Human Nature

The Coming Extinction of Men

And other news from science and technology.

(For the latest Human Nature columns on fetal pain, animal rights, and racism, click here.)

Some Germans are blaming Hurricane Katrina on U.S. environmental policies. A government minister said President Bush “closes his eyes to the economic and human damages that are inflicted on his country … by natural disasters, like Katrina, through neglected climate protection.” A German newspaper said “it will likely take a couple more hurricanes of the magnitude of Katrina before America changes its appalling environmental policies.”

Scientists are debating whether men will disappear. The male-defining Y chromosome has dwindled from 1,000 genes to 27 during the past 300 million years. But the loss seems to have stopped in the last 6 million years, and some researchers think they’ve found a mechanism that keeps the rest from vanishing.

Sixty-four percent of Americans want schools to teach creationism along with evolution. Forty-two percent think “living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time,” and another 18 percent believe in evolution but think a supreme being guides it.

The FDA approved a drug to make short kids taller. Patients who got the drug grew an inch more per year than patients who didn’t get it. It’s approved for rare conditions, but physicians think parents of other short kids will finagle prescriptions for it.

An FDA official quit to protest “abortion politics” in FDA obstruction of over-the-counter access to the morning-after pill. Agency scientists recommended approval of the pill but were overruled by the director. The agency denies bias. (For Human Nature’s take on the latest abortion politics, click here.)

A hormone increases male life spans 31 percent in mice. Female life spans increased 19 percent. Reports conflict over whether the hormone is risky or not. The eventual idea is to apply it to humans.

Nebraska is facing criticism for prosecuting a 22-year-old man who married a 14-year-old girl. They married in Kansas, where the age of marital consent is 12. Critics say the man was wrong to impregnate the girl but is making up for it by marrying her and helping to raise the baby. The man calls the attorney general a “home wrecker.”

Health officials asked Orthodox Jewish mohels to stop sucking blood from freshly circumcised penises. The practice, which cleans the wound, originated ages ago but was renounced by most Jews (it now occurs perhaps 2,000 times a year in New York City) when they realized it was medically dangerous. The new concern is herpes.

More evidence that coffee can be good for you: Among Americans, it’s the chief source of antioxidants, which help thwart cancer. Critics blame this statistic on Americans’ paltry consumption of vegetables and fruits, which are healthier sources of antioxidants.

California sued companies to put cancer warnings on potato chips and French fries. The products contain acrylamide, a suspected carcinogen. The attorney general cited a 1986 ballot measure that requires warnings on dangerous substances.

Latest Human Nature columns: 1) The political use of fetal pain. 2) The difference between blacks and animals. 3) Bill Frist, closet pro-choicer. 4) The emerging technology of artificial wombs. 5) The case for  growing embryos for their parts. 6)  Mandatory pregnancy: A true story. 7) The evolution of creationism. 8) If steroids are cheating, why isn’t LASIK?