Thursday, January 3, 2013

Autism and Organic Foods

A math geek on Reddit published this amazing graph:

It shows a perfect correlation between organic food sales and autism diagnosis.

Just let this sink in for a moment.

....

Nobody is claiming organic food causes autism, but that they track so perfectly means there's some relationship...

Consider how autism diagnoses tend to cluster. In wealthy zip codes.

There's a dense set of elements here: economic wealth (equals leisure time and 'lifestyle' resources), in addition to creating incentives for 'good parenting', allows parents to dedicate more attention to their children. "Good parents" will buy organic foods believing these are the best choices for their families (marketing works!) and take their children to the doctor at the first sign of any problems.

All of these elements conspire to create the following reality: rich people are unable to think of themselves as substandard. This makes a kind of sense given the daily reinforcements the rich receive (constant social deference, more free services, etc), but it has terrible consequences when it comes to the critical life skill of self-assessement. I think these parents place unreasonable expectations on their children, who inevitably fail to live up to them, who are then 'diagnosed' with 'autism.' This gives great comfort to a Good Parent: they've done the Right Thing by bringing their concerns to a doctor, and now they have a perfectly reasonable, natural, authoritative answer to why their child isn't perfect: Autism.

See? They're not bad parents after all, in fact, quite the opposite. They've done everything right: Nature gave them an imperfect child.

I'm sure there are plenty of autism diagnosis that are genuine, however, I am also certain these socio-economic clusters exist for more superficial reasons.

Why is this important? Because this segment of society is politically powerful enough to command limited public resources for themselves at the detriment of the commons. This nation has an established tradition of building political realities upon the firmament of denial.

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