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Friday, September 30, 2005

Adam's Curse, by Bryan Sykes

Sykes is a rare bird: an accomplished scientist who can write for the layman. He describes results of recent research into the history and future of the Y chromosome, which is special: unlike the other chromosomes in the body, it does not get to participate in recombination, thereby it is the chromosome that accumulates errors and is now excessively specialized. The book is an exciting read, and a real pleasure --- easily one of the best science books of the year for me. His description is clear even for someone who's not a geneticist.

If the book has a fault, it is that he claims that sexual selection is directly responsible for many of the ills today --- women are attracted to powerful men (or in the case of Genghis Khan, who has 16 million modern men carrying his Y chromosome, were forced into bearing the children of powerful men), and power as well as money are hereditary in most patriarchical society, thereby increasing the amount of greed and avarice and rapacious treatment of the environment. In reality, however, even if women were the only gender in the population, the desire to achieve better environments for one's offspring is just as strong in the X chromosome, which imply to me that the world would be in no better shape if only women existed. I've certainly met enough short-sighted and greedy women to realize that those traits are not entirely driven by testosterone.

If you're going to buy this book, buy the updated paperback version. I read the older hardcover, but it should be the same material.

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