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IEET > Rights > Life > Vision > Staff > Kyle Munkittrick

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Yes, We Should Clone Neanderthals


Kyle Munkittrick
By Kyle Munkittrick
Discover

Posted: Jul 21, 2010

Knowing where Neanderthals fit into the evolution of Homo sapiens is essential to understanding the development of the human mind.


30,000 years ago a Neanderthal woman died in what would become Croatia’s Vindija cave. Five years ago, 454 Life Sciences and the Max Planck Institute started working together on the tedious and time-consuming task of piecing her fossilized DNA back together. Just over a month ago, they succeeded and, in the process, revealed that most of us are between 1% and 4% Neanderthal.

To crudely paraphrase the ever artful Carl Zimmer, knowing where Neanderthals fit into the evolution of Homo sapiens is essential to understanding the development of the human mind.

Knowing where Neanderthals fit, however, also creates a problem. What do we do if what makes humans “human” isn’t from a “human” at all? How do we justify “human rights” in light of evidence that our rational and moral minds are in no small part the result of prehistoric crossbreeding? In short: if human rights are based on being human, what rights would a cloned Neanderthal have?

Neanderthal_child

The problem is, of course, that we don’t have a cloned Neanderthal. Which is why we need to make one.

Read the rest here.

 


Kyle Munkittrick, IEET Program Director: Envisioning the Future, is a recent graduate of New York University, where he received his Master's in bioethics and critical theory.
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COMMENTS


Right.
It could get a job with Geico smile
Here’s the problem: set and setting.
At most, you could get some bio information about how it’s body grows and develops (and even that would be suspect, as it wouldn’t be growing up in it’s original environment). It wouldn’t mature in the same way that they did when they were alive, so all you’d have is the physical experiments (which brings us back to poking and prodding it in a lab).

What we should do is simulate the Neanderthal world, then make virtual clones of it based on the genetic information we have. That way, the virtual clones could grow up in the same world the real life equivalents would have existed in.





@iPan: I think you make an excellent point. There may be (as it were) “experience-expectant” input that is required for a species-typical trait to develop normally, but about which we are currently ignorant. (Certain sorts of visual input for mammals at “critical periods” are necessary for normal visual system development; the acquisition of language in humans may be another example, since children require specific sorts of sensory stimulation at specific developmental periods.)

So, unless we can be sure that we’re providing the sort of input that Neanderthals did in fact get, we can’t be sure that the developed specimen is really representative of the species. (Maybe it’s missing certain species-typical traits, like a feral child without the ability to speak.) Trying to reconstruct the normal, natural environment of the Neanderthal poses some interesting problems for the clone advocate!

Great article, Kyle: I think that resurrecting Homo neanderthalensis would, on the positive side, force people to think harder about their species’ place in the biological scheme. (I’ve often thought that anthropology should be a necessary course for high school students, because of the perspective it provides regarding the human condition.) I think your point about the likely ethical treatment of Neanderthals, if they were to be cloned, is pretty convincing.





I’m in love.

Where did you find her?





Didn’t Mike Treder write about the same topic last August?
Ah, yes, here it is:
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/treder20090812/

> “Knowing where Neanderthals fit into the evolution of Homo sapiens is essential to understanding the development of the human mind.”

This statement isn’t complete. Let’s say we know right now where they fit in the evolution of Homo sapiens. Now what? We still need a live sample! The statement needs to say something like, “Knowing where Neanderthals fit into the evolution of Homo sapiens, AND having a live sample, is essential to understanding the development of the human mind.”

Be that as it may, I think it may be essential, but it might still be just a small factor of our understanding. In addition, though it may help our understanding the <i>development<i> of the human mind, I don’t think it will help so much our understanding of the human mind itself.

PS: The girl in the picture looks like someone I know with Blooms Syndrome.





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