Autism as a Field of Research

Forms of Autism

On the one hand the brain has originally no knowledge, on the other hand, it is a rationally working organ which allows us to ask Why-questions in the youth and the questions of meaning later. In addition it picks up information coming in by the senses and processes it systemic to a plausible world view. But it also stores the physical knowledge about practised behaviour. Nevertheless world view and behaviour patterns are so natural for us as adults that we don't note at all what marvellous the brain performs in spite of his nescience on principle. These achievements will be realised only if cerebral regions or neural connections (fall) drop out. That is why the cerebral research deals mainly with such deficits. One of these becoming a more and more interesting field(s) of research is the autism of some people, mainly the men, who are isolated from their (coworld) contemporaries due to the absence of higher valued cognitive abilities. They live insular like under a cloche what is the common sign of all autistic people. Otherwise their appearance is very individual. However all of them lack the self-conception as a basis of empathy and social behaviour that is why they often fail in the everyday life. Therefor they have systemic abilities. If they have an according talent they take refuge in mathematics, physics or music - in the fields which have their own internal logic that is innate to the brain. One calls this group of autistic people "Asperger", after a Viennese pediatrician Hans Asperger, who was a remedial teacher at the Pediatric Clinic of the University of Vienna and was the first person who described this "syndrome" in the forties of the last century. The so-called "genius", who are obsessed with their special subject, are often as social partners a disaster - as the saying goes: "Where there is a lot of light, there is also a lot of shade".

Albert Einstein is a typical "Asperger" with all symptoms of it. There is an abstract with his self-description from one of his travel diaries: "Window pane between subject and other people. Unmotivated mistrust. Paper alternative world." Being in family background a disaster, tending in physics obsessively to systemising, Einstein denied keenly the role of the observer and therewith of the human-specific factor in the science because he lacked the self-conception. He was also strict against the blur and coincidence in the quantum mechanics because Aspergers do not tolerate any ambiguities. Only the measurable and computable things matter for them. Einstein might grant no freedom of decision even to God, that is why it was quite clear-cut for him: "God does not play dice!" And he treated the hand tools of the physicist, the purely ideal physical dimensions like space (lengths), time, mass and energy, in the same way as the physical objects ("paper alternative world") because he couldn't neither put himself in the feelings of the other people (János Plesch, his doctor: "He laughs, it is strange, even if other people cry"), nor in the differentness of the real world. In return he was a master in "thought experiment" (Gedankenexperiment), whereas he was hardly interested in real experiments.

Beside the autistic "Aspergers" there is one more and noteworthier group with a so-called "mild autism": the "Savants", frz. "knowing persons", often also called "the brilliant idiots" who can recite every book which they once have read, but maybe they are not even able to brush their teeth by themselves. They can name promptly the weekday of each date or they know every prime number. Or they are able to take reliably plenty of objects in with only one look because they are fixed on figures, like the Asperger are. Dustin Hoffman has marvellous played such in the everyday life helpless Savant in the film "Rainman". Kim Peek with father Kim Peek, his still living prototype from Salt Lake City, lacks the connection between the both hemispheres, the Corpus Callosum. He needs to look at each double-page spread of a specialised book only one time for 8 seconds. He doesn't read the pages, but he commits them optically to memory - namely both pages chronologically parallel with each eye - and nevertheless he will never forget a word. Besides he knows historical data, bus connexions, the road system of the USA and Canada, television program, phone prefixes and postcodes. Due to his unprecedented abilities he got the nickname "Kimputer" - as the connection of "Kim" and "computer". In addition, he has like Mozart, who was presumably likewise a Savant, a perfect pitch hence nobody can take him to a concert because he would immediately loudly complain every wrong tone. Other Savants are true mathematical genii although they never count really. They have an immediate access to the rationale of the brain and "see" the ready figures and they are often quicker than a computer. They play perfectly everything that they have ever heard or they even compose, without having learnt music-playing, they are just children prodigy. The otherwise unaware abilities of the brain - to collect conscientiously data and to process it rationally - take at Savants and Asperger direct an effect. In my opinion Autism is not an illness, but an innate or by accident acquired cerebral defect and hence cannot be cured. The autistic people can at most learn to handle with their deficits as far as they are reasonable for them. But they provide us "normal people" a deep insight into on what we live and what we nevertheless still don't understand well enough: the brain.

Aristoteles, the first and the most significant of all science philosophers, termed the people "Zoon politicon", so a living being which exists in community with other people and which can primal develop his mental abilities only in it. Language needed the listener for its genesis. The autistic people live, as Asperger and Savants also do, indeed among us but only a little with us. The data collecting and processing base of the brain, which becomes at Savants especially impressively apparent, betrays many common characteristics of the brain and computer. But the Savant in his appearance reveals also something that puts out the human-specific factor and without we cannot survive: the social competence - by him or by computer controlled cognitive level originates primal on its basis. Even if Einsteins "genii" with tunnel view still fascinate us so much - so they of all people, both with their positive and with their negative especialness, call our attention to the major importance of the peaceful making social abilities for the life and survival. Hence these social abilities are the abilities which deserve our biggest attention and which are regarded as imperative to develop. We can confidently leave the mechanically recallable knowledge and the monotonous systemising to computers. But in our personhood it is regarded as imperative to work so that it comes to a peaceful cooperation also with the nature on which we live. The so fashionable being crazy for the Genius, especially for Einstein, is not only unhelpful but it also causes us to miss the necessary sceptical concerns of our motives and actions or as Nietzsche said: "There is nothing more injuriously for a good insight into the culture, than to accept the genius and nothing else. This is a subversive way of thinking with which all working for the culture must be ceased." (from his posthumous works, spring-summer 1878)
*see also "Einstein als Autist" file I / B7a appendix 2 and "Rätselhafter Einstein" file I / B8a from essay (5)

Current Internet sources
Since beginning of 2006 the broadcast station ARTE and afterwards other TV stations have broadcast the 3-part serial so the wdr Link which deals with autism as a field of research and whereas the most famous Savants have been introduced. The serial about the "Asperger" was emphatically called "The Einstein effect". What was refused to the genius research, to analyze Einsteins personality (see III/4/SPIEGEL SPECIAL/Ernüchterung in der Genieforschung), the autism research manages without effort. Hence it is said in the script of the WDR serial "Quarks und Co" on page 17: "A scientist has seldom learnt so much about the person from an illness as from the research of the autism. Especially for the brain research the autism opens a chance to realise the people's thinking and feeling better..." - You can find the English version on the Website der Wisconsin Medical Society (search for "autism") with the leading Savant researcher Dr. Darold Treffert who was also a scientific adviser of the serial. - All of the scientists who got chance to speak, among them Prof. Dr. Gerhard Roth of the University of Bremen and Prof. Michael Fitzgerald of the Trinity College of Dublin, agree that not too much of the cerebral mass but primal cerebral defects turn these autistic savant into "genii".

Google results
On the 20th and 21st of January 2009 Google showed 1.560.000 results for 'Einstein + Savant', 909.000 results for 'Einstein + autism' and 19.100 results for 'Einstein + Autismus' (a total of almost 2,5 million results alone in English and German!), in which my websites to this subject are often listed at first or at least among the top results.

© HILLE 2006/2009

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