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Adam's Curse

Adam’s Curse
Bryan Sykes
New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004
QH600.5 .S98 2004

With the publication of The Seven Daughters of Eve in 2001, Bryan Sykes, already one of the world’s preeminent geneticists, established himself as one of science’s most fascinating explicators of the mysteries of human origins. Now, in Adam’s Curse, he returns with an equally spellbinding volume that examines the perilous future of the Y chromosome and the ultimate survival of men. So dire is this situation, Sykes demonstrates, that the day will come, perhaps 125,000 years from now, when the Y chromosome could literally cease to exist.

As Sykes explains, the lowly Y chromosome, especially when compared to the body’s forty-five other chromosomes, exists in a fragile state, its durability worn down by many millions of years of attrition, over which time it has lost hundreds of genes. While other chromosomes contain as many as 1,000 different genes, the Y chromosome, unable to exchange genetic material or repair itself, now contains no more than a few hundred genes - and the prospects for a reversal of fortune are bleak if not nonexistent.

Sykes compellingly shows that this is not the stuff of science fiction but a reality borne out by genetic research. In Adam’s Curse, not only does he trace the scientific history of the Y chromosome, but he also uses this awareness to examine the huge differences between the male and female sexes - not just the physical and genetic ones, but also those that result from psychological, social, or even cultural differences.

Guiding his readers through chapters like "The Blood of Viking" and "Ribbons of Life," Sykes masterfully blends natural history with scientific fact, elucidating the mechanics of sexual reproduction, modern genetics, and evolutionary biology to reveal the inherent instability of the Y chromosome. Along the way, he covers a wealth of controversial topics, including how that instability affects growing infertility rates; whether there is a genetic cause for men’s greed, aggression, and promiscuity; the possible existence of a male homosexual gene; and what, if anything, can be done to save men from extinction.

Drawing on the most recent research, Sykes posits solutions to what seems like an unsolvable conundrum. His conclusions, and the whole of Adam’s Curse, will provoke debate for the years to come.

Quoted from dust jacket.