November 19, 2008

"If the mammoth can be resurrected, the same would be technically possible for Neanderthals."

With some old hair and $10 million, scientists have a way to construct a real live mammoth, and they can't help thinking about making a Neanderthal man:
But the process of genetically engineering a human genome into the Neanderthal version would probably raise many objections, as would several other aspects of such a project. “Catholic teaching opposes all human cloning, and all production of human beings in the laboratory, so I do not see how any of this could be ethically acceptable in humans,” said Richard Doerflinger, an official with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

[George Church, a well known genome technologist at the Harvard Medical School] said there might be an alternative approach that would “alarm a minimal number of people.” The workaround would be to modify not a human genome but that of the chimpanzee, which is some 98 percent similar to that of people. The chimp’s genome would be progressively modified until close enough to that of Neanderthals, and the embryo brought to term in a chimpanzee.
Got a problem with that?

IN THE COMMENTS: jprapp said:
And Hymowitz thinks men these days are angry. Just wait ‘til real Neanderthals try love in the age of Darwin via assortative mating, only to find pair-bond partners with angry Yale Law grads. Genetics ain't all it's cracked up to be. Until an epigenetic (ala genome) project is completed, I’ll stick with Crichton.
(I added the link to Tuesday's discussion of the Hymowitz article.) I responded:
Crichton died, but we can rebuild him from some fingernail clippings.
Now, I see Brian Lundmark has already cartooned that.

101 comments:

David said...

Perfect--A new N word.

Mark O said...

Finally, change I can believe in.

But, what of a chimp ordering the duck with mango salsa?

Maguro said...

Great idea. What could possibly go wrong?

Newtons Bit said...

When doing something like, the scientists need to remember that they are not cloning an animal. A Neanderthal is intelligent and probably even has the mental capacity to learn modern speaking language skills.

He/she cannot be kept in a cage. They are, after all, in the same Genus as us: Homo (as in Homo Sapiens)

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The chimp’s genome would be progressively modified until close enough to that of Neanderthals, and the embryo brought to term in a chimpanzee.

There is zero evidence that Chimpanzees are in any way remotely genetically similar to Neanderthals. Might as well try to engineer and elephant from mouse DNA.

I assume that this would be a government funded study? Another way to steal money from the pockets of taxpayers for absolutely retarded projects.

We are doomed.

Chris Wren said...

Well I've got a problem with "Oh, we're concerned about ethics when it comes to humans, but surely no ethical considerations come into play with Chimapanzees. Who could possibly care about THEM?"

I've also got a gigantic problem with, "Well, we scientists shouldn't be encumbered by ethical considerations, but we'll make grudging concessions to the little people's sentiments if we absolutely MUST'

jprapp said...

And Hymowitz thinks men these days are angry. Just wait ‘til real Neanderthals try love in the age of Darwin via assortative mating, only to find pair-bond partners with angry Yale Law grads. Genetics ain't all it's cracked up to be. Until an epigenetic (ala genome) project is completed, I’ll stick with Crichton.

The Drill SGT said...

all things that can be done, need not be done.

Ann Althouse said...

Crichton died, but we can rebuild him from some fingernail clippings.

Original George said...

TROG!

From this nightmare world emerges a fearsome half-man half-ape with the strength of 20 demons!

Whatever the risk, this kill-crazy fiend from Hell must be destroyed!

jdeeripper said...

"If the mammoth can be resurrected, the same would be technically possible for Neanderthals.""

So I guess the joke is Republicans are trying a new strategy to increase their "base".

And yet their current base is opposed to evolution and genetic manipulation.

Dust Bunny Queen said...There is zero evidence that Chimpanzees are in any way remotely genetically similar to Neanderthals.

Neanderthals are about as closely related to chimps as anatomically modern humans are. Trivial genetic distance.

All these moralistic Western debates will be irrelevant once Chinese science catches up in a few or less decades.

Might as well try to engineer and elephant from mouse DNA.

So it can scare itself.

Bissage said...

Having during the tumultuous course of my young life been frequently criticized by ambitious women for being an abnormally gentle and sensitive lover, I anticipate with an ineffable yet inexpendable dedication the days ahead of banging grateful Neanderthal chicks.

John Althouse Cohen said...

When doing something like, the scientists need to remember that they are not cloning an animal. A Neanderthal is intelligent and probably even has the mental capacity to learn modern speaking language skills. He/she cannot be kept in a cage.

We most certainly would be "cloning an animal."

"Intelligent" and "mental capacity" aren't mutually exclusive with "animal."

Trooper York said...

(the first words ever spoken by a human to the apes]
George Taylor: Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!
(Planet of the Apes, 1968)

Ron said...

There goes employment in the rest of the industries in America -- including Hedge Fund Manager. Or would modify a HedgeHog for that one?

Glen said...

Didn't they already do this with Al Franken?

Revenant said...

There is zero evidence that Chimpanzees are in any way remotely genetically similar to Neanderthals. Might as well try to engineer and elephant from mouse DNA.

Chimpanzees are 98% similar to us, and we are 99.5+% similar to Neanderthals. Both humans and Neanderthals share a common genetic ancestor, and THAT ancestor shared a common ancestor with chimpanzees. So, yes, there is indeed good evidence that Neanderthals and chimps are genetically similar (although obviously not as similar as Neanderthals and humans).

UWS guy said...

Technically, Neanderthals aren't human either. They are not Homo-sapiens.

Catholic church (the bible) doesn't mention non-human sentient races so it's really none of their biz.

I'd be amused to find out how the fundies square the circle of our planet at one time being home to a non-human species that walked and talked.

Freeman Hunt said...

I'm Catholic, and I don't think this would infringe on human life issues, but I still have a problem with it.

What are you going to do with this Neanderthal? Quite a bit smarter than an ape. Going to lock him up in a jail? Release him into the modern world? I think it highly unethical to bring a Neanderthal into a world which has no place for him.

UWS guy said...

