Interview with George Church: Can Neanderthals Be Brought Back from the Dead?

10 posts

Theo

Err... If I remember correctly, they still haven't solved the issue with fast aging of cloned species, or am I wrong here?

The whole diversity thing is wonderful. When having niggers around is not enough, create neanderthals as well.

Theo

I read the article in full, I must say despite certain crazy stuff like diversity-worship its profound in a lot of ways, i.e. it demonstrates why biological engineering is superior to mechanical engineering: a lot of stuff that we'd need to program the machine to do is already imprinted into life itself, from simple organism to humans, its probably the most beneficial thing about the whole thing - you can get results very fast and with very simple operations, i.e. trial and error can be put on conveyor belt.

Which is why we can expect houses, cars, even clothes to be biological rather than mechanical in the future. An intriguing thought.

Angocachi

Nevermind his vibrancy argument for cloning them. Scientists do shit to see that it can be done, get the fame and they must justify it under the moral order they live. If he lived in a National Socialist Germany, he might say that cloning Europe's distant ancestors could be used for eugenics purposes, or to further the race. It's only that he lives in the multiracialist modern West that he has to promote it with this contorted diversity talk, when all he wants is to do some kick ass sci-fi.

I would like to see them cloned as well, but perhaps they are too intelligent for the purpose I'm thinking. Man must be liberated from work and toil if he is to completely reverse Genesis. Animals and machines have reduced our burden, but what we really need are slaves that are not human enough to illicit widespread abolitionist sympathy or intelligent enough to challenge the lot we give them. A race of docile ape-men, with strong bodies and opposable thumbs would do a lot of good. It must be impossible to breed with them or for them to communicate beyond rudiments, and they must be as manageable as any domesticated animal we keep.

Theo

Its morally unacceptable to have a race of human-like slaves. I'm shocked to see a member in good standing promote such an idea.

Its best to build from simple cells living machinery that wouldn't actually require an operator - that's the way of the future.

Bob Dylan Roof
I, too, am shocked and outraged.

Yes, there is the problem with telomeres tending to be shorter in cloned Sheep. But subsequent clones did not have this problem because the scientists involved used a culturing process that I do not understand (Byssus come back!) The same company responsible for the first clone, Dolly, which had the telomerase enzyme problem, patented in the same year that they created Dolly a technique for cloning telomerase that allowed them to provide cloned animals with normal telomeres.
Broseph

Most pressing question to answer: Given our democractic values, will Neanderthals be allowed to vote?

Angocachi
If they can speak in any form at all, then yes.

" There is not a Homo Sapiens America and a Homo Neanderthalis America and Australopithecus America and Homo Erectus America -- there’s the United Hominids of America."
Asterion
Thawing out the Neanderthals


by Gregory Cochran
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If Harvard geneticist George Church gets his way, we may be seeing Neanderthals in the not-so-distant future—without having to first drink a quart of Old Overcoat .

The kerfuffle arose when Der Spiegel interviewed Church about his recent book, Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves. People got the impression that Church favors using ancient DNA to create a Neanderthal and is looking for a woman crazy enough to be the surrogate mother. He’s trying to back off, but there’s no reason to believe him. He does favor this experiment, although he doesn’t have want ads out for the crazy lady. Yet. Here is the relevant passage in his book:

If society becomes comfortable with cloning and sees value in true human diversity, then the whole Neanderthal creature itself could be cloned by a surrogate mother chimp—or by an extremely adventurous human female.

That’s clear enough. For some reason people make a distinction between what you write in a book and what you say to a reporter, presumably because no one ever actually reads the book. It only becomes controversial when it comes straight out of your mouth.

George Church says he believes that conjuring up a Neanderthal could be done in the near future and that it would be a good idea to do so. Genetic technology has been advancing furiously over the past decade, and if anything the pace is accelerating. And there is no fundamental reason why this couldn’t be done. So he’s likely correct in thinking that this will soon (ten years?) be possible—except that you certainly wouldn’t want to use a chimpanzee surrogate. Neanderthals had big heads, larger than those of people today, and I doubt if a lady chimp could manage. Church is a world-class expert in lab genetics, but he clearly doesn’t know much about birthin’ babies.

