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Do Bram Cohen and Craig Newmark have Asperger's?

Posted Aug 12 2010 12:00am
One of the many items in neurodiversity's bag of dirty tricks is to trivialize autism by alleging that various historical figures have autism or Asperger's syndrome. Therefore, they claim that these people can serve as role models and that anyone diagnosed on the spectrum has the potential to do just fine. Also, the argument against doing scientific research to find a cure for autism is supposedly bolstered by claiming we are depriving the world of the next Albert Einstein or Bill Gates.

Most people who have read my writings know that about six years or so I wrote a fairly lengthy article (originally a book chapter in a book I was working on at one time) in which I attempted to debunk the diagnoses of autism for Bill Gates, Albert Einstein and Thomas Jefferson, three of neurodiversity's favorite role models.

Nobel prize winning economist Vernon Smith is also lauded as an example of a spectrumite whose gifts allowed him to make great contributions to society. However, upon a less superficial examination, we find that Smith's basis for claiming he has Asperger's at age 78 came from a self-administered autism quotient test and no clinical diagnosis.

Award winning mathematician Richard Borcherds is also touted by the neurodiversity ideologues of having Asperger's syndrome. We find that on further examination, the truth that the ND movement wishes to suppress is that Borcherds sought a diagnosis from psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen who would not give him one. Cohen wrote in book The essential difference:

One might question whether Richard Borcherds really merits a diagnosis at all, given how well adapted he is. Certainly he is not currently severe enough in his symptoms to warrant a diagnosis in adulthood, as his symptoms are not interfering with his daily functioning. In the jargon of the diagnostic criteria, he is not "suffering any impairment in his daily life"........

In my previous post, I discussed the autism speaks funded Talk TV video that was produced by Wrongplanet creator Alex Plank and Jack "Cubby" Robison. They interviewed Wired magazine writer Steve Silberman who stated that he was planning to write a book which in part would extol the gifts of the autistic spectrum to society. Two examples that Silberman used in the interview was the creation of Bram Cohen's computer program, Bittorrent which is a computer program that makes it easier to download large files and Craig Newmark's creation of the well known website Craig's list. Both of these individuals are given as examples of successful persons with Asperger's syndrome.

In a private email to Mr. Silberman, I bemoaned the fact that my disability is often trivialized by stories such as these and I felt he should note this. In a nice reply to me he explained that he agreed autism could cause problems for those who have it and that I had a one-sided idea of the book he planned to write. When he felt I was implying in my last post that he had commercial motivations for granting his interview to Plank and Robison, he posted a comment on my blog claiming that was not the case and that the book had not even reached the proposal stage yet and that he was just beginning to do research on it.

Well perhaps since he seems to plan using Cohen and Newmark as examples of persons on the spectrum who have made great contributions to society I'll try to be helpful to Mr. Silberman in doing his homework.

According to an article in business week about Cohen's alleged Asperger's
. He was someone who was able to go to college, get married and have a child and set up a very successful software venture. The notion that he has Asperger's syndrome came about when he was out with his girlfriend Jenna and Jenna's young daughter at a restaurant and they were talking about empathy and Cohen's lack of it. Jenna, who had worked with autistic children, suggested that Cohen have Asperger's syndrome. The article goes on to state that Cohen never sought a professional diagnosis of Asperger's.

yet another article questions whether or not Cohen really does have Asperger's. Some of the commenters on this article take umbrage (as do I) that Cohen would trivialize ASD's by claiming that he has one without bothering to obtain a clinical diagnosis.

Craig Newmark has also written about Asperger's However he just states the symptoms are familiar to him and he gives no indication that he was actually diagnosed or any evidence that he indeed has this condition. One of the most telling sentences
However, psychologist friends berate me when I indulge my (mostly suppressed) hypochondria in this area.

It would seem that once again neurodiversity gets it wrong on two more of their role models. I also can't help thinking that after Mr. Silberman does some more research, his book may be shorter than he actually anticipated.
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