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Lydia Griffin

Writer - Creative and Non-Fiction and journalist,

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Should we clone and revive Homo Neanderthal?

Scientists at Max Planck Institute have sequenced the complete genome of Neanderthal. What benefits could N. bring to the Sapiens mix of Today? And should interbreeding be contemplated?


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  • Mar 21 2013: NO.

    The ethics are simple. Would you want to be treated this way?

    You are discussing a human being. The child would never have a mother or father of the same species. It would not be able to receive milk from its own mother, or even from another woman of the same species. It would not be raised in a community of its own species, and it might never meet another person of its own species. It is completely possible that socialization with humans will prove to be impossible. It would be raised in an environment very different from the environment in which its species evolved. The medical personnel attending this person would have no training for this species (would you suggest human physicians or veterinarians? Veterinarians might be more flexible, and generally better prepared for the challenge.) When he/she reaches school age, whatever that might be, there would be no teachers with appropriate training. The problems for this person as an adult are impossible to imagine, but one is obvious: what would be this person's legal status? We could hardly expect a Neanderthal to behave responsibly according to our laws, but it would be completely unethical to withhold from this person the human rights that we all enjoy.

    If it lived, it would be a cruel life.

    • Mar 25 2013: While I agree that the life of this child, or population might be a cruel one, it is only because it would effectively be a "test subject'.

      But if the science claiming H Sapiens interbred repeatedly and successfully with Neanderthals is true, then the differences between the species are superficial at best, and social integration was already happening long ago. So the issues of parenting, care, ethics, socializing and medical training may actually be moot. Or at least, they may be issues that our species has dealt with before, perhaps even successfully.

      While you paint an almost cinematic picture of one possible life of a cloned neanderthal, I believe that many other scenarios could be explored. To say the child would grow up in such isolation is dramatic in light of the science claiming our shared genetics (and the implicit social integration) with Neanderthals. You're playing on our heart strings to get us to agree with you in this scenario.

      In anything like your scenario, yes the act of cloning would be an ethical abomination. Tantamount to human torture. But other scenarios could be attempted. Ones where the "subject" is never treated as a subject at all, but as the human cohort they may have always been. Should other scenarios be attempted? Maybe, but not for a long time, and not till we have other planets where we can send an entire neanderthal colony.
      • Mar 25 2013: "Maybe, but not for a long time, and not till we have other planets where we can send an entire neanderthal colony."

        Agreed, especially with the first word, maybe. The science claiming interbreeding with Neanderthals is still new. Before such an experiment could remotely be considered ethical we would need much more research and knowledge, confirming that the Neanderthals were very much like we are today. It would still be very much an experiment, with many unknowns. The baby might get terribly sick from its first swallow of milk, and we would have no idea what was causing the problem. It might be an allergy that anyone might have. Also, this experiment should wait until the child can be raised in a culture free of prejudices and discrimination.

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