There's no reason not to think an neanderthal wouldn't be as smart as humans.

heck, we were down to possibly 1000-2000 members of our species at one point. Neanderthal didn't go extinct because they were dumb, but because like 98% of former life on this rock...they were unlucky.

Revenant said...

There's no reason not to think an neanderthal wouldn't be as smart as humans.

There are several reasons for thinking a neanderthal wouldn't be as smart as a human, the most obvious one being that our brains have an extra 2,000 generations of natural selection over those of the neanderthals -- generations during which intelligence has been particularly important to human success.

On the other hand, there's some good evidence that neanderthals had larger brains than we currently do. So who knows, they might be smarter than us. :)

Neanderthal didn't go extinct because they were dumb

We don't know why they went extinct. It could have been because they weren't smart enough to out-compete their homo sapien cousins.

mcg said...

We don't know why they went extinct.

Clearly, Neanderthals went extinct due to the influence of Homo sapiens on the climate. Therefore, we must attempt to repopulate the Neanderthals in an attempt to correct for our negative influence.

mcg said...

Ice Age Ends! Did hominid fires play a role?

mcg said...

I'm thinking Neanderthals went extinct because they legalized gay marriage.

mcg said...

Why Neanderthal man became extinct?

mcg said...

Why Neanderthal Man went extinct

Palladian said...

"Chimpanzees are 98% similar to us"

Yeah, but that last 2 percent is a bitch.

zeek said...

Ann Althouse said...
Crichton died, but we can rebuild him from some fingernail clippings.


Did no one see The Boys From Brazil? Or Jurassic Park for that matter?

blake said...

Palladian has it.

If we're, what, 75% "DNA-similar" to a worm, that's 3/4s of the way there!

98% similar and still no human-chimp cross-breeds (exc. "Michael").

El Presidente said...

Didn't anyone read Frankenstein?

blake said...

Well, sure. But it's a metaphor for...something or other.

Joan said...

I have a problem with scientists (and engineers) who confuse "can do something" with "should do something."

What is the point of re-creating a mammoth? What good would it do to re-create a Neanderthal? It's not as if herds of mammoths will address a growing food shortage, or if the availability of living Neanderthals will improve our understanding of Home sapiens physiology or medical treatment. These projects are stunts, nothing more -- flashy experiments designed to garner attention, but having no practical applications whatsoever. Yes, yes, what we learn about genetic manipulation will be useful down the line, but does that really justify these projects? It's like saying the space program was worth it because we got fogless ski goggles.

This line in particular stood out from the article:
Asked if the mammoth project might indeed happen, Dr. Church said that “there is some enthusiasm for it,” although making zoos better did not outrank fixing the energy crisis on his priority list.

Dr. Church sounds like he has at least some of his priorities in order.

Oxbay said...

It's ok to clone a Neanderthal, on one condition. The Neanderthal can only live with a left wing judge (many), a left wing journalist (most), or a left wing academic (more than most).

The same condition applies to any prisoner from Guantanamo who is set free in the United States.

sammy990099 said...

4 words:

PLANET-OF-THE-APES!

Daryl said...

Got a problem with that?

Yes.

All modifications to genomes to add human (or near-human, such as neanderthal) brain-related DNA should be outlawed.

All questionable modifications to genomes containing human (or near-human, such as neanderthal) brain-related DNA should be outlawed. The only modifications that should be allowed to people's DNA are modifications which scientists are basically certain would be beneficial, and not modifications to brain DNA.

We should not create any critters with human-like brains who are mutants/deformed/slaves/animals. We need to draw a hard red line between meddling with animal DNA only (okay) and meddling with human brains (not okay).

Of course, this article shows why Catholic thinking is so stupid, dubious, and useless when confronting real moral issues in the real world. It's easy to find loopholes in systems invented by idiots who don't even know what they're supposed to be protecting.

Catholics have nothing interesting to tell us about bioethics.

Cedarford said...

Newtons Bit said...
When doing something like, the scientists need to remember that they are not cloning an animal. A Neanderthal is intelligent and probably even has the mental capacity to learn modern speaking language skills.


Our understanding has expanded to learn that bonobo chimps, gorillas, and african grey parrots have the mental capacity to learn modern speaking skills. Indeed, the few stellar african gray parrots - one who recently died - have altered our understanding of intelligence being rooted in large brains. (the parrot having a brain the size of a pecan.)

As for Fundie and Catholic obstacles to recreating a neanderthal - science is advanced enough elsewhere in the world, and religion minimized, such that their objections are of no concern. If USA Fundies or Catholics in France object - the work can be done in China, India, Japan instead.

*********
In the realm of ethics, if man can bring back notable species of megafauna and avian species we exterminated, and we can stop human overpopulation enough to give recovered species a viable habitat....would that be a good thing? Do we owe it to try and undo harm we once thought was irrevocable?
To bring back the passenger pigeon, the saber-toothed tiger, the mammoth, tasmanian tiger, maybe the dodo?

I would say yes, and if so, a similar case could be made for Neanderthals.

(Except perhaps by some that argue we would treat them as some sort of inferior, slave species - therefore we ethically can't)

Now, while we would never recapture the richness of the whole Neanderthal culture - what was not genetic but what was learned, we could be on good grounds to presume that Neanderthals would hold their own with certain less advanced, ancient "proto-races" of homo sapien like Bushmen, Sana, Australian aborigines. The Neanderthal "Moustarian" tool culture was more advanced than the primitive "low-IQ ancestor races" of humanity. Nothing the Aborigines, bushmen, Sana did was as sophisticated as Neanderthal - yet we don't treat Aborigines and the lot as subhuman, even animals.

Resurrection of Neanderthals might be a good ambition.

Cedarford said...

Joan - What is the point of re-creating a mammoth? What good would it do to re-create a Neanderthal? It's not as if herds of mammoths will address a growing food shortage, or if the availability of living Neanderthals will improve our understanding of Home sapiens physiology or medical treatment.

