Dads seem to be going out of style. Seemingly every other day in the media, I come across a story that hints we're becoming expendable.

Dads seem to be going out of style. Seemingly every other day in the media, I come across a story that hints we're becoming expendable.

The New York Times Magazine did a big spread on middle-aged single mothers who say they'd rather rely on each other than men. Parenting.com ran a long piece that amounted to a series of rants by moms about dads. A single woman gave birth to octuplets in California.

Well, fear not, dads. There will be a backlash. There is always a backlash. Here's what I think will happen: Someone will do a study revealing that dads are beneficial to child brain development. Sooner or later, every familiar facet of life is found to be beneficial to brain development: coffee, exercise, sunlight, prayer, wine, crossword puzzles. Inevitably, dads will join the list. How can it be otherwise?

As far as I know, dads have been around since the dawn of the human species. I doubt nature would have kept us around this long if our sole contribution was the well-known role we play in conception. Sure, in cave-man days, dads had to go out and bring home woolly mammoths for dinner, lest the family starve. But for at least a couple of centuries, and certainly in the last 50 years, women could have provided for their offspring without us. I don't think nature is keeping dads around just to grill steaks and keep the memory of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak alive. I suspect we stimulate neurological connections in the infant brain.

Mark my words: Scientists will soon announce that brushing a baby's cheek against a day's growth of beard adds 25 points to the child's IQ. Or that dangling a baby on a male knee while the NCAA basketball tournament blares in the background increases the child's ability to think abstractly. It's inevitable.

And I doubt it stops with the brain. Let's consider an observation that was made repeatedly by the ranting moms on parenting.com: Men are less concerned with hygiene than women. To the point, they might - I say might - allow a kid to get a little dirty over the span of, say, three or four days, before concluding that a bath might be order.

Well, could it be that nature has so ordered this trait because, as science is now beginning to suspect, overly sanitized kids don't develop robust immune systems? Don't develop the tough digestive tracts that come from eating the occasional dinner of Snickers bars, French fries and Fruit Roll-Ups? Don't learn where to spit, and where not to spit, in the house?

Once these studies are completed, society will begin to see dads in a new light. Stories will be written on the new dad craze - suddenly everyone wants one! Meanwhile, guys, let's acknowledge that some of us may indeed stand in need of improvement where domes-tic duties are concerned. So shape up. If we're going to be redeemed by science, we at least want to look as if we deserve the honor.

We may never be seen as the pinnacle of parenthood - it's tough to supplant the sex that grows offspring in their bodies - but at least we'll be back in second place. I'll take it.