Redheaded Neanderlady

Redheaded Neanderlady
This is a photoshopped version of something I found in National Geographic about the time I started researching

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cloning Neanertals?


Thanks to the John Hawks Weblog I cam across a post on one of the Discover Magazine blogs, that argues yes, we should clone Neandertals

Now I'm not going to argue with this person's reasoning, but I remain queasy about this idea, nevertheless. For one thing, I'm not sure that there is any body that is qualified to do ethical oversight on such a project. And while I share the blogger's enthusiasm for such a project, in that I would like to see how a real Neandertal might behave in the "modern" world. OTOH, this selfsame blogger seems to assume that Neandertals were vastly different from ourselves(not), would be easily recognized(maybe or maybe not), and being vastly different in some fundamental manner, basically inferior(not). The problem is, that there really isn't much evidence for such differences, beyond the "anatomical'. Would we really recognize a Neandertal "on sight"? Again, maybe, maybe not.

There is also the little question of the cloned Neadertal's human status? Would they be accorded "human" status? Judging by the latest discoveries, both prehistoric-archaelogical and various genetic and paleoanthropological studies, they shuuld be., But would they be? This is where some sort of ethical oversight would have to come in. Furthermore, since we primates are social animals, it would be imperative to clone a number of them, so that they wouldn't be alone in the world.

I think that sooner or later, somebody, somewhere, is gong to try to clone a Neandertal in the not too distant future. If that is the case, whether I, personally, am emotionally queasy about this or not, we should start the process of forming this ethical oversight panel. Now.
Anne G


EarthandIce said...

I also saw the article on John Haws blog. While I agree with him on the cloning of tissue, I also agree on the issue of cloning of an individual.

Queasy does not enter into my feelings, horror is more like it. As Hawks stated, who would step forward to take care of the individual while there are so many already in existence that are not being cared for.

Joleen said...

Considering both the high level of racism against other people, and the common practice of using high apes such as chimpanzees as test subjects, the idea of cloning a neanderthal does not seem like something the human race is ready for really.

Anne Gilbert said...

Earthandice and Joleen:

I agree with you about your sentiments here. The problem is, this is an issue that is not entirely "about" populations, although I've seen some debaters elsewhere bring this issue up. Nor is it entirely about racial attitudes, though there are people everywhere who assume that humans are "naturally" racist, violent, etc. This is about "doing something" just because the possibility is there(why do so many couples want to know the sex of a baby even before it's born? There are a variety of responses to this, too.) The opposing view is, "hey wait a minute! We're getting into unknown territory here! Let's slow down and see if this works." These are the people who want to set up some kind of "ethics" body to study the issues involved. The problem is,that it looks like there is going to someone somewhere, who will start trying to clone Neandertals(they're trying to clone woolly mammoths which would supposedly inhabit some "Pleistocene Park" in NE Siberia; this effort comes from Japan). Such efforts are going on despite ethical queasiness about cloning woolly mammoths. It's bound to happen, sooner or later, and with or without ethical committee supervision. And this is what I, and a lot of other people, feel extremely queasy about.
ANne G

Doug said...

It is difficult to see any point in doing this. There is an old suggestion, apparently with some substance, that if we kidnapped a cave-baby from 30,000 years ago and treated it as modern, it could become a computer programmer or airline pilot - they had our capacity, just not our knowledge. If the cloned Neanderthal lives from the outset fed on modern human food, living in a modern environment and culture, how do we know it will grow into a perfect specimen of Neanderthal?

Anne Gilbert said...


As I said, I have mixed feelings about this. If anybody ever manages to clone a Neandertal, they'll get a genetically "perfect" Neandertal,but how such a person would behave in "modern" society is another question altogether. Maybe that's what the "pro-clone" people really have in mind.