A recent article on MIT Technology Review talks about the Harvard Medical School geneticist George Church and his crazy plan to clone a Neanderthal baby. And all he needs is a willing woman to be the baby’s surrogate.
GenomeWeb caught what must be an interesting Q&A with George Church in Germany’sSpiegel Online (I can’t personally attest to the original story as it is behind a paywall). The Harvard Medical School geneticist is quoted as saying that eventually, an “adventurous female human” will be needed to be the surrogate mother for the first Neanderthal baby in some 30,000 years.
This isn’t the first time Church has talked publically about cloning a Neanderthal, or at least a near-Neanderthal. In 2009, when the Neanderthal genome was first reported, the New York Timesdescribed a scenario in which a current day human genome could be tweaked into the “Neanderthal equivalent” with tools of molecular biology. Eventually, this could lead to a Neanderthal-like embryo in need of a surrogate mother.
While the idea of reviving Neanderthals may sound farfetched, take for example the work of biologists to clone endangered or extinct non-human animals (see “Stem-Cell Engineering Offers a Lifeline to Endangered Species”). In 2009, the extinct bucardo, a subspecies Spanish ibex, was cloned from a frozen skin sample. The newborn died immediately due to respiratory failure, but its birth suggests that resurrecting extinct species may be possible. –source: MIT Technology Review
I think the proposition by Church is illogical and immoral. What benefits do you bring to modern society with such an experiment? What kind of life do you think the cloned Neanderthal could live?
Let’s talk about it for a minute. What can we gain from studying a living Neanderthal? That they had superb thinking capabilities?
That’s been already studied and debated. The myth of the “dumb Neanderthal” started with Hollywood’s perception of club-carrying cave dwellers. For years, the silver screen depicted the Neanderthals as unintelligent, sex-crazed troglodytes. Several recent studies have shown that the Neanderthal was almost as sophisticated as Homo Sapiens.
So again, what could we learn from a Neanderthal?
One thing I can think of is studying the functions of the living Neanderthal brain. How they process thoughts and emotions and how they apply that to their daily lives. This could help us understand the Neanderthal and their disappearance from the face of the earth. But do we really need to clone a Neanderthal for that?
What type of life would you expect a lab subject like a cloned Neanderthal to live?