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Neanderthal Rights

The morality of resurrecting our closest evolutionary cousins

The ancestral lines of Neanderthals and modern humans split about 800,000 years ago, making them our closest relatives on the hominid family tree. Neanderthals inhabited ice age Europe and parts of the Middle East before going extinct 30,000 years ago. A team of researchers led by geneticist Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany announced last week that they had completed a draft sequence of the genome of Neanderthal humans. Eager evolutionary biologists believe that comparing the Neanderthal genome with our own will throw considerable light on the genetic changes that gave us our big brains, language, and the ability to create culture.

Once the Neanderthal genome is complete, could it then be used to clone an actual Neanderthal? Harvard University biologist George Church thinks so. He told The New York Times that a Neanderthal could be brought to life using present technology for about $30 million. How? Church would modify a modern human genome so that its DNA matches the Neanderthal version. To avoid ethical problems, Church tells the Times, this Neanderthal genome would not be inserted into a human cell but instead into a chimpanzee cell. This chimp cell would be reprogrammed to an embryonic state, and then introduced into a chimpanzee's womb where it would develop into a Neanderthal infant.

But does this avoid ethical problems? Hardly.

Assuming that cloning is safe, would it be ethical to clone a human being? The short answer is yes. Clones are basically delayed twins—and there is nothing inherently immoral about twins. Recent polls, however, show that most Americans still oppose the use of cloning to create human babies. In addition, some religious traditions believe that human cloning is immoral. So I suspect that the proposal to use chimpanzee cells to clone a Neanderthal is an attempt to do a kind of ethical end-run around this "yuck factor" reaction to human cloning. In this case, researchers could argue that they are cloning a different species, not a human being.

But there is another problem with Church's plan to use chimpanzee cells: Neanderthals are human beings, too. The ancestral lineage that led to both Neanderthals and modern humans diverged from the chimpanzee line nearly 6 million years ago. If it is possible to clone Neanderthals using chimpanzee cells, it would also be possible to clone humans the same way. One would insert a human genome taken from, say, a skin cell, into an enucleated chimpanzee egg and then install that egg in a chimpanzee's womb where it would develop. The only genetic difference from a normal human would be that the clone's mitochondria (tiny intracellular power plants that have their own small genomes) would be chimp rather than human. Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA has around 200 differences from human mitochondrial genomes whereas chimpanzee mitochondrial DNA has about 1500 differences. I fear that using chimpanzee cells to clone Neanderthals would likely be taken as an indication from the outset that they are in some sense subhuman, and thus less worthy of moral respect.

But let's set that worry aside and assume that scientists are able to produce healthy Neanderthal clones. What rights would they have? One way to approach the question is to ask if Neanderthals would be able to make and keep moral commitments. One significant clue that they might have this ability is the fact their genomes have the same version of the FOXP2 gene that we do. Our variant of that gene is necessary for articulate speech. The human (both modern and Neanderthal) FOXP2 gene differs from that found in chimps and most other primates by two changes in its genetic sequence. The fact that Neanderthals carried the same version means that it is possible that they could talk and might have been able to make and keep promises. If Neanderthals had this ability it strongly suggests that they would merit the same moral consideration that we give to our fellow human beings. If they can speak, there's a good chance that they can also demand rights.

Archaeological evidence also indicates that Neanderthals behaved in ways similar to modern humans. They controlled fire, wore clothing, made and used tools, and buried their dead. In addition, they physically developed in much the same way as we do. Like modern humans, Neanderthal infants were born with relatively large brains and took a long time to mature into adults. Some researchers believe that modern humans and Neanderthals could interbreed. Does the future hold inter-species nuptials?

Less happily, what if meeting a Neanderthal evokes an "uncanny valley" experience? Many people experience unease or even revulsion in the presence of robots or other facsimiles that look and act almost, but not quite, human. Higher primates such as chimpanzees and orangutans can also induce such uncanny feelings. We won't know if Neanderthals dwell in the uncanny valley until they have been cloned.

Unlike the characters portrayed in Jean Auel's novel The Clan of the Cave Bear, newly resurrected Neanderthals are unlikely to be in the grip of hereditary memories, but they might still have significant intellectual and behavioral differences from us. For instance, they might express a different range of emotions or lack mathematical reasoning skills. The rights they would be accorded would depend on those differences. We do, after all, limit the rights and responsibilities of children and of people whose intellectual deficits make it difficult for them to tell right from wrong. On the other hand, we also have a greater duty to take care of children and adults with diminished mental and moral capacities.

So what if we bring back Neanderthals and it turns out that their intellectual capacities are so dissimilar from ours that they cannot cope successfully with modern life? Should we control their fertility so that they go extinct again? This comes uncomfortably close to the eugenic arguments used to justify sterilizing people who were deemed mentally defective in the 20th century. Or perhaps Neanderthals could be placed in reservations where they would be allowed to develop without further interference from modern humans. Would this be akin to confining them to a zoo?

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.

Just because these moral conundrums cannot be answered in advance is not a good enough reason to preclude future efforts to clone Neanderthals. The only way to find out what rights Neanderthals should have is to bring them back into our world.

