three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
12-Sept-Oct-2004
By: 
Bryan Sykes
user_rating: 
0

A Future Without Men

A-AdamsCurseWhat would the world look like without men? For starters, some claim we’d have fewer wars, aggression, and instances of female subjugation. But is this world a real possibility? Sykes argues that the Y chromosome, which determines maleness and passes in near identical form from father to son, is the source of male aggression. In our violent history, the more aggressive Y chromosomes prevailed: he traces specific Y chromosomes back to conquering warriors who populated their lands (including, he theorizes, Genghis Kahn). However, the Y chromosome is in trouble: it is a "graveyard of rotting genes" subject to genetic mutation and thus headed toward extinction. Adam’s Curse offers an overview of genetics and gender, Y chromosome ancestry, and the uncertain future of men. But don’t worry—yet. You’re probably safe for a few more thousand years.
Norton. 320 pages. $25.95.
ISBN: 0393058964

San Antonio Express-News 4 of 5 Stars
"Sykes takes the reader on a fascinating journey with no clear destination and only the most uncertain outcome, and all the while he is funny, provocative and smart. Adam’s Curse is a great waltz with the intricacies of the male and female stripped down to their biological essences." Retha Oliver

Plain Dealer 3 of 5 Stars
"While men as the root of all evil is hardly a new concept–Sex and the City would have been plotless without it–Sykes assembles a powerful and scientifically sound set of genetic explanations for why it is valid. … His personification of the Y chromosome as, variously, ‘mad,’ ‘voracious’ and ‘crazed’ is understandable as a literary device, but scientifically it sets your teeth on edge." John Mangels

Washington Post 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Sykes’s detective work is fascinating: It’s enthralling to hear how he bloodhounded a particular Y chromosome from 21st-century Iceland back to Viking-era Norway. … [But] Adam’s Curse provides a simplifying logic that overwhelms all other competing explanations: Culture, environment, politics, economics–these are superficial." David Plotz

Critical Summary

Sykes, a geneticist at Oxford who studies DNA to help explain human history, explored mDNA and the origins of women in The Seven Daughters of Eve. Here, he turns to their stronger or weaker half, depending on who’s talking. He draws from different scientific fields to map out the battle between the sexes at its tiniest level. Some parts are riveting, other parts are too speculative: is homosexuality really a subversive matriarchal tactic? Overall, Sykes fascinates with asides that resemble those of the best science writers, but leaves too many vague ideas about genetic determinism floating around. Still, it’s a compelling read, the "dark side of the maternal tale" told in his previous book (Cleveland Plain Dealer).

Also by the Author

AS-SevenDaughtersThe Seven Daughters of Eve | Bryan Sykes (2001): Because mitochondrial DNA passes virtually unchanged from mother to daughter, our genetic makeup can be traced back to seven women who lived during the Ice Age.