Are you superfluous? If you’re male, you just might be; at least according to the Opinion Pages of the New York Times. They recently ran an Op-Ed piece entitled “Men, Who Needs Them?” In it, biology and criminal justice professor at Boise State University, Greg Hampikian asks the question, “Does ‘mankind’ really need men?”
He points out that “women are both necessary and sufficient for reproduction, and men are neither.” Us guys merely contribute a “infinitesimally small packet of DNA” to the whole process, then step back and watch mom take over from there, nurturing the child both within the womb and outside it.
The idea of male detachment in earliest phases of child development is nothing new. Years ago Walter Trobisch wrote about the man waiting to hear the good news from the delivery room:
“This waiting-room experience is so painful for him because it underlines a fact that he can’t deny: he can never give birth to a child. After he has begotten the child, he is no longer needed. He has fulfilled his biological function. Now they can get along without him.” (The Misunderstood Man, InterVarsity Press, 1983)
Thirty years later, Professor Hampikian points out men are no longer even needed for conception:
“If all the men on earth died tonight, the species could continue on frozen sperm. If the women disappear, it’s extinction.”
Does that remind you of old science fiction movies about planets inhabited entirely by females? Not surprisingly, Professor Hampikian extends his Who-needs-men thesis by suggesting that “we should perform a cost-benefit analysis.” After citing some statistics about women graduates and female longevity he concludes his article with one redeeming virtue of men, and that offered by a female colleague. “They’re entertaining,” she says.
Really? Is the sum-total of men’s worth on this planet being reduced to a source for entertainment? Have we now become superfluous?
You might get the idea that I’m a disenfranchised male, pleading for a more noble valuation than to be entertainment for the lovely ladies in our lives. And it would be true, but only half true, because cultural degradation of value occurs for both genders. Consider the repression of women in third-world cultures, or even in the top echelons of corporate America.
This idea of measuring the value of a person by his (or her) function is utilitarianism run amok. Am I less of a person because I can’t change the oil in my car? Or play the piano? Or run a four-minute mile? It’s no different than calculating the chemical cost of the human body ($4.50 by the way) and drawing the conclusion that we’re really economically superfluous.
The value of a life is not determined by a utilitarian cost-benefit analysis, however. Your life and mine has value because it is endowed by our Creator. And that makes us far more valuable than mere fodder for entertainment.
Your thoughts? What other cultural messages have you heard that seek to diminish personal value?