Ronald Bailey is Reason magazine's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

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  • Calcium!||

    just say no!

  • ||

    Forget about neanderthals, I want them to make the long awaited five-assed mongoose.

  • ||

    If the above picture is truly representative then Neanderthals were much more attractive than I had previously thought.

    Maybe that dude's just like the Fabio of Neanderthals though.

  • wald0||

    That would be amazing if they actually got them to come back. I would Love to see some of them and we could learn so much just by studying their behavior.

    And they might be able to purchase geico.

  • ||

    Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey discusses what rights resurrected Neanderthals should have.

    Affirmative action preferences.

  • ||

    There is one school of thought that Neanderthals were absorbed into the normal human genome through interbreeding, and became part of the Northern European genome. Thus explaining Dolph Lundgren.

  • ||

    Piss off, wald0.

  • ||

    We need to have a law passed to ban this because it is fucked up.

  • ||

    Good, this will give Ted Nugent something new and exciting to hunt...

  • ||

    If the above picture is truly representative then Neanderthals were much more attractive than I had previously thought.

    Maybe that dude's just like the Fabio of Neanderthals though.


    I think I saw that picture before, in National Geographic - I believe it's a female...

  • ||

    "But it is hard to see why this age difference might present an ethical problem--or give clones a different moral status."

    Hard to see? Imagine you were brought into the world to purely to satisfy some scientific curiousity or to be an organ spare parts warehouse? Or there would be no chance of being raised by your biologial parents- how would you feel?

  • ||

    First they came to give rights to Neanderthals, but I said nothing becasue I was not a Neanderthal.

    Then they came to give rights to the Irish...

  • ||

    One problem is that Neanderthal culture and language (for which Neanderthal brains were presumably well-suited and vice versa), died out 30,000 years ago. Much of what makes modern humans human (and presumably what used to make Neanderthals Neanderthals) is passed down via cultural transmission rather than genes and so can't be recreated through cloning. Think of cloning a Neanderthal as creating the computer hardware without the software.

  • Warty||

    Epi, you inspired me to do a quick search. Shockingly, it appears that 88s are dicks.

  • ||

    Slocum,

    I wonder if you were able to clone a 30,000 year old modern human - would they face the same difficulties? I mean, ancient neandertal culture wasn't that different from ancient human culture - yet presumably humans have all these innate advantages. I think neadertals brought up in modern human culture would far exceed the potential that they had in their native time - the same way that a human brought up now ends up very different than one brought up in the middle ages.

  • ||

    "I think neadertals brought up in modern human culture would far exceed the potential that they had in their native time - the same way that a human brought up now ends up very different than one brought up in the middle ages."

    Or blacks left in Africa vs. blacks sold into the American slave trade.

  • ||

    Plessy, your statement on blacks was offensive and idiotic enough to have sprung from the mouth of a Neanderthal.

  • ||

    Warty, you are the Neanderthal.

  • ||

    This raises so many questions.

    Would the 30 million dollar man have the immunities to survive in modern day Earth?

    Would it have to go to Junior High? Those kids are assholes.

    Isn't this pretty unfair to the chimpanzee whose whom is used against her will?

    Who will raise this neanderthal kid?

    What if the one neanderthal we are able to produce is a relative idiot compared to neanderthals of the past. There are people on these message board I wouldn't hope to represent us to alien visitors. That's a lot of pressure on one being for 30 million smackers.

    Aren't rights unalienable? All animals reserve the right to defend themselves, so 2nd Amendment seems on the table, right?

    "The only way to find out what rights Neanderthals should have is to bring them back into our world." Maybe we should leave well enough alone. They had their chance.

  • ||

    *womb*

  • ||

    My kingdom for an edit function.

  • ||

    Wouldn't this be the biological equivalent to the bailout? They were out-competed as a species, and so became extinct.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Sigh, this means we're soon going to have Neanderthal comedians doing rambling, 45-minute sets about Neanderthal moms, dating non-Neanderthal girls, going through airport security as a Neanderthal, blah blah blah.

  • Warty||

    Epi, I'm not a Neanderthal, I just have the sloping brow and cranial bumpage of a career criminal.

  • Warty||

    Sigh, this means we're soon going to have Neanderthal comedians doing rambling, 45-minute sets about Neanderthal moms, dating non-Neanderthal girls, going through airport security as a Neanderthal, blah blah blah.

    Neanderthal humor is so lowbrow.

  • ||

    @ Mike, I know what you mean. The other day
    I was on this magical flying machine that served peanuts to me. I was like, these peanuts are small, flying woman.

    Please take my wife!

  • ||

    Your world frightens me.

  • ||

    Hard to see? Imagine you were brought into the world to purely to satisfy some scientific curiousity or to be an organ spare parts warehouse? Or there would be no chance of being raised by your biologial parents- how would you feel?

    I think I would either kill myself or accept that my continued existance was a result of my own choices and live my life as I thought best, ignoring any other "reason" for being born.

