Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been a source of controversy in recent years. Many patients have received considerable attention with inaccurate stereotypes, including one fallacy recently promoted by an Ivy League history professor.
The instructor, Nancy MacLean, stated that libertarians are autistic since they allegedly carry malevolent intentions and are unable to sympathize with others.
In response, the president of the refreshing libertarian organization Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) at Duke University, Hunter Michielson, started a petition with the intention of maintaining MacLean’s right to free speech while condemning her intolerant outlooks. He also wishes for the college to release a statement in support of the school’s diverse student body.
The left does often assert, after all, to encourage diversity wholeheartedly. Duke has not responded to the request.
He was a Bitter Man
MacLean expressed her views during a recent presentation at the New York City Unitarian Church of All Souls to discuss her new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. In the publication, she attempts to dissect the history of libertarianism, which she states Nobel-Prize winning economist James Buchanan founded.
During the Q&A session of the lecture, an audience member asked MacLean about the origin of Buchanan’s beliefs:
“Were they ones of personal greed? It seems like it’s a little grander. Is it malevolence?”
MacLean’s response may be startling to the sane, science educated individual, but seemed not to cause a hint of unrest among her listeners. After stating that the question was profound, she replied:
“It’s striking to me how many of the architects of this cause [libertarianism] seem to be on the autism spectrum. You know, people who don’t feel solidarity or empathy with others and who have difficult human relationships sometimes.”
She then gave “evidence” for her claims that those on the right have ASD by affirming that Buchanan was a bitter man with “misgivings” in personality and “some wound” disallowing him from becoming a commendable political figure.
However, the above characteristics are not concurrent to those with ASD. Symptoms of the condition do not include a particular political mindset and certainly do not entail an absence of compassion. Since MacLean seems opposed to doing so, let us examine the truth about ASD.
Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the University of Cambridge’s Autism Research Centre, has extensively examined the condition. In his book The Science of Evil, he explains that those on the spectrum do have an empathy disorder, but not in the manner MacLean reports.
According to Liberty Nation, Dr. Baron-Cohen has found that patients with ASD struggle to recognize the emotional states of others. However, they do not differ from neurotypical individuals in their level of sympathy for those they identify as suffering.
The inaccuracy and bigotry involved in MacLean’s claims are nothing short of surprising for a member of academia. Her proclamations bear two possibilities: an incapacity for analyzing simple scientific findings or the intentional skewing of data to further her political agenda. Regardless of the cause, she seems unqualified to “educate” the young minds in her classes.
Furthermore, her few words infected the audience, with one member later referring to libertarians as “autists.” Sadly, not one attendee questioned or rebuked MacLean’s absurd and vile declarations, but became seemingly indoctrinated to view those with ASD negatively.
Michielson has requested to speak with MacLean about her fallacious assertions personally but has not yet received a response. One can only hope that Duke will release a statement condemning the scholar’s promotion of political polarity at the expense of innocent individuals with the disorder.