1. The utilitarian argument was discredited aeons ago. "What is the purpose of keeping Pandas or gorillas alive? It's not like herds of Pandas or Gorillas will solve the problem of endlessly growing populations and food needs. It would be more utilitarian to kill all the pandas and gorillas and turn the land over to useful hog foraging and food production..."

2. Neanderthals would be of incredible value in understanding certain human behavioral, health issues.

Michael McNeil said...

As that New York Times article alludes, the (first draft of the) complete Neanderthal genome will be available soon. A two-year project to do the genomic decipherment, by competing but complementary teams, based on 39,000 year old Neanderthal bone, is now nearing completion, initially for a single individual (male) Neanderthal, but intended to eventually include perhaps a half-dozen individuals, probably more later. According to Jim Noonan, first author of the Science paper two years ago wherein the project was announced, it's likely that precursor hominid Homo erectus's genome will also be decipherable using current technology. (See Noonan's interview here: audio video.)

I agree with other posters above that, for ethical reasons, despite the technical ability to do so, Neanderthals should not be revived as an extant hominid group, but other extinct species in my view should be: for the excellent reason that it would start to partially undo the damage we humans have done to the richness of the Earthly biosphere, as it was likely human hunters who did in mammoths, mastodons and many another species of megafauna at the close of the last ice age in North America and other species at other times.

Thus, “dead as a dodo” will become obsolete!

Paddy O. said...

If they revive pygmy mammoths, they would make great gifts for Christmas or birthdays. Much better than a hamster or a puppy.

EDH said...

Best said by Bart Simpson:

[after watching a film on sex education]

Bart: How would I go about creating a half-man, half-monkey-type creature?

Mrs. Krabappel: I'm sorry, that would be playing God.

Bart: God-schmod, I want my monkey man.

Synova said...

I'd be amused to find out how the fundies square the circle of our planet at one time being home to a non-human species that walked and talked.

I'm afraid you'd be terribly bored with the reaction. Isn't God's creation magnificent? Aren't all of His creatures beautiful? Aren't you lonely being the only sentient species that we've ever met?

Should we resurrect mammoths? Sure. That's nice.

Should we resurrect Neanderthals? Oh, wow, yes.

And if we *can't* and *don't* have an ethical structure with which to do this amazing thing that we *should* do, it's not because of the Catholic Church's insistence not to produce humans in laboratories, it's going to be because the "pro-science" scoffers have insisted that what we produce in laboratories *isn't* human.

Not even IVF while the not-a-person is in the lab dish.

All ethical "problems" of reproductive and genetic research are solved by defining the subjects as not-a-person.

So we've got *no* ethical structure worked out of how we deal with any situation where the subject of the research and lab based reproduction actually *is* a person.

ShadowFox said...

Why resurrect Neanderthals when we have Sarah Palin?

Revenant said...

What is the point of re-creating a mammoth? What good would it do to re-create a Neanderthal?

To learn more about the way the world works, and the way the world used to be. It would also help us learn more about genetic engineering, and hopefully hasten the day when we can start reengineering ourselves.

Revenant said...

So we've got *no* ethical structure worked out of how we deal with any situation where the subject of the research and lab based reproduction actually *is* a person.

I think you're conflating "no ethical structure you agree with" with "no ethical structure at all". I would say the ethical structure is obvious: if the subject of the experiment is a person, you can ask them for permission. If they deny you permission, you can't experiment on them.

Of course, a fetus isn't in a position to grant or refuse permission -- but so far as I'm concerned, fetuses aren't people.

Synova said...

Well, Rev, isn't that what I said?

Define the subject as not-a-person.

And while a fetus may not be a person now (in your opinion) they will be later.

If the Neanderthal is not a person, they will be later.

NO child is born by virtue of having given permission to be brought into the world. Every person alive is alive because someone chose for them that they would be born. (In this respect there is nothing particularly uniquely resembling "playing God" of getting a child.)

If we ever find ourselves in a place where we can recreate the Neanderthals the understanding that these are people is vital to doing that.

If we can re-engineer ourselves, and I agree we should go ahead and do that if we can, we're making the decision to bring people into the world who have not asked, given permission, or anything, for whatever state they are "born" into.

And unless you're suggesting that these people are *never* people, then we're going to be doing research on *people* who have not given permission to anyone to do that.

Allowing human experimentation only when permission is given means we don't *do* any, or we define our subjects as not-a-person.

I thought, these days, that the premise of certain Heinlein novels, whole classes of people without civil rights because they were created in a lab, had passed into being quaintly old-fashioned.

Synova said...

Look at the suggestion of how to mollify the Catholics...

Instead of working under the assumption that Neanderthals are people, make them more conceptually like monkeys. Raised in a Chimpanzee womb so that the question of human ethics need not apply to them.

I'm not clear how an infant that must be nearly the size of a human infant can be brought to term in a Chimpanzee womb, but even if that is not a problem at all, I find it more troubling, not less, to talk of creating Neanderthals (and I sincerely think we *ought* to if we can) as not-a-person, as if this answers the ethical questions involved.

Synova said...

Putting a Neanderthal in a Chimp womb also raises questions of the influence of the womb-mother's DNA.

Revenant said...

Define the subject as not-a-person.

You're describing it as a means to an end.

How do we decide the ethics of stonecarving? Well, first we define rocks as not being people. But that leaves us with no ethical framwork for performing stone carving on things that ARE people. Did that make sense to you? Probably not, because to you it is obvious that rocks aren't people; the notion that there might be ethical constraints on what you do with a rock is silly. Well, ditto for what you do with an unintelligent clump of cells.

And while a fetus may not be a person now (in your opinion) they will be later.

They might be, later. And when that "later" comes to pass, experimenting on them without their permission will cease to be ethical.

If we can re-engineer ourselves, and I agree we should go ahead and do that if we can, we're making the decision to bring people into the world who have not asked, given permission, or anything, for whatever state they are "born" into.

That describes every sentient organism in the history of the universe. :)

theobromophile said...

Who knew that the Geico commercials were so prescient?