  • Warty||

    Hard to see? Imagine you were brought into the world to purely to satisfy some scientific curiousity or to be an organ spare parts warehouse? Or there would be no chance of being raised by your biologial parents- how would you feel?

    Number 1 took it pretty bad, but the other 7 seemed to take it in stride.

  • ||

    Nick,

    Didn't "Encino Man" answer all of those questions in 1992?

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    Before we get ahead of ourselves, we should be asking the hard questions. Questions like would Neanderthals make good domestic help? What about soldiers? And what does that guy who does the GEICO commercials think about this?

  • ||

    One problem is that Neanderthal culture and language (for which Neanderthal brains were presumably well-suited and vice versa), died out 30,000 years ago. Much of what makes modern humans human (and presumably what used to make Neanderthals Neanderthals) is passed down via cultural transmission rather than genes and so can't be recreated through cloning. Think of cloning a Neanderthal as creating the computer hardware without the software.

    Lamarckianism is dead. If you could pluck an anatomically modern human from 70,000 years ago, they would incorporate into the modern world as well as anyone born today can.

    To me the main moral issue here is one that we have luckily been able to squash with modern science's recognition that all extant races are quite surprisingly identical. There is no natural underclass. A Neanderthal population would be a tempting underclass.

  • ||

    This is great. Now we can clone a bunch of Neanderthals and put them in a zoo on a secluded island off of South America, and call it Neanderthal Park.

    I just hope nothing goes wrong.

  • ||

    My head exploded after reading that article.

  • ||

    what the shit did i just read?

  • ||

    "There is no natural underclass."

    The hell you say, boy?

  • ||

    Send 'em to the Middle East to fight our wars!

  • ||

    Aren't there enough stupid, brutish people in the world that we don't need to bring back a stupid, brutish species? You KNOW there are chicks who will do Mr. Neanderthal, think of the popularity of Vincent from Beauty and the Beast.

  • ||

    Lamarckianism is dead. If you could pluck an anatomically modern human from 70,000 years ago, they would incorporate into the modern world as well as anyone born today can.

    however, studies hav shown the pace of evolution is actually quite fast and may be increasing.

  • ||

    I could see bringing back the Dodo, That makes some sense.

    But a species of man we beat out on the chain of survival? Isn't that like bringing the looser back from American idol?

    Can you imagine the day care cost for a Neanderthal baby?

  • ||

    We've already proved than a half-witted ape-man can be president of the U.S. George W. Bush broke the Neanderthal glass ceiling.

  • ||

    Yes tofusushi is correct.

    Rudy would name him Linkovic and Link would develop his own unique style without saying a word and play hockey and radmobile and want cajungas.

    I would totally hang out with him.

  • Robert||

    All this talk of rights is ridiculous. If a single Neandertal is born, that whoever-it-is is going to be a celebrity, set for life. Like Elian Gonzales.

  • daveednyc||

    This chimp cell would be reprogrammed to an embryonic state, and then introduced into a chimpanzee's womb where it would develop into a Neanderthal infant.

    Uh, why does that give me a foreboding sense of doom?

  • ||

    We need to keep Neanderthals, when they are cloned, from taking away our menial construction jobs and infesting our neighborhoods with their gibberish language and uncivilized ways.

  • ||

    You KNOW there are chicks who will do Mr. Neanderthal,

    Damn right there are.

    Er, at least that's what I hear.

  • ||

    "I think I saw that picture before, in National Geographic - I believe it's a female..."

    Look Italian to me.

  • ||

    Imagine how hawt she'll be after you introduce her to some soap!

  • ||

    Can you imagine the day care cost for a Neanderthal baby?


    Saint Asimov already imagined it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ugly_Little_Boy

    .. Hobbit

  • ||

    Jaspar Fforde covered the moral implications of cloning Neanderthals pretty thoroughly...and how awesome it would be to have cloned dodos.

  • ||

    .. dammit, that last comment was from me ..

    .. Hobbit

  • ||

    Lamarckianism is dead. If you could pluck an anatomically modern human from 70,000 years ago, they would incorporate into the modern world as well as anyone born today can.

    It's got nothing to do with Lamarckianism. The point is that parents pass on genetic traits as well as cultural traits. For simpler organisms, the cultural traits are minimal -- it's mostly instinct. But in humans (and presumably Neanderthals as well), the road to adulthood is a long one involving years of learning. Culture accounts for a large fraction of the information transmitted from one human generation to the next. And for Neanderthals, that 'cultural DNA' is all lost.

    Perhaps Neanderthal society was as different from human society as, say, Bonobo society is from common chimp society. Maybe Neanderthal language (presuming it existed) was quite distinct from all human languages. And Neanderthal brains may not be well suited modern human society and language, but Neanderthal society and language no longer exist as an alternative.

    Imagine, as a thought experiment, that super-smart dolphins of the future resurrect extinct humans from DNA. Obviously these cloned humans could not learn (or even hear) dolphin language, but human languages would all have been lost. How long would it take, how many generations, before cloned humans managed to recreate anything remotely like existing human cultures? How stupid would the dolphins think these poor creatures were (no wonder they went extinct).

