Adam's Curse

I just finished one of the most captivating, enlightening and exciting books I've read lately... no, make that ever! Seriously, this book makes you wonder and belittles you. It also makes you think about a lot of different other things in life...

Whoa. I've been raving on without even mentioning the name of the book eh!? My apologies. The book is called "Adam's Curse", written by Professor Bryan Sykes, a genetist. Mind you, this aint no Harry Potter and aint no LOTR either! It's total non-fiction science narrated in a most engaging style.

The book is about the sexes and goes on from a humble introduction to the animal genetics and the rise of the sexes, especially in humans. After quenching the questions on the need for the sexes, how it came about and why there are only two sexes to be seen, the book then goes onto introduce the X and Y chromosomes. The X and Y chromosome is then chopped into tiny bits, detailing the discoveries of the intricate details of these then elusive sex chromosomes.

This is where it starts to get interesting. The details of the Y chromosome reveal utter truths about itself - its a barren war zone! It's incapable of recombination. It has a high mutation rate. And more importantly (and amazingly), how it was discovered that the default gender of a human baby is always female! A male is produced by the flick of a genetic "switch" by a single gene named SRY, but the story of the sexes goes more deeper. The female X chromosome and the male Y chromosome is ALWAYS at battle with each other. Apparently, this fight for survival lead to many things... including making the Y chromosome resilient, tough and highly aggresive. Prof. Sykes takes the invasions by the Vikings and other conquests by rulers (all of them males of course) as an example of the Y chromosome's need to spread itself and dominate.

In the later chapters, the author explores various ways in which the X chromosome is brutally working to dominate over the Y chromosome and paints a picture of the future for men - which according to him is quite bleak. Then it tells how the X chromosome fought back. How some females seemed to produce more girls than boys. How X chromosomes makes life hard or impossible for Y chromosomes. Like how X chromosomes silently kill Y chromosomes (males) by hindering the performance of the Y chromosone containing sperm, or causing miscarriages for male babies. The diminishing rate of male fertility shown by statistics is also brought up. Gay behaviour is visited as well, discussing whether it maybe genetic or not, whether it is a direct manipulation by the X chromosomes. In effect, the author says, the female X chromosome is winning he evolutionary battle!

He then explores various interventions we could and may make and also how nature - how Gaia - would react. He goes as far as suggesting a future without men entirely and recommends the elimination of the male gender for a more harmonious world! In the finishing pages of the book, he explores how the rapidly mutating and beaten up Y chromosome maybe saved and enhanced to sustain the male sex.

The book is truly truly an eye-opener. It made me think deeper than a philosophy discourse ever made me... Far more thoughts induced in me than I can list here. We obsess about our freedom and intellect, yet genetics proves something more fundamental - some thing far more influential for our behaviour and actions. We are driven by the tiny DNA and chromosomes we carry and they have a lot more say on the choices and decisions we make - unconsciously but surely.