My cat is sad! »« Religious fundamentalists disagree with each other on everything but agree on one thing!

To give birth to Neanderthal man? Why not?

George Church, a genetics professor at Harvard Medical School, seeks an adventurous-woman who is interested in giving birth to a Neanderthal baby.

George Church’s arguments for the recreation of Neanderthals:

1. Neanderthals were in fact a highly intelligent race and they could be recreated through modern medicine.

2. We can clone all kinds of mammals, so it’s very likely that we could clone a human. Why shouldn’t we be able to do so?

3. Recreating Neanderthals would benefit mankind. Neanderthals might think differently than we do. We know that they had a larger cranial size. They could even be more intelligent than us.

4. When the time comes to deal with an epidemic or getting off the planet or whatever, it’s conceivable that their way of thinking could be beneficial.

5.They could maybe even create a new neo-Neanderthal culture and become a political force. The main goal is to increase diversity. The one thing that is bad for society is low diversity.

6. This is true for culture or evolution, for species and also for whole societies. If you become a monoculture, you are at great risk of perishing.

7. Therefore the recreation of Neanderthals would be mainly a question of societal risk avoidance.’

Popular opinions on bringing Neanderthals back to life:

1. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should…

2. Why would anyone do this, what sort of life would that child have? Unnecessary.

3. This is wrong on so many levels !

4. Another fruitcake out of touch with reality . Surely there are more pressing concerns to be addressed

5. Playing with nature…

6. Did he not get the moral of Jurassic Park – don’t mess with nature. As fascinating as it would be to meet another species of hominid, they went extinct for a reason. Beside, this child would be brought up by H. sapiens, nurture would trump nature in personality traits therefore the main scientific gains would be from physical study which we can get from bones anyway – would be interesting to see speech capabilities and vocal range.

7. Disgusting, what would this child be treated as, human or animal to be owned, observed and experimented on? Genetic scientists have lost sight of a moral compass.

8. Plenty around where I live, professor I invite you to come and observe their behaviours.

9. How cruel. If a baby was born like that, he or she would undergo a lifetime of painful experiments and testing and would be treated like some sort of laboratory experiment. It’s a terrible thing to try to do, and any woman who agreed to take part in such an experiment would be a lowlife.

10. Maybe we should cure cancer first? No doubt the man is brilliant, but his goals seem a bit misguided.

11. Larger skull size, no woman would volunteer to push that out!

12. He’ll have no problem finding a womb for hire, esp if he pays well. But the innocent sounding reasons for doing this ‘they think differently and may help us with our problems’ are weak and lame. Do they really think we’ll fall for that? The real agenda may be much more sinister but will never be revealed.

13. There is a reason they are extinct. I believe this to be unethical, tinkering with nature and evolution in this manner is unlikely to end well. The planet is already overcrowded so it is unwise to introduce an extinct competing species to us. Just because you CAN, it doesn’t mean that you SHOULD. The risks outweigh the benefits at this time.

14. Who is going to raise the child, the mother or the scientist ??

15. But what kind of tragic life would that man lead? He would be an experiment. It’s inhuman to create life just for observation

16. The poor child would have a very lonely existence, spending its entire life as a scientific experiment and being constantly gawked at like an animal in a zoo. That scientist is a very selfish man.

17. Don’t be screwing with nature, Doc. The human species is bad enough as it is, without creating a mutant. Playing God is like playing with fire.

18. How disgusting, to deliberately have a child that will never lead a normal life. Will it live in a cage in a lab ?. Anyway as others have pointed out there are still plenty about if you look round the town. Dolly the sheep didn’t last long.

19. So wrong! I thought it was all about evolution, not going back. It’s not April Fool’s yet, is it, or have I missed something?

20. Sounds awfully like the start of horror movie to me…..

21. I’m all for cloning to be used, for example, to grow single organs, or even to reintroduce a species that we caused to become extinct, and that is needed to maintain an environmental balance. But cloning an intelligent, self-aware being that would be the only one of its species is simply immoral.

