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Description - Y: The Descent of Men by Steve Jones

Men, towards the end of the last millennium, felt a sudden tightening of the bowels with the news that the services of their sex had at last been dispensed with. Dolly the Sheep - conceived without male assistance - had arrived. Her birth reminded at least half the population of how precarious man's position may be. What is the point of being a man? For a brief and essential instant he is a donor of DNA; but outside that glorious moment his role is hard to understand. This book is about science not society; about maleness not manhood. The condition is, in the end, a matter of biology, whatever limits that science may have in explaining the human condition. Today's advances in medicine and in genetics mean at last we understand why men exist and why they are so frequent. We understand from hormones to hydraulics how man's machinery works, why he dies so young and how his brain differs from that of the rest of mankind.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780349113890
ISBN-10: 0349113890
Format: Paperback
(195mm x 130mm x 20mm)
Pages: 288
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 7-Aug-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - Y: The Descent of Men by Steve Jones

US Kirkus Review » Maleness as survival strategy seems increasingly unwise in this elaboration on the Y chromosome. As the old joke goes, referring to the two X chromosomes that determine female sex and the X-Y pair that confers maleness, everyone knows that women are cross (X) and men are wise (Y). Not in today's world, laments the author, who counts the ways in which men are undone by forces genetic, behavioral, social, cultural, and environmental. To begin with, the Y is a very small chromosome that lacks counterparts of many genes on the X, so its bearer is heir to such diseases as hemophilia and muscular dystrophy that are carried on the X. But that's just the beginning. Jones (Genetics/University College, London; The Language of Genes, 1994, etc.) deals with the origins of sexuality and Darwin's notions of sexual selection: women choose, men compete. He then rings changes on sexual behavior across the animal kingdom, demonstrating just how wrong Darwin could be. Even the sex of offspring is not immutable but in some species can be altered at various stages in the life cycle. On the whole, Jones's debunking is good and solid: no relation between baldness and virility, or an extra Y and criminality; no good reason for circumcision; no genes for homosexuality. He provides good information too on tracing human migrations using the Y chromosome. But arriving at these gems often means wading through masses of odd facts and tidbits Jones has collected, or (worse) suffering at length with coy references to the "member" in discourses on male anatomy, penile length, the nature of erections, and treatments for ED from time immemorial to Viagra. It seems that Jones is quite serious in bemoaning the dethroning of males in the third millennium, what with women outliving men, taking better care of themselves, and proving professionally competent. Informative but off-putting unless you agree that "ascent of women" implies "descent of men." (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Steve Jones

Steve Jones is Professor of Genetics at University College, London and has worked at universities in the USA, Australia and Africa. He gave the Reith Lectures in 1991 and presented a BBC TV series on human genetics and evolution in 1996. He is a columnist for the Daily Telegraph.

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