From the People who Brought you Cheese: on Embracing Neurodiversity

I’m sure someone else has said this, but it doesn’t appear to have caught on in human evolutionary speculation, so I’ll repeat it here:

  1. We are essentially social creatures.
  2. If we are essentially social creatures, we should consider looking at the social group as an organism, as opposed to just considering individual humans as the outcomes of evolution.
  3. This allows us to reconcile our paradigms of evolution to account for the enormous diversity of individual humans and their different behaviors.

Lost in the all the discussion of alpha and beta males, social cohesion and construction is the fact that those “undesirables,” the evolutionarily unfit for any number of reasons manage, against all odds, to survive. Their unfitness has been greatly over-exaggerated.

Not convinced? Consider cheese

Fact: For us to become cheese-eaters, someone had to look at a hunk of rotten milk, found, perhaps, in the dustiest, dirtiest corner of a prehistoric kitchen, stored in the festering stomach of an ox, and think “You know what? I’m going to put this in my mouth. I’m going to eat this.” The descendants of this unsung hero, whose bravery and ingenuity rivaled the most heroic of knights and scholars, survive to this day. One hears them frequently at parties; they say things like, “no, I can totally make that jump” or the infamous “Hold my beer and watch this.”

As an elitist, I understand how disgusting unintuitive actions can seem. Still, even while informing people that they cannot, in fact, make that jump, my interactions with others improve whenever I consider the brave souls who brought us cheese.

Descendants of the Cheese-People

The “cheese person” idea extends to other types of people (including condescending elitists). Pissing everyone off may not offer much by way of evolutionary advantage to an individual, but society at large benefits from having a group of people for whom nothing is good enough. Obsessive behaviors that we characterize as dysfunctional or “Aspie” may prove, in fact, dysfunctional in some contexts. Applied to problems like optimal farming techniques to the intricacies of human physiology, however, it contributes to the survival of our species.

The existence of aged cheddar may not immediately suggest that there is no “optimal” version of the human being, the “most evolutionarily fit.” Perhaps some people prefer to consider the many who lost their lives exploring uncharted lands or experimenting with dangerous chemicals. These individuals also matter to the strength of our species, but, before handing out our Darwin Awards or institutionalizing our eccentrics, we should remember the ways they helped us grow. Cheese, for instance