  • ||

    A Neanderthal population would be a tempting underclass.


    The problem of happiness solved. Give everyone a cloned Neandertal slave to feel superior to, and there's no more need to try to make people happy being equal.

  • ||

    Personally, I don't think there is any need to bring them back because they are all around us. Eventually it will probably be discovered that interbreeding program was much more through than we think. Each time I take public transportation in a greater San Francisco area I see a lot of fine specimens. It is an excellent area to conduct anthropological observations because you have representatives of every tribe inhabiting present day earth. I see a lot of traits found on reconstructed pictures and descriptions of the Neanderthals: short, heavily muscled, sloping foreheads, pronounced brow ridges.

  • ||

    My prediction: 30 years from now, a Neanderthal teenager will find these very comments while doing research for a paper for school. So be nice!

  • Xanthippas||

    Just because these moral conundrums cannot be answered in advance is not a good enough reason to preclude future efforts to clone Neanderthals. The only way to find out what rights Neanderthals should have is to bring them back into our world.

    What? Everything else I've read in this article is an argument AGAINST cloning neanderthals. We humans lack the moral sense to even know how to handle the ramifications of IVF technology, and at least then we're only breeding other humans.

  • ||

    Jaspar Fforde covered the moral implications of cloning Neanderthals pretty thoroughly...and how awesome it would be to have cloned dodos.

    That's the first thing I thought when I read the article--and when I read The Medic's 4:34 pm post.

  • ||

    Ditto to Slocum. A Neanderthal cloned from old DNA, or for that matter a Cro-Magnon, would just be another human being with slightly different DNA from the rest of us, the Cro-Magnon slightly less so. It wouldn't tell you anything about how their ancestors lived and behaved, which is the interesting part. Anthropologists don't go to remote parts of the Amazon to study the DNA of the natives, (though that might be interesting to a population biologist), they go there to find out how they live. BTW, anyone thinking about the superiority of modern city-dwelling humans might want to think about how well they would survive if they were dropped into Ice-Age Europe, or the modern Kalahari desert.

  • ||

    I believe that some Americans should clone Neandertals, so that they can do jobs such as ... er ... the non-american americans ... can do in this great country such as cleaning and nursing ... so that education of the Neandertal americans can improve such as in the Iraq, and such as around the world!

  • ||

    Yeah, I don't get it. It's all very good and important to study our ancestors, but bringing them back from extinction into a world that they never had a chance to evolve for seems pointless, and maybe cruel. Now non-sentient creatures like mammoths, if you can do it, go for it, I'll bring the barbecue sauce!

  • ||

    Wow this sounds really cool. I can't wait to see the world's first modern day Neanderthal. :)

  • ||

    A potential source of servants and laborers! I'll take six.

  • ||

    Isn't this pretty unfair to the chimpanzee whose whom is used against her will?



    I am pretty sure it is her "who"...

  • ||

    sorry.

  • ||

    I don't really get the point of bringing a neanderthal back. I guess that's what makes this creepy to me.

    And the "moral" question Ron ignores is why bring a (potentially) equally sentient being back into existence just to be raised by doctors and probed or whatever the fuck scientific-y stuff they plan to do?

    I'm all for genetic engineering when it FEEDS people or does something useful. But I don't think we need to strive on bringing back an extinct ancestor just to compete with it again.

  • ||

    "Just because these moral conundrums cannot be answered in advance is not a good enough reason to preclude future efforts to clone Neanderthals. The only way to find out what rights Neanderthals should have is to bring them back into our world."

    The only practical reason to genetically engineer the Neanderthal back into existance is for use as a scientific study. The self-interest of the scientists involved in the study would be for the Neanderthals to be considered animals so that virtually any experiment might be done on them. Also, in just making them for the purpose of such study presumes sub-human status as the default.

    If there were a purely objective way of determining rights, then perhaps. In the real world, the thumb would be on the scale of rightlessness, as the persons in the best position to make this determination are also the ones with the most to lose.

    If speculative fiction has taught us anything, it's that this type of cavalier attitude towards ethics rarely does anyone any good.

  • ||

    #1 What if they're tasty?

    #2 What if they're smarter than us, but nicer (they died out 'cause we're meaner)

  • ||

    "Neanderthal could be brought to life using present technology for about $30 million."
    A Neanderthal colony could be part of the 2010 stimulus package!

  • ||

    "And for Neanderthals, that 'cultural DNA' is all lost."

    Uh, if they had similar brains and were raised by humans, I don't think cultural DNA would be lost. A baby also functions purely on instinct, right when it's born.

  • John Lloyd Scharf||

    This is pure conjecture to the point of being science fiction rather than in the realm of possibility in your lifetime.

  • JenS||

    How would an infant Neanderthal teach us anything? That baby's childhood is not going to be normal in any sense.

  • ||

    Maybe they could be the Betas, Gammas, etc.. in some sort of Brave New World? We have to make them smart enough to dig ditches, wash dishes, and that sort of thing, though.

  • ||

    We have to build in placidity, too. We can't have them getting angry. They were much physically stronger than us.

