Does rise in autism herald human extinction?

Well this is certainly provocative: Should autism be considered a canary bird telling that Homo sapiens may be on its way to extinction?

There has been a dramatic enhancement of the reported incidence of autism in different parts of the world over the last 30 years. This can apparently not be explained only as a result of improved diagnosis and reporting, but may also reflect a real change. The causes of this change are unknown, but if we shall follow T.C. Chamberlin’s principle of multiple working hypotheses, we need to take into consideration the possibility that it partly may reflect an enhancement of the average frequency of responsible alleles in large populations. If this hypothesis is correct, it means that the average germline mutation rate must now be much higher in the populations concerned, compared with the natural mutation rate in hominid ancestors before the agricultural and industrial revolutions. This is compatible with the high prevalence of impaired human semen quality in several countries and also with what is known about high levels of total exposure to several different unnatural chemical mutagens, plus some natural ones at unnaturally high levels. Moreover, dietary deficiency conditions that may lead to enhancement of mutation rates are also very widespread, affecting billions of people. However, the natural mutation rate in hominids has been found to be so high that there is apparently no tolerance for further enhancement of the germline mutation rate before the Eigen error threshold will be exceeded and our species will go extinct because of mutational meltdown. This threat, if real, should be considered far more serious than any disease causing the death only of individual patients. It should therefore be considered the first and highest priority of the best biomedical scientists in the world, of research-funding agencies and of all medical doctors to try to stop the express train carrying all humankind as passengers on board before it arrives at the end station of our civilization.


Leave a Comment:

Anthony says January 22, 2014


Tanja Guven says June 13, 2015

I would also like to add that a lot of women with autism and Asperger’s syndrome don’t like sex, partly due to sensory issues. I would like to say that if this is how humanity eventually reaches extinction, rather than whining and panicking, those acknowledging it as a real possibility should instead be grateful that the end will come this peacefully. It could easily have been a lot worse, such as a slow, painful death from overpopulation and insufficient resources, climate change, either natural or induced by human activity, or global nuclear war. It will be a positive blessing to go out this way instead.

    P. D. Mangan says June 13, 2015

    Interesting way to put it, Tanya, thanks for your perspective. Admittedly, I’m not crazy about the idea of dying on a massive apocalypse.

Add Your Reply