22. This is not a good idea, to bring about the birth of a child from an extinct branch of man would be cruel, on its own in our world with no-one of its own race to turn to when its troubled, it would be a prisoner, a lab rat, why not bring back T Rex?, at least it could EAT its tormentors.

23. Primitive man lived in the primitive world, and thats where he should stay.

24. This guy is truly as mad as Frankenstein.

25. Omg, please tell me this is a joke?

Not many people want to bring Neanderthals back to life. My opinion on the return of the Neanderthals is, if a woman agrees to give birth to a Neanderthal baby, then why not? It will be Homo sapien’s one of the best scientific achievements if Neanderthals are successfully recreated. I am curious to see the success of the experiment. 100,000 years ago, we shared this planet with several other species of human, all of them clever, resourceful and excellent hunters, but we Homo sapiens only survive. Scientists say, ‘one of the crucial elements of Homo sapiens’ adaptations is that it combines complex planning, developed in the front of the brain, with language and the ability to spread new ideas from one individual to another’. The Neanderthals died out about 30,000 years ago not only because the Ice Age limited available food supplies, but because Homo sapiens killed them off. Bats, bears, bees, birds, butterflies, buffaloes share their world with many other species of bats, bears, bees, birds, butterflies, buffaloes. Why should humans be afraid to have another species of humans? Just because we can, I think we should. Life without challenges is boring.

Comments

  1. The Mellow Monkey says

    How they’re describing doing it on the Daily Fail sounds like bullshit fantasy talk to me, but I’m sure someone more educated in the field could weigh in better.

    I love the idea of another species of human and being able to see how we differ from Neanderthals firsthand. Unfortunately, even if the DNA was completely intact and everything went off without a hitch and the baby didn’t immediately die from diseases upon birth…we’d be bringing someone into the world who could never, ever live as just another person. How could the world’s only Neanderthal go to school? How could they have a career? Relationships? Bigotry and stereotypes are bad enough for people who have millions or billions of other people like them, but how might it be when someone is the sole representative of their species?

    I would love to see another species of humanity, but the thought of someone being the only member of their species–divorced from any cultural roots, with their genetic parents dead by tens of thousands of years, with no way of knowing if something is a personal idiosyncrasy or a behavior problem or an important adaptation for their species–just seems horrifying.

  2. Cary says

    I would be concerned about the child more then anything else. But I would like to know why Neanderthals had such large brain capacity. Hollywood has already done it though on Slidders and everybody knows that hollywood knows everything.

  3. Neandermommy says

    I would be happy to try something like this. I think cloning is something we should be trying to improve, it could be useful, for example for a lesbian couple to have a cloned baby that was a clone of one mother and carried by the other. It would be cool to see a Neanderthal ‘in the flesh’ as well.

    Anyway, a lot of modern humans have a little bit of Neanderthal DNA in them, so in a way we’re the same species.

    I wonder if he is paying medical and travel expenses, there’d nothing in the article about how to contact him.

  4. says

    Fist thought reading through the points in favor, what kind of genome do we have for the neanderthals in terms of diversity of alleles. There would be very little point in creating a race of neanderthals for diversity if the genetic pool we have to work with was very limited to begin with. There are definitely some ethical considerations that should really be hammered out before anyone moves ahead on this.

  5. gworroll says

    I’m not too concerned with the lab rat concerns. We subject homo sapiens children to lab tests all the time to figure out how they work in more detail. While a Neanderthal child would likely end up spending more time in the lab than H.S., a lot of the general science we’d do that for would be done anyways for the childs own welfare. We would need to know how said child worked if we were to care for it well. This would likely sort out itself.

    We’d need custody sorted out, IMO, this should go to the mother. While neanderthals are different, hybrids existed and stayed with their homo sapiens families(or else that neanderthal DNA in non-africans wouldn’t be there). Given the standard default of the mother getting custody in modern society, and the ancient precedent of hybrids staying(whether by choice or law, no way of saying) with their homo sapiens families, the place for these children is with their mother, assuming she wants them.

    The main issue I have is the reliability of current cloning techniques. Yes, we can clone mammals. There is nothing known about homo sapiens that would present a fundamental obstacle to cloning us too, and Neanderthals, while different to an extent, don’t look so different as to prevent this. But cloning is not entirely reliable. Most clones have abbreviated lifespans and tend to develop serious medical problems. I’m really not comfortable subjecting a human to that, and Neanderthals to all appearances should qualify for that word. A different sort of human, yes, but still human.

    Now if this is put on the backburner until our cloning technology improves, then I’d be all for it.

  6. Ysanne says

    Most clones have abbreviated lifespans and tend to develop serious medical problems.

    This. Add to this the abysmal success rate even in species where a certain routine has already been developed, e.g. cattle. It’s not fun for the woman to be the “surrogate womb” in a failed experiment.

    Also, I think all of the pro arguments are extremely weak:
    1 & 2: “Could” is not the same as “should”, particularly not when “could” means “we might get a baby to term in 1 out of 100 attempts, this baby could have a bunch of medical problems though”.

    3, 4 and 5: Brain size is not necessarily a good indicator for thinking skills (anyone remember the “men are superior thinkers to women because their brains are bigger” agruments?). On the other hand, it is pretty clear just by observing the variety of ways of thinking that HS has come up with that upbringing has a huge influence in how a given person thinks. Similarly, species obviously doesn’t pre-determine culture: Just look how many different ones there are already for our species.
    And btw, just suppose Neanderthals’ brains work differently: Then where would the hypothetical child get the adequate input that Neanderthal parents and society could provide?

    5 & 6: We’ve got lots of genetic and cultural diversity in our species, and completely fail to deal with it constructively at pretty much any level.

    7: It’s more that 1-6 don’t contain a single good reason, just a load of contrived “what if” fantasies.

  7. says

    It’s already been done! I wouldn’t worry about the cub because it is virtually guaranteed a job doing GEICO commercials.
    – – – –

    michaeld, you are quite right, I would think. Not nearly enough diversity, but I would think that it is a very, very, big risk guaranteeing the integrity of all of the genes. Throw in an incongruous hormonal environment, and who knows what other unknowns, like incompatible blood types, and tissue rejection, and the odds of success becomes vanishingly small.
    – – –

    The kid would probably never get a date for the prom, when it hits high school, unless she becomes an all-star running back for Notre Dame, owing to her shorter legs. No, not enough speed, she’ll have to play on the offensive line. Even then, she might be disqualified from playing, owing to her vastly superior physique giving her an unfair advantage. The men would just not have her strength and power, owing to her 30% size advantage.

  8. slc1 says

    Recreating Neanderthals would benefit mankind. Neanderthals might think differently than we do. We know that they had a larger cranial size. They could even be more intelligent than us.

    This is a perfect example of ignorant thinking. Whales and elephants have larger brains then humans. More important then absolute brain size is the ratio of brain size to body size, (e.g. encephalization factor). Neanderthals, on average, were somewhat larger then humans on average so the fact that they had somewhat larger brains is not surprising. Another consideration is brain organization. Studies of Neanderthal skulls seem to indicate that their brain organization was different then in humans.

    All in all, this does not seem like a good idea as we sit here today, given that cloning techniques are still rather crude. Maybe in 50 years.

  9. Thorne says

    Did he not get the moral of Jurassic Park

    Does this person not know that Jurassic Park was fiction? Any moral basis is strictly that of the author, not necessarily of reality. For an even more relevant fictional morality tale, try Asimov’s “The Ugly Little Boy” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ugly_Little_Boy).

    As for the morality of performing such an experiment, how much different is it than parents knowingly bringing severely handicapped children into the world? Would a healthy (hopefully) Neanderthal child be any worse off than a child born with severe mental or physical defects?

    As for the health of the child, part of the care of any child is maintaining its health. If it is carried by a human mother, would it not acquire the same kinds of immunity that any other child would have? How can we know whether or not its immune system would be any worse, or better, than ours? All of this is just so much speculation, which can only be truthfully resolved by going forward with the cloning.

    On the other hand, some of the stated reasons for doing so are just as fallacious. We could learn nothing of Neanderthal culture from such a child, since culture is not innate but learned. It might be possible to learn how such a child thinks, what kinds of differences there might be in how thoughts are processed in the brain. But then, we know so little about our own brains.

