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On the progressive trend to declare women self-sufficient save for an occasional trip to the sperm bank.
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Yet pair-bonding within the group produced much more than this. It also engaged males in child rearing. This additional paternal protection paved the way for other developments — most notably our larger brains. Anthropologists have long noted that upright posture narrowed the hips and made giving birth more difficult for early hominid females. At the same time, the social demands of maintaining the monogamous band in a more challenging environment put a premium on social intelligence. Researchers now believe it was these personal demands — and not some inclination toward “tool-making” — that created the selection pressure for bigger brains. But enlarged brains only made birth even more difficult. As a result all human beings are born about two months prematurely. Most mammals can walk and run within a week whereas we are completely helpless for more than two years. The only thing that would have made this long, out-of-womb period of development possible would be the care of two parents instead of one. The domestication of males into child-rearing creatures was probably the most important step in human evolution.
There is much more to the story. Read Professor Hampikian’s article and you will find he lavishes most of his detail on how our mothers provide nearly all the substance of our bodies, while the male contributes “less than one-millionth of your mass.”
[Y]our father’s 3.3 pictograms of DNA comes out to less than one pound of contribution since the beginning of Homo sapiens 107 billion babies ago.
But as Aristotle taught us, there are both material and formal causes. That 3.3 pictograms may not amount to much on the material scale, but it represents 5 million years of hard-won evolutionary progress. And almost all of that progress has occurred on the Y chromosome.
By concentrating only on the act of reproduction, Professor Hampikian has also missed out on something else — what we might call “civilization.” Here the shape and form of our public life — the rules and regulations by which we live, the trade and cooperation, conflict and war — have all essentially been crafted and created by men. Women are getting very good at participating and in some cases even exceeding the performance of men. But despite what feminist historians will tell you, civilization — in both its positive and negative aspects — has essentially come out of the male gene.
What Professor Hampikian is paving the way for, of course, is the culture of single motherhood. Once confined to the Africa-American underclass, it is now making headway at all levels of society. Indeed, many of the responses on the Times website were from single mothers telling how proud they are to have conceived without a man. But what we are really witnessing here is the unraveling of five million years of human evolution. Professor Hampikian and others like him would do well not to get too hung up on the question of which sex provides more nourishment in the womb. After all, there’s a lot more to being human than the act of reproduction.
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