Skip

I'm sure this'll end well....
February 22, 2010 9:48 AM   Subscribe

We may soon be able to clone Neanderthals. But should we? An essay from Archaeology Magazine examines the ethical, scientific and legal ramifications. (Via Heather Pringle's Time Machine blog, where essay author Zach Zorich posted a reply and elicited a response.)

Background: Last year, a team of researchers led by geneticist Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute announced that they had completed a draft sequence of the Neanderthal genome. The project was begun in 2006.

William Saletan covered some of the same ground in Slate in 2008, as did Reason.com last year:
One science fiction trope says that it is impossible for two intelligent species to evolve simultaneously on the same planet since one would inevitably out-compete the other. This may have happened on our planet. Neanderthals disappeared around the same time that modern humans began to move into their territory. New research suggests that our ancestors killed them off. Perhaps we should use modern science to resurrect Neanderthals in order to right an ancestral wrong.
posted by zarq (207 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
We may soon be able to clone Neanderthals. But should we?

Yes. Absolutely. Because it would be awesome.

*actually starts to RTFA*
posted by brundlefly at 9:50 AM on February 22, 2010 [22 favorites]


Wow. This just sounds like a very, very bad idea.
posted by stormpooper at 9:51 AM on February 22, 2010


The GOP has to make up those demographic losses somehow.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:53 AM on February 22, 2010 [50 favorites]


Yes, yes, absolutely, a million times yes. As I said before, I'd argue that no only should we resurrect the Neanderthals if possible, we have a moral imperative to do so.
posted by Justinian at 9:56 AM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


A moral imperative? Please explain.

Isn't there a point with evolution and survial of the fittest?

I mean, we could resurrect them and ....get eaten or something!
posted by stormpooper at 9:58 AM on February 22, 2010


The idea of cloned Neanderthals makes me strangely hungry.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:58 AM on February 22, 2010


You guys are just romanticizing the Geico commercials.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:59 AM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't think we should do this, because those Neandertals are some tough motherfuckers and will probably kick my ass in the triathlon.
posted by Mister_A at 10:00 AM on February 22, 2010


I like the argument that, as a sentient species, we have an obligation to revive any extinct sentient species we can, presuming we afford it equal rights and create a self-sustaining population. This is doubly true if we were responsible for their extinction, which seems likely in the case of Neanderthals.

For me the argument even fulfills the Categorical Imperative. If humans go extinct and then some day in the future the robots or intelligent squids or whatever have the ability to revive us, I would hope they would do so (again, with the aforementioned caveats).

I think I first saw that argument here, actually, so apologies to whomever I just lifted it from.

On preview: apparently I lifted it from Justinian.
posted by jedicus at 10:00 AM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:00 AM on February 22, 2010


Yeah right. Next thing you know someone will claim they can clone sheep.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:01 AM on February 22, 2010


I don't understand the position against it, much like I never understood Jeff Goldblum's position in Jurassic Park. What's the ethical dilemma? That we're creating life that went extinct? Bringing an individual into a world it wasn't designed to survive? "Playing God"? To me, those aren't scientific arguments, they're just the PhD version of concern trolls.
posted by mark242 at 10:01 AM on February 22, 2010 [20 favorites]


Yabba Dabba Doo!
posted by jonmc at 10:02 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


A moral imperative? Please explain.

I can't speak for Justinian, but my personal take on it is that if we were responsible for the extinction of a sentient species and our own survival wasn't a factor, then yes that makes resurrecting them in this way a moral imperative.

Isn't there a point with evolution and survial of the fittest?

I mean, we could resurrect them and ....get eaten or something!


I'm sure nothing could possibly go wrong. *cough*
posted by zarq at 10:04 AM on February 22, 2010


I really don't get what the fear of cloning is. Vat-grown organs that can replace my own, with zero chance of rejection? Cheap, vat-grown meat instead of feedlot farming? Research that will eventually let me regrow severed fingers or limbs?

An entire other Me minus one brain stem, in a jar somewhere for spare parts? A deeper understanding of biology and the means to actually make profound changes to people's bodies, so my friends don't die of things like cancer, liver failure or congestive heart failure? Regrowing spines from cloned tissue, so people can walk again?

Go for it. Make that neanderthal proof of concept. Bring back the Dodo. Make me a bonsai Mastodon for my kid to ride around on, that would be amazing.

Fuck the haters; where do I sign up for the future?
posted by mhoye at 10:05 AM on February 22, 2010 [22 favorites]


And are the scientists going to remember to walk them and feed them? These aren't neopets, you know.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:07 AM on February 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


It doesn't sound like cannibalism to me. Let's do it!
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:07 AM on February 22, 2010


Yeah right. Next thing you know someone will claim they can clone sheep.

Mary Had a Little Clone

Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was slightly grey,
It didn't have a father, just some borrowed DNA.

It sort of had a mother, though the ovum was on loan,
It was not so much a lambkin, as a little lamby clone.

And soon it had a fellow clone, and soon it had some more,
They followed her to school one day, all cramming through the door.

It made the children laugh and sing, the teachers found it droll,
There were too many lamby clones, for Mary to control.

No other could control the sheep, since their programs didn't vary,
So the scientists resolved it all, by simply cloning Mary.

But now they feel quite sheepish, those scientists unwary,
One problem solved, but what to do, with Mary, Mary, Mary...

~ Author unknown

posted by zarq at 10:07 AM on February 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


Ladies and gentlemen of MetaFilter, I'm just a cavewoman. I fell on some ice and later got thawed out by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me! Sometimes the honking horns of your traffic make me want to get out of my Honda... and run off into the hills, or wherever... Sometimes when I get a message in my MeMail inbox, I wonder: "Did little demons get inside and type it?" I don't know! My primitive mind can't grasp these concepts.

But there is one thing I do know - when an anonymous poster thinks that he or she is a special snowflake whose relationship problems cannot be solved without a detailed recounting of the couple's entire three-month courtship, from furtive e-mails across the ocean to that night when they realize that one wipes standing up and one wipes sitting down, the poster is entitled to no less than two million plates of beans, and two million taters. Thank you.
posted by Madamina at 10:08 AM on February 22, 2010 [52 favorites]


What are you going to do when little Og wants to know who his mommy is, eh? HAHAHA YOU WERE GROWN IN A VAT, OG, YOU DON'T HAVE A MOMMY!

This will mess with Og's notions of how is babby formed.

Next you guys will want to clone unicorns, which were killed to extinction for good goddamn reason, thank you very much!
posted by Mister_A at 10:08 AM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


mark242: I don't think Jeff Goldblum's character in JP (Dr. Ian Malcolm) was opposed to the cloning of dinosaurs per se... he was opposed to humans thinking they could "control" such powerful, dangerous forces and put them on display in a family friendly zoo. That's where the "playing God" bit came in. His point was basically Murphy's Law: When you think you've conquered every risk, squashed every bug, predicted and circumvented every possible outcome, that's when an iceberg comes along and tears the Titanic in half.

I'm not sure those fears apply to Neanderthals, but I guess we really don't know how they would react to human in this century. I think it's doubtful they pose the same kind of risk as frigging velociraptors and T-Rexes, though.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:09 AM on February 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Clone away, but a moral imperative? Agonising over something that might have happened more than 20,000 years ago is taking liberal guilt just a wee bit too far.
posted by WPW at 10:10 AM on February 22, 2010 [17 favorites]


One is the loneliest number that you'll ever GRAAAAWWWRRR!!!
posted by swift at 10:10 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


We'll need someone to ride herd on the mammoths.
posted by brain_drain at 10:13 AM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


This just sounds like a very, very bad idea.

Seems pretty safe. We've already beaten them once.

The biggest problem is going to be inserting a species "between" humans and chimps, morally speaking. Like, if you extend rights to Neaderthals do you also have to extend them to chimps? And if chimps, gorillas?

Not that there's necessarily a slippery slope but that the reason there isn't a slippery slope will have to be elucidated clearly. How exactly are humans different from animals? Or aren't they?
posted by DU at 10:14 AM on February 22, 2010


If genocide loses any of its sting because an extinguished people can be brought back by cloning technology, then I think we have a moral imperative to let dead mean dead.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 10:14 AM on February 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


The whole, "moral imperative" thing really seems like it would create even worse moral dilemmas. My knowledge of neanderthal biology is tenuous, but they are another species. Would they have the brain capacity to adapt to modern society? If they can't adjust, what then? Preserves? Would we really be doing them a favor by bringing them back now? I mean, yeah, we could bring back dinosaurs but what would they do besides exist for our amusement? They sure as hell wouldn't fit in the modern ecological system, and if they did they would probably end up completely unbalancing whatever place we chose to put them.

Sometimes species go extinct for a reason.
(I stress the sometimes. We sure as hell aren't doing any species any favors right now.)
posted by cimbrog at 10:16 AM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think that in a putatively post-racist society, we are running out of Others to regard with fear and suspicion. Neanderthals would fit the bill nicely.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:16 AM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


According to a fellow student in last semester's Philosophy of Ethics class: No. Why? Because they'll be born without a soul, and will therefore go to hell when they die. We shouldn't bring anything into this world that's condemned to hell for all eternity. This was delivered with a straight face.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:17 AM on February 22, 2010 [13 favorites]


I oppose cloning neaderthals because they will all join the Tea Party and make lots of noise and wave stupid banners asking that we cut taxes but end the deficit.
posted by Postroad at 10:17 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I clicked on this thread hoping for some compelling views. Instead, I got Reddit.

The GOP comment was hilarious, however.

I find the idea appalling. To reintroduce a prehistoric species into this world. To serve who's interest?