  • ||

    A Neanderthal brain (well, cranial capacity) was bigger than the modern human brain. Gotta cut down on that or they might take over.

  • ||

    This whole piece is totally insane. Studying the genome to understand the mechanisms of diseases is perfectly justifiable. Cloning any existing species is already going too far. But even only contemplating bringing back Neanderthal is pure madness.


    "Just because these moral conundrums (Neanderthal rights)cannot be answered in advance is not a good enough reason to preclude future efforts to clone Neanderthals."

    On the contrary! These moral conundrums are largely enough not to do this Frankenstein kind of crap.

  • Mad Max||

    The plea of the Neanderthal clone:

    'Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm just a caveman. I was cloned and raised in a lab. I didn't ask to be created, but now that I have been, I insist on human rights. Since I have far more human than non-human genes, the law should treat me as human. Any other rule would open the door to abuses.

    'Creating me in the first place opened the door to abuses, but that wasn't up to me. I would nevertheless ask you to consider that this sort of thing brings us several strides down the road to the "happy slave" scenario that even Ron Bailey finds bothersome. If you can use genetic engineering to revive a less-developed strain of humanity, then what's to stop the next stage: Genetically engineering a human being who is smart enough to understand orders but not smart enough to question them? Why not implant a docility gene so they won't rebel?

    'At what point will these brave-new-world transhumanists say "hold, enough"?'

  • ||

    The real question is... were Neanderthal chicks as needy and complainy as modern humans? Because I would totally bang a cavechick, if she shaved and washed up.

  • ||

    "All this talk of rights is ridiculous. If a single Neandertal is born, that whoever-it-is is going to be a celebrity, set for life. Like Elian Gonzales."

    uh yeah.. and what about the first 15 years of it's life where it is locked up in a lab, poked and prodded, no matter what it wants?


    Actually what happens if we made a lot of them. They are probably not very bright, so even if they are not slaves, we would be creating a race that is only suited to physical labor. Eventually it would turn into a form of slavery, even if they were paid- we'd have two races a servant race and then us the smarter race.

    Not to mention they'd take all the jobs!

  • ||

    Mad Max this is what he would actually say:

    "I'm just a caveman. ... Your world frightens and confuses me! Sometimes the honking horns of your traffic make me want to get out of my BMW.. and run off into the hills, or wherever.. Sometimes when I get a message on my fax machine, 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 a man like my client slips and falls on a sidewalk in front of a public library, then he is entitled to no less than two million in compensatory damages, and two million in punitive damages. Thank you."

  • ||

    And what becomes of this then living Homo Sapiens Neandertalensis? I suppose we could just breed thousands of them to do the jobs Americans won't do. In all probability we wouldn't have to pay them either, just room and board. Think of the possibilities.

  • Ayn R. Key||

    Oh FFS. I have no problem with them bringing back an extinct branch of our family tree, but I do have a problem with "chimp egg" and "chimp embryo".

  • Robert||

    The only practical reason to genetically engineer the Neanderthal back into existance is for use as a scientific study. The self-interest of the scientists involved in the study would be for the Neanderthals to be considered animals so that virtually any experiment might be done on them.


    Exactly. Free medical care, free everything, on top of hir celebrity status. And s/he'd be the poster child of the animal welfare types, so you know the experiment'n would be done under the safest conditions and painless. And s/he'd automatically get endangered species status and be the best protected living thing on the planet, without nosy Secret Service types intruding on hir privacy.

  • ||

    Ron,

    Our variant of that gene is necessary for articulate speech. The human (both modern and Neanderthal) FOXP2 gene differs from that found in chimps and most other primates by two changes in its genetic sequence. The fact that Neanderthals carried the same version means that it is possible that they could talk and might have been able to make and keep promises.

    Although it is very likely Neanderthal had language, don't over sell the FOXP2 role in language. The FOXP2/Language connection is still pretty speculative at this point.

  • ||

    To the moral question.

    They should have the same rights as any human, no matter their cognitive skills.

    There is no solid reason to assume that they would be substantially less intelligent, but if they were, that should not effect their rights as sentient beings.

  • ||

    There is more fun one can try - even without modern technology. Apparently we are so closely related to bonobos and chimpanzees that we could, theoretically, breed with them - producing so called hybrids. Apparently we have done so every few hundred thousand years anyway.


    Richard Dawkins (like him or not as a non-believer - he sure is a good biologist) - wrote the following:


    But why, a moral philosopher might ask, should this matter to us? Isn't it only the discontinuous mind that wants to erect barriers anyway? So what if, in the continuum of all apes that have lived in Africa, the survivors happen to leave a convenient gap between Homo and Pan? Surely we should, in any case, not base our treatment of animals on whether or not we can interbreed with them.

    If we want to justify double standards--if society agrees that people should be treated better than, say, cows (cows may be cooked and eaten, people may not)--there must be better reasons than cousinship. Humans may be taxonomically distant from cows, but isn't it more important that we are brainier? Or better, following Jeremy Bentham, that humans can suffer more--that cows, even if they hate pain as much as humans do (and why on earth should we suppose otherwise?), do not know what is coming to them? Suppose that the octopus lineage had happened to evolve brains and feelings to rival ours; they easily might have done. The mere possibility shows the incidental nature of cousinship. So, the moral philosopher asks, why emphasise the human/chimp continuity?

