Men are NOT going to go extinctTuesday, 15 July, 2008
Men are soon going to be useless, so there will be no more men. At least, that is the view of Dr Robert Sparrow. I’m sure he is just being tongue-in-cheek, because men are not going to go extinct. Well, not before women anyway.
Dr Sparrow, lecturer in bioethics at Monash University (Melbourne, Australia), argues that females have a more ‘open future’ than men. The open future argument is a fairly common one in bioethics since Joel Feinberg first argued that we should place as few limitations on the possible options available to our children (in the context of whether Amish families should be able to withdraw their children from schooling). Dr Sparrow explains that:
I do think that when philosophers start talking about using medical technology to achieve things that aren’t about health, so increasing people’s IQ or life expectancy for example, you have to ask why we shouldn’t all be girls.
Since an all-female world could reproduce using either frozen sperm, human sperm grown in mice, or even cloning, if the goal is long-lived, smart kids, then females are the way to go. But there are two main problems with this argument.
First, while men do have a lower life expectancy than girls, they are not significantly less intelligent. In fact, as the variation in intelligence is greater in males, most genius embryos will be males. In addition, the male brain excels at certain types of intellectual tasks, such as mathematics and spatial logic. It is not entirely due to sexism that most engineers, physicists and mathematicians are men.
Second, intelligence is not the only characteristic to be considered in the ‘open future’ argument. Men have greater lung capacity, more red blood cells, increased muscle growth and are better at detecting movement in their visual field. Therefore choosing to have a female child could limit the child’s future in the military, law enforcement, manual labour or other physical tasks; by choosing a male child, you could open up the possibility to run the 100m sprint in less than ten seconds. So really it depends what sort of futures you want to open and what ones you want to limit, rather than just trying to measure limitations numerically.
These are major problems with the “right to an open future” argument. Often opening up one part of a child’s future involves closing another. For example, giving a child tennis lessons in her youth uses up time that could be spent learning equestrian sports or reading novels. Creating the ‘best possible child’ may be a worthy goal, but the definition is hardly clear. For some, a little boy would be better than a little girl, and for others a little girl would be better than a little boy. As long as those differences in opinion exist, even with full control over reproduction there will still be both men and women, both boys and girls.