On the other hand, I suspect there are some valid opinions supporting this idea which may, in fact, not be science fiction.
posted by private_idaho at 10:18 AM on February 22, 2010


I wish I could favorite WPW's comment a brazilian times. I mean, should we bring back the fuckin' crinoids while we're at it?
posted by Mister_A at 10:20 AM on February 22, 2010


I kind of wish we'd focus more on animals we extentified in the recent past, and strengthen the populations of animals that are on the brink of extinction currently. Cloning Neanderthals seems like sensationalist science, it doesn't actually solve any pressing concern and may actually add to them. Are we really going to establish and maintain a viable population of Neanderthals, and allow them to reproduce unhindered? What conditions are they going to be kept in? How will they be treated? What happens if they overpopulate, do we force birth control or "thin the herd"? Will they be kept in pens? On "reserves", in laboratories?

I understand and actually can sympathize a little with the (essentially) "if we broke it we should fix it" mentality around resurrecting Neanderthals. But, honestly I've grave concerns how such a project would be carried out, especially in the long term. We have big enough resource problems, and more than enough social problems to sort though without yet another.
posted by edgeways at 10:20 AM on February 22, 2010 [16 favorites]


According to a fellow student in last semester's Philosophy of Ethics class: No. Why? Because they'll be born without a soul, and will therefore go to hell when they die. We shouldn't bring anything into this world that's condemned to hell for all eternity. This was delivered with a straight face.

Wouldn't a clone begotten in a laboratory be devoid of original sin?
posted by Pollomacho at 10:22 AM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I also hope they clone the lady from Mad Men because she's a really good actress.
posted by Mister_A at 10:23 AM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't really think bringing back the Neanderthals would somehow "make up" for them becoming (or being driven) extinct. I mean, it's not like these nifty cloned Neanderthals would magically have the appropriate cultural apparatus.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:23 AM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


In what sense does an entity with no soul go to Hell? What exactly is going to Hell? The non-soul?
posted by DU at 10:25 AM on February 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Next you guys will want to clone unicorns, which were killed to extinction for good goddamn reason

Excessive hopscotch playing?
posted by JaredSeth at 10:25 AM on February 22, 2010


I once read an interesting article on how neanderthals really wouldn't stand out all that much in our society. We all know big, brutish, hairy men that we work and live with currently, and neanderthals' brain capacity isn't all that much lower than our own.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 10:26 AM on February 22, 2010


I already listened to that story: N-words, courtesy of escape pod.
posted by Lorc at 10:26 AM on February 22, 2010


I like the argument that, as a sentient species, we have an obligation to revive any extinct sentient species we can, presuming we afford it equal rights and create a self-sustaining population. This is doubly true if we were responsible for their extinction, which seems likely in the case of Neanderthals.

That's just chock full of hubris and PC stupidity.

When the world's only contact with the military is through museums detailing what is was like in the bad old days, maybe then it might be worth thinking about cloning up an extinct sentient species. Til then, we really have our hands full just keeping some groups of people from making nearly identical groups of people extinct.

We ourselves haven't finished evolving, particularly in the area of ethics. Let's finish this first.
posted by Artful Codger at 10:28 AM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Just to be clear: we will be growing these Neanderthals for meat, yes?
posted by mazola at 10:29 AM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


"To serve who's interest? "

I can offer two answers. First it would serve the interests of the scientific community and further scientific understanding. However, why do we even need that? Why do we have to do something only because it would serve someone's interests? As long as we are clear about the moral and legal status of the creature (or being if it's sufficiently self-aware) I don't see why we wouldn't do it. (Or were asking about whose interest it would *really* serve? I.e. "Who is the man behind the curtain, here?")
posted by oddman at 10:30 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


neanderthals' brain capacity isn't all that much lower than our own.


er, the adult Neanderthal likelly had bigger brains than ours.
posted by edgeways at 10:30 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think we all remember the horrors that occurred the last time modern man mixed with his primitive ancestors.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:31 AM on February 22, 2010


"We ourselves haven't finished evolving"

And hopefully we never will, because the only way to finish evolving is to go extinct.
posted by oddman at 10:33 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


We may not have any choice once Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer v. U.S. makes its way to the Supreme Court.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:33 AM on February 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


I can't speak for Justinian, but my personal take on it is that if we were responsible for the extinction of a sentient species and our own survival wasn't a factor, then yes that makes resurrecting them in this way a moral imperative.

This statement is beyond ridiculous - I cannot believe there is "Homo Sapiens guilt" about something "we" may or may not have done 30,000 years ago.

People are reading too much Jared Diamond.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:33 AM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


All new and exciting possibilities will be interpreted by some as sin, and by others as the first step in the path to self-destruction.

I say clone 'em. It's only afterwards that we can decide whether what we did was awful or awesome.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:34 AM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Considering that large segments of humanity still treat other segments of humanity as less-than-human because they are a different color/gender/orientation/religion/disabled...no. Considering that we can't feed all of our own species right now...no.

We are not enlightened enough to give hypothetical neanderthals any sort of decent existence. The kindest thing we can do at this point is to leave them extinct.

Also, does no one read Jasper Fforde around here? He already covered this.
posted by emjaybee at 10:35 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unless they promise to be way cooler about spilling beer and spitting when they talk and never putting anything away, then no, I don't think we should bring back any cavemen. Otherwise, sure, you know...I'm cool with it.
posted by silkyd at 10:37 AM on February 22, 2010


If there's any possibility at all that Neanderthals would be sentient beings who simply died out at an earlier stage of evolution, then bringing them back to life via cloning seems....well, certainly not a decision to make lightly.

What exactly would be the goal? Clone one so that you can learn from her, and essentially raise her in captivity for science? What if it becomes clear that she's undeniably a "person," fully capable of abstract thought and possibly even language? Does she have any rights? How long do you keep her in the lab? For her entire life?

And of course, you'd would want to clone more than one -- you'd want at least a male and a female, wouldn't you? So would they be allowed to have children? What would happen to those kids? Would you just keep however many generations of Neanderthal this experiment resulted in locked up in a research facility? Would they be citizens of whatever country they were created in? What if it turns out that cross-species offspring are possible? What would be their status?

The first thing I thought when I saw this article was, "Wow, yes, let's create a biological underclass/slave race for our amusement!" Which I realize is hyperbolic, of course, but...yes. PONDERING.

TL:DR -- I'm not against the idea, but I'd want there to be some rules in place beforehand about how whatever individuals that result would be treated.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:37 AM on February 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


Next you guys will want to clone unicorns, which were killed to extinction for good goddamn reason

Excessive hopscotch playing?


The unicorns killed of the Neanderthals. They were pretty much one-horned genocidal assholes. Don't get me started on what the pixies did....
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:38 AM on February 22, 2010


What would worry me most is if it turned out they were better at certain things than we are as a species. After all it is entirely possible as a group they would be smarter than we are either in general or in certain specific areas. a) It would be depressing and b) they would be militarized.

But yeah, go ahead and clone them and while they're at it they should clone a whole herd of wooly mammoths, after all edible wooly mammoth meat exists so it should be possible to extract DNA, and anything else we can. Science!
posted by lordrunningclam at 10:39 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, we're not certain what killed off the Neanderthals - they were already well on their way out when the Humans showed up in Europe. While there is some evidence for Human/Neanderthal warfare, there's also evidence for co-existence. While humans may have been more adaptable, the remnant populations of Neanderthal probably weren't numerous enough, and hunted animals large and dangerous enough, where there was much competition for resources. (There's actually more evidence for humans fighting humans, and even preying on other humans, during this era.)

Disease is probably the only hand Humanity had in the demise of the Neanderthal, and even that's only speculation. Just as likely is the theory that they simply died out due to chromosomal deterioration - without healthy chromosomes, their birth rate fell to the point where the species could not support itself. It's unclear if cloned Neanderthals would be able to avoid this fate.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:41 AM on February 22, 2010


From the article:
Artificially assembling an exact copy of the Neanderthal DNA sequence could be done easily and cheaply with current technology,

I doubt that.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 10:41 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


This statement is beyond ridiculous - I cannot believe there is "Homo Sapiens guilt" about something "we" may or may not have done 30,000 years ago.

Not guilt. Simply a recognition that if we have the ability to right a wrong, then we should, as long as doing so won't harm us.

People are reading too much Jared Diamond.

I don't believe I'd ever heard of him before your comment here.
posted by zarq at 10:46 AM on February 22, 2010


I can't speak for Justinian, but my personal take on it is that if we were responsible for the extinction of a sentient species and our own survival wasn't a factor, then yes that makes resurrecting them in this way a moral imperative.

I don't understand this. It's not like a literal resurrection. The dead remain just as dead.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:49 AM on February 22, 2010


Disease is probably the only hand Humanity had in the demise of the Neanderthal, and even that's only speculation. Just as likely is the theory that they simply died out due to chromosomal deterioration - without healthy chromosomes, their birth rate fell to the point where the species could not support itself.

In all seriousness, could you (or anyone else here,) provide cites / links for additional reading on this subject? This is a theory I'm not too familiar with, and I'd like to learn more.
posted by zarq at 10:49 AM on February 22, 2010


Don't get me started on what the pixies did...

Rocked?
posted by Pollomacho at 10:50 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


All I know is that when I was little, my dad watched a show called Star Trek. And in that show, I saw humans talking with people who looked almost, but not quite human. The moral was that people are all the same on the inside, except for one trait (ie overly capitalist, warlike, or able to sometimes empathize with people). History has been awful at zeroing in on that one trait for Neanderthals.

Frankly, it'd be a bit racist not to clone Neanderthals. We have thousands of in-vitro babies made each year, and yet they're all homo sapient. We have the technology, and I'm sure there are plenty of modern, loving parents who could give one of these children a welcoming home and proper education.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:50 AM on February 22, 2010


There really is no historical wrong to right here. Neanderthals and early Homo Sapiens competed for the same ecological niches and we won. There is no moral or immoral here, it was survival of the fittest and unfortunately for the Neanderthals they couldn't cut it in the long run.