    And it’s unlikely that there would only be one child. For any kind of real scientific knowledge, we would need to observe as many different individuals as possible. And of course, there would have to be legal proscriptions put into place. Like allowing the mother to withdraw the child from the program (at the loss of any future income) if she choose, and allowing the grown child to withdraw from the study if she wishes.

    Most of the problems can be worked out, and in my view they should be worked out. Cloning can be an important medical benefit for the future, especially for transplant use. Cloning extinct species would provide valuable data for scientists, leading towards the ability to clone organs. I say, go for it.

  10. kraut says

    “9. How cruel. If a baby was born like that, he or she would undergo a lifetime of painful experiments and testing and would be treated like some sort of laboratory experiment. It’s a terrible thing to try to do, and any woman who agreed to take part in such an experiment would be a lowlife.”

    Considering the experiments religious fundamentalist and cult followers do to their children any time of the day – nothing to worry there.

    23. Primitive man lived in the primitive world, and thats where he should stay.

    Neanderthals were about as primitive as we are. We changed – so could and will change a clone.

  11. T. Hunt says

    The morality of this is that a life is being created. And those that create it are responsible for it for as long as that life lasts. Along with that is the responsibility to see that it is fulfilled to the maximum and protected as are all our lives. If we assume that it could potentially be as intelligent as we are (or even if it’s only as smart as a dog), we own it kindness, compassion, security and the respect of its personal autonomy, just as we require these things for our own children.

    I don’t see that even addressed in any of the wild imaginings here. To create such a being just to poke and prod it is abominable.

    Tom

  12. Ysanne says

    As for the morality of performing such an experiment, how much different is it than parents knowingly bringing severely handicapped children into the world? Would a healthy (hopefully) Neanderthal child be any worse off than a child born with severe mental or physical defects?

    While we’re at it, how much different is it, in terms of outcomes for the child, from exposing the child to conditions which are very likely to bring about said severe defects before, at, or very shortly after birth? Which, for some strange reason, is generally frowned upon as unethical and called “knowingly risking their health and wellbeing”…

    If it is carried by a human mother, would it not acquire the same kinds of immunity that any other child would have? How can we know whether or not its immune system would be any worse, or better, than ours?

    We have data from cloning other species, in particular some whose biology and needs we know very well, that clones tend to suffer from a number of medical conditions, some of which relate to their immune systems, even when they get optimal care. It seems to be an adverse effect of getting cloned in the way its currently done. Why should this be any better for a species that we’re not familiar with?

  13. crayzz says

    The reasons for the cloning are ridiculous. They range from “why not?” to bald assertions that the author has no way of knowing without having already cloned an entire autonomous community. We have no good reason to (other than wild speculative reasons that probably won’t bear out) and some very good reasons not to (that clone will likely die early, will likely contract diseases, etc).

  14. Thorne says

    We have data from cloning other species, in particular some whose biology and needs we know very well, that clones tend to suffer from a number of medical conditions, some of which relate to their immune systems, even when they get optimal care. It seems to be an adverse effect of getting cloned in the way its currently done. Why should this be any better for a species that we’re not familiar with?

    These aren’t reasons to stop cloning, they’re reasons to continue learning more and better ways to do them. Just because we don’t have the technology now, doesn’t mean we won’t have it soon.

    As for the morality of it, well, humans have very flexible views of morality, don’t we? How many people believe it’s immoral to allow a woman to determine when and if she gets pregnant? How many claim it’s immoral to allow any abortions, for any reason, because it’s a child? And yet, when that child is born, it’s immoral to let the government spend any money to feed, clothe and educate that child! Any cloned child, whether Neanderthal or Homo Sapiens, would be far better cared for under laboratory conditions than many naturally born children around the world.

    There is no one perfect morality. If you don’t like the idea of cloning, don’t do any cloning. And when they reach the point where they can clone you a new liver, to replace the one that’s failing in your body, make sure you take the ‘moral’ stance and refuse to accept that liver. Don’t even think about replacing those lungs that were scorched in a fire, or the heart that was weakened by disease. It would be ‘immoral’ of you to benefit from such an ‘immoral’ procedure, wouldn’t it?

