The male has been differentiated from the female in distinct, non-biological ways throughout human history. Privileges and responsibilities, including royalty and headship, typically pass along the line of male descendants. In a grossly distorted way, this reflects the Bible’s arrangement of “headship,” elucidated at 1 Corinthians 11:3. As will be seen in the discussion to follow, the distinguishing biological difference between the male and the female is the so-called y-chromosome. This chromosome might seem to be in danger. What are the sources of this danger? What does such danger imply?
Humans and Heredity Every human organism, although similar in its most important characteristics, nevertheless displays differentiating family and individual traits. The information “portfolio” of an individual’s existence is borne in certain macromolecules called the DNA. These macromolecules are contained in microscopic structures called genes, which are themselves contained in 23 pairs of heredity-bearing units, the chromosomes.
What Determines Sexuality? Most of the chromosomes—in fact 22 of the 23 pairs—are found in the male and the female alike, and are termed “autosomes.” The remaining, lone pair are termed sex chromosomes. In the female, the pair consists of two similar, though not identical, chromosomes. These are named for their distinctive shape, x-chromosomes. In the male, the pair of sex chromosomes includes only one x-chromosome. The other, possessing a different appearance, is called the y-chromosome. It should be noted that since the male can offer either an x- or a y-chromosome, whereas the female can provide only an x-chromosome, it is the male who determines the gender of any child resulting from the sexual act.
Genetic Dangers Interestingly, the Bible indicates the earliest form of genetic damage occurred as a result of the first human sin in the Garden of Eden. That genetic damage can and has occurred is valid, and should be recognized, whether one accepts that account as valid or not. Experiments involving radiation have aptly demonstrated this fact, as the Department of Energy acknowledges. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) delineates dozens of genetic birth defects. One of the known dangers is smoking, which is discussed in an article, referenced below, for the Cleveland Clinic Center for Reproductive Medicine. Another danger, mentioned in that same article, is assisted reproductive techniques (ART). In fact, there are many genetic endangerments. Some of these dangers come from exposure to certain chemicals known to alter DNA—mutagens. Does the y-chromosome possess no internal protection from outside influences?
Repair Mechanisms Since females have two x-chromosomes, weaknesses in the one chromosome can be compensated for by the second chromosome. Such is not the case for the single y-chromosome. As a result, all looked doom and gloom for the y-chromosome and, as a result, human reproduction.
Wonderfully, however, it has come to light that the y-chromosome possesses a mechanism within itself to insure errors are overcome. Dr. David C. Page, Director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, indicates the y-chromosome serves as a “palindrome” of itself. That is, it contains a mirror image of its information within itself. Damage sustained by the chromosome can be fixed by the chromosome itself!
- Human Genome Project Information
- The Office of Health, Safety and Security: How Does Radiation Affect Humans?
- Genetics/Birth Defects
- Cleveland Clinic Center for Reproductive Medicine: Sperm DNA damage and its clinical relevance in assessing reproductive outcome
- The University of Utah: Y Chromosome DNA (Video)
- Whitehead Institute for Medical Research: David C. Page, MD