Church is not just thinking about creating a single Neanderthal. In the Der Speigel interview, he says:

You would certainly have to create a cohort, so they would have some sense of identity. They could maybe even create a new neo-Neanderthal culture and become a political force.

He’s a classic mad scientist—not that there’s anything wrong with that!

I am not sure that reviving the Neanderthal race would be a good idea—but it sure would be interesting.

A number of people have said that recreating Neanderthals would be fraught with ethical problems. Of course that does not matter one way or the other. It’s impossible to imagine contemporary Americans refraining from anything on ethical grounds. No, the key question is whether there’s any money in it.

There might be. For one thing, Neanderthals were a good deal stronger than modern humans. They would revolutionize football, and what could be more important than that? They could out-hit Sosa and McGwire—without steroids. They’d dominate power events such as weightlifting, and people have done worse things than revive extinct species in the quest for Olympic gold. Certainly the East Germans did.

Their minds might differ in interesting ways, and that could be profitable. People think of Neanderthals as stupid, mostly because they lost out to us, but we really don’t know whether they were or not. Their brains were certainly bigger than those of modern humans. For all we know, they were smarter. If they turn out to be a lot smarter, there could be trouble. I think we’ve all seen that movie—the good one, with Charlton Heston, not the crappy one with Wahlberg. But even if they end up enslaving humanity in the long run, they might first give some hedge fund a short-term edge. Which is what counts.

Real money, though, is made by lawsuits rather than doing anything useful. The real value of Neanderthals must lie in their grievances rather than their possible accomplishments.

It seems to me that born-again Neanderthals would have a pretty strong case against the entire human race. Many ethnic groups complain about oppression—some with reason—but they’re still here . We made Neanderthals extinct . That’s as bad as it gets. They’ll want reparations from everybody, or at least from everyone goofy enough to feel guilty about things their great-to-the-thousandth-power-grandfather may have done, which must include most Americans. Clearly, we’ll have to let them build casinos. Neanderthal gaming! I know that “Hard Rock” is a bit obvious, but themes bring in customers.

Neanderthals might not be up to performing key management functions such as skimming and paying off politicians, but they would certainly make excellent bouncers.

Most important, those casinos, and the legal maneuvering leading up to them, would enrich innumerable grifters—which is the point, as always.

I’m not sure that the French would buy into this, since they’re pretty hard-nosed, but France used to be Neanderthal territory. They ought to be able to spare a few châteaux in the Dordogne.

After the initial excitement waned, Neanderthals would still be around. Lots of them, if Church has his way. There would be Neanderthal neighborhoods and Neanderthal restaurants. You may want to think twice about sampling Neanderthal cuisine, because they seem to have a taste for cannibalism. In one of the most famous Neanderthal archeological sites, every single bone had been split open for marrow.

Once we got used to them, Neanderthals would probably show up as a standard type in pop culture, along with guidos, trailer trash, gay best friends, and inscrutable Asians plotting world domination. But what would that type be? Right now the stereotype is that Neanderthals are dumb, but that’s not based on anything. Maybe Neanderthals will turn out to be down-to-earth guys with common sense. That’s certainly an empty niche.

Perhaps most importantly, how would they vote? It’s hard to tell, because the indicators point in different directions. They’re European, so they should be socialists. On the other hand, they like to rip people’s arms off. On the whole, Karl Rove ought to favor an influx of Neanderthals, because they might vote Republican, which is more than you can say for any existing wave of immigrants.

You can’t get the show on the road without first finding that extremely adventurous human female, but that shouldn’t be all that difficult. I doubt if you’d even have to give her any money. The book deal will pay for it all.
Angocachi

He's right that a Chimpanzee vagina is too narrow to pass a hominid infant's head, but a cesarean addresses that.

He's wrong that they had larger brains.

The shape of the Neanderthal brain differs from Homo Sapiens. In human and in Neanderthal infants the brain is elongated, like a chimp. But unlike Neanderthals and chimps, the human brain turns globular during maturation. Neanderthals had less cognitive ability, and the parts of their brain responsible for problem solving, extended, multi-track thinking, and all the things humans can do mentally that apes can't are smaller... their frontal lobes were smaller, their temporal lobes were smaller, and for some reason Neanderthals had smaller olfactory bulbs*.

The parts of their brains that are larger than Homo Sapiens are the parts responsible for motor skills, navigation, processing visual and auditