Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech Science

Should We Clone a Neanderthal? 990

Posted by kdawson
from the they-are-among-us dept.
SpaceAdmiral writes "Forget cloning a woolly mammothshould scientists clone a Neanderthal? Such a feat should be possible soon, although it raises a number of bioethics concerns, including where to draw the line between humans and other animals."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Should We Clone a Neanderthal?

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @01:46AM (#25882095)
    great hockey players!
  • Yes (Score:5, Funny)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @01:48AM (#25882105) Homepage Journal

    Cause then it would no longer be socially acceptable for women to call us that anymore.

    • Re:Yes (Score:5, Funny)

      by internetcommie (945194) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @01:54AM (#25882165)
      What if it turns out they are just like us?
      • Re:Yes (Score:5, Funny)

        by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:00AM (#25882199) Homepage Journal

        The jokes are funnier if I don't have to explain them.

      • Re:Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Narcocide (102829) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:36AM (#25882469) Homepage

        What if its worse? What if they're smarter?

        • Re:Yes (Score:5, Funny)

          by Metasquares (555685) <slashdot@metasqu a r ed.com> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:56AM (#25882641) Homepage
          Then they would be the ones cloning us.
          • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Warll (1211492) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @03:36AM (#25882895) Homepage
            Put me in a room with a bear, repeat a hundred times and see who comes out on top. Doesn't mean the bear is smarter.
            • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

              by fractoid (1076465) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:48AM (#25883313) Homepage
              Put a hundred of you and a hundred bears on an island and see who comes out on top. A larger world with more options means more opportunity for intelligence to provide an advantage.

              Chances are that the hundred of you would be working in packs with primitive weapons to wipe out the bears within a week.
            • Put me in a room with a bear, repeat a hundred times and see who comes out on top. Doesn't mean the bear is smarter.

              That depends. Do you get a shotgun?

            • Re:Yes (Score:5, Funny)

              by daveewart (66895) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:47AM (#25883695)

              Put me in a room with a bear, repeat a hundred times and see who comes out on top. Doesn't mean the bear is smarter.

              I think it might mean that, actually. You just said "Put me in a room with a bear". Well, duh... you're clearly not that smart.

        • Re:Yes (Score:5, Funny)

          by Shikaku (1129753) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @03:00AM (#25882675)

          I for one welcome our previously extinct smarter overlords.

      • Re:Yes (Score:5, Funny)

        by Cow Jones (615566) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:43AM (#25882517)

        What if it turns out they are just like us?

        I wouldn't worry about that too much. At this very moment, there are several millions of Neanderthals among us, both male and female [somethingawful.com].

        CJ

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by eclectro (227083)

      Cause then it would no longer be socially acceptable for women to call us that anymore.

      That wouldn't matter. The Neanderthals being the new "hot" in town would steal everyone's girlfriends. They would even be making movies out of it, probably calling it something like "dusk."

      I have an ethical problem with that.

      • Re:Yes (Score:5, Funny)

        by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @10:00AM (#25885265)

        That wouldn't matter. The Neanderthals being the new "hot" in town would steal everyone's girlfriends. They would even be making movies out of it, probably calling it something like "dusk."

        Our only solace is that the Geico commercials will really piss them off.

  • Geico (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kamokazi (1080091) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @01:52AM (#25882143)
    Geico would pay good money for the authenticity.
  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @01:53AM (#25882153)
    since they had bigger brains. Maybe not the same parts of their brains though.

    Could be (quite the role-reversal?) that they were the thoughtful ones, and we were just meaner.

    Who knows? We don't.
    • by ya really (1257084) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:16AM (#25882321)

      since they had bigger brains. Maybe not the same parts of their brains though.

      If having a bigger brain was the ultimate measure of intelligence, then elephants would be geniuses [natureinstitute.org]

      In fact, brain size does not matter in humans [netcom.com] either. It's just an old wise tale carried over from the 19th century that still haunts us today (as seen here).

      • Not so. (Score:3, Interesting)

        In fact, people of high IQ do in fact tend to have larger brains. This is a statistic that has been demonstrated repeatedly over many years.

        Many people like to use Einstein as anecdotal evidence, as he did in have have a larger brain than the average. But all anecdotal evidence aside, there is a positive correlation that cannot be responsibly denied.