Call me crazy, but aren't there various prohibitions on performing certain medical procedures on animals with high levels of intelligence? I seem to recall that you need, for example, anaesthesia before performing surgery on octopodes.

Wouldn't the same apply to various other types of experimentation? Neanderthals would certainly count among those groups. Although their level of adult intelligence does not meet our level of intellect, their full range would probably be comparable to an elementary-school child, who, in theory, ought to be protected by the law. We wouldn't (I hope) run about experimenting on children who have Down's Syndrome, simply because their DNA is roughly 2% different from ours (with that extra chromosome and all) and they will never develop to average intelligence.

Joan said...

To learn more about the way the world works, and the way the world used to be. It would also help us learn more about genetic engineering, and hopefully hasten the day when we can start reengineering ourselves.

I submit that there are other areas of research that can provide as much fruit that are not as fraught with ethical perils, much the same way that it has been found that stem cells can be made from all sorts of mature cells, therefore obviating the need for research on embryonic stem cells.

Cedarford, you always project an air of knowing exactly what you're talking about, but every so often you say something completely boneheaded, f. ex. your "Catholics in France" remark. There are far more Catholics in the US than there are in France. There are very few practicing Catholics left in Europe. France is probably the country least likely to throw up ethical roadblocks to genetic experimentation, having demonstrated a near total lack of ethics in the past -- for example, in their dealings with Saddam Hussein's regime.

William said...

Sadly, mammoths encountered homo sapiens after the technology of the bow and arrow had been perfected but before the art of open pit barbecueing had been invented. By all means bring them back....Neanderthals don't look like they taste good. However, they are ambulatory and can accompany hikers on wilderness adventures. This would eliminate the need of packing provisions.

Synova said...

Rev, at what point?

Trust me, born infants are not *there* yet. What is the best estimate now of when babies can even distinguish themselves as a separate entity rather than the whole of creation? What is keeping us from experimenting on babies even after they are born?

What about those mentally infirm by birth or injury? What if we make people, on purpose, who will *never* be all there? Because we certainly will be able to do that. Make female, never-there people and rent out their wombs? Give them enough of a brain stem so they can move about and exercise?

Is the ability to *give* permission going to be the test of whether or not permission is necessary?

It seems a whole lot like deciding that some primitive native somewhere isn't human and can be hunted by civilized and rational men because it doesn't have a soul.

We *did* that, once upon a time.

How do you see genetic engineering actually happening? I *want* it to happen. How do you imagine it working out in practical terms? I'd love to see Neanderthals born. How do you imagine that happening?

Your rock analogy is cute, but do you really think it works? I expect more of you. A rock is not and never will be a person... no matter how much you carve on it. There will never be an ethical consideration to carving on a rock.

I assume that your "rock" is an embryo and you're seeing no problem with genetically modifying an embryo, or experimenting, or destroying it. Because it's not intelligent?

Or do you envision a middle ground between the two, rock and being? A nymph stage?

A point at which it gets to be not acceptable to experiment anymore? And it remains not acceptable until whatever is created gets smart enough to give permission?

What happens in between?

What happens when your experiment gets past the "inanimate rock" category and into the "off limits" nymph category, and hasn't yet reached the "can give it's own permission" sentient being category?

In the end we respect other human life by choice only, and no real biological reason for it either. We impute value on other human life because we chose to impute that value, hoping that value will be imputed to us in return. Yet in the end, if good can be gained from vivisecting criminals, what *moral* argument could you make against it?

Sure, my defining an embryo as human life that matters is a mostly arbitrary definition and deliberately placed. My pay-grade is certainly no higher than Obama's. Certainly, good stuff could be done with those embryos... but that argument could be made at any point from conception up to old age.

If human life matters at all, then it has to start mattering. When does it start mattering and when does it stop? If dignity matters, when does it start and when does it stop?

Cedarford said...

Joan - Cedarford, you always project an air of knowing exactly what you're talking about, but every so often you say something completely boneheaded, f. ex. your "Catholics in France" remark. There are far more Catholics in the US than there are in France. There are very few practicing Catholics left in Europe. France is probably the country least likely to throw up ethical roadblocks to genetic experimentation, having demonstrated a near total lack of ethics in the past -- for example, in their dealings with Saddam Hussein's regime.

Joan, you again give a textbook case of substituting your opinions for facts, without understanding the background. Catholics in Germany, France (which was 1st), and Spain took the lead in banning cloning of humans. Which, if that too escaped you, is what we are talking about.

As is, you show more than a little ignorance of France, which I doubt you have ever bothered to learn anything about. France is a Catholic country with a strict secular tradition of government. However, there are an estimated 45 million baptised Catholics in France, (77% of the population), in 98 dioceses, served by 23000 priests. Out of a population of 65 million.

Are there more in the USA? As we are a much larger country, yes. But not as a percent of the population.

As for the French and ethics, they are for sure better than most countries and very tough on ethical lapses in business and in everyday life. They could certainly teach American Jews and WASPs on Wall Street a thing or two about business ethics. And for every Frenchman that whored out to Saddam's bribes, you can likely come up with 10 Americans serving as eager whores to the China lobby, the India Lobby, the Saudi lobby, the Israeli lobbies.

Before showing how poorly informed you are when saying someone else is totally wrong....you might want to check the facts before spouting off. It saves blog space and spares you the indignity of looking like a foolish asshole.

******************

Man exterminated the dodo, the Neanderthal, the mammoth, and dozens of other species. None as important and as close to us as the other homo species we ended `25,000 years ago. If we can bring them back and give them a 2nd shot at life on Earth to make "amends" for killing them off, we should.
To me, that overrides any other ethical consideration, especially from the right-to-life zealots who would dogmatically oppose creating life through "evil science"...

blake said...

Man exterminated the dodo, the Neanderthal, the mammoth, and dozens of other species. None as important and as close to us as the other homo species we ended `25,000 years ago. If we can bring them back and give them a 2nd shot at life on Earth to make "amends" for killing them off, we should.