Morally how would one justify creating an individual who will most likely be self aware in a way that we recognize, but is still very likely going to spend his or her short genetically mish mashed life (you really think we can clone a healthy Neanderthal with collected fragments of 20,000 year old DNA?) in a laboratory bubble (sorry buddy you can never leave, you are way behind on your built up immunities).

Their culture is and will forever be extinct, there is nothing for them here, it is the height of hubris, and a bad idea period.
posted by BobbyDigital at 10:50 AM on February 22, 2010 [17 favorites]


Simply a recognition that if we have the ability to right a wrong, then we should, as long as doing so won't harm us

What "wrong" was committed?
posted by KokuRyu at 10:52 AM on February 22, 2010


we have a moral imperative to do so.

We have a moral imperative to help sentient beings, not genomes.

If there were a colony of Neanderthals living somewhere (or even one neanderthal), then I could see the need to protect them and allow them to multiply. But what's the "imperative" to create an essentially new group of intelligent creatures and then reintroduce them to a world where the dominant species can't even feed or get along with itself?

Who's going to be responsible for them? Who's going to be responsible for them in 100 or 1,000 years? Who's going to be responsible for any psychological pain, confusion or alienation this separate species might feel? And who's going to teach the first generation of children how to hunt or worship, or whatever it is Neanderthals did? Or are we Sapiens going to decide what it means to be a Neanderthal in the 21st Century? (Hey, maybe they can work in the sneaker factories...)

Clone the dodo? Sure. Clone animals for disease research? Great. Create headless clones for organ harvesting? Possibly. But this...this really does raise moral issues right out of Shelley's Frankenstein.
posted by PlusDistance at 10:52 AM on February 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


mark242 : I don't understand the position against it, much like I never understood Jeff Goldblum's position in Jurassic Park. What's the ethical dilemma?

Ditto. I've heard exactly zero good reasons not to clone something that don't involve invoking the unknowable wishes of imaginary friends in the sky. As the only really relevant moral issue I see here, if it turns out that we make a creature comparably intelligent to modern man and capable of learning our culture sufficiently to integrate into society, does that creature have "rights" beyond the basic humane treatment we afford other animals?

That said, I don't know how much we would really learn from such an experiment - Such a clone would completely lack the culture of his ancestors. Sure, it would help us understand their mental and physical capabilities (to the extent that we can measure such attributes even in ourselves), but that really doesn't mean as much as you might think - In theory, I can run 22-23MPH with enough training; In practice, I'll never come anywhere near that limit because I have no need or desire to do so.


yoyo_nyc : I doubt that.

Costs for DNA sequencing have dropped enough that people have pets and relatives sequenced as a vanity or novelty gift. Now, a long-dead creature presents considerably more difficulty, but with a big enough sample, you can come up with the full genome even from DNA degraded into sequences each only a few hundred base pairs long.
posted by pla at 10:53 AM on February 22, 2010


Simply a recognition that if we have the ability to right a wrong, then we should, as long as doing so won't harm us.

Does this statement mean, then, that natural selection and species extinction which took place 30,000 years ago has some kind of immoral connotation? That strikes me as ridiculous. Nature has no right or wrong. It has its mechanisms and systems, without any morality within any of them.

If we're going to talk about "righting a wrong" when it comes to species extinction, let's start with these lists of mammals and birds. Those were real injustices against the natural systems performed by humans who should rightfully have known better. Aside from that, leave the moral argument out of the extinction of the neanderthals, because we have no context for their disappearance.
posted by hippybear at 10:53 AM on February 22, 2010


I would think that having just one would not be that informative. You'd want to observe embryology, child rearing, and culture and stuff, to get an idea who they were.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:53 AM on February 22, 2010


I feel a moral obligation to clone the chicken I ate yesterday.

So I might eat it again tomorrow.
posted by mazola at 10:53 AM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't a clone begotten in a laboratory be devoid of original sin?

No soul, dude. No soul.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:54 AM on February 22, 2010


The kindest thing we can do at this point is to leave them extinct.

Finally, the reason we don't have jetpacks and flying cars: excessive kindness
posted by DU at 10:56 AM on February 22, 2010


Re: Bigger brains: Elephants have much bigger brains than us. I love the heck out of elephants, and they're probably my favorite animal, but they're not really as smart as a person.

It's all about organization of the brain tissue. Who knows how a Neanderthal would work in our society. They might have been dumber than us, as their tools in the fossil record hints at. However, they could happen to be better than us at modern life. All the more reason to clone them, because now I'm really curious. If we could use that reasoning to justify the LHC, I don't see not doing an experiment for Humanity's Big Bro.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:57 AM on February 22, 2010


I don't understand this. It's not like a literal resurrection. The dead remain just as dead.

IF (and I emphasize the "if") Homo Sapiens were responsible for driving another sentient subspecies of humans (Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis) to extinction then re-establishing the species now that we have the means to do so seems appropriate to me. In general. Obviously I'm not trying to make determinations about who would be responsible for them, whether they should be given equal rights or training to help them survive in a modern environment, etc.

If the Neanderthals were unable to adapt to their environment and we simply hurried an inevitable process along, then it doesn't seem appropriate to me to recreate them from their genome.

Frankenstein Neanderthals are kinda beyond the scope of my comments. ;)
posted by zarq at 10:57 AM on February 22, 2010


We have a moral imperative to clone Neanderthals so we can ask them if they coexisted with dinosaurs, thus conclusively proving whether God exists.
posted by DU at 10:58 AM on February 22, 2010


No soul, dude. No soul.

Not necessarily true, though in this case a great deal probably hinges on how human is defined.
posted by jquinby at 11:01 AM on February 22, 2010


Nobody ever claims Don "No Soul" Simmons is anything less than human.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:03 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


If we start cloning extinct species, that's a good thing. That means the environmentalist groups can focus on the environment rather than saving animals that are having a tough time fitting in.

It means we can focus on saving life, period, and stave off the day until we have to use geoengineering. The plan to fight global warming is to spray sulfur in the air, which would smell awful and turn the sky green.

HALF OF A HAMBURGER
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:04 AM on February 22, 2010


Hmm... well if we were being super ethical, then we should clone them because our species may have been responsible for their extinction. If we are unethical we should clone them because it would be fun. And advance science or whatever. Therefore the only reason not to clone them is if we're wishy-washy gits.


Clone away!
posted by Zalzidrax at 11:05 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The article fails to to mention doing it for teh lulz, surely that alone is reason enough?
posted by Damienmce at 11:05 AM on February 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


I've heard exactly zero good reasons not to clone something that don't involve invoking the unknowable wishes of imaginary friends in the sky.

what if that something was ill-adapted to lead any kind of fulfilled life in today's world and had the intelligence to know this and resent it?

what kind of quality of life is a cloned neanderthal going to have?

is it really right to bring back a creature to life when that creature's going to be miserable?

no imaginary friends in the sky necessary to consider these important questions
posted by pyramid termite at 11:08 AM on February 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


Does this statement mean, then, that natural selection and species extinction which took place 30,000 years ago has some kind of immoral connotation? That strikes me as ridiculous.

My impression of neanderthal extinction has always been that Homo Sapiens slaughtered them and wiped them out. Is this impression (gleaned from a college anthropology course,) right? Wrong? I asked upthread if anyone here could kindly supply further information, after this comment from Slap*Happy.

Nature has no right or wrong. It has its mechanisms and systems, without any morality within any of them.

Yet genocide does have a moral connotation. Was their extinction the result of genocide or natural selection?

If we're going to talk about "righting a wrong" when it comes to species extinction, let's start with these lists of mammals and birds. Those were real injustices against the natural systems performed by humans who should rightfully have known better.

Were we directly responsible for their extinction? We agree that context matters when it comes to morality. I'm not seeing any in your argument, while you're not seeing any in mine.

Aside from that, leave the moral argument out of the extinction of the neanderthals, because we have no context for their disappearance.

I'm truly asking this, and not trying to be argumentative: Do we not have context? Because some other commenters here seem to think that we do.
posted by zarq at 11:08 AM on February 22, 2010


what if that something was ill-adapted to lead any kind of fulfilled life in today's world and had the intelligence to know this and resent it?


I think you just summarized the complete oeuvre of Vonnegut.
posted by Babblesort at 11:10 AM on February 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


what if that something was ill-adapted to lead any kind of fulfilled life in today's world and had the intelligence to know this and resent it?

That's also an argument against having children.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:10 AM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Finally, the reason we don't have jetpacks and flying cars: excessive kindness


Yes, a jetpack and a flying car is exactly the same as a living being that we have reason to believe is capable of sentience.

Why do you think that gee-whiz technology is an advancement for the human race, but not the capacity for empathy, or the desire to refrain from causing suffering to innocent beings for our own ends?

Because if we're going to clone Neanderthals to study and not give a crap if they suffer, we might as well clone lots of them and switch to a slave-based economy too. They'd probably be cheaper than robots. The hell with compassion, we want our goddamn jetpacks.
posted by emjaybee at 11:12 AM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, for whatever it's worth, I'm trying to limit my comments here. Trying not to steer my own damned thread.
posted by zarq at 11:12 AM on February 22, 2010


If this causes an Encino Man 2... surely mankind is doomed.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 11:12 AM on February 22, 2010


I've heard exactly zero good reasons not to clone something that don't involve invoking the unknowable wishes of imaginary friends in the sky.

How about growing a sentient creature from scratch that might live only to suffer? Its been brought up several times already, that there are a lot of "what if's" (both moral and scientific) that go along with this that we are not even close to being able to deal with yet.

