Three types of people were revealed through our study: one for whom empathy is stronger than systemizing (Type E brains); another for whom systemizing is stronger than empathy (Type S brains); and a third for whom empathy and systemizing are equally strong (Type B brains). As one might predict, more women (44 percent) have Type E brains than men (17 percent), while more men have Type S brains (54 percent) than women (17 percent).As you may have noticed, scientific findings that put women in a bad light are frowned upon, but don't worry. The NYT op-ed I've just quoted goes on to say this:
According to what I have called the "extreme male brain" theory of autism, people with autism simply match an extreme of the male profile, with a particularly intense drive to systemize and an unusually low drive to empathize. When adults with Asperger's syndrome (a subgroup on the autistic spectrum) took the same questionnaires we gave to non-autistic adults, they exhibited extreme Type S brains. Psychological tests reveal a similar pattern.The author of this piece, Simon Baron-Cohen, posits that the increase in autism is "the genetic result of 'assortative mating,'" as two strong systematizers have children together. He doesn't go on to say it, but it seems necessary, if this is to be the theory, to have an idea why more strong systematizers are mating these days.
And this analysis makes sense. It helps explain the social disability in autism, because empathy difficulties make it harder to make and maintain relationships with others. It also explains the "islets of ability" that people with autism display in subjects like math or music or drawing - all skills that benefit from systemizing.
It's outrageously politically incorrect to go where that theory seems to be headed and say that the women's movement is to blame for autism. More women in the workplace means that more men meet and bond with women who share whatever brain type they have. It thus becomes more likely that two extreme brain types will have children together. In the pre-feminist set-up, men would be more likely to mate with women who would nuture and care for them. Her empathizing brain type would moderate his and save their children from autism. But in the modern world with equality of the sexes in a relationship, the man is much more likely to mate with someone who shares his qualities of mind. I'm not saying I believe this is what is happening. I'm just noting that this criticism of the women's movement is lurking inside Baron-Cohen's theory of autism.
IN THE COMMENTS: People scramble to deny what must not be permitted to be true!
ADDED THOUGHT: We shouldn't be afraid to discover the truth. If there is, in fact, something like an "S brain" and if the offspring of two "S brain"ers has a high risk of autism, the solution would not be to exclude women from the scientific workplace (obviously!) or even to discourage two "S brain"ers from marrying. It's just a matter of giving good genetic advice to persons planning to become parents so that they can choose to have children by artificial insemination if they don't think the risk is appropriate. But I don't know enough about autism to have an opinion about whether the condition really is such that we should try to prevent autistic children from being born. It may be that the two "S brain"ers would produce an extraordinary individual, who might be difficult for us to understand but who would bring great gifts into the world, which we should want to see and embrace.