[Science Solitaire] Eve’s Letter to Adam (2nd of many)
Oh man, it could not possibly be easy being male!
Aside from the evolutionary mantra that your nature lives out which can be summarized to say that you are willing to die for sex, there are many other things that work against your being here among us Eves caught in ambivalent gratitude.
So I thought I would summarize some points that make you, Survivor Adam, deserve a congratulatory note.
Chromosomally speaking, you are relatively helpless. This is because you are born with X and Y chromosomes. Unlike females who are born with 2 Xs, any of their X can ask the other to correct any errors in the other. But basically, your X “errors” will stay since only another X can fix the bugs on the X.
Conception-wise, nature seems to initially favor your kind as a 2002 study has shown that there are generally 107 to 170 males per 100 females conceived. But still as a whole, boys are not as likely to live the full term in the womb as girls are, with 111 to 160 males dying per 100 females.
As babies, you fellas still outnumber females when you get out of the womb but again, statistically when babies have birth problems, the girls will more likely make it through than the boys. Same study above has the numbers.
As teenagers, the number of boys who are more likely to die from risky behavior dramatically increase relative to girls. During the teen years and even into your early 20s, boys are so much more likely to engage in behavior involving violence.
This poses the greatest threat to male mortality at this stage. This is when I think the “willing to die for sex” mantra seems to be piped directly into their heads like permanent earphones. This is probably why you do not recruit middle-aged men in the military. They would be a lot less willing to take risks than boys.
I also once tallied the record of Darwin Awardees. They are those who, by their own actions, have successfully and gloriously taken themselves out of the gene pool. My tally showed that males largely outnumbered females as Darwin Awardees and a good number of them belonged to the teens-to-20s age group.
The mortality race eases up for the males in mid-life but more males still die than females at this stage in humans. Studies also bear out that in developing countries with economic inequality and a high tolerance for male promiscuity, male mortality is higher than in countries with more egalitarian conditions, economically and gender-wise.
Women live longer
It seems that cultures that encourage male promiscuity contribute to the end of many men which, I can imagine, many are now thinking, could be viewed as some kind of karmic outcome.
When males reach their 5th decade on the planet into their 70s, they again increase their lead in number of deaths compared to women. Japanese scientists have recently found out that white cells that fight infection and cytokines which deal with inflammation and tissue damage decline faster in men with age.
They think this could be one major biological reason why women generally live longer than men.
At the concluding laps in current human lifetimes, the gap narrows, but among the centenarians and older, there are still more women than men who live that long.
So if you are male and reading this, congratulations! You have so far survived the biological obstacles of a male life. Best of luck ahead as you battle the odds. And while you are at it, you may want to ask for directions.
Till the next letter, Adam. – Rappler.com
Maria Isabel Garcia is a science writer. She has written two books, “Science Solitaire” and “Twenty One Grams of Spirit and Seven Ounces of Desire.” Her column appears every Friday and you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org