As the only really relevant moral issue I see here, if it turns out that we make a creature comparably intelligent to modern man and capable of learning our culture sufficiently to integrate into society, does that creature have "rights" beyond the basic humane treatment we afford other animals?

And that isn't even really the problem. If they don't die of some horrible degenerative genetic disease and are able to merge into society, things become somewhat easier morally. But, as mentioned above, if we get something between us and a chimpanzee? What then?

In a way, this is almost like the dilemma of a mother who knows their child will be born with some sort of defect. Abort and spare the child suffering or choose life because, well, we just should? A lot of it comes down to not knowing what, if any, defect will occur.
posted by cimbrog at 11:13 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


what kind of quality of life is a cloned neanderthal going to have?

I don't know, what?

is it really right to bring back a creature to life when that creature's going to be miserable?

The important thing is that you have an open mind and aren't presupposing anything in your question.
posted by DU at 11:14 AM on February 22, 2010


I think sweatshops are bad enough in the ostensibly post-slavery era.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:14 AM on February 22, 2010


Yes, a jetpack and a flying car is exactly the same as a living being that we have reason to believe is capable of sentience.

I made a joke to prevent myself from flaming you. Leave them extinct out of kindness? I hope future aliens/robot overlords aren't so "kind" to me.
posted by DU at 11:15 AM on February 22, 2010


By which I mean, come up with a definitive legal classification of Neanderthals as human before experimenting with them, and then apply the same bio-ethics decisions you would for any human experimentation.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:16 AM on February 22, 2010


We may soon be able to clone Neanderthals. But should we?

It's a bit of a catch-22. If we don't do it, Spielberg will.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:18 AM on February 22, 2010


I hope future aliens/robot overlords aren't so "kind" to me.

DU, if humanity goes extinct, you will be dead. There will be no cruelty or kindness to you. The cruelness or kindness will be extended to the creation of our future alien/robot overlords, depending on how things go.
posted by cimbrog at 11:19 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Neanderthals and early Homo Sapiens competed for the same ecological niches and we won.

Maybe in this timeline...
posted by uncleozzy at 11:19 AM on February 22, 2010


So let me understand this correctly: we have a moral imperative to do right by the dead when we still will not do right by the living? Isn't this like when you invest in a company that's devastating a country's economy and ecology and then go adopt a kid from that country to "make it all better"?

Besides, the combined drives scientific inquiry and investors will take precedence over this new person's rights. Given this hypothetical person's unique experience (How do their brains form? How do they process things?) how will they be able to make an informed decisions about how to run their life? Consent isn't really an option if you have no scale to measure what it will mean for you.

But oh well, your body for science whether you know how it will be used or not.
posted by yeloson at 11:20 AM on February 22, 2010


I don't get what's so complicated about the ethics. If it has "homo" as the genus, treat it as a human. We humans have a wide range of abilities and intellects, but we're all judged by the same laws. A mentally handicapped person can still work and lead a happy life. Since Neanderthals are so similar to humans, who's to say a typical Neanderthal would have more trouble?
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:22 AM on February 22, 2010


pyramid termite : is it really right to bring back a creature to life when that creature's going to be miserable?
cimbrog : How about growing a sentient creature from scratch that might live only to suffer?

Wow, you guys need some serious prozac.

You might as well say the same thing about all sentient life (at least, here on Earth) - We come here for the short span of 80 or so years, have to fight our way to the top or die trying, then fight to stay there, then we still die anyway. Most of our lives we spend in fear or regret or loneliness or just boredom, interspersed only with brief instances of fleeting happiness. And most of us fight to extend that 80 years by every possible second, at the end.

At best, we've raised the dead and learned a few things about our own history. At worst, we learn that we have a really depressing history.
posted by pla at 11:24 AM on February 22, 2010


Back around 2000-2001, on the Delphi Forums (remember those?) I used to post on "Keep On Praising Jesus", a Christian forum that hosted a fair number of people who hung around to play the devil's advocate (almost literally, heh). Topics involved just about everything that could be related to Christianity, and one day somebody posted asking if clones would have souls, and if not, what would that mean.

Over the next day or so, I got to see a bunch of people I'd previously thought of as perfectly reasonable, decent folks talk about how souls were the exclusive property of beings that had been created through sexual reproduction by beings possessing souls, and that cloned human beings, being therefore soulless, would be essentially like Descartes' conception of animals (simulating consciousness but not truly conscious) and freely and morally useful as slave labor. I was absolutely horrified and never went back.

Now, I don't for a second think that that's an opinion which is terribly common among Christians in this world. But there's enough of these folks, and they scare the shit out of me enough, that I'd seriously spend some time thinking about them before going forward with cloning sentients.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:25 AM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


DU, if humanity goes extinct, you will be dead. There will be no cruelty or kindness to you. The cruelness or kindness will be extended to the creation of our future alien/robot overlords, depending on how things go.

Right, I get that. I'm talking about some hypothetical mishmash where I haven't existed yet but could somehow be consulted before being cloned.

Or perhaps a clearer way of putting it: Despite some of the downsides, I'm glad to be alive. Unless their existence was truly awful, and I haven't seen any good reason it would be, the Neanderthals probably would be too. It would not be a kindness to decline to bring them to life.
posted by DU at 11:25 AM on February 22, 2010


It seems like there are some moral questions and some scientific questions, but that the moral questions all sort of stem from a "we don't know what would happen" place that the science would ideally, you know, answer. I think we go for it, if for nothing else then the possibility of a massive shift in our perceptions of life and our purpose and the ways in which we live, which could come along with the existence of another sentient species.

And we'll just have to pay the moral questions by ear. We'd have to anyway.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:26 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


then apply the same bio-ethics decisions you would for any human experimentation.

Well, yeah, but human experiments require consent... which you can't get from the Neanderthal before cloning it. This puts you in a pretty nebulous ethical state.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:29 AM on February 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


I get the feeling they won't be slaves, as some people are guessing. We're not that cruel in societies that have the wealth to pull this off. After all, it's not like the people who put up money for in vitro fertilization expect a return on that investment beyond a pregnancy.

What will be an issue is that the first Neanderthals will be such a novelty that the paparazzi and fanatics will be all over them. Religions will wonder if they have souls or should be judged by God(s) as humans. Medical and psychological doctors will want to run tons of tests.

They won't have very much privacy, and if they have trouble expressing themselves through language, this could be even more frustrating for them. Still, that's not to say they would be miserable. These same arguments could be used to say that celebrities shouldn't have children. I mean, do you thing Trig Palin's going to have it easy?
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:30 AM on February 22, 2010


So let me understand this correctly: we have a moral imperative to do right by the dead when we still will not do right by the living?

As far as I can see, the morality of one is not particularly contingent on the other. At best, the latter is an argument that we shouldn't do the former, because we would muck it up.
posted by zarq at 11:31 AM on February 22, 2010


BrotherCaine : I think sweatshops are bad enough in the ostensibly post-slavery era.

No worries, machines have already made humans obsolete in most areas of manufacturing. Where we once had semi-skilled laborers, we now have management bitching about having to comply with OSHA and train HS dropouts not to put their heads inside the 200 ton hydraulic press when the red light starts blinking.

Although the idea may sound good to most HR departments, few companies really want slaves - They can largely treat us so poorly only because they can tell us to take a hike at the end of the day and replace us the next morning.
posted by pla at 11:31 AM on February 22, 2010


We may soon be able to clone Neanderthals. But should we?

No. What is the purpose? If it is to do research, there is no way a neanderthal could give consent to any of this. The very creation of the person would constitute a human experiment for which the subject could not give prior permission.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:34 AM on February 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


They can largely treat us so poorly only because they can tell us to take a hike at the end of the day and replace us the next morning.

The alternative is not that they have to treat us well because they're stuck with us. it's that they have the option of killing us as motivation to our coworkers.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:34 AM on February 22, 2010


So let me understand this correctly: we have a moral imperative to do right by the dead when we still will not do right by the living?

Without an ounce of doubt, yes.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:35 AM on February 22, 2010


Not guilt. Simply a recognition that if we have the ability to right a wrong, then we should, as long as doing so won't harm us.

There are no establishable facts supporting this alleged "wrong" "we" committed.

Let me be clear. Wrong to resurrect a human without prior consent.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:37 AM on February 22, 2010


It's my biological instinct to want offspring. If the human race goes extinct, I sure as hell want humans to be cloned from the fossil record. I know it won't bring me back, but even if it just means a handful of humans living in a well-run zoo run by super-smart cephalopods, I'd be happy with it. I don't like the idea of humanity being forgotten and no human ever experiencing something again. Besides, we have language. We'll figure out how to say we're being treated like shit if we are. And we're better at rebelling than we look, so I'm sure the squids will keep the cage clean if they know what is good for them.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:38 AM on February 22, 2010


BTW, I just gave consent for future intelligences to clone us, guys. Sorry if anyone disagrees!
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:39 AM on February 22, 2010


Let me be clear. Wrong to resurrect a human without prior consent.

How so? Do we require prior consent when we create new humans, which we do constantly, in the laboratory that we call our bedrooms, or, for some of us, the bathroom at Hardies?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:39 AM on February 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


I tend to think the "We don't know until we try" line of argument a bit simpleminded. What kind of protections, social structure, education, population control, legal status, scientific status, resource allotment, political questions, religious objections, immunization protections, medical resources would it entail? And once it is done how do we ensure such safeguards are maintained internationally? But, screw all of that
We don't know until we try!
Buy no means do I want to equate cloning with the atomic bomb, but seriously it seems like the same mentality exists. If someday in the future we find a large button in the sky that says "Don't press this, it will cause the end of the world" we'd have to fend off the hoards of people racing to give it a go, just to see what would happen.
posted by edgeways at 11:40 AM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


If we can genetically engineer Lucy Liu Flesh Bots should we? What if they are designed to be ecstatic that they exist and incapable of pain or suffering? If we're able to successfully clone a Neanderthal it doesn't take a huge imagination to project forward to the point when Neanderdolls are marketed as the uncomplaining solution to all your deviant needs. Cloning and genetic engineering are topics where I believe the slippery slope arguments are genuine. The minute you set on this path there are huge ethical and moral complications.

