Letters from the September 15, 2007, issue of Science News

Talk talk talk

“Hidden Smarts: Abstract thought trumps IQ scores in autism” (SN: 7/7/07, p. 4) didn’t mention that traditional IQ tests are in one sense “language” tests. The Ravens test doesn’t involve language processing in a typical manner. A person with a language disorder, as an autistic person is assumed to be, would do better on a nonverbal test. That the intelligence of autistic people can be underestimated is really due to the fact that our culture assumes that language skill equals intelligence.

Tammy Bush
San Francisco, Calif.

Troubled thoughts

“Trouble in Paradise” (SN: 7/7/07, p. 8) concerning schizophrenia in Palau reported a high incidence of the disorder among first- and second-generation immigrants to the West from developing countries. Could the phenomenon of relatively successful immigrants to the West (or their children) being drawn into acts of terrorism be a manifestation of schizophrenia?

Robert E. Hubbard
Winter Haven, Fla.

Schizophrenia isn’t generally associated with violent behavior.—B. Bower

I would expect a society with expert seafaring skills to remove frightening individuals to their own island, much as England sent convicts off to Australia. The effect would be a greatly increased concentration of inherited emotional illnesses, regardless of the stress.

Ben Northrup
Lee, Mass.

Smoke screening

“Smoke This: Parkinson’s is rarer among tobacco users” (SN: 7/14/07, p. 20) says that “there may be some fundamental difference in susceptibility to nicotine addiction between people who develop Parkinson’s and those who don’t.” If so, how would you explain the fact that “after smokers stubbed out their last butts, the protective effect faded”? Tobacco smoking is becoming unpopular, and for good reason, but I hope the “evil” of tobacco smoking will not stop scientists from at least considering that there might be some benefits to it. Many drugs are poisons.

Michal Suski
Ottawa, Ont.

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