Jan
22
2013

Today’s exercise in bioethics: Neanderthal babies!

What could possibly go wrong?

Professor George Church of Harvard Medical School believes he can reconstruct Neanderthal DNA and resurrect the species which became extinct 33,000 years ago.

His scheme is reminiscent of Jurassic Park but, while in the film dinosaurs were created in a laboratory, Professor Church’s ambitious plan requires a human volunteer.

He said his analysis of Neanderthal genetic code using samples from bones is complete enough to reconstruct their DNA.

He said: ‘Now I need an adventurous female human.

Actually, what he needs is a reliable and mature exowomb technology. There’s not a chance in Perdition that they’re going to get a viable Neanderthal baby on the first try.  Which is why I expect that this project will probably end up being first done by the PRC; Western culture is a bit too ‘squeamish*’ to do the necessary research in public.

Via AoSHQ.

Moe Lane

PS: Danged if I know what the “correct” ethical answer is; I have no fundamental objection to human cloning, provided that we’re not just creating a new form of slavery in the process.  I also don’t like the idea of baby farms.

*A technical term in this context: it means “recognizes the ethical issues involved in cavalierly creating sentient life forms.”

14 Comments

  • acat says:

    Why am I reminded of a pair of totalitarians from one of Fred Saberhagen’s ‘Berserker’ novellas who wanted to “instill a love for dear leader at the genetic level” but kept ending up with “severe retardation” …
    .
    Mew

  • Crawford says:

    Why would clones be given any fewer rights than an in vitro baby?

    • Jeffstag says:

      Not human clones. Neanderthal closes. You can’t (in the West), enslave a human but can ‘enslave’ an animal. You can own a dog, you can expect uncompensated work from a horse. Everything, legally, breaks down into human or not human. Neanderthals would be not human.

      • Moe_Lane says:

        A lot of that will depend on whether Neanderthals and modern humans can, in fact, interbreed. I know that the latest thinking is that they maybe can’t, but we’ll see.

        Sapient non-human life is going to be a massive headache for our legal system, eventually.

        • jbird says:

          What are your feelings on the Ood?

        • qixlqatl says:

          Just watched a PBS show (Nova, maybe?) about this, which postulated (fairly convincingly, IMHO) that Neanderthals were not exterminated, but subjugated/absorbed by “modern humans”. Certainly well within the realm of possibility, and what I would expect based on my experience with human nature.

  • BigGator5 says:

    What could possibly go wrong?

    More great GEICO commercials??

  • Spegen says:

    This is that scientific quandry: Just because something can be done, should you do it?
    .
    What use can breeding a neanderthal achieve? Its not like we will learn anything useful about their culture, language, or lifestyle. The intelligence, strength and similar issues can be derived from the remains. One subject would not be enough to alter that info. At best the child becomes a modern equiv. of a freak show attraction.

  • Freddie Sykes says:

    Someone should ask the good doctor why he is second guessing evolution?

  • Romeg says:

    I can’t help but recall that Jeff Goldblum line from Jurassic Park: “The [Neanderthals] had their shot and they lost.”

    Actually, the Neanderthals didn’t “lose”. Their descendants are live and kicking today. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/12/101222-new-human-species-dna-nature-science-evolution-fossil-finger/

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