    Yes, in an ideal world we probably should come up with a better reason than cousinship for, say, preferring carnivory to cannibalism. But the melancholy fact is that, at present, society's moral attitudes rest almost entirely on the discontinuous, speciesist imperative.

    This arresting picture is hypothetical. But I can assert, without fear of contradiction, that if somebody succeeded in breeding a chimpanzee/human hybrid the news would be earth-shattering. Bishops would bleat, lawyers would gloat in anticipation, conservative politicians would thunder, socialists wouldn't know where to put their barricades. The scientist that achieved the feat would be drummed out of politically correct common-rooms; denounced in pulpit and gutter press; condemned, perhaps, by an Ayatollah's fatwah. Politics would never be the same again, nor would theology, sociology, psychology or most branches of philosophy. The world that would be so shaken, by such an incidental event as a hybridisation, is a speciesist world indeed, dominated by the discontinuous mind.

    I have argued that the discontinuous gap between humans and 'apes' that we erect in our minds is regrettable. I have also argued that, in any case, the present position of the hallowed gap is arbitrary, the result of evolutionary accident. If the contingencies of survival and extinction had been different, the gap would be in a different place. Ethical principles that are based upon accidental caprice should not be respected as if cast in stone.

    Nevertheless, it must be conceded that this book's proposal to admit great apes to the charmed circle of human privilege stands square in the discontinuous tradition. Albeit the gap has moved, the fundamental question is still 'Which side of the gap?' Regrettable as this is, as long as our social mores are governed by discontinuously minded lawyers and theologians, it is premature to advocate a quantitative, continuously distributed morality.



    It is interesting to note that the homo sapiens neanderthalensis has in total lived for more than 150,000 years. Homo homo sapiens (us) has not yet made it to 130,000? Given how we behave it is hard to imagine that we can make it another 2,000 years?

    PS: I am sure you have all heard of apes who communicate in American Sign Language. They even teach their young. There is also a touching, documented incident where Koko - a talking Gorialla lady teaches her new Gorilla friend Michael how to sign. When Michael became more fluent he told Koko that he recalls seeing how humans killed his mother in front of him. Now that makes for a good story. Human teaches a Gorilla ASL - the gorilla teaches ASL to another Gorilla and learns... only in reality!

  • ||

    This is obviously my favorite part of Ron's article:

    To avoid ethical problems, Church tells the Times, this Neanderthal genome would not be inserted into a human cell but instead into a chimpanzee cell. This chimp cell would be reprogrammed to an embryonic state, and then introduced into a chimpanzee's womb where it would develop into a Neanderthal infant.



    Yes - to avoid ethical problems we will rape a chimp. How about some "modern" scientists develop something against intellectual and ethical numbness? In the name of science - please use these $30 million to protect the only habitat that apes (also humans) have. Then we will have plenty of time to study everything.

    Charles Darwin:
    There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher animals in their mental faculties... The lower animals, like man, manifestly feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery.

    Albert Einstein:
    A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the 'Universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.

    Carl Sagan:
    Humans -- who enslave, castrate, experiment on, and fillet other animals - -- have had an understandable penchant for pretending animals do not feel pain. A sharp distinction between humans and "animals" is essential if we are to bend them to our will, wear them, eat them -- without any disquieting tinges of guilt or regret. It is unseemly of us, who often behave so unfeelingly toward other animals, to contend that only humans can suffer. The behavior of other animals renders such pretensions specious. They are just too much like us.

  • ||

    Hugo,

    PS: I am sure you have all heard of apes who communicate in American Sign Language. They even teach their young. There is also a touching, documented incident where Koko - a talking Gorialla lady teaches her new Gorilla friend Michael how to sign. When Michael became more fluent he told Koko that he recalls seeing how humans killed his mother in front of him. Now that makes for a good story. Human teaches a Gorilla ASL - the gorilla teaches ASL to another Gorilla and learns... only in reality!

    Michael Tomasello has done good work on the differences in interaction style between humans and other great apes. Importantly, the major differences seem as much a difference in cognitive style as cognitive capacity.

    http://email.eva.mpg.de/~tomas/

  • ||

    Robert,

    So as long as you're treated relatively well, being a rightless object is OK with you?

  • ||

    I don't think I'd have too much of a problem with it if they threw some women into the picture and I could get all the pussy I could ever want.

    Think about it if they feed the Neanderthal and provide him with everything he needs and he never has to work...

    Who wouldn't want that??????

    I thought about being in the same scenario except being caught by and in the custody of aliens...

    As long as they catch a few fine bitches to keep with me Im all good...

  • ||

    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.

    Why give them a chance to even the score?

  • ||

    The real question about cloning humans (or near relatives)is if it is morally acceptable to create living, sentient beings that won't live very long, since most cloned animals die early deaths.

