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Resurrecting the extinct

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The New Scientist I am reading right now ((10 January edition) has an article on the possibility of resurrecting extinct animals. They suggest it will one day be possible for cases where we have good sources of undamaged DNA and a related organism to be a surrogate mother.


They restrict their examples to animals that are big and interesting enough to motivate humans to do it, and where good DNA is accessible and a surrogate mother is possible.


The examples given are :

Sabre-tooth tiger

Neanderthal man

Short faced bear


Tasmanian Tiger

Woolly rhino


Giant ground sloth


Irish elk


There is no suggestion that other organisms cannot be resurrected some time, but just that the above list is possible in theory, and of sufficient interest to motivate humans to do it.


A couple of points I disagree with. They quote Dr. Svante Paabo as saying neanderthals will never be resurrected due to ethical considerations. How naive can you be?


What do others think?

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A couple of points I disagree with. They quote Dr. Svante Paabo as saying neanderthals will never be resurrected due to ethical considerations. How naive can you be?


What do others think?

I find the idea incredibly and completely repugnant.


Why resurrect Neanderthal?


So we can poke it, prod it, perform experiments on it, determine whether they could speak? (See http://www.slate.com/id/2205310/?GT1=38001.) I see no difference between resurrecting Neanderthals for scientific experimentation of any kind from the efforts of Drs. Josef Mengele and Taliaferro Clark.


So we could put it in a zoo? (See the previous post.) Caging a creature with near-human intelligence to provide some 19th century freak show titillation is even more repugnant than poking and prodding it for pseudo scientific reasons.


So we can rub our noses in our own "speciesism"? (See http://hplusbiopolitics.wordpress.com/2008/11/10/why-we-should-resurrect-neanderthal/.). This is political correctness run totally amok.


So we can rub their noses in the fact that we drove them extinct 25,000 years ago or so, only to drive them to extinction again after we outlaw cloning of Neanderthals?


We need to address these ethical issues before humanity starts down this road. Resurrecting Neanderthal would, in my opinion, violate several of the tenants of the Nuremberg code.

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Those are good references you posted to support your point.

You may note that I did not say whether it was justified or not justified to resurrect the neanderthal - just that once the ability exists, someone will do it.


If and when this happens, I trust that they will be ethical enough to have the neanderthal baby adopted by a caring family, and raised with love and proper care. I think that anything else will be barred by public opinion, in any case. The new neanderthal person can become a part of our society. Whether that means interbreeding, or whether that means resurrecting other neanderthals to permit a breeding population is another question.


Another way of looking at it is to say that the extinction of the neanderthal was probably due to the acts of Homo sapiens at the time, and we owe them another chance at existence. Perhaps the discipline of living in peace with another hominin species might be salutary for our species.


Perhaps neanderthal man may have something special to contribute to our society. They did have, after all, a bigger brain. Maybe, given the chance, they will become the next generation of scientific geniuses??? Perhaps this time, they will replace homo sapiens.

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I think that it would be a huge (because it is actually tangibly living) statement against the religious nonsense that has driven people to believe that all the skulls of protohumans we have are just human skulls mislabeled. Isn't it worth fighting religious ignorance?

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How would resurrecting Neanderthal be any different from the experiments performed at Auschwitz, Unit 731, Laboratory 12, Camp 22, and Tuskegee, just to name a few? The tenants of the Nuremberg Code (http://ohsr.od.nih.gov/guidelines/nuremberg.html) are


1. The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision. This latter element requires that before the acceptance of an affirmative decision by the experimental subject there should be made known to him the nature, duration, and purpose of the experiment; the method and means by which it is to be conducted; all inconveniences and hazards reasonable to be expected; and the effects upon his health or person which may possibly come from his participation in the experiment.


If Neanderthals were sapient, they deserve to be treated as humans. Item 1 of the Code cannot be followed for the simple reason that there are no Neanderthals around to give consent. The only way we can ethically resurrect Neanderthal is to pre-ordain them as animals and therefore not subject to rules against unethical human experimentation.



2. The experiment should be such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society, unprocurable by other methods or means of study, and not random and unnecessary in nature.


Those have advocated resurrecting Neanderthals have done so on the grounds that they will be a tremendous zoo exhibit (post #3), that it will make humans "feel good" (post #5), or that it will show that humans arose through evolution (post #7). In short, resurrecting Neanderthals will make for a great freak show. A great freak show is random, capricious, and is not for the good of society.



4. The experiment should be so conducted as to avoid all unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury.


We would not be able to resurrect Neanderthals' society (that is lost forever). They would be alone amongst the very creatures who most likely killed them off the first time around. To rub their noses in it, I am sure we would tell the resurrected Neanderthals that we are very sorry our ancestors killed them off. While doing so might make homo sapiens sapiens feel better, I doubt it will make the resurrected homo neanderthalis feel good.



9. During the course of the experiment the human subject should be at liberty to bring the experiment to an end if he has reached the physical or mental state where continuation of the experiment seems to him to be impossible.


10. During the course of the experiment the scientist in charge must be prepared to terminate the experiment at any stage, if he has probable cause to believe, in the exercise of the good faith, superior skill and careful judgment required of him that a continuation of the experiment is likely to result in injury, disability, or death to the experimental subject.


Suppose the resurrected Neanderthals find they cannot live with the knowledge that our ancestors drove their ancestors into extinction. The only way to bring the experiment to an end will be to drive Neanderthal into extinction a second time around. There is no way to ethically terminate the experiment.

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wouldn't have a problem with resurrecting the thylacine (tasmanian tiger) or any of the australian marsupials we've condemned to extiction in the past few hundred years.


there are ethical considerations, but i think you can make a compelling argument that we should do it if the means exist.


their time wasn't up.


nothing in their evolutionary history prepared them for man (particularly the europeon invasion) and the diseases and introduced species (many of which are now feral and should be culled) he bought with him.


as a sidenote, it is appalling that you tend to hear more about the thylacine than the Tasmanian Aboriginals, who were also hunted and driven to extinction by the white man.


would you bring them back? No, i think. For one thing they weren't a separate species and for another their culture (which is what made them unique) is largely forgotten to history.


sadly I think we've just got to live with that one.


the neanderthals is an interesting one. though the scientific curiosity of having another species of humans around would be immense, i think ethical considerations would prevail and we'd have to resist the temptation.

Edited by caz
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I am not making a firm statement that resurrecting neanderthals is desirable or otherwise. However, I do not think the Nuremberg code is relevent. To resurrect a species of intelligent beings is not to mistreat them. Absolutely the reverse. As far as consent is concerned, I think we can safely say that, if it was put to an ancient neanderthal, he would agree that resurrecting his species is better than leaving them extinct.


If bringing someone to life is wrong because of lack of consent, then having a baby is wrong for the same reason.


I do not think ancient neanderthal culture is required either. That is lost, but so is the culture of ancient Homo sapiens. Modern homer saps is quite happy being raised in a 21st Century culture, and so should a resurrected neanderthal.


So which is more unethical? To resurrect an extinct intelligent species, or leave them dead?

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