        BUT... having said that, here is a subspecies that had a demonstrably different brain. How different was it? Which parts large, which parts smaller? Those
      • by maglor_83 (856254) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:34AM (#25882455)

        It's just an old wise tale

        Old wive's tale.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by AmberBlackCat (829689)
        My mammoth is already calculating prime numbers.
      • by stephenhawking (571308) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @03:15AM (#25882789) Homepage
        Actually the body to brain mass ratio is directly correlated to intelligence. This may not matter among humans, but across separate species it does. The Elephant has a ratio of 1/560, where humans are 1/40. So elephants may have larger brains, but relatively speaking human brains are MUCH larger in ratio to our body mass.
      • by brit74 (831798) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @03:55AM (#25882993)
        As other people have pointed out, big brains are correlated with intelligence, although it's a bit complicated. If you were to plot total brain size and brain mass/body mass on a 2-dimensional table, you end up with humans in one corner of the table. There are obviously animals with larger brains (whales, elephants), and animals with better brain mass/body mass ratios (rats), but humans have a pretty good combination of both.

        As for the article you link to, they make the claim that if brain mass is correlated with intelligence, then you should also claim that women and short people are dumber. Although, women and short people also have smaller bodies, which means their brain mass/body mass ratio may be equal or better than men. So, who knows what should be the prediction based on that. And, of course, the correlation is certainly not 1.0, so even if a brain mass/intelligence correlation exists, it's not that clear what conclusions you can draw from large/small brains.

        As for neanderthals, their body mass was also larger than humans, so it's unclear whether they would actually be smarter.

        Also, I happen to think that elephants and whales are probably pretty smart. Maybe not as smart as us, but if you take the animal world as a whole, I think the correlation is obvious and undeniable. The smartest animals on earth (humans, elephants, dolphins, apes, etc) have the largest brains on the planet. The only real outlier is birds. Parrots can be very smart - evolution apparently found a way to build a small intelligent brain while still allowing the animal to fly.

        I also found this claim (also from your article) to be amusing: "Early humanoids had a less developed cerebral cortex and therefore could not attain what we commonly call conscious experience. The same could be said for modern apes and dolphins. An ape's brain could get bigger, but unless the cerebral cortex develops in a certain way, the ape will never achieve "thought"." Ha. It's funny in this essay that talks about debunking myths of brain size, that the author introduces his own unfounded beliefs about brains. Who's he to say that apes, dolphins, and early humans didn't have conscious experience? Apes are actually quite smart. They understand the fact that other creatures have brains and sets of beliefs. Apes can recognize their own reflection in a mirror.

        More information on the brain size/intelligence correlation: "Canadian researchers examined the brains of 100 people who were given extensive IQ tests before they died and found a correlation between cerebral volume and intelligence." http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20051223/brainsize_intelligence_20051223/20051223?hub=SciTech [www.ctv.ca]

        "With respect to the question of brain size and intelligence, the most recent review I know of (there have been others) concerning the correlation between IQ and head size looked at 25 separate studies (going back to the turn of the century), comprising 39 independent normal samples (total N = 51,931; Wickett, et al. in press). They report that most correlations range between r = .10 to r = .30, with an n-weighted mean of r = .194. This is highly statistically significant, though head dimensions clearly do not explain very much of the variation in IQ.

        More interestingly, 4 recent studies of this question for the first time derived estimates of brain size from high quality magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), instead of using external cranial dimensions. All 4 studies show much higher correlations: Willerman et al. (1991) report an estimated correlation of r = .35 (N = 40); Andreasen et al. (1993) found a correlation of r= .38 (N = 67); Raz et al (in press) found a correlation of r = .43 (N = 29); and Wickett et al

        • by hengdi (1202709) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @09:23AM (#25884907)

          I thought the best measure was the ratio of total_cells / inputs? For humans, it's about 50:1 - for every nerve input into the brain you have 50 cells to process it. For dogs, it's 3:1, for cats 4:1. A Chimpanzee is about 12:1 and if I remember correctly a dolphin is about 10:1.

          Elephants have a very large brain but they obviously also have a huge number of inputs due to the size of the nervous system.

  • What line? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by name*censored* (884880) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @01:59AM (#25882197)

    As far as I'm concerned, there really is no point in drawing a line between human and animal. If we decide it's to be treated as a human, then it would obviously be deemed too destructive and unable to cope in society - as many people with mental issues are. At that point, we would segregate it from society in a humane habitat (as we do with mental patients, or at least the ones that can afford it :P). Now, obviously, no scientist would recieve funding for it's creation if it couldn't be studied (remember, it's not unethical to study human beings, if they aren't harmed and if it's consented to by someone with the mental capacity and authority to decide). If we decided it was an ANIMAL, obviously we would treat it like a zoo creature or pet (I'm sure no-one intends to eat this thing, even if that were legal). We would skip the mental evaluation and simply put it in a humane habitat, as we do with animals at the zoo or pets, and study it humanely (it's unethical and probably illegal to cut animals up for study). Either way, the end result is the same - the being is kept somewhere where it's not dangerous to itself or regular homo sapien sapiens, and studied. I don't understand why someone would wish to draw a line between animal and human for ethical reasons, when it would be treated the same due to it being mentally incapable of anything else.

    • Re:What line? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dokebi (624663) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @03:55AM (#25882995)

      Neanderthals were social, tool making beings. A solitary human being, raised in isolation, is not more more capable than a Neanderthal. This same human being will also be very maladjusted and unhappy, and thus not display "normal" behavior.

      So, we must be fully ready to accept this thing as a sentient being, or not at all. Simply assuming that it could be kept locked up in a zoo or like a mental patient will reflect poorly.

      And don't get me started on the obvious religious objections this project would face.

  • by nysus (162232) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:01AM (#25882205)
    Wasn't having one of them run the country for eight years bad enough?
  • by Nourn (1415007) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:02AM (#25882217)
    Considering that many people feel that Neanderthal DNA is integrated with human DNA, is there any point to this experiment?
  • Well (Score:5, Funny)

    by JimboFBX (1097277) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:03AM (#25882225)
    Wouldn't that be like knowingly bringing someone into the world knowing that they are going to be horrendously ugly and live their life lonely? Wouldn't having sex with them be borderline doing it with a gorilla? What would the ethical ramification of this be?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jonaskoelker (922170)

      Wouldn't that be like knowingly bringing someone into the world knowing that they are going to be horrendously ugly and live their life lonely?

      Really? Some of the boys I see attached to some girls would fit the description "Neanderthal" quite well ;)

    • Re:Well (Score:4, Funny)

      by Hal_Porter (817932) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:23AM (#25882379)

      What would the ethical ramification of this be?

      I'm a consultant ethicist that could advise you on this.

      I have a base package where I look very vaguely at the surface of things and decide most things are immoral. I also have a premium package where I look much deeper into the history of the issues and decided that what your asking is actually ethically ok.

  • by LuYu (519260) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:08AM (#25882265) Homepage Journal

    I am not the most religious of people, but does this not sound eerily like Revelation? The dead of past ages coming to life is quite creepy.

    On the ethics issue, who is going to raise this child? Real parents? Or a bunch of scientists? I would define a Neanderthal as a human, and that means the clone should have Rights like everyone else. What about people who are prejudiced? I mean, if racism is a tough thing to grow up with, what about speciism ? A bunch of kids teasing him for being an "ape" could not be fun.

  • by Amiralul (1164423) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:16AM (#25882325) Homepage
    If God have meant for us to clone a Neanderthal, He would provide us the tools and the knowledge to do that!!
  • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:16AM (#25882327)

    Housing, Nursery, or a Zoo?

    I think that may become the biggest obstacle.

    When that is decided, should we let him/her go to school and socialize or should we let keep him locked up for study.

  • What? (Score:5, Funny)

    by neokushan (932374) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:18AM (#25882339)

    That's like asking "Should I flash linux onto the Microwave so I can use it as a file server?" or "Should I port Doom to the Credit-card reader I bought off eBay?" or "Should I build a deliberately complicated system of relays, pulleys, levers, programs and scripts so that I may control the precise movements and power output by a bog-standard toaster remotely, from 500 miles away?". I mean, really, do you have to ask? Of course we fucking should!

  • Evolution (Score:5, Funny)

    by Detritus (11846) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:23AM (#25882381) Homepage
    Survival of the fittest does not mean survival of the smartest or survival of the strongest. What if Neanderthals are mentally and physically superior to Homo Sapiens? I can't wait to hear the NFL Players' Association bitching about unfair competition. These guys used to hunt mammoths with wooden spears. They don't need protective equipment and they will kick your ass.
  • Of course! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Mr. Flibble (12943) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:25AM (#25882403) Homepage

    Of course we should clone one...

    How else am I going to get a date?

  • by JoeGee (85189) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:41AM (#25882509)
    It has nothing to do with the Geico commercials. As other posters have noted, the simple fact of the matter is the "resurrection" of a non-human species, be it homo neanderthalensis (homo sapiens neanderthalensis) or homo florensis, will happen some time this century.

    The DNA we have extracted from mammoth hair is from two individual mammoths who died between twenty and sixty thousand years ago. The supposed limit of DNA viability is roughly sixty thousand years. H. neanderthalensis went extinct less than fifteen thousand years ago. H. florensis is thought to have been around as recently as the past thirteen thousand years. I'd say we stand a good chance of recovering genetic material from either, or both of these species.

    Should we bring these species out of evolutionary retirement? It's a dilemma:

    1. How badly do scientists want to cheese off the world's major religions? I am ambivalent towards this. Ya know, some of the self-righteous pious freaks we have walking around spouting nonsense today deserve a swift kick in the nads. Still, is it worth the potential backlash?

    2. Is this ethically justifiable? What could we do with a living genome that we could not do with that genome in a comparative study? How will we justify the potential gain in knowledge versus the rights of the resultant being when he or she is carried to term, reared, and socialized? Will he or she have full rights? Will he or she be able to be valued within society? Is some loony with a gun going to go "big game hunting" or "abominatinon-killing"?

    3. Someone else in the comments discussed dealing with this individual if he or she is significantly psychologically and mentally different from us. What can we offer such an individual besides life in a high tech zoo?

    4. Some things will be forever beyond us. We'll never hear true Neanderthal language, we'll never observe untainted Neanderthal culture, and a feral child experiment with any of the homo genus we'd be capable of bring back is pretty much unconscionable [wikipedia.org]. Are we looking for answers where there are none?

    I guess it comes down to what we can learn versus the risks. I think the one thing we might be able to learn from h. neanderthalensis is how we as a species look to an outside observer. Do we really want them to look us in the eyes and tell us what they see?

    I'm not certain we're prepared for it.

    -Joe
    • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:16AM (#25883095) Homepage

      4. We could if we sent it to public school.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Y.A.A.P. (1252040)

      I guess it comes down to what we can learn versus the risks. I think the one thing we might be able to learn from h. neanderthalensis is how we as a species look to an outside observer. Do we really want them to look us in the eyes and tell us what they see?

      Assuming they are cognitively capable of expressing an opinion as an outside observer, what horrible thing could they say about us that hasn't already been said about us by us (and is for a certain percentage of the population, depending upon what is said, absolutely true)?

      So, yes, I would be interested in knowing how an outside observer views us. It may also prove of some use in girding us for reactions from an intelligent alien species, should we ever come across any.

      I would also have to say that a li

  • by fo0bar (261207) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:54AM (#25882625)

    Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm just a caveman. 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 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.

  • by NerveGas (168686) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @03:29AM (#25882851)

    Whatever happened to the wooly mammoth? Years ago, some company was going to try to clone one, and have an elephant carry it to birth. That would have been cool.

    A neanderthal, though? I dunno. There's just something creepy about cloning something to study... that can be embarrassed by the fact that it's being studied.

    On the upside, I have no doubt that he/she would make it big in fetish porn.

  • Slave Caste (Score:5, Funny)

    by sqrt(2) (786011) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:36AM (#25883237) Journal

    Let's bring them back to use as a subjugated slave caste doing jobs that are too hard or dangerous for humans.

  • by Saffaya (702234) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:41AM (#25883263)

    It is probable that reviving a human from so far in time means his DNA doesn't have the defenses we evolved against current diseases ?

    Would our vaccines even work ?

  • by techstar25 (556988) <techstar25NO@SPAMcfl.rr.com> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @09:19AM (#25884871) Homepage Journal
    "Such a feat should be possible soon"

    One top scientist was quoted as saying, "It's so easy a caveman could do it".
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @10:17AM (#25885467)

    We shouldn't clone just one but enough for a family group with enough genetic diversity for breeding. Being higher level mammals, they would certainly need a cultural framework provided for upbringing. The ideal environment would probably be one where human researchers live with a troop of docile primates -- not chimps because they're too violent but along those lines, go the whole Jane Goodall route. The Neanderthal children will then have exposure to a more typical ape society as well as human. With this exposure, we can see if they're more human or ape-like in development. Can you imagine the scientific excitement if we discover they can speak? And just imagine our surprise if they do fall within the range of average human intelligence.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. -- Thomas Alva Edison

Working...