Wow, there's a mess of assumptions on a par with "Anthropogenic Global Warming."

Who says we killed the mammoth and the neanderthal? Does it matter that they'd have killed us, given the chance? Does it matter that the dodo and the passenger pigeon and a lot of the other species we've finished off were put into precarious positions by their own flawed survival strategies?

I mean, sure, we killed the last of the dodos, but who was it who settled on a tasty, flightless evolutionary path?

The entire bloody history of life on this planet is species wiping out other species, and the only species to ever care about it have been humans (unless we killed the other ones, heh) but we're the bad guys?

What if you bring back Neanderthals and they turn out to be jerks? Maybe they're extinct for a reason.

Maybe they were a serious threat that saw humanity as something to be exterminated. Maybe we killed them because we had to. Or, maybe we just bred with them and we are, in fact, them.

No, this is just a subset of enviro-guilt, which is really just a variation on original sin.

Besides, mixing DNA might be a really bad idea.

Pogo said...

Choose one:

Hubris, naivete, narcissism, and self-destructive bravado.

a) teenagers with whiskey and car keys
b) scientists with exctinct DNA and federal funding
c)both
d) neither

johnmwilliams said...

I've always said the lib's world is shaped by the television he/she watches. Here's a perfect example of a researcher who had his interest piqued by a GEICO commercial...

Rocker 419 said...

Great. There goes the neighborhood...

Jose said...

Did we kill the Neanderthal or breed with him/her? Was it genocide or a long series of wedding till we were one and no longer 2 species.

JAL said...

Didn't we already do that?

A couple of them got jobs with GEICO.

Did I miss something?

Freeman Hunt said...

Of course, a fetus isn't in a position to grant or refuse permission -- but so far as I'm concerned, fetuses aren't people.

An ethical framework that revolves entirely around the ability to give permission is hopelessly inadequate. That would mean that the profoundly mentally handicapped or extremely senile aren't people. It would mean that babies aren't people even after being born. If you come up with a definition of people that excludes beings we would all immediately identify as people, then your definition of people seems fatally flawed. And even if you were to argue that we should redefine our conceptions of people, would you want to live in a society that started down the slope of defining people as not-people?

Kim said...

Just what can the Neanderthal teach us about history?

This being will not have been raised in a Neanderthal culture. It will be affected by the present day world simply by coming into contact with the environment it is "born" into.

How will we know what is "innate" and what behaviors are learned by being raised in a modern society?

Or is this being just caged for the entire term of his life?

I can't believe this - I always through "Jurassic Park" was sci-fi. Chaos theory, anyone?

This is mind boggling and wrong. I'm not even going to invoke a religion here.

It's just wrong.

Dan Collins said...

Geez. Reviving Neanderthals would be as wacky as giving billions to the Big Three.

Freder Frederson said...

Neanderthals would hold their own with certain less advanced, ancient "proto-races" of homo sapien like Bushmen, Sana, Australian aborigines. The Neanderthal "Moustarian" tool culture was more advanced than the primitive "low-IQ ancestor races" of humanity.

Really Cedarford, you are such a fucking racist. There is no evidence that these groups are low-IQ or "primitive" (if by primitive you mean their gene pool is more ancient and isolated than other groups). Australia was one of the last continents settled, maybe as recently as 40,000 years ago. So far from being a primitive proto-race, they are quite modern.

Maureen said...

Look, I'm no PETA fan, but it's pretty clear that experimenting with animals isn't the same as experimenting with parts from Radio Shack. Building chimeras out of different animals is even more dubious. Building chimeras with bits of a fairly intelligent simian and DNA from a member of genus Homo who looks a lot like us, and which may or may not be sapient....

And you just know some stupid labworker is going to want to have sex with the poor critter or human being. Yeah, laboratory sex slaves. That's what we want.

Untermenschen for the home to fetch and carry for you. Yeah, that won't be problematic.

It's stupid. It's disgusting. It doesn't even vaguely sound like a good idea, societally or scientifically. Bad plan. Pull the guy's grants, refuse to shake the guy's hand, throw drinks in his face at parties, and check his psychological evaluation, just for pretending this is a serious proposal, much less thinking it couldn't possibly offend anyone.

Just for the record, though, that doesn't get through any Catholic loopholes. In fact, the violations of plain old natural law thinking are huge, without even considering sins.

Freder Frederson said...

And even if you were to argue that we should redefine our conceptions of people, would you want to live in a society that started down the slope of defining people as not-people?

The conception (pardon the pun) that life begins at conception is a thoroughly modern one, certainly no more than 150 years old. Western science, and religion, traditionally defined "life" as beginning at "quickening" (when motion of the fetus was felt). The Catholic Church and other faiths even tried to define when "ensoulment" took place, and that was certainly well after conception (again around the time of quickening) rather than conception.

junyo said...

Let see... A socialist in the White House, battles with privates on the high seas, and lab created monkey men.

"How much is that .308? I'll take the whole case, and all the 9mm you have in stock please. And shotgun shells. Need lots of shotgun shells..."

Michael McNeil said...

We know pretty confidently that humans exterminated the mammoths and others because within a millennium of the arrival, if not of the first humans in North America (just when that occurred is still under dispute), but of the big-game specialized hunters known as the “Clovis” culture (who thereupon quickly spread over both North and South America), some 32 genera of large mammals in the Americas disappeared — including mammoths, mastodons, lions, the saber-toothed “tiger,” camels, dire wolves, the horse, giant sloth, (armadillo-like) glyptodon, etc., etc.

It has been objected that these extinctions might have been due to the simultaneous environmental rigors occurring at the end of the ice age, but ice ages have been ending at around 100,000 year intervals for well over a million years, without subsequent mass extinctions and which in particular these groups had survived rather well.

The clincher is that we now know that similar extinctions of large animals occurred whenever humans have invaded isolated continental and island environments, at times when no “ice age” has been ending. Such occurred in Australia some 40,000 years ago, and in New Zealand, Madagascar, and other places within the last couple millennia. The arrival of humans appears to be the vital common denominator in all of these megafaunal extinctions.

