Ever wonder what happens when societies favor boys over girls?
Editors' note: Science magazine correspondent Mara Hvistendahl was a college student in China when she first saw an elementary school classroom where boys seriously outnumbered girls. Returning to China as a journalist several years later, she set out to investigate how, exactly, an estimated 163 million females came to be missing from the Asia's population—in South Korea, Vietnam, and Georgia, as well as India and China. The compelling result is Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, a new book that both shows how Western organizations and scientists played a role in introducing sex selection to Asia and paints a bleak picture of societies where a dearth of women puts everyone at risk.
In the weeks since the book came out, Hvistendahl has been making the rounds, addressing the World Affairs Council, the World Policy Institute, and officials from the US State Department. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat (read our profile of him) cited the book's revelations about sex selection to argue against abortion. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins weighed in, too, claiming Hvistendahl was attacking science over advances in prenatal technologies—to which the author responded with a post suggesting that Dawkins hadn't actually read the book. But many who have agree that it's a thought-provoking look at a mounting demographic problem. The following excerpt is adapted from the book's opening chapter.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,