    No one can predict what kinds of benefits might result from any scientific endeavor. Claiming to oppose something just because you can imagine all of the bad things that MIGHT happen is no reason to stop the advance of knowledge. All we can do is try to minimize the bad and maximize the good. Being human, we don’t always get it right, but that’s no excuse for not even trying.

  15. lostintime says

    I could never condone this for all the reasons given above, but I think it would be more interesting to create a non-human ancestor of Homo sapiens (although just as unethical)! If an ‘animal’ like this existed in our society, who might even be able to commicate with us, this would deal a devastating blow against speciesism, and the legal and moral implications would be huge.

  16. pale fury says

    Ethics asside – recreating a neandethal will be tremenously technically difficult. To clone an animal you need an intact nucleus in a living cell. Extract the nucleus and transfer it into a denucleated egg.

    We only have ancient remains of a neandethal – so no intact nuclei there. So the source of the DNA is sequencing data, which means the entire genome would have to be synthesised from scratch. So what you would have to do is take a human cell and perfrom hundreds maybe thousands of individual recombination events to switch out human sequence for neandethal sequence. This process is not very efficent and not sequences my not insert correctly. You would have to check each one sequenctially. I don’t see this happening any time soon.

    And from the description given – even if they manage to do all of this the resulting person will be a human neandethal chymera.

  17. says

    We have only a minimal amount of Neanderthal DNA, mostly mitochondrial, so Professor Church might let his enthusiasm cloud reality a bit here. Also, as others have pointed out, we cannot even succesfully clone animals, let alone humans, of which we have an infinite supply of full, healthy DNA. Unless we a) find massive amounts of undamaged Neanderthal DNA (which I’m pretty sure won’t happen) and b) cloning techniques vastly improve, I don’t see this ever happen. Cloning a mammoth, perhaps, but a Neanderthal? Ain’t gonna happen.

    Apart from the technical difficulties, the good professor is clearly more of an expert in his own field than in the field of paleontology, as there is common agreement that the Neanderthals most likely were less intelligent than modern humans, given their lack of innovation in hunting and lack of art, both typical of earlier humans.

    The Neanderthals died out about 30,000 years ago not only because the Ice Age limited available food supplies, but because Homo sapiens killed them off.

    I’ve mentioned this before Taslima, you better stick to human rights and other issues you actually know something about, since whenever you comment on biology or the like, you write questionable things. Paleontologists do not agree or have even sound theories to why the Neanderthals died out. The “Ice Age” you are referring to stretched from 110,000 to 10,000 years ago, with a maximum around 20,000 years ago (well after the extinction), and Neanderthals were very well adapted to cold. Also, fossils have been found in Southern Spain and the Levant, both areas were food would still have been available. For Homo sapiens killing off Neanderthals there’s no direct evidence whatsoever. Yes, it is likely that in case of confrontation the smarter H. sapiens would win, but given the extremely low population density of both Neanderthals and modern humans (compared to present day or even Roman or Medieval times), there was probably plenty of room for both.

  18. Synfandel says

    As food for thought, I recommend a 1977 half-hour, made-for-TV, sci-fi film called The Ugly Little Boy.

    href=”http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0176261/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

    It was written by Isaac Asimov and filmed at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto. Paleontologists use a time-transporting machine to snatch a Neanderthal baby from prehistory for study. A nurse is assigned to look after the subject during the several weeks of study before the boy is to be sent back. The scientists are coldly impersonal about their business, but the nurse becomes emotionally attached to the child.

    I also recommend Robert J. Sawyer’s Neanderthal Parallax trilogy.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Neanderthal_Parallax

    Scientists trying to detect nutrinos at the bottom of a nickel mine in Sudbury, Ontario, get connected through an accidentally opened portal to a parallel universe in which Neanderthal scientists are conducting quantum computing experiments in the same mine. In the latter’s world, Homo sapiens sapiens died out instead of Homo sapiens neanderthalensis. It’s a story of first contact between cultures with strong similarities and startling differences.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>