  • ||

    I wonder if you were able to clone a 30,000 year old modern human - would they face the same difficulties?

    30,000 year old modern humans, even 100,000 year old humans, are pretty much genetically identical to present-day humans. So no, I don't think they would have any problems adapting to the current world.

  • ||

    From Wikipedia:

    Neanderthal cranial capacity is thought to have been as large or larger than modern humans, indicating that their brain size may have been the same or greater.

    So much for Neanderthals being mentally limited.

  • ||

    And I, for one, welcome our new Neanderthal Overlords.

  • ||

    1. there is no objective morality.
    2. if they can talk, they will damn well demand rights. everything else that talks does this.
    3. corporations love a low-cost labor pool. humans losing their jobs in a depression, not so much.
    4. interspecies nuptials are inevitable. neanderthal girls want upward social mobility, low-end human males want to feel superior to their wives, and also reliable, regular cooking, cleaning, washing and waxing the car, cleaning and oiling firearms and fishing reels, etc.
    5. resurrecting neanderthals to right an ancient moral wrong? this is an incredibly dumb idea.
    6. humans prevailed in the first interspecies competition. what if by some unanticipated fluke, the competition went in a different direction this time?
    7. what are the political implications? if we give them the right to vote, what will this look like demographically? will they embrace free-market libertarian entrepreneurship, or a welfare state on steroids?
    8. speaking of steroids, will they be big and strong enough to play professional sports? would a neanderthal defensive end be quick and strong enough to blow by our best ot's to get to the qb on passing downs? do you want your kid idolizing one?

  • ||

    Take it easy Bruce!

    We are talking about Neanderthals here, not black people!

  • ||

    Why on earth would one wish to resurrect an extinct species? Since I see no significant benefits from doing so then this exercise is only being undertaken to develop bad bio-technology. Science for science sake with no conscience. Ten years from now they will be able to create all sorts of monstrosities for slaves, warriors or Cylons. All bad news.

  • ||

    Well, It may be survivor's guilt or in some cases an attempt to make right what we messed up - for example, it was us who drove the Thylacine to extinction.

  • ||

    Gosh, I sure hope there's a bunch of Federal money stimulused into this cloning deal.

    Also, if we were a truly diverse culture we would elect (or annoint) one of these things President and then we could pray to them.

  • ||

    I don't see any problem with cloning Neaderthals. Any of you ever bee to Australia? They are alive and well and called Aborigines. Just keep em away from the Liquor, and everything will be okay! Wanna see Australipithicenes (sp?) just go to the Congo region! Again, hide the Licka (And PCP)!
    This ethics stuff is easy!

  • Bruce Majors||

    I am fairly certain that a brief google search will lead you to science journal articles showing that modern homo sapiens have some neanderthal DNA, presumably because they inter-bred with neanderthals, unlike cro magnons and other closely related hominid species.

    I do believe the literature also shows that neanderthal DNA is mainly found in Caucasian/European ethnic groups.

    Neanderthal were supposed to be barrel chested and have high pitched voices (given their sinus configurations).

  • Guillermo Pineda||

    This whole discussion reminds me of the last minutes of the movie "Planet of the Apes" (2001). Just at the part where Jefferson had a "monkey-human" look. Did it actually matter? At the end it was the same "Jefferson" who was sitting in that sculpture.

    The whole idea of cloning a specie that didn't survived the evolution process is marvelous. It will be (it surely will occur) one of the greatest advances of human history.

    They will surely have rights, as human do, if able to use rational epistemological thinking. Which I think they will.

    The only question that really matters is to find out if WE humans are ready to deal with other superior (equally intelligent) species in the same planet.

    It is we, rational humans, who will have to solve ethical questions on "race superiority" that haven't been answered for centuries. Long ago since Greeks believed there were "superior" gods in the Olympus these questions have been going around... and humans have always avoided every single rational solution and answers.

    There are no "ethical" question to think about discussing here. Thinking about finding an ethical solution to things that are resolved by rational analysis is at the end unethical.

  • ||

    right or wrong? leave this question to our offsprings just like the federal budget.

  • ||

    At last, Palin could have somebody to talk with on her level!

  • ||

    But what I don't understand is WHY should we bring them back? For curiosoty's sake alone? It seems kind of cruel to me to subject a being to an existance as an outsider to everything.

  • MichaelL||

    I really cannot see any point to bringing Neanderthals back, except scientific curiosity. Then what? Keep them locked in cages? Treat them like lab rats? Use them for medical experiments? It seems that evolution ran its course with this line. If we bring them back, are we risking something that we cannot possibly foresee? There is a reason that this line reached an evolutionary dead end. I do not believe it would be in the best interests of humanity to resurrect it, even if we can. It serves no moral purpose.

  • ||

    I totally want to adopt a baby Neanderthal.

    I believe that Neanderthal people were likely VERY aggressive based on the fact that they hunted large game up close and likely had to tackle the animal and probably killed it by slitting its throat or strangle it after they speared it with a RAMMING (not a throwing) spear.

