Scientists are debating about a possible return of the Neanderthal. With stem cell technology breaking through elsewhere and a complete sequence of the Neanderthal genome at hand, it’s seemingly only a matter of time or resources…
Scientists are debating about a possible return of the Neanderthal. With stem cell technology breaking through elsewhere and a complete sequence of the Neanderthal genome at hand, it’s seemingly only a matter of time or resources.
Seriously, who needs Mammoths, if we could bring back creatures like Dinosaurs and/or our close relatives back to life. The scientific world was surely influenced by the Hollywood blockbusters of late, but they are indeed considering the possibilities.
Big Think had an interview a while ago featuring Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York, pondering the thought: what if we actually just clone dinosaurs or even more interesting from an anthropological standpoint the Neanderthal, all based solely off their genomes?
Intriguing and plausible to geneticist and director of Harvard University’s Church Labs, George Church who believes (or hopes) that Homo Neanderthalensis will once again roam the world with us in our lifetime. All that’d be needed is a human female “adventurous” enough to take on that biological task.
As we are in the midst of an ongoing discussion, flaring up for a couple of years now, should we be looking closely at our neighbor’s newborn baby? Church believes that with current stem cell technology and a completed sequence of the Neanderthal genome, the potential has been there for a while now.
The discussion of the last 4 to 5 years clearly shows somewhat of a sentiment of compassion for the Neanderthals that went extinct tens of thousands of years ago, even though tiny bits and pieces obviously survived within our own genome. It would be an impressive feed for science and definitely paves the way for bringing back something from 65 million years ago.
Dr. Kaku chimed in on that idea a couple of times now and always admitted, that cloning a dinosaur won’t be as easy as cloning a Neanderthal or a mammoth. However, does it mean it’s impossible at all? No, nothing is really impossible and the upcoming biological revolution through the use of quantum supercomputer should be immensely helpful in recreating all kinds of genetic sequences we can think of. The Potential for cloning through epigenetics is waiting for us and after finding enough proteins within soft tissues of recovered dinosaurs femurs, we already know that it resembles those of frogs, reptiles and even more so, chickens.
Now, let’s get back to a question that pre-dates the scientific discussion – is it the right thing to do?
Especially if we consider bringing back Neanderthals, where there are only minor technical limitations to get past, the ‘Cavemen ethics’ come into consideration. Big science like this surely is expensive, and any money spent on it is money not spent elsewhere, but if there’s one thing we learned from humanity’s troubled history – what could be done, always has been done… even or especially the morally wrong things.
In other words, what kind of positive value might justify it? Research is often justified by the simple credo of a benevolent disposition – the promise of bringing tangible benefits to all of us such as extending the length and quality of lives. Once the mainstream is attracted to a specific idea, things are quickly set into motion
With Neanderthals, there will always be this ethical element and our most important might be: what do we do once a Neanderthal child is brought to life? It’s not a Hollywood-orchestrated coincidence of bringing back an Encino Man like the early 90ies comedy leads us to believe.
After all, a Neanderthal is a very capable human being that should not be held in captivity next to some zoo animals and also needs a lifetime of study. We could observe the growing child’s behavior. Observation alone will not be enough, though as we don’t know much about the timely role and dependency of environmental inputs. Unlike most other animals, a Neanderthal would begin to understand how it is being treated and most likely reacts in a way that reflects its place in the world, it’s very own world of conception.
Scientists would need to clearly communicate it to the cloned Neanderthal, fully aware of the implications and hoping that language can bridge the gap of time and evolution.
Many people in the scientific community believe this act is far too inhumane to even attempt, where others see the possibility of genetic diversity that could help us in the coming decades. Finally, there are those with a sense of humor, assuming that any Neanderthal born this way would have some natural, inherited human rights within human society, and therefore, if inclined to it, could sue the scientists cloning him or her for wrongful birth.
Feel free to listen to more arguments by Dr. Kaku’s on the complexity of prehistoric cloning.
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