwhelming. Among these facts: The Amish generally don't vaccinate their children. This is one of many aspects of the Amish culture.

Apparently there are far less reported cases of autism in the Amish community. I suspect that the aspies function better there than they do in our modern day life and probably go undetected....if they are there. Possibly a person would have to be pretty undeniably and noticeably autistic in order to be labeled among the Amish. At any rate, Mr Olmstead appears to suspect that there are fewer Amish auties because they don't vaccinate.

This is where a distinct knowledge of practical genetics would come in handy.

See, the Amish are very genetically limited. In a word: inbred. This isn't an insult; it's a simple fact. The Amish gene pool is very small with very little new incoming blood, and families often stay rooted in one area for long periods of time. They can't outcross with the "English", or non-Amish. Most people who do not breed livestock don't realize that inbreeding isn't necessarily a negative thing. It all hinges on *what* genes you are concentrating. Basically, you just get more of what's already there in the genes. It doesn't magically make horrid deformities or mutations unless those genes were there to begin with. It DOES increase the odds that you will see more of what's really there(genotype), genetically (as opposed to phenotype, i.e., what you SEE). If you have a wonderful animal with a solid background, the easiest way to fix the genes and get consistent offspring is to linebreed or inbreed with a relative (of varying degrees).

When you inbreed------>> You will see some traits, even if they're not that common in the general population, at a higher concentration. With continued inbreeding/linebreeding, the population becomes more and more consistent with less genetic variation. Some traits which may be common in the general populace may not show up at all in the inbred population: if the genes weren't there to begin with, or were not there in sufficient numbers, they didn't get concentrated.

And that's what I think happened with the Amish. They have an excessively high rate of some birth defects and genetic diseases (one of the dangers of inbreeding, and you can't ethically "cull" humans the way you do with livestock). But it stands to reason that other traits (possibly including autism) simply wouldn't be there at all. This is what anyone would expect to see....not a big surprise. No conspiracy there!

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