Envisioning a World Without Men

Imagine a world without men: Lauren Bacall but no Bogie, Hillary Clinton but no Bill, no Starsky or Hutch.

This isn't just an unlikely sci-fi scenario. This could be reality, according to Bryan Sykes, an eminent professor of genetics at Oxford University and author of "Adam's Curse: A Future Without Men."

"The Y chromosome is deteriorating and will, in my belief, disappear," Sykes told me. A world-renowned authority on genetic material, Sykes is called upon to investigate DNA evidence from crime scenes. His team of researchers is currently compiling a DNA family tree for our species.

Y Chromosome 'Fatally Flawed'

The Y chromosome is passed from father to son, it's what makes babies into boys. Basically the human template is a female: the Y chromosome kicks in a few weeks after conception and makes a boy. "Men are genetically modified women," explained Sykes. But unlike other chromosomes, the Y chromosome can't repair itself and will, says Sykes, disappear altogether in about 125,000 years.

"Every generation one percent of men will have a mutation which reduces their fertility by 10 percent," explained Sykes. Unlike most chromosomes, the Y does not travel through the generation in pairs, so can never repair itself from a mirror. Flaws are never repaired. "So if that goes on for generation after generation," Sykes argued, "eventually there are no functioning Y chromosomes left."

So no more men … sparsely populated sports bars, Ferrari would lose the lion's share of its business, and Hooters would probably go out of business.

It's a long time, 125,000 years. But we men have a far more immediate problem: sperm counts have fallen by an incredible 20 percent in the past 50 years. Stress? Alcohol? Environmental pollution? Who knows, but it's deeply concerning for those of us with a vested interest in the survival of the male.

Sykes has received hate mail.

"To seem to be saying that men will become extinct, which is what I am saying," he mused. "I've had all kinds of messages from male groups saying, 'how can you betray your gender?'"

But would the absence of men make the world a better place? There would be far fewer wars without men on the planet, and the U.S. prison population would drop a colossal 97 percent. Road deaths in the U.S. would fall 70 percent. The Olympics would be half as long, which some people might view as a good thing.

Female-Only Reproduction

But surely, flawed Y chromosome or not, bad behavior or not, we are needed for procreation. Women can't have babies without us … right? I'm afraid, pretty soon they won't need our sperm, our chromosomes, our anything.

Until now, female-only reproduction has been limited to the plant and animal kingdom. So-called parthenogenesis, observed in the Cape Honey Bee, the Kimono Dragon and the hammerhead shark. In humans: confined to 1950s B movies. But Sykes says the technology for women to procreate without us is just around the corner.

"Within the next few years you will get two women having a child who is the biological child of both of them," Sykes said. "And entirely normal in every respect, but always female."

They've already done it with mice. Two mothers: the genetic material from one used to fertilize the egg of the other.

Two Mommies

The picture that Professor Sykes is painting is of a nuclear family without a man in sight.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: A home damaged by a landslide Friday, April 18, 2014 in Jackson, Wyo. is shown in this aerial image provided by Tributary Environmental.
Tributary Environmental/AP Photo
null
Danny Martindale/Getty Images
PHOTO: Woman who received lab-grown vagina says she now has normal life.
Metropolitan Autonomous University and Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine