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article imageOp-Ed: Cloning Neanderthals — Here come the tacky science and big money

By Paul Wallis     Jan 21, 2013 in Science
Sydney - The idea of cloning Neanderthal babies may seem a bit redundant. They’re extinct. They live on in our genes, but it looks more likely that this is a side entrance to cloning humans. The controversial idea is getting coverage like all good tech-spin.
Sydney Morning Herald
George Church, a genetics professor of Harvard School of Medicine, said that the process was possible and that far from being brutal and primitive, Neanderthals were intelligent beings.
They are believed to be one of the relatives of modern man and became extinct 33,000 years ago. He added that altering the human genome could also provide the answers to curing diseases such as cancer and HIV, and hold the key to living to 120.
He told Der Spiegel, the German magazine: "I have already managed to attract enough DNA from fossil bones to reconstruct the DNA of the human species largely extinct. Now I need an adventurous female human."
They're more than "relatives". They're blood relatives, unless you're African according to other research.
Jurassic Park? Or more Mad Science with publicists? OK, let’s look at the criteria so far:
An extinct species is to be revived. It’s 33,000 years out of date with its immune system alone.
Arguments for creating a Neanderthal baby include its cranium size. This is a particularly strange scientific theory, bordering on phrenology, the study of bumps on the head, long discredited. An efficient organism doesn’t necessarily waste space. Quite the opposite, evolution refines organisms and reduces volumes as they become more efficient. Ants have tiny brains, but they can function in an extremely complex, highly reactive environment.
Curing diseases? How? Has anyone ever checked for signs of diseases to which Neanderthals were subject? Yep, including a disease called “Mad Neanderthal” disease, rickets, and others. Church talks about re-engineering Neanderthals, but re-engineering them from what base? Why assume they can fix our problems when they didn’t fix their own?
So we’re not talking about supermen. We’re talking about a human species which didn’t get through the evolutionary/environmental high school. Would Neanderthals survive common diseases like measles, flu, etc. in a pure genetic state? Doesn’t seem likely, does it?
The other agenda- Cloning humans
This is where science gives way to possible big ways of making money and expedient laws. Cloning of humans is illegal in most countries. That in turn means that you can create an “illegal” human being with cloning. The clone’s rights are already compromised. In the hands of scientists of dubious character, could a clone be safe? Would the law recognize the rights of the clone? How could it, if cloning is illegal?
There’s a much less benevolent side to cloning humans. Who benefits? The clones probably don’t. Being a potential spare parts factory for another individual is hardly a great career path.
The trouble with science is its incredible naiveté. Like a B movie, there are scientists who simply refuse to consider the dangers of their work. Science was wrong-footed by the lawyers on intellectual property, bamboozled by corporates on how research was used, and in many cases corrupted.
Cloning humans could be a big cash cow for a lot of vested interests. Imagine Monsanto on the subject of GM humans, for example. This stunningly unoriginal idea has been around for ages, but put it in the marketplace and what happens?
The New Smart Clone App? See what your clone has been arrested for!
The insurer’s dream? Sorry, no life insurance payout, we’ll just re-install you into this clone.
A support industry where anyone can get bits replaced at their corner shop? “I’d like a few kilos of sperm, please, some free range human eggs and some margarine…”
Rent a Carcass?
If you’re looking for a way to dehumanize humans, even more so than now, this is it. There are no controls, no safeguards and only a tatty looking bit of legislation that says cloning humans is illegal. Watch the lawyers go to work on that one. If clones are people, they deserve legal protection, and it’s quite obvious there are reasons for them not getting it.
I’ll give Church credit for a sense of humor, intentional or otherwise:
"When the time comes to deal with an epidemic or getting off the planet or whatever, it's conceivable that their way of thinking could be beneficial. They could maybe even create a new neo-Neanderthal culture and become a political force. The main goal is to increase diversity. The one thing that is bad for society is low diversity."
A political force more Neanderthal than now? Hilarious. As for diversity, try telling that to the nuts who want a human species comprised of Awestruck Media Presenters and Master Race of Godlike Corporate Interviewees.
Somebody just reminded me that when the original Neanderthal frozen corpse was found, lots of people volunteered to have his baby. Scratch the dating agencies, just phone the Smithsonian. Or watch the Flintstones. Or join a political party and opt out of evolution altogether.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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