According to a Scientific American article, people with autism are less likely to invoke God to explain events in their lives.
Bethany T. Heywood, a graduate student at Queens University Belfast, asked 27 people with Asperger’s syndrome, a mild type of autism that involves impaired social cognition, about significant events in their lives. Working with experimental psychologist Jesse M. Bering (author of the “Bering in Mind” blog and a frequent contributor to Scientific American MIND), she asked them to speculate about why these important events happened—for instance, why they had gone through an illness or why they met a significant other. As compared with 34 neurotypical people, those with Asperger’s syndrome were significantly less likely to invoke a teleological response—for example, saying the event was meant to unfold in a particular way or explaining that God had a hand in it. They were more likely to invoke a natural cause (such as blaming an illness on a virus they thought they were exposed to) or to give a descriptive response, explaining the event again in a different way.
In a second experiment, Heywood and Bering compared 27 people with Asperger’s with 34 neurotypical people who are atheists. The atheists, as expected, often invoked anti-teleological responses such as “there is no reason why; things just happen.”
Some experts theorize that certain schizophrenia symptoms (for instance, paranoia) arise in part from a hyperactive sense of social reasoning. “I’d guess that they’d give lots of teleological answers; more than neurotypical people, and certainly far more than people with Asperger’s,” Heywood says.
As an atheist and probably not an …autist, I much prefer the responses of respondents with Asperger’s Syndrome to those of the atheists. A very reasonable response to “Why were you sick?” is “I was exposed to a virus.” The atheist’s “There is no reason why”, is ridiculous.
I enjoy reading Scientific American and respect it but I have to wonder about the reporting in this case. The article reports there were two studies and I would want to see the actual questions asked.
I am not disputting that people with Asperger’s Syndrome and atheists may have similar worldviews, but I, well, hope, that atheists can provide better answers than those given.