Dan Collins said...

Glyptodon is tasty.

Bring back the glyptodons! Exterminate the humans!

Freeman Hunt said...

Freder, you're missing the point. The argument I was making was whether or not the defining characteristic of a person is the ability to give permission.

(Also, abortion has been condemned by Christians since at least the first century in the Didache. But again, that wasn't the argument.)

Pogo said...

Interesting what happens to societies that define certain humanoids as "unpersons"; the undesired groups inexorably expand.

wilky said...

"Neanderthals would be of incredible value in understanding certain human behavioral, health issues"

And yet we continue to feminize the male in our culture, I remember a time when men were called neanderthals.

And as someone who is down with the theory of evolution, I often wonder why those that want to demonize the fundies are also the ones that go out of their way to institute policies that in essence are designed to stop evolution.

Anthony said...

How about crossing an elephant with a pig.

Were is Dr. Mephisto?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Mephisto#Dr._Alphonse_Mephisto_and_Kevin

Nicole said...

I am surprised that even Catholics are misunderstanding the Church's opposition to human cloning. Human cloning per se is not to be opposed, but the problem is that the current state of the art is far from perfect and likely to result in suffering due to error. This is what the Catholics currently oppose.

Flash forward many years to when we finally figure out how to perform error-free cloning and the current Catholic opposition goes away. I imagine any opposition at that time will lie along the lines of many of the arguments presented here.

Nicole said...

In the years coming, one may want to bring a real animal to term in order to test the accuracy of pseudogenesis techniques that may exist at that time. "Pseudogenesis" can refer to the practice of guessing phenotypical characteristics of a life form given its known genetic code and probable proteomic state. This would not be for mere curiousity, but to verify a computational model that can save human lives.

Given that however, I doubt that bringing back a Neanderthal would be considered a good idea for the reasons mentioned in this discussion. This might be done with humans if error-related suffering can be avoided some day.

dbp said...

If this could be done the scientific value could be immense. What kind of intelect would it have? Could it learn language. How would it age? Would it's dietary requirements be much different from humans? How about disease and immune response? My bet is that it would die quickly from some ailment which only gives humans mild symptoms.

As for the ethics: It could be raised by a foster human family and given all the love and care normally consistant with that. I don't see this as being much different from an IVF child.

Wayne said...

Now Geico won't have to hire actors...

Joan said...

Cedarford chides me: you might want to check the facts before spouting off.

Funny, I provided a link, you didn't. There is a huge difference between those who self-identify as Catholics culturally and practicing Catholics, which is what I was referring to.

While it is true that France banned all human cloning in 1994, only three countries (excluding France) have ratified the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights that seeks to limit cloning. The Treaty of Lisbon, which would also limit cloning, is a dead issue. I would not bet that 14-year-old laws will stand if France or anyone else sees a significant opportunity.

As for my knowledge of France... I'm sure there are those who know more. But I did study French for 9 years -- language, literature, and history, and coincidentally my best friend here in AZ is French. The majority of her family is still there. It's great having a first-hand view of French economic and social policy effects. Of course her French friends & relations are all ecstatic over Obama's win.

Had I known I would settle in Arizona, I would've taken Spanish instead.

Synova, et al: Revenant gets pretty scary on the definition of life issue, we've hashed it out at least one other time. He's apparently in the Singer camp.

dbp: As for the ethics: It could be raised by a foster human family and given all the love and care normally consistant with that. I don't see this as being much different from an IVF child.

This statement is consistent with the belief that a cloned organism would be healthy and whole. The failure rate of cloning is huge, and the number of failed trials far exceeds the number of animals that survive even briefly. Cloned animals suffer from horrible cancers and other debilities, and you want to do this to an intelligent life form? 999 failures to create a single viable Neanderthal? Can't we stick to mice until we've got the science nailed down a bit more?

Tom Tucker said...

Really? No one posted this yet? This is a law blog!!

One hundred thousand years ago, a caveman was out hunting on the frozen wastes when he slipped and fell into a crevasse. In 1988, he was discovered by some scientists and thawed out. He then went to law school and became.. Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.

[ open on interior, courtroom, the Judge banging her gavel ]

Judge: Mr. Cirroc, are you ready to give your summation?

Cirroc: [ stepping out] It's just "Cirroc", your Honor.. and, yes, I'm ready. [ approaches the jury box ] Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm just a caveman. I fell on some ice and was later thawed by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me! Sometimes when I fly to Europe on the Concorde, I wonder, am I inside some sort of giant bird? Am I gonna be digested? I don't know, because I'm a caveman, and that's the way I think! When I'm courtside at a Knicks game, I wonder if the ball is some sort of food they're fighting over. When I see my image on the security camera at the country club, I wonder, are they stealing my soul? I get so upset, I hop out of my Range Rover, and run across the fairway to to the clubhouse, where I get Carlos to make me one of those martinis he's so famous for, to soothe my primitive caveman brain. But whatever world you're from, I do know one thing - in the 20 years from March 22nd, 1972, when he first ordered that extra nicotine be put into his product, until February 25th, 1992, when he issued an inter-office memorandum stopping the addition of that nicotine, my client was legally insane. And, for that reason, I ask that you fine him.. not guilty. Thank you.

Judge: The jury will now retire to deliberate.

Jury Foreman: [ standing ] Your Honor.. I don't think we need to retire. Cirroc's words are just as true now as they were in his time. We find the defendent.. not guilty.

[ the jury applauds Cirroc ]

Judge: Did you hear that, Mr. Cirroc? [ no answer ] Mr. Cirroc?

Cirroc: [ watching a basketball game on a tiny TV ] I'm sorry, your Honor. I was watching the tiny men trapped inside this strange modern device! [ smiles maliciously to the camera ]

Baron Zemo said...

"How about crossing an elephant with a pig."

My dear boy they have already done this and she has a new variety show on NBC.

atquicur said...

UWS Guy said: "Catholic church (the bible) doesn't mention non-human sentient races so it's really none of their biz.
I'd be amused to find out how the fundies square the circle of our planet at one time being home to a non-human species that walked and talked."


Heh. Biblical ignorance is truly rampant.

Genesis 6:1-4; Numbers 13:32-33; Deut. 3:11. There are more colorfully embroidered accounts in well-known traditions in Judaism from non-canonical sources (Enoch, Jubilees), but the point is still quite clear that non-human, two-legged sentients and hybrids were known and mentioned in the accepted Scriptures... Matter of fact, they were held to be brighter, bigger and stronger than us.

Not better, though; and by all accounts, much worse.

The Deacon said...

Hello monkey butlers!

The Deacon said...

When the armies of Iranian cobra-men rise from the sewers to feast on the infidel we will regret allowing the Dobsonites to cut funding for project Riki-Tiki-Tavi, creating mongoose-man shock troops. I, for one, have faith that the mongoose-men will do the right thing. Their hunger for that sweet, sweet cobra flesh will inevitably win over any reservations they have against helping the men who made them monsters.

Hucbald said...

Image of the beast who received a fatal wound but was healed= clone; a man God did not know from the beginning.

And so the gears of the countdown clock to the battle of Har Meggido advance another notch.

Just sayin'.

/snark

Still, I think living mammoths and mastodons would be cool... I might draw the line at saber tooth cats, though.

Joe said...

Bullshit articles like this are hilarious since they can't remotely do what they claim anyway. Once they recreate a mouse out of some hair, then we'll talk, until then it's just fluff.

(Unfortunately, this is all too common with so-called "cutting edge" technology articles and proposals. They sound great until you realize that the idea requires some magic technology that doesn't exist (or does in a much reduced form and nobody has a clue how to make it better.))

blake said...

Anthony,

Don't be ridiculous. Haven't you heard that Loverboy song?

Pigs and elepant DNA
Just won't splice!

blake said...

McNeill,

That still doesn't say anything about the relative significance of such exterminations, if that is indeed what happened.

We haven't exterminated a lot of the existing large mammals, and those large mammals tend to kill people. I can understand primitive man being a little touchy about that.

Revenant said...

Trust me, born infants are not *there* yet. What is the best estimate now of when babies can even distinguish themselves as a separate entity rather than the whole of creation? What is keeping us from experimenting on babies even after they are born?

My position is that we should draw the line at birth. I have two reasons for this: (a) virtually all humans have a natural revulsion to mistreating babies, and (b) while it is hard to know exactly where to draw the line and say "at this point we are dealing with something sentient and intelligent" we know (as you noted) that line is somewhere after the moment of birth. So as a pragmatic matter, birth is a good place to draw the line, putting us in ethically safe territory while also making a concession to our "protect the babies" instinct.

Revenant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Revenant said...

Hubris, naivete, narcissism, and self-destructive bravado.

a) teenagers with whiskey and car keys
b) scientists with exctinct DNA and federal funding
c)both
d) neither

I'd go with e), "opponents of genetic engineering". :)

Revenant said...

We haven't exterminated a lot of the existing large mammals, and those large mammals tend to kill people. I can understand primitive man being a little touchy about that.

The large mammals that remain are mostly the ones that evolved alongside humans. It is thought that (for example) the American species got wiped out because they had no natural instinct to view human-shaped things as dangerous. We didn't look like any of the predators any of their ancestors had ever had to face.

But I agree with your general point -- just because "we" wiped out a species doesn't mean we have a moral obligation to bring it back. But it does mean that one can't really argue that nature/God/whatever intended for the species to go extinct.

Revenant said...

The failure rate of cloning is huge

The failure rate for natural pregnancy is huge -- forty to sixty percent of fertilized eggs die at some point during the nine months it takes to grow a complete baby and give birth to it. The overwhelming majority of the remaining forty to sixty percent suffer from genetic defects ranging from minor (susceptibility to alcoholism) to health-threatening (asthma) to life-shortening (cancer susceptibility) to horribly crippling (severe down's syndrome, et al).

So it isn't like cloning is competing with a natural process that actually works well. Sex is enjoyable, but as a means for producing a new human being it is pretty atrocious. We only use it because we haven't got a decent alternative.

Cloned animals suffer from horrible cancers and other debilities, and you want to do this to an intelligent life form?

Say your family has a history of early-onset cancer. Is it immoral for you to have children, knowing the odds of them dying young are high? Was it immoral for Sarah Palin to have a new child, knowing the frequency of Down's Syndrome for children of women her age was excessively high?

That depends on whether you think people are fortunate simply to have been born at all, or if it is only sufficiently healthy and "normal" people who will benefit from being born.

My view is that people whose lives are a misery -- people who think the horrors of life outweigh the benefits of life -- can opt to end their lives. But it seems to me that most people want to live.

Joan said...

So it isn't like cloning is competing with a natural process that actually works well.

The failure rate of the natural process helps to explain the failure rate of cloning, sure. But that's not the point, is it? Are we heading towards a Brave New World where every baby is conceived via IVF, engineered down to the last freckle? I doubt it.

The natural process may not work well, but it works well enough, and it has the advantages of being free and not requiring the intervention of third parties or technology.

If every couple considered the potential future problems their children might encounter, no one would ever reproduce. Becoming a parent is a commitment to shaping a better future, not passively accepting the future that others would impose upon you through their offspring. The Palins' decision to welcome Trig into their family shows their belief that he will make a positive contribution. Many parents of children with Down Syndrome attest that these children have enriched their lives in ways they never expected.

You can prepare for life with a child with Down Syndrome. You can't know in advance what cancers or degenerative diseases a cloned individual would have. Women Sarah Palin's age have far more babies with the usual number genes than they do those with defective gene sets, whereas the cloning trials success rate is abysmal. It is absurd to compare the two on any but a few narrowly defined levels.

jjoakl said...

Setting the stage for Gattaca.

blake said...

We wuz framed, I tells ya.

I'm sticking with my "We didn't kill anything that didn't need killin'."

It's downright disrespectful. If our ancestors didn't want these creatures extinct, they wouldn't have killed them in the first place.

Allegedly.

blake said...

it does mean that one can't really argue that nature/God/whatever intended for the species to go extinct.

How so? How are we not natural, agents of God, or whatever?

blake said...

The failure rate for natural pregnancy is huge -- forty to sixty percent of fertilized eggs die at some point during the nine months it takes to grow a complete baby and give birth to it.

Man, that number keeps going up! I remember when it was, like, 10%. Then, for a long time, it was 25%. Now it's all the way up to 60%?

Life is cheap.

Kill someone at Wal-Mart.

Cedarford said...

blake said...
it does mean that one can't really argue that nature/God/whatever intended for the species to go extinct.

How so? How are we not natural, agents of God, or whatever?


Not if you believe in Free Will as a tenent of Christian theology. Or Islam, which also holds men are driven by temptation, free will, and are not agents of god, but can only serve his purposes through submission to Allah's Will.

*****************
The failure rate for natural pregnancy is huge -- forty to sixty percent of fertilized eggs die at some point during the nine months it takes to grow a complete baby and give birth to it.


Blake - Man, that number keeps going up! I remember when it was, like, 10%. Then, for a long time, it was 25%. Now it's all the way up to 60%?

Yep, as the science gets better, we learn that God or nature is remarkably sloppy and wasteful with either "Jesus's blessed little one-celled and growing babies" or embryos, whatever you prefer to call them.
Part of it is discovery that God, or nature, decided to improve human survival odds and optimize a womans fertile years by equipping her with an imperfect, though very useful internal abortion clinic to detect and expel genetic defectives, preserving more fertility time for a healthy, viable fetus. Once scientists got the idea of genetic testing to look at miscariages, they were shocked at the discovery that most were defectives. Credit God or evolution with gifting women with the "abort!" capacity.

Much of the defectives are aborted very early, researchers found, before even being recognized as a miscarriage. Some "bad fertilized eggs..or precious wee babies" depending on your view, are rejected from implanting in the uterus or shed within a few weeks to a month or two.

Others, apparantly healthy, just have a little bad luck- pass through -and end up flushed down the toilet.

Revenant said...

How so? How are we not natural, agents of God, or whatever?

Yes to the former, no to the latter (in my atheistic opinion of course).

In a literal sense absolutely everything that happens is natural, so the extermination of mammoths is "natural" in that sense. But if I bashed somebody's brains out with a rock, people wouldn't say he died of natural causes, or that his fate was what nature intended, or any of that sort of thing. So I don't think you can really argue that mammoths died via a natural process in that sense; they were killed by people we acknowledge as having been sentient and sapient, and thus theoretically capable of choosing not to kill off all the mammoths.

In any case, cloning mammoths is as "natural" as exterminating them. :)

Revenant said...

Man, that number keeps going up! I remember when it was, like, 10%. Then, for a long time, it was 25%. Now it's all the way up to 60%?

The smaller figures are for miscarriages of pregnancies of which the woman was aware. A large percentage of ferilized eggs fail to successfully implant and develop in the first place.

Revenant said...

Are we heading towards a Brave New World where every baby is conceived via IVF, engineered down to the last freckle? I doubt it.

Well, I doubt the specific number and placement of freckles is coded in our DNA. But are we heading to a world where every last baby is genetically engineered? I certainly hope so. Maybe you like muscular distrophy and cystic fibrosis, but I sure don't. I'm not even that crazy about the little stuff like color blindness.

The natural process may not work well, but it works well enough

Women who think it works well enough can keep using it, just like people who think their immune system works well enough can refrain from taking antibiotics. But I think it is silly to say a system works "well enough" when it produces defective output more often than not.

and it has the advantages of being free and not requiring the intervention of third parties or technology.

It is physically *possible* for a woman to give birth "for free" without resorting to third parties and technology, yes. Of course, women who actually take that approach to their pregnancies have appallingly high rates of infant mortality and death in childbirth. That's why virtually every woman in America relies on prenatal care and medical technology. Most of us probably wouldn't be here if our mothers hadn't.

So, no, the "natural" approach as it is actually practiced these days costs quite a bit of money and requires the involvement of lots of other people. It isn't really free and you can't really do it on your own, not without incurring risks that modern people quite rightly consider unacceptable.

You can prepare for life with a child with Down Syndrome. You can't know in advance what cancers or degenerative diseases a cloned individual would have.

First of all you're dramatically overplaying the rate of cancers and degenerative diseases in cloned organisms.

Secondly -- yes you certainly CAN know in advance what genetic disorders they'll have, using the same technology we use to screen for those things in "natural" fetuses today. There's no reason why you couldn't screen for them prior to implantation in the birth mother, even.

Finally, if you take the aforementioned "natural" approach to childbirth, you have no way at all of knowing in advance what genetic defects your fetus will have. You have to wait until birth and then see.

Women Sarah Palin's age have far more babies with the usual number genes than they do those with defective gene sets, whereas the cloning trials success rate is abysmal.

It is only abysmal if you think fetuses have moral value and thus care when they die. If you don't, the success rate is excellent, but extremely time-consuming.

Joan said...

Revenant, you're assuming that all cloned failures die before they are born. I don't believe that's the case. I'm sure many of these animals survive birth but survive with truncated lifespans due to serious defects manifesting through growth and development.

As to your other responses, well... I was talking about conceiving a child, not delivering it -- that still only takes 2 people. And while pregnancy and childbirth have become extremely medicalized in the West, that still doesn't make pregnancy a pathological condition, and the vast majority of births do not require medical intervention.

I used to think that I had read too much science fiction. A future in which every baby is genetically engineered? (And what makes you think that genes are not responsible for the expression, or lack thereof, of pigment that we call a freckle?) A future that's free of all disease and disability, too -- but how do we get there, and what do we have to give up to get it?

For the atheist, technology has become god.