    But with propor upbringing I believe that much aggresion can be supressed like in other carnivorous mammals.
    For starters, not feeding him live food would likely supress ALOT of aggression.

    I also believe that neanderthal men likely, more or less hit a woman over the head and dragged her to his cave. Yes this sounds like an overly steriotypical myth, but based on the fact that they traveled in very small groups of 5 to 7 at the most, they would have had to seek out women from other groups. For this reason I believe that groups must have hated eachother. (you probably wouldnt like a group of people who basically kidnapped your sister and made her their bitch or wife or whatever either)

    I believe it is the fact that they traveled in such small groups and likely hated eachother prevented them from banding together to combat Homo Sapian.

    One on one Neanderthal would have crushed homo sapian physically and possibly mentally as well.

    But Homo Sapian was able to form larger groups which I believe was Homo Sapians ONLY advantage.

    The fact that Neanderthals traveled in such small groups with groups being spaced VERY far apart (based on sceintific data that Neanderthal population never rose above 3000) Means that neanderthal people were likely VERY antisocial and only kept a couple of close kin around.

    Neanderthal men would probably want to rape or at the very least fuck women even today... So before we clone a neanderthal boy, we either better find a neanderthal girl DNA to clone with him or find a bunch of women who would be willing to give it up for Neanderthal. And the fact that there will only be 1 or 2 Neanderthals in the world when they clone them...Will mean that not every woman will ever get to have sex with him and we all know that women seem to only want what they can't have... That Neanderthal will probably get more poon than a rock star!

    And NO! I do NOT think that we should use ANY chimp cells or DNA to clone a neanderthal just to appease ignorant, close minded poeple. If we are going to do this we should do this right and use DNA, eggs, womb or whatever as close to the original as possible... that means human.

  • Alex||

    Dear you,
    I find it utterly disgusting to clone a Neanderthaler. What in the world can we learn from that? Absolutely nothing.
    I say only clone a person that is alive now, some of the few outstanding charismatic intelligent genius people alive today. Michael Jackson is cloned years ago,alive and growing up. Let us make various super peaceful passionate power people. Like those few that contribute to peace today. So that in 20-30 years we have more genius peace promoting fellows than now. They may infiltrate the present cabal of destructive forces in order to stop the idiotic slaughter that man to man calls war today.
    We have learned nothing from the past in the way towards peace. No, we have used technology to refine the absolute horrific ancient terror that men uses to intimidate, overtake, disown and further disrespect other men, calling it war. This psychopathic behavior must go from the agendas of the powers that be. Only when serious family planning education and a lowering of the world population has become a priority, [and how long from now] a reality, do we become humans that deserve the name. Until then we are fools digging into the past and wanting to bring it back to life. We should only take from what is the very best today to make a better tomorrow .
    Alex Baldal
    Captain Zen

    --
    better to rise than to fall in love
    thank you for not thinking
    www.atlantisring.com

  • Alex||

    Dear you,
    I find it utterly disgusting to clone a Neanderthaler. What in the world can we learn from that? Absolutely nothing.
    I say only clone a person that is alive now, some of the few outstanding charismatic intelligent genius people alive today. Michael Jackson is cloned years ago,alive and growing up. Let us make various super peaceful passionate power people. Like those few that contribute to peace today. So that in 20-30 years we have more genius peace promoting fellows than now. They may infiltrate the present cabal of destructive forces in order to stop the idiotic slaughter that man to man calls war today.
    We have learned nothing from the past in the way towards peace. No, we have used technology to refine the absolute horrific ancient terror that men uses to intimidate, overtake, disown and further disrespect other men, calling it war. This psychopathic behavior must go from the agendas of the powers that be. Only when serious family planning education and a lowering of the world population has become a priority, [and how long from now] a reality, do we become humans that deserve the name. Until then we are fools digging into the past and wanting to bring it back to life. We should only take from what is the very best today to make a better tomorrow .
    Alex Baldal
    Captain Zen

    --
    better to rise than to fall in love
    thank you for not thinking
    www.atlantisring.com

  • ||

    I am very curious to find out about the cloning possibilities for any exctinct species, especially the ones we, through our ignorance are directly responsible for killing off such as the thylacine and the dodo.

    I very much agree with a previous comment; we as modern humans are the result of information, skills and culture passed down through millions of years and are only capable of what we are through schooling and know what we do through word of mouth.

    If you were to place a human and a neanderthal infant with no knowlege into the wild, you would probably find out they act pretty much the same.
    If you were to place a modern human into the wild, you find many perish through lack of skill and knowledge to make tools.
    We, as a species only maintain our supremacy over other species through what we know.... Physically we are inferiour to everything else.

    Anyway, back to the debate:
    I believe the ethics of cloning a neanderthal can really only be judged once it has been done and we can assess the similarities and emotional, empathetic and learning capabilities of the species.
    Saying this, there is no guarantee the subject will be treated fairly and who would want a human baby subject to tests all its life and growing up being the only one of its kind?
    If it is done, it needs to be done in the right way with consideration and care. It would be our closest living relative and so we would need to treat it that way.

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