On Brian Sykes’ “Adam’s Curse: A Future without Men.”

Humanity’s plight is precarious today. Aside from consequences of human misbehavior, Natural disasters like global warming are lurking. Here is another threat that surpasses even mindless terrorism: There will come a time when there will be no more men in the world! Not this year or the next, but 125 thousand years hence.
So says this book, not as prophesy or warning but as a cool scientific prediction from the author’s interpretation of what is happening to the Y-chromosome. In anatomical terms, the Y-chromosome is the hall-mark of penis-endowed humans. Brian Sykes explains in this fascinating book how a male-less humanity will arise in the very distant future.
Sykes teaches the average reader a good deal of basic biology and genetics. The reader will learn about the range and variety in sexual reproduction, about how some exotic creatures procreate without following the standard model, and about the advantages and disadvantages male-female duality. It also offers us a glimpse of how genes course through our cultural past
We learn that many unpleasant characteristics like aggression, greed and promiscuity arise from the Y-chromosome: a scientific way of saying that these are essentially male features. Whereas on an average a chromosome may contain a thousand different genes, the Y-chromosome has but a few hundred left! Sykes says it has lost many genes over the eons, and is destined to vanish from the face of the earth.
Sykes’ conclusion hinges on the fact that mutations are occurring at a rate that makes 1 percent of men infertile and 1 percent of men in each generation 10 percent less fertile than their fathers. However, Sykes treats fertility as a continuous variable, decreasing smoothly, hitting every member of the population equally. This may be questionable. Reproduction is not limited in that way: a fertile man, e.g. one whose Y-chromosome does not happen to mutate, can have far more than his “share” of children, re-establishing the more fertile gene in the population.
Let us suppose the situation was even worse: Of 100 men, 40 were completely infertile, and 40 were sub-fertile. There would be 20 fertile men. What would happen in the next generation? One likely outcome could be that the 20 fertile men would take the opportunity to have 10 children apiece, re-establishing a population of about 100 men. But even if they only produced 50 total offspring, with 31 boys, most of these offspring would be fertile, say 30. The 30 sub-fertile men of this generation might have only 25 offspring with maybe 14 boys, all of whom would be sub-fertile. Now we have 30 fertile boys, and 15 sub-fertile or infertile boys.
Thus, within a generation, the sub-fertile to fertile ratio has shifted from 2:1 to 1:2 . In other words, the organisms whose genes make them reproductively fit are the ones who reproduce, increasing the incidence of those genes throughout the population.
We may leave these matters to professional geneticists to figure out. We may simply say that though the thesis that some day the world will have only women is not very pleasant, the book presents this dismal finding with eloquence, erudition, and charm.


About Varadaraja V. Raman

Physicist, philosopher, explorer of ideas, bridge-builder, devotee of Modern Science and Enlightenment, respecter of whatever is good and noble in religious traditions as well as in secular humanism,versifier and humorist, public speaker, dreamer of inter-cultural,international,inter-religious peace.
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One Response to On Brian Sykes’ “Adam’s Curse: A Future without Men.”

  1. Julien Marie says:

    It is well known that the female chromosome carries and passes on all the “possibilities,” but the decrease in male fertility is strictly environmental. Plastics, pesticides, etc. are decreasing male fertility. My thought is that Sykes is living a male-submissive fantasy: he probably has a collection of crush porn and giantess urls in his “favorites” list in Firefox.

    Scientists need that weird stuff to get out of their heads. 😉

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