I support stem cell research. I don't know about a spare clone body for parts. These are points on a single continuum. I'm not sure at what point along that line I start going eww but I know that there is a point where it has gone too far for me.

That's pretty much the definition of a slippery slope. It's OK right now. It won't be at some point though and I'm not sure where that point is. Will I recognize that point before or after I pass it?
posted by Babblesort at 11:41 AM on February 22, 2010


Or perhaps a clearer way of putting it: Despite some of the downsides, I'm glad to be alive. Unless their existence was truly awful, and I haven't seen any good reason it would be, the Neanderthals probably would be too. It would not be a kindness to decline to bring them to life.

I guess that's where one of the dividers really are. While their life may not have been truly awful in the past, that doesn't mean it wouldn't be today. The problem from my perspective, as Navelgazer pointed out, comes from what we don't know.

Combine this with the other divider here, the question of what we actually owe the Neanderthals. I don't believe we owe anything to them, so I am less willing to take a chance on the things that might go wrong for the creature we bring forth. We don't have to do this. Others obviously feel differently and are willing to take that chance.

Either way, being us we'll probably plow straight ahead damn the consequences. Sometimes change is just change and you learn to live with it.
posted by cimbrog at 11:41 AM on February 22, 2010


"It would not be a kindness to decline to bring them to life."
It's not like they're floating in a bubble just above us pressing their faces against it longing to be a part of our world. They don't exist right now, they don't know that they don't exist, and they're better off that way. If they did exist they'd have no culture, no memories, no homeland, no place to just be themselves and hunt and gather around fires and do whatever they do. They'd live in sterile labs at best. We have a hard enough time protecting elephants and lions who are already trying to do their thing and having a hard enough time. There's no way they'd be able to live good, normal lives. I'm thinking something like the movie Nell. Eventually everyone left Nell alone and she was happy again, but I think that's too good for us to manage.
posted by amethysts at 11:42 AM on February 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


Rule 34 with Neanderthals is a slam dunk.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:43 AM on February 22, 2010


Bitch about yer lack of flying cars all you like, but I find it fairly mind-blowing that we're actually having this conversation.

Cloning Neanderthals. Damn.
posted by LordSludge at 11:43 AM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


If they did exist they'd have no culture, no memories, no homeland, no place to just be themselves and hunt and gather around fires and do whatever they do. They'd live in sterile labs at best.

What the? They'd be American citizens, assuming they were cloned here, and they would part of and a product of this culture. We were cavemen once, and nobody says, hey, no more babies, because where on earth are they going to hunt wolly mamoths and make cave paintings and there's no ice age anymore!

Let's not invent a tragedy by behaving as though a caveman's life is somehow inherently worse because there is no caveman culture left.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:46 AM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


The idea that homo sapiens as a species owe something to Neanderthals is madness.

When we get the neanderthals up and running again are we going to teach them how to clone Homo Geidelbergensis so they don't feel bad about replacing them?
posted by mpbx at 11:46 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nexis 0
posted by edgeways at 11:47 AM on February 22, 2010


Ironmouth : The very creation of the person would constitute a human experiment for which the subject could not give prior permission.

So where do you stand on IVF? Or experimentation on animals proven to have self awareness?


Babblesort : If we can genetically engineer Lucy Liu Flesh Bots should we? What if they are designed to be ecstatic that they exist and incapable of pain or suffering?

Sounds good to me! Sign me up for a pair. Aww hell, make it three, that way one can cook while the other two "work". ;)
posted by pla at 11:49 AM on February 22, 2010


If we can genetically engineer Lucy Liu Flesh Bots should we? ...Nini kama ni iliyoundwa kuwa ecstatic kwamba hawezi kuwepo na maumivu au mateso? Kama we're kunnat Clone a Neanderthal haina kuchukua mawazo ili mradi mkubwa mbele kwa uhakika wakati Neanderdolls ni kuuzwa kama uncomplaining ufumbuzi deviant mahitaji yako yote. Cloning na maumbile uhandisi ni mada ambapo naamini slippery slope hoja ni kweli. Dakika wewe kuweka njia hii kuna kubwa kimaadili na matatizo ya kimaadili.

I'm sorry. I heard "Lucy Liu Flesh Bots" and my mind went a-wandering. I missed nearly everything you said after that. Was it important? :)
posted by zarq at 11:49 AM on February 22, 2010


Dude. Nexus. Fucked up an otherwise great joke.
posted by Babblesort at 11:49 AM on February 22, 2010


If we can genetically engineer Lucy Liu Flesh Bots should we?

This is not a funny meme.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:50 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think that anyone is implying that they would likely be slaves. I think that the moral issue here, if there really is one is that these are NOT humans, and they are NOT particularly close to humans genetically. There were a lot of other hominid species that were closer to homo sapiens that died out before Neanderthals did, and if you look at our family tree you would see that the branch that splits us from them is fairly far back in the grand scheme of bipedal largely hairless primates. People seem to assuming that they would be just like us, and would be able to fit into our society, or create their own from scratch which is at best fanciful. If they were created and it was safe for them to leave a clean laboratory environment (I doubt it, there would likely be rife with genetic health issues due to ancient fragmented DNA, and being so far behind the curve on the disease resistance front), they would most likely be relegated to breeding centers like pandas or possibly zoos. Why recreate a failed species just for that?

And it does not matter if we wiped them out (I for one believe that is the most likely case), there is no moral consideration to make there, it is just a brutal example of survival of the fittest. The Neanderthal had its time and opportunity, and since the market closed out on advanced hominids adapted to northern climates during an extended ice age, I think the book can safely remain closed on them without moral quandaries. If it makes you feel any better about letting this opportunity slide, I am sure there were a number of other fellow hominid species that never made it out of Africa because we were so awesome that no one has even thought of cloning yet.
posted by BobbyDigital at 11:50 AM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's no way they'd be able to live good, normal lives.

I propose we implant them with remotely-triggered agonizers, organize them into military units, dress them in menacing uniforms, provide unnecessarily large weapons and a cool name like "the Neogenetic Division."

Then we unleash them upon an unsuspecting populace in support of a global coup-d'etat.

Don't pretend you wouldn't enjoy watching that happen. You know damn well you would.
posted by aramaic at 11:52 AM on February 22, 2010


A caveman is a caveman because he lives in the Stone Age, not because he has the "caveman" gene.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:52 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


We killed them off, moved into their territory when the climate changed and made their environment better suited to us. We couldn't move there sooner because they out competed us in their previous climate / environment.

That's the argument made by "The humans who went extinct". Here's a Podcast(mp3) review of it, via.
posted by ecco at 11:55 AM on February 22, 2010


Let me be clear. Wrong to resurrect a human without prior consent.
You were clear on your opinion the first time. Now how 'bout some reasoning?

Then again, if we're all just spouting opinions, I see nothing moral or immoral in this at all.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:55 AM on February 22, 2010


A caveman is a caveman because he lives in the Stone Age, not because he has the "caveman" gene.

In fairness, Caveman Gene did produce many of the great Garage Rock anthems of the 60s.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:56 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The mistaken conflation of cloning with resurrection in this thread reminds me of the equally ill-thought out conflation of "consciousness upload" with immortality in some discussions of transhumanism.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:57 AM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


There are no establishable facts supporting this alleged "wrong" "we" committed.

OK. Do you have any sources I could read which support this?
posted by zarq at 11:59 AM on February 22, 2010


The amount of optimism in those who think that hell, let's just do it because we can, damn the torpedoes, we Americans and it'll all be fine! is kind of dumbfounding.

I mean, does no one read the news? Human trafficking? Sweatshops? Still happening, all the time, on our planet. Even in the good 'ol US of A.

And I don't get the "please resurrect humanity!" plea re future space squids or whatever. They won't be resurrecting you, personally. If we extinct ourselves, why would space squids want us back? Maybe we'd just be a giant headache and create lots of problems.

Likewise, we wouldn't be resurrecting Sam the Neanderthal, who was killed and eaten by our ancestors millennia ago. We'd be creating Bud the Neanderthal, who never existed before, and who is yet somehow supposed to atone for our past sins by existing, even if he's miserable and lonely. Meanwhile Sam ain't coming back to get our apology, and unless you believe in Neanderthal Heaven, isn' t looking down and thinking "Finally, payback!"
posted by emjaybee at 12:01 PM on February 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think people need to come to terms with the fact that some things cannot be undone. To those who believe that we have a moral imperative to bring back Neanderthals because of how our species may have wronged them in the past, what exactly are you proposing? That the Earth be forced to carry a quota of Neanderthals at all times, created and maintained by artificial means, as some sort of apology for what our ancestors may or may not have done to the original Neanderthals?
posted by mpbx at 12:02 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


A caveman is a caveman because he lives in the Stone Age, not because he has the "caveman" gene.

I, on the other hand, have a extra set of "sophisticate" genes in my chromosomes. Suck it, caveman.

Though, genetically speaking, a caveman or woman will have a tougher time living amongst our modern bacteria and viruses. Thousands of years of natural selection and all that.

Still, by the time we get around being technically capable of cloning a human being, we might be able to splice in a few germ-resistance genes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:02 PM on February 22, 2010


he's miserable and lonely.

Why would he be either, besides the reasons anybody is miserable and lonely.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:03 PM on February 22, 2010


I'm pretty sure this is going to happen anyhow -- despite whatever ethical concerns we may raise, there's going to be somebody, somewhere with both the means and the ethical rationalization (pick one) to make this happen.

