Not redundant yet

There are a number of things left incomplete in Cristina Odone's reaction to spermless conception (23 July).

First, the few people who would have access to such technology are scarcely numerous enough to have the evolutionary effect suggested: men's extinction or neutering. Upper- or middle-class women have long been able to use many social and biological opportunities (for example, nannies) without this having a discernible effect on the lives of their poorer counterparts. In any case, many of those prosperous enough to pay the medical costs of spermless reproduction would surely be men.

Second, nature will not cease to function simply because the alternative technology exists. What about all the unplanned pregnancies of the world?

Odone is right to be sceptical about this and other biological manipulations she has covered. However, if she wants to defend humanity from the threat of technological experiment, she would do better to use a tone that was informed by the human values she is seeking to protect.

Victoria Roberts
London SE13

Let me assure Cristina Odone that neither I nor the vast majority of men are ever likely to feel redundant. Who else would cut the grass, buy the booze, pay the rates, electricity, gas, insurance, replace fuses, cook half the meals, et cetera? When I was younger, it was frequently my lot to bath, powder and apply nappies to my babies and, later, to tell them bedtime stories or even sing them to sleep. When they were older, I taught them to sail. Fathers are as important as mothers.

After recently celebrating 55 years of marriage to my original spouse that have at times been hilarious, and enjoying blissful memories of old-style copulation, I recommend Odone to find a sympathetic boyfriend and stop worrying about science, which is, incidentally, increasingly practised by women as well as men.

J C Johnston
Gourock, Renfrewshire

This article first appeared in So what tribe do you belong to?

2001-07-30