Colin Blakemore,Professor of Neuroscience at the Universities of Oxford and Warwick
If we identify and eliminate the genes that cause mental disorders, do we risk destroying the rich creativity that often accompanies them?
Isaac Newton was able to work without a break for three days. Einstein took a job in a patent office because he was too disruptive to work in a university. HG Wells was so gawky and insecure at school that he had only one friend. Are these psychiatric disorders that should be treated or genius that should be cherished?
In a new book, Genius Genes, Irish psychiatrist Michael Fitzgerald argues that special forms of creativity are associated with a variety of cognitive disorders.
Fitzgerald describes how Charles de Gaulle’s Asperger’s syndrome was critical to his success as a politician. He was aloof, had a phenomenal memory, lacked empathy with other people, and was extremely controlling and dominating. He also showed signs of autistic repetitiveness and was similar in many respects to other politicians whom Fitzgerald argues also had Asperger’s, including Thomas Jefferson in the US and Enoch Powell in Britain.
The oddness of many great writers is well documented and a surprisingly high proportion of poets, in particular, had symptoms that indicate manic depression. See Touched with Fire and An Unquiet Mind
The richness of humanity and the power of our culture are, in no small way, attributable to the diversity of our minds. Do we want a world in which the creativity linked to the oddness at the fringes of normality is medicated away?