The question, then, is what happens WHEN we clone neanderthals?

And why has this not been made into an awesome sci-fi series yet?
posted by LordSludge at 12:03 PM on February 22, 2010


The subthread about souls is interesting.

I've had similar conversations to the one Pope Guilty described, and I've found that the "soul" concept gets more traction when you frame it in terms like consciousness and continuity of experience. What's always fascinated me is the idea of teleportation, not through wormholes or quantum entanglement models, but Star Trek style: disassembling a human being in one location and perfectly reassembling him/her somewhere else. The newly assembled person might have the same molecular composition, personality, memories, etc., but is it really the same person? To outsiders, yes, but from a continuity of experience point of view the original person ceased to exist the moment the machine was activated.

Which does raise a number of theological questions, if you believe in souls. If a duplicate me (Winsome II) is created when I teleport myself, how does God account for that? If I am now dead, is Winsome II issued a fresh soul upon his spontaneous creation? What happens when he, believing himself to be me, teleports again? And every time after that? How many Winsomes are in heaven? Or hell? Or do different ones go to different places? Or does God pull strings behind the scenes to ensure that my soul is magically transported into the appropriate new body every time? The scary scenario is what Pope Guilty described: my post-teleportation duplicate is just a soulless automaton simulating me, fooling my closest family and friends, the most sinister type of identity theft I can imagine. Body-snatching, more or less. If souls exist, mine shivers at the thought.

The cloning issue is different but similar. For those who believe in souls, the question of when they become imprinted upon a body is pretty important. I can imagine lots of Christians turning to Psalm 139 and the "knitting together" of a person within the mother's womb. If you bypass that step, does the miracle still happen? And of course, souls being the nebulous, immaterial things that they are/aren't, there's no way to prove it one way or the other. Hence, FUD.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 12:03 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Exactly emjaybee - I don't see how cloning a Neanderthal "rights" this perceived "wrong". It's not like he will remember Neanderthal culture and serve as a portal to the past. And there's a very good chance that instead of righting that wrong, it will only be making it worse.
posted by molecicco at 12:05 PM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


The mistaken conflation of cloning with resurrection in this thread reminds me of the equally ill-thought out conflation of "consciousness upload" with immortality in some discussions of transhumanism.

This is why I have been casting "Contact Mi-Go" every time I find myself near a high mountain range. Gonna get my brainmeats in a brain cylinder posthaste!
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:06 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Your manual, fellow boffins.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 12:09 PM on February 22, 2010


Though, genetically speaking, a caveman or woman will have a tougher time living amongst our modern bacteria and viruses. Thousands of years of natural selection and all that.

Of course, since a clone is born from a host mother as infants and not brought forth as some sort of adult golem, he or she would have time to develope an immune response against modern germs just like a modern homo sapien infant.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:16 PM on February 22, 2010


Of course, all this reminds of how long it's been since I re-read Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books.

There's a lot of thought that needs to go on before any cloning of Neanderthals can be done. Are they sentient? What do we do if they are? How to we create an environment that is healthy both physically and mentally for them to live in?

I mean, I'm not a big fan of PETA and so forth, but we kind of treat chimps and apes like shit; who's to say we'd treat the next closest cousin any better?
posted by teleri025 at 12:17 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why would he be either, besides the reasons anybody is miserable and lonely.

I'm curious about this as well.
posted by zarq at 12:17 PM on February 22, 2010


I'm curious about this as well.
posted by zarq at 3:17 PM on February 22 [+] [!]


zarq, I think the reasons many of us are apprehensive about the quality of life for whatever we create has been pretty fleshed out so far. And mentioned before, it all boils down to us not knowing how this will turn out.

Lets turn this around. What makes people so sure that a cloned neanderthal will be okay upon being brought back? At least sure enough to risk bringing it back?
posted by cimbrog at 12:27 PM on February 22, 2010


The Winsome Parker Lewis : Or does God pull strings behind the scenes to ensure that my soul is magically transported into the appropriate new body every time?

I don't understand how someone could postulate the existence of a soul without allowing for exactly that transaction, or some other easy escape clause, such as soul-nonlocality in the first place.

If you believe you have a soul because of an omnipotent deity, then your deity can (and by any logic that would have caused it to imbue you with such a liability in the first place, should) make it follow your body around regardless of how you travel.

Now if you don't want to invoke theology and just want to talk about a "soul" as nothing more than a ghost living inside you, then I see two possibilities... One, it in some way forms a part of you, meaning that it too would get transported; Or two, our silly notions of a material universe mean almost nothing to it and thus transporting should cause it no more trouble than walking across the street.


molecicco : I don't see how cloning a Neanderthal "rights" this perceived "wrong".

I'll agree with you, but add in, "So what?"

I don't get the whole "guilt for things done long before our lives" kick some people get on. We don't even know if we, as a species, directly caused the extinction of Neanderthals (nor will cloning one give us that answer); and even if we did kill every last one of them, in cold blood and for pure sport - Talking about something that happened over a thousand generations ago here. Consider me over it, and to hell with "atonement".
posted by pla at 12:29 PM on February 22, 2010


Their culture is and will forever be extinct, there is nothing for them here, it is the height of hubris, and a bad idea period.

Maybe they're pining for the fjords.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:34 PM on February 22, 2010


Those are our fjords now.
posted by BobbyDigital at 12:37 PM on February 22, 2010



Why would he be either, besides the reasons anybody is miserable and lonely.


Because he would probably have to spend his entire life in a lab, being studied? Or else in some sort of zoo-like preserve? It strikes me as very optimistic thinking that this individual will be able to blend into society or leave a scientific environment (especially because of the fucked up cloned genetics).

What is the point of

It's abhorrent. Why create an individual without seriously considering the quality of life that they are going to have? Because it's cool? It's bad enough when parents do this by having children (despite knowing they have x terrible disease the kid'll probably die of before they're 2), this is much worse.

Maybe we can try it once we become an enlightened species that is responsible enough to at least consider these questions in seriousness before going "Sweet!! Science!! What could possibly go wrong?"
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:37 PM on February 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


I get the feeling they won't be slaves, as some people are guessing. We're not that cruel in societies that have the wealth to pull this off.

Right, they'll just be unemployed, possibly homeless, and without health insurance. I mean, we're not Neanderthals!
posted by wildcrdj at 12:44 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


And if we can't be bothered to give obviously-sentient beings like the great apes rights, I see no reason to believe we would give Neanderthals rights (hell, many humans still dont want to give all humans rights...)
posted by wildcrdj at 12:46 PM on February 22, 2010


All these ice carved features are yours. Except fjords. Attempt no Neanderthals there.
posted by Babblesort at 12:50 PM on February 22, 2010


genetically speaking, a caveman or woman will have a tougher time living amongst our modern bacteria and viruses. Thousands of years of natural selection and all that.

Precisely. There are diseases now that didn't even exist THIRTY years ago, much less thirty THOUSAND years ago. The environment has changed. The very AIR has changed. The Earth that existed and that the Neanderthals evolved to be suited to is so different from the modern world so as to be a totally different planet.

So how do we resolve that before we try cloning?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:52 PM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


zarq, I think the reasons many of us are apprehensive about the quality of life for whatever we create has been pretty fleshed out so far. And mentioned before, it all boils down to us not knowing how this will turn out.

I'm apprehensive. After reading this thread and seeing the larger picture, I'm not sure it's a good idea. My comments above were not meant to say that we should do it and "damn the torpedoes." (I realize you didn't say that, but I want to clarify my position anyway.) This is obviously a complex situation, and the newly created person's rights (especially the right not to be locked in a lab for their entire life or treated like a science experiment,) would have to be established beforehand.

You say we don't know how it will turn out. I agree. Someone stated upthread:
...is it really right to bring back a creature to life when that creature's going to be miserable?
I thought the idea that a Neanderthal has to be miserable in modern society was addressed pretty quickly, here and here.

So now, emjaybee:
"Likewise, we wouldn't be resurrecting Sam the Neanderthal, who was killed and eaten by our ancestors millennia ago. We'd be creating Bud the Neanderthal, who never existed before, and who is yet somehow supposed to atone for our past sins by existing, even if he's miserable and lonely."
I am asking why that Neanderthal is assumed to be miserable and lonely. The very idea of cloning one has sparked conversations about what steps might need to be taken to make sure that person is treated like a person, not a lab rat. Perhaps this is a positive sign that we'd be capable of establishing guidelines which would treat them with dignity and respect if one was cloned.

What seems evident is that before a decision to act or not to act is taken, further discussion is necessary, and the decision damned well shouldn't be be taken lightly. If cloning were to be done, certain specific protections and assistance would need to be established.

Lets turn this around. What makes people so sure that a cloned neanderthal will be okay upon being brought back? At least sure enough to risk bringing it back?

I'm not sure. Nor should anyone be sure that Neanderthal won't be okay. There's an assumption being made here that lacks sufficient supporting evidence.
posted by zarq at 12:53 PM on February 22, 2010


Yes, we must do this absolutely, because they can explain to the Intelligent Design folks how things really were back in the day.

Also these Neanderthals, will get all sorts of work doing commercials.
posted by Skygazer at 12:53 PM on February 22, 2010


Also, they can be harvested for their organs, and be turned into a standing army of deadly mercenaries once they've been biologically modified to interface with cyborg battle armor and vehicles.
posted by Skygazer at 12:56 PM on February 22, 2010


Or they could just be slaves. Labor costs would, once again, be negligible in this country, how else will we hold back the Asian hordes. It's smart capitalism is what I say and we could have millions of them. MILLIONS!! What could go wrong? It's not like a charismatic leader might emerge from their ranks called Caesar and lead them to a Revolution of emancipation that wipes out human beings...ha ha ha.

