Are you superfluous?

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?


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9 thoughts on “Are you superfluous?

  1. I agree with the woman who claims men are entertaining. They most certainly are, and why should this be taken as an insult? Playboy Magazine has been pushing this idea about women for years, and we’ve had to suck it up.

    I say, men add zest to every occasion. Sprinkle men around a room filled with women, and you’ll bring the whole gig down to earth fast and find things to be a lot more balanced and emotionally serene in the long haul. It’s the difference between us that makes things fun. Why the constant polarization about these things?

    • Hi Jean. You’re right. Men (and women) add zest which is why neither are superfluous. What got my ire with the NY Times piece was the degradation of any of us to our functional contribution, whether that be for our contribution to DNA or to humor. Thanks for commenting!

  2. So I guess the new tag line should be: “Look, up in the sky; it’s a gnat, it’s a frisbee; it’s Super-fluous! That should spark a movie: “Extinction, The Prequel.” It will be about men inventing complicated handshakes, 99-button remote controls, and chrome engine parts while civilization implodes.

  3. In a way, I am superfluous. I don’t matter much in the big scheme of things. Most would not remember me very long if I were to die today, and even much less if I turned 80 and moved on to the better world. Only a very few get remembered for very long in history.

    The article makes perfect sense in a world without God. But if there is a God, then that makes all the difference, for then there is a purpose beyond biological procreation for each and every person. In Him I am something. Apart from Him, I can do nothing.

    • Good thoughts, Brad. And, in that light, women are superfluous as well. “We must not thing more highly of ourselves than we ought to”. But, we shouldn’t think less of ourselves either, at least in light of the fact that we are created by the Almighty and, for that, we owe our lives to Him and He sees us as worthy of dying for. I guess that would then make us not superfluous or that death was for nothing. Hmmm…

  4. It seems like I hace heard this before and as usual the author of this article is looking at a myopic view of life on our planet. I actually think the thought of an all women world would scare 98% of the women out of their minds.
    There are a thousand unique things that men bring to life on our planet and he looks at one of them. It is interesting as well to note that the act of reproducing is needed only a few times over the course of a persons life where many of the other attributes are needed every day to keep life going on.
    By the way do you think after a while they might run out of frozen sperm. What would happen then? OPPPS!!!

    • You’re right Chris. Someone told me that the oldest sperm to have fertilized an egg was 40 years. Not sure if that’s right, but I’m betting God put some kind of expiration on those little buggers.

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