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Adam's Curse: A Future without Men Hardcover

3.8 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Bryan Sykes follows up The Seven Daughters of Eve with the equally challenging and well-written Adam's Curse. This time, instead of following humanity's heritage back to the first women, Sykes looks forward to a possible future without men. The seeds of the book's topics were sown when Sykes met a pre-eminent pharmaceutical company chairman who shared his surname. Using the Y chromosome, which is passed nearly unchanged from father to son, the author found that he shared a distant ancestor with the other Sykes. Along the way, he discovered that the Y chromosome was worth examining more closely. The first third of Adam's Curse is devoted to a clear and comprehensive lesson about genetics, the second narrates several fascinating stories of tracing ancestry via the Y chromosome, and the last chapters explore the history of male humanity and its future. Some readers will eagerly skim until they reach Chapter 21, where Sykes gets to the heart of the matter--why and how the Y chromosome has created a world where men overwhelmingly own the wealth and power, commit the crimes, and fight the wars. He uses the structural puniness of the Y chromosome to demonstrate that men are as unnecessary biologically as they are dominant socially. Sykes' provocative and quite personal book is likely to be unpopular among science readers who prefer their biology divorced from sociology, but his points taken in context will be difficult to refute. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Well-known Oxford geneticist Sykes (The Seven Daughters of Eve), in this lively and thought-provoking book, gives a genetic twist to the battle between the sexes. All human existence, he says, stems from the battle between the X and Y chromosomes to further their own reproduction at the expense of the other. The Y chromosome is passed on only by fathers, while mitochondrial DNA is passed on only by mothers. Sykes shows that many members of several Scottish clans (most notably the Macdonalds) can be traced via their Y chromosomes back to a common ancestor. Researchers have also been able to trace the extent of Viking settlement and intermarriage in the British Isles and northern Europe through Y chromosome distribution. Sykes's argument for a genetic role in homosexuality will undoubtedly be controversial. Using Dean Hamer's pedigrees, he claims that evidence points less to a "gay gene" than to mitochondrial DNA playing the leading role in a Machiavellian plot to further its own reproduction. Sykes concludes by noting that, as evidenced by declining sperm counts and high percentages of abnormal sperm, among other variables, the Y chromosome is a genetic mess and is deteriorating so quickly that men could become extinct. Those who find that a happy thought will want to snap up this book, as well as readers interested in learning what our chromosomes tell us about where we came from and where we may be headed. 6 illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • ISBN-10: 2702890490
  • ISBN-13: 978-2702890493
  • ASIN: B000FUO0NS
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,161,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Donald B. Siano on April 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Sykes has done it again with this follow-up of his "Seven Daughters of Eve." "Adam's Curse" is a terrific survey of the latest findings on human genetics as told through the Y chromosome, inherited exclusively through one's father. There are plenty of new ideas here, coupled with a rather informative short course on the twentieth century's additions to Darwin's theory of evolution.
This is not a dry recitation of the facts, by any means. It contains his personal story of unraveling some of these puzzles himself, told in an a lively and amusing manner, sure to hold the reader's interest. There are history lessons, such as the one about the lamentable foul-ups of the microscopists trying to count the chromosomes. And Sykes tale of observing his own Y chromosome, carrying out the manipulations with his own hands, is described in some detail. There are stories about his coworkers, including the giant William Hamilton, who probably is second only to Darwin in developing the theory of evolution. But mostly it is the story of the application of modern genetics to the varied populations of the world, the story of their migrations and conquests, and the struggle of the Y chromosome to survive.
Sykes' distinct approach is to apply some relatively simple molecular probes to Y chromosomes obtained from many individuals in a variety of populations on a fairly big scale, rather than the other important task, carried on by a myriad of scientists, of trying to understand all the biological minutiae of a single prototypical human.
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Format: Hardcover
Unlike the other Amazon reviewers of the book, I am not an outside observer ... I'm actually in the book, as I'm one of the "Somerled people" he has a whole chapter about. That is, I share the same DNA as the MacDonalds he tested and claimed were descended from Somerled, a Viking who was the hero of the Gaelic northern Scots.

This is a wonderful chapter, well written and compelling ... especially for me! It's also quite correct. Unfortunately Prof. Sykes won't share his DNA results with other researchers, genealogists, and the general Clan Donald membership, so a new study was set up by the Clan Donald, and I am privy to their actual numbers. They are rock solid proof.

Seeing the actual numbers .... the Clan Donald study has published the most likely actual DNA marker numbers for Somerled ... leads farther back. Sykes's next chapter after MacDonald is about Genghis Khan, who hailed from central Asia. Interestingly, and this is where secrecy can be counterproductive, someone noticed that Somerled numbers, as well as lots of Icelanders' ones, showed a close affinity for men in a certain central Asian tribe. Time will tell whether the Vikings themselves came from central Asia. Stay tuned.

I found most of the book, not just my own chapter, quite entertaining, except for the part that makes up the title. It is simply baloney. As others have reviewed, Sykes has a good popular style and gets across a goodly dose of the science of DNA to the non-genealogist layman. It's just the disastrously stupid idea that human men will disappear ... it's odd he does not note that the exact same argument applies to all mammals .... and they've been around a LONG time ... that ruins this book. I need not say much more, as others have pilloried Sykes sufficiently for his transgressions.
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Format: Hardcover
Perhaps it's my ignorance of genetics. Or possibly it's the vertigo-inducing thought that there's a whole set of cellular actors with agendas of their own out there manipulating human behavior. But, for whatever reason, Bryan Sykes' book, "Adam's Curse: A Future Without Men," made my head spin.

Is Sykes' main point in "Adam's Curse": 1) that the Y chromosome is dying out and thank goodness it is, because if not it would eventually destroy us all? 2) that the Y chromosome is dying out and actually that's a bad thing which we'd better do something to stop? 3) that the Y chromosome is neither better nor worse than the X chromosome, each one fighting to replicate itself down the generations (alternative book title suggestion: "Chromosomes Gone Wild: The Battle of the Sexes Goes Cellular!")? 4) that the Y chromosome is truly and veritably a "curse," guiding the Vikings, the Genghis Khans of the world, and men in general to rape, pillage, and burn their way through history? 5) that the species -- and the planet, for that matter -- would be better off if men were completely eliminated and women reproduced with each other? 6) that male-female sexual reproduction is inherently a bad thing? 7) that we we are all just puppets of our chromosomes and DNA, which are using us to their own ends? 8) that all these issues are to be looked at objectively and dispassionately as a scientist? 9) alternatively, that these issues should be considered subjectively and emotionally by a human being with a particular set of beliefs regarding civilization? Ouch, my head hurts!

Whatever the answers to the questions posed above, in my opinion "Adam's Curse" is well worth reading as a fascinating and important, if strange and disturbing, book.
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