Also, I imagine with a little extreme laser electorlysis there's got to be some pretty hot Neanderthal babes...for you..you know....a little hanky panky.
posted by Skygazer at 1:00 PM on February 22, 2010


I am asking why that Neanderthal is assumed to be miserable and lonely. The very idea of cloning one has sparked conversations about what steps might need to be taken to make sure that person is treated like a person, not a lab rat. Perhaps this is a positive sign that we'd be capable of establishing guidelines which would treat them with dignity and respect if one was cloned.

Basically most people seem to be saying that if and when we set up laws to give this person basic human rights, we can proceed to the idea that they won't be miserable and lonely. "Sparking a conversation" is good, but doesn't really count for shit if we're going to go ahead and clone them anyway without ensuring some basic protections.

That we don't have these rights yet established, and it's suspect if we will, seems like sufficient supporting evidence that the individual's quality of life will not be no where as good as the average person's.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:01 PM on February 22, 2010


the individual's quality of life will not be no where as good as the average person's.

ftfm

posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:02 PM on February 22, 2010


We're not that cruel in societies that have the wealth to pull this off.

Tell that to the inmates of Abu Ghraib
posted by KokuRyu at 1:02 PM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Because he would probably have to spend his entire life in a lab, being studied? Or else in some sort of zoo-like preserve?

None of this automatically spells out misery to me. Just because a life is lived differently doesn't automatically make it worse. Besides, you're arguing from conjecture, and if we can just imagine what his life will be, well, I imagine him with a nice house and a job doing something he excels at, perhaps doing cave protraiture.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:08 PM on February 22, 2010


Of course, since a clone is born from a host mother as infants and not brought forth as some sort of adult golem, he or she would have time to develope an immune response against modern germs just like a modern homo sapien infant.

The mother's immune system may be his biggest problem.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:09 PM on February 22, 2010


Would you want humans to be cloned if we ever went extinct?
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:10 PM on February 22, 2010


None of this automatically spells out misery to me. Just because a life is lived differently doesn't automatically make it worse. Besides, you're arguing from conjecture, and if we can just imagine what his life will be, well, I imagine him with a nice house and a job doing something he excels at, perhaps doing cave protraiture.

Okay, really? What's a more reasonable conjecture?

- The science experiment who, by definition as a non-human being, has almost no rights will probably live

a) in in a laboratory or in inhumane conditions.
b) in a fancy house.

Geeze, it's not like I'm making an at all unrealistic hypothesis. Just look at how humans treat primates, all animals, and most other humans.

Just because a life is lived differently doesn't automatically make it worse.

Okay, so you volunteer to switch places with the average lab chimp?
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:17 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Basically most people seem to be saying that if and when we set up laws to give this person basic human rights, we can proceed to the idea that they won't be miserable and lonely. "Sparking a conversation" is good, but doesn't really count for shit if we're going to go ahead and clone them anyway without ensuring some basic protections.

OK, that makes perfect sense to me. Thank you for clarifying. :)

That we don't have these rights yet established, and it's suspect if we will, seems like sufficient supporting evidence that the individual's quality of life will not be no where as good as the average person's.

I'm not convinced it's suspect. But I understand your reasoning.
posted by zarq at 1:17 PM on February 22, 2010


I'd switch places with Koko. And it is conjecture to assume that a Neanderthal would be treated like a lab animal.

Hell, I'd switch places with most zoo monkeys if I got health insurance to go with it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:19 PM on February 22, 2010


We should clone woolly mammoths first. And then we'll domesticate them. And breed all kinds of fur coats.
Just imagine; cute overload on a mammoth scale.
posted by joost de vries at 1:22 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm sure nothing could possibly go wrong. *cough*

I was really hoping that link would go to Encino Man.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:22 PM on February 22, 2010


We are Homo Sapiens, which means that we are going to do this no matter what.

Our can-do lets-try-anything attitude is probably what made us more sucessful than the Neanderthals and, ironically, will probably eventually lead to our destruction as well.
posted by Avenger at 1:24 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Most of you are looking at the wrong ethical questions. There are plenty of problems more damning than, say, imagining scientists are evil beings bent on vivisecting everything with reach.

If anyone's interested I will be happy to elaborate later when I'm not reading mefi on my phone.
posted by zennie at 1:31 PM on February 22, 2010


My impression of neanderthal extinction has always been that Homo Sapiens slaughtered them and wiped them out. Is this impression (gleaned from a college anthropology course,) right? Wrong?

Yet genocide does have a moral connotation. Was their extinction the result of genocide or natural selection?

Were we directly responsible for their extinction? We agree that context matters when it comes to morality. I'm not seeing any in your argument, while you're not seeing any in mine.

I'm truly asking this, and not trying to be argumentative: Do we not have context? Because some other commenters here seem to think that we do.


Anyone claiming to have any knowledge about the extinction of the neanderthals aside from "they are now all dead" is dealing with conjecture. It is prehistory, we have no surviving oral histories from that period of time, and trying to infer any sort of motive or causality from the fossil record left to us is nothing more than reading bones and sticks as if they were tarot cards. A quick google search on the topic of "what caused the extinction of neanderthals" yields suppositions by those studying the matter which range from failure of culinary imagination to mad cow disease to having their resources overtaken by other species.

Any textbook which taught you that Homo Sapiens created some kind of Final Solution for the neanderthals is irresponsible and should be removed from all shelves immediately. It begs the question of H. Sapiens superiority from the start and creates its own narrative to show "why we won" without any real support for its claims. Prehistory is simply that, and we will likely never know the answer.
posted by hippybear at 1:43 PM on February 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


That we don't have these rights yet established, and it's suspect if we will, seems like sufficient supporting evidence that the individual's quality of life will not be no where as good as the average person's.

I see what you mean, but would we need to establish separe rights for a Neanderthal? They are after all human. A different species, sure, but human nevertheless.

He/she should allowed to vote when turning 18...
posted by Sourisnoire at 1:48 PM on February 22, 2010


Although the prospect of a cuddly woolly mammoth is quite scary come to think of it.
posted by joost de vries at 1:52 PM on February 22, 2010


Solon and Thanks : "Sparking a conversation" is good, but doesn't really count for shit if we're going to go ahead and clone them anyway without ensuring some basic protections.

Except, most of this conversation also presupposes that neanderthals did have a level of intelligence at least in the same ballpark as modern humans.

We have absolutely no evidence of that, only speculation. The used tools - So do many birds. They had bigger brains than their (and our) precursor species - So do blue whales.

I asked the question phrased after the fact because we simply can't answer it until we know one way or the other.

IMO, if nearly on par with us (and capable of surviving in modern society, it deserves some if not all of the rights of a human. If a smart monkey, though, this entire discussion amounts to mental masturbation.


Okay, so you volunteer to switch places with the average lab chimp?

Me? No thanks. Half of the world's population, who live in far, far worse conditions?

Yeah, you won't get a lot of takers from those with the resources to post on MeFi. Ask the same question even in a 1st-world homeless shelter and see if you can find enough cages to take all the volunteers.
posted by pla at 2:01 PM on February 22, 2010


The reparations costs will bankrupt us all!
posted by five fresh fish at 2:07 PM on February 22, 2010


Imagine a bunch of Victorian anthropologists huddled in a teahouse in Cambridge. They've recently learned that an Italian astronomer, using a powerful new telescope, has discovered an extensive network of canals on the surface of Mars. Teacups in hand, these guys are heatedly debating the merits of a visit to the planet by British or Continental aeronauts, whose airships will no doubt be scaled up and outfitted for celestial travel within the next several years. Many impassioned arguments center on the pros and cons of an embassy to the Martian canal-builders, with some in attendance supporting the establishment of friendly diplomatic and trade relations, others expressing concern that the Mars-men may be warlike, and a third camp opposing contact entirely, fearing that subsequent colonial expansion by the great European powers will lead to subjugation and enslavement of the Martian race.

Yeah, that's what I'm reminded of, reading this thread.

Coming up with a "draft genome" for an extinct organism is many orders of magnitude more straightforward than cloning said beastie à la Jurassic Park, in terms of the scientific knowledge and engineering skill necessary to pull it off. This discussion is totally conflating the two. In reality, I think it'll be decades before we're capable of rebuilding the sort of high-fidelity, "bit-perfect" genetic transcript that would be needed from the mess of shredded and degraded DNA found in ancient tissue. And it'll take us even longer to get to the point where we understand the dynamics of life well enough, at a genetic and a molecular level, to take that complete transcript and hatch a viable living thing with it, given the fact that we'll also have to recreate the entire cellular environment that genome "expects" to operate within.

Sure, there are a bunch of hard questions that need to be asked before we bring extinct things, and particularly extinct hominids, back to life. But this is still so far down the road, technologically speaking, that I'm pretty sure we don't even know what those hard questions are yet.
posted by killdevil at 2:08 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I see what you mean, but would we need to establish separe rights for a Neanderthal? They are after all human. A different species, sure, but human nevertheless.

But there are plenty of people today who believe that homo sapiens with different skin colors, or who believe in different things, or who have sex with different people don't deserve equal protection under the law.

And lots of the people who believe those things make our laws. We can't even guarantee equal rights and equal treatment for other members of our own species, let alone other sentient animals.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:09 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's bad enough when parents do this by having children...

This.
posted by everichon at 2:22 PM on February 22, 2010


Yes, and then we should make them fight it out. In fact, we need to clone every hominid ever and let them duke it out, elimination style, on SpikeTV. Not only is that some SCIENCE! that I can get behind, the project would pay for itself.
posted by absalom at 2:30 PM on February 22, 2010


We can't even guarantee equal rights and equal treatment for other members of our own species, let alone other sentient animals.

