Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Planned Obsolescence

In the seemingly endless fight between Evolutionists, and those who take theological umbrage at Evolution, root and branch, the former roll out the evidence, and the latter yearn--so far in vain--for that single, knockout blow.

Ironically, though knockout blow there might be, the punch is coming from the Evolutionist side. As explained in the recent NPR piece As Y Chromosome Shrinks, End of Men Pondered there have not always been, nor need there always be, men.

In addition to being counterintuitve, speaking as an admitted guy-person, this is decidedly unwelcome news. Whither babies without men?

It gets even more unwelcome. This is where the counterintuitive part comes in. Not all species require men, and I'm not talking just about the French here. In fact in many species--again, the French are not the only examples--the men aren't male. Turtles, for example, have managed this feat. Male turtles are females incubated at a different temperature.

While the genesis of sex is a singular mystery, the advent of genetic males is less so. About 300 million years ago--insert "so the theory goes" caveat here--a species in the Therodont line of dinosaurs suffered/lucked into a mutation in the prevailing XX layout relying on temperature to an XY layout: males became genetically distinct.

Duck, here comes the roundhouse punch.

At that long distant time, the both the X & Y genes were the same size--identical except for that mutation. NB--there are XXs, otherwise known as the source of all that is perfect in life. And XYs. The rest of us. But there are no YYs, which means the Y chromosome, unlike the X, never exists as a matched set in order to do error correction.

The X chromosome has about 1000 genes. The Y, once also 1000 genes long has, absent robust repair mechanisms, become today a mere, trivial, vanishing, nearly vestigial, 78. Good for virtually nothing except producing sperm cells.

Now this is just the sort of stumbling nonsense one should expect from shambolic evolution: extinction via a whimper instead of a bang.

But as a sign of Intelligent Design? How the heck smart is this?

The better writers generally avoid introducing something new in the conclusion, but not suffering that burden, I am not deterred. In case your ethical argument against embryonic stem cell research needs bolstering, know this: researchers have recently managed to use those stem cells to create the business end of mouse sperm cells, and successfully fertilized mouse eggs with them.

As I write, it takes men to create sperm cells. But not if this research reaches fruition. Once those stem cells get going, they just don't quit.


Blogger Duck said...

So what do all the other genes that are missing from the Y chromosone code for? Asking directions? Color coordination?

December 14, 2004 7:20 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

This may be a good example of why there is so much popular cynicism about scientism. Let's assume this guy knows what he is talking about and that his comparative gene counts are accurate. Let's also assume he knows somewhow that 300 million years (back when men were men!) ago X's and Y's were equal. As you suggest, Jeff, the only explanation would be evolution, and I assume you agree that implies a progressive reduction over huge swaths of time.

Now, up until, say, 1900 or even later, this would have been a true mystery because no one could have thought of any reason at all why the Y was any less necessary than the X or why it would have genetically shrivelled. But, lo and behold, we just happen to live in an age where, as a result of feminism, reproductive technology and general prosperity, we have become socially preoccupied with decline and the disappearing need for men. The pop psychology bookshelves groan under the weight of tomes discussing the uselessness of men, who are are said to be terribly confused as to what they are here for. Meanwhile, social conservatives are trying to reassert traditional masculine duties and responsibilities, at least in some social roles. You're right, Jeff, this has to be disheartening to them. Best just give up.

I assume you agree it is absurd to suggest the Y went from 1000 genes to 78 in thirty years in direct response to Gloria Steinem's rants. I suppose the answer I would be given is that I am making a huge conceptual error by equating the X with the female and the Y with the male in any social context. But as your post and Duck's hilarious quip suggest, that's how it will be interpreted and how I suspect the scientist wants it to be interpreted, even if only subliminally. In fact, subliminally would be best because it wouldn't be 'scientific" to say so out loud. But what are his chances for follow-up funding if it isn't?

December 15, 2004 3:28 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Sorry, post-post thought. Isn't there something just sublimely poetic to the image of the Y chromosome "shrinking" in response to X's contemptuous lack of interest?

December 15, 2004 3:40 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


I think the more probitive question is whether this is peculiar to human males, limited to primates, or typical of all mammals.

Very more probitive, come to think about it. Seems to me that if the degenerative Y is limited to some subset of all mammals, Evolutionary thinking is in for some serious revision. If it is not so limited, however, then the opposit obtains.

While my point is somewhat tongue in cheek, it is really directed not at social conservatives, but rather at proponents of some form of ID. That position gets very difficult to defend if said intelligence failed to notice eventual, inevitable failure.

That said, I don't think you are making a conceptual error by equating X with female roles, and Y with male. In fact, it is those who fail to make that connection who are making the profound, nearly unforgivable, mistake.

I agree such shrinking is poetic, particularly if your taste in poetry tends towards epitaphs. But it is the stem cell thing that really got my attention. For that would make completely irrelevant what little contribution far too many men make.

December 15, 2004 11:35 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Seeing as I'm genetically French, I should probably make some policy about dissing French manhood on the blog.

Is this scientific proof that men are defective? Could we get manhood covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act? I've tried this excuse with my wife, but it doesn't seem to earn me any slack.

Seriously, isn't male behavior important in the sex selection process for ensuring that only the best genes make it into the next generation? (Not that sex selection works anymore). How will women know how to select good sperm unless some reckless swaggering male is bungee jumping off of cliffs or beating up on other males to prove his stuff?

December 16, 2004 2:14 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home