Well yes, true. But wouldn't that make them all the more equal to us? And I don't really think that that will be a real problem.
You can bet on cloning a Neanderthal being a big media event, with loads of human rights organisations (and possibly some misguided animal welfare organisations) paying as close attention as possible.
posted by Sourisnoire at 2:39 PM on February 22, 2010


Imagine a bunch of Victorian anthropologists huddled in a teahouse in Cambridge.

The theory that homo sapiens exterminated Neanderthals in southern Europe dates back to the early 20th century (before WWI), when the idea that races were all in competition with each other, survival of the fittest (in an anthropological rather than evolutionary context) etc was very popular. This line of thinking hasn't really advanced much in the past hundred years because, as hippybear noted above, no records survive what happened at that time.

Hell, just last year a paper was published arguing that 30% of all known dinosaur species are not actually species, but are probably juvenile versions of the same species.

There just isn't a lot of information to determine what happened in the distant past, and we'll probably never know what happened.

However, changing climate probably played a role in the demise of the Neanderthals. It would be ironic that in the distant future intelligent pigs, cockroaches or rats started arguing on a message board about the moral culpability they have over exterminating homo sapiens in the late 21st Century, when really it was climate change.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:48 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Me? No thanks. Half of the world's population, who live in far, far worse conditions?

But doesn't that prove my point? It can't be a great existence if only people living in already intolerable conditions would want to switch. And it's one thing to take a creature who is suffering and put her in a somewhat more laboratory humane environment, and another to expressly create a being knowing that she will be confined to that lab.

On the level of neanderthals this is still academic, but it's surprising to me how many people instantly went "great idea!" and characterized anyone with misgivings as a religious nut.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:51 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


We may not have any choice once Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer v. U.S. makes its way to the Supreme Court.

Ironically, once all the Neanderthals get their day in court and each of them gets that $10 million award, Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer will have bankrupted us all, dooming our economy and our very species. How the tables will turn.
posted by crapmatic at 2:53 PM on February 22, 2010


Bring them back to life? Why, to convert them to Mormonism?

Wouldn't it just be easier to resurrect the Three Stooges, for all the difference it would make?

But if you're going to use DNA to start bringing back dead hominids, let's start with Benjamin Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin was a Founding Father, a scientist, author, musician, inventor, a ladies man, had a good sense of humor, and the French loved him. We turn that into a reality show, make Seinfeld money on syndication both here and in Europe, then we can afford to bring back all kinds of people from the dead. If we hurry, we could finally have that Beatles reunion.
posted by Davenhill at 4:29 PM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


First, Neanderthals are bigger, stronger and presumably smarter than humans (they have larger cranial capacity). So obviously they would steal all of our jobs.

Second, what if the shoe were on the other foot and the lovable, huggable Neanderthals had survived instead of us? Would they have brought us back? I bet they would. And it would be the last mistake they ever made.
posted by Davenhill at 4:56 PM on February 22, 2010


Hey guys, while we're bringing things back from the dead, let's bring back Ronald Reagan but put FDR's brain inside! It'd be for lulz, so no ethical hand-wringing would be required!
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:00 PM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty much in the Bad Idea camp, partly because I don't think neanderthals would have a very good life in modern society.

But then I consider what daily life would have been like as a prehistoric hunter-gatherer, and I gotta think modern life in nearly any capacity would be pretty freakin sweet by comparison.

And I'm back on the fence.
posted by LordSludge at 5:16 PM on February 22, 2010


First, Neanderthals are bigger, stronger and presumably smarter than humans (they have larger cranial capacity) So obviously they would steal all of our jobs.

Size and bigger brains are overrated. Dolphins are bigger and stronger than us, and have bigger brains, but can they jerk off without human assistance? Nooo.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:30 PM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Second, what if the shoe were on the other foot and the lovable, huggable Neanderthals had survived instead of us? Would they have brought us back? I bet they would. And it would be the last mistake they ever made.

Maybe it was, davenhill. Maybe it was.

Cut to Rod Sterling smoking a cigarette.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:38 PM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Serling. *sigh*
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:47 PM on February 22, 2010



Let's not invent a tragedy by behaving as though a caveman's life is somehow inherently worse because there is no caveman culture left.

Refugees, relocated to camps because of genocidal slaughter, would, I think, debate that point with you.

I'd switch places with Koko. And it is conjecture to assume that a Neanderthal would be treated like a lab animal.

Because we, as a people, have such a great history with treating people well when we have already defined them as different? I'm sure black people really wanted to be slaves and gays never wanted to get married anyway. As you say, "Just because a life is lived differently doesn't automatically make it worse." So I guess it was okay when Jews were relocated to ghettos, too.

And even without any of that nastiness from homo sapiens, our Environment would be toxic for a Neanderthal. The air we breathe, the diets we eat, the pollution in the water, the diseases we have antibodies for that they were never exposed to would kill them off in a heartbeat if they were allowed out of a sterile environment.
posted by misha at 5:54 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Size and bigger brains are overrated. Dolphins are bigger and stronger than us, and have bigger brains, but can they jerk off without human assistance? Nooo.

"(Neanderthals) were much stronger, having particularly strong arms and hands." - wiki.

Sounds like it's time to fire up the ol' vat again.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:15 PM on February 22, 2010


Any society that want's to resurrect Neanderthals before Channel Island Dwarf Mammoths is a society with it's priorities out of whack.

That said, just how many Neandethals are you intending to clone? If you want a stable breeding population, you're going to need at least 10,000 or so, and you're going to need a variety of sources of DNA to avoid a genetic bottleneck. Where are you gooing to settle these neanderthals? Are they going too get a reservation, or are you just going to shove them into the inner city and say "good luck?"

To what extent are you willing to go to salve your overactive conscience? And while you're thinking about that, could you bring back the Dodo and the Tasmanian Devil too? And trilobites. Because trilobites are the most utterly cool looking things.
posted by happyroach at 6:43 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


CSI : Neanderthals *

*(That Mitchell and Webb Look)*
posted by Skygazer at 7:20 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've heard that Neanderthals are pretty good at croquet.

And with the TIGER funds creating fancy new monorails, we're going to need someone to drive them.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 7:25 PM on February 22, 2010


Wow. Cool article, thanks for sharing.
posted by agregoli at 7:29 PM on February 22, 2010


Hippybear: Anyone claiming to have any knowledge about the extinction of the neanderthals aside from "they are now all dead" is dealing with conjecture. It is prehistory, we have no surviving oral histories from that period of time, and trying to infer any sort of motive or causality from the fossil record left to us is nothing more than reading bones and sticks as if they were tarot cards. A quick google search on the topic of "what caused the extinction of neanderthals" yields suppositions by those studying the matter which range from failure of culinary imagination to mad cow disease to having their resources overtaken by other species.

Any textbook which taught you that Homo Sapiens created some kind of Final Solution for the neanderthals is irresponsible and should be removed from all shelves immediately. It begs the question of H. Sapiens superiority from the start and creates its own narrative to show "why we won" without any real support for its claims. Prehistory is simply that, and we will likely never know the answer.


and

KokuRyu: There just isn't a lot of information to determine what happened in the distant past, and we'll probably never know what happened.

However, changing climate probably played a role in the demise of the Neanderthals.


Thank you. Those are very helpful answers. In light of these and other constructive comments, I withdraw my comment above declaring it a moral imperative to resurrect the species. I didn't expect to learn something new when I created this post, but I'm glad I did. :)
posted by zarq at 7:40 PM on February 22, 2010


agregoli, you're welcome.
posted by zarq at 7:42 PM on February 22, 2010


Refugees, relocated to camps because of genocidal slaughter, would, I think, debate that point with you.

They're not born refugees. A caveman born without knowing their biological parents, or having real knowledge of their culture, and any actual biological roots they can identify?

You've just described the experience of most adopted children in America.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:55 PM on February 22, 2010


Let's go for the middle ground here. We clone everything below the neck and then screw on the head of a common chimpanzee. The chimp would be cool with it, because he gets to be taller, so there goes all your "ethics" complaints.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:27 PM on February 22, 2010


We clone everything below the neck and then screw on the head of a common chimpanzee.

I believe you have a business model.
posted by mazola at 9:18 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


You've just described the experience of most adopted children in America.

Only in the case of rampaging caveman babies, it'd be way harder to find willing foster parents.
posted by edguardo at 10:10 PM on February 22, 2010


All these comments and not one mention of the classic Asimov short story "The Ugly Little Boy"? You're slipping, Metafilter.
posted by Asparagirl at 4:18 AM on February 23, 2010


I think there's a very poignant film on this very topic that all parties involved should be forced to watch, titled "Attack of The Clones".

This is important as since scientists are by their nature nerds; the film is so bad, everyone involved will be too busy fuming about George Lucas to get any lab work done.

Crisis averted.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:01 AM on February 23, 2010


Asparagirl, I wish I'd remembered it. That's one of the very first scifi stories I can remember reading as a kid. It would have made a nice addition to the post.
posted by zarq at 7:07 AM on February 23, 2010


How about we clone Neanderthals and send them on manned missions to Mars? SCIENCE!
posted by minifigs at 7:42 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Needs a reference to The Inheritors, too. The most depressing book I've ever read. Brilliant, but depressing, like everything by William Golding.
posted by Grangousier at 9:05 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the Gardner Dozier's Year's Best Best Sci-Fi Collections (25th or 26th) had a story that went over this very same scenario. First they take over sports, then they take over our women, then they take over us. The story posits that neanderthal's large size made it a liablity in a world where calories were scarce. Once resurrected in a calorie-rich world like ours, there's not stopping them.
posted by daHIFI at 2:41 PM on March 15, 2010


« Older Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python   |   A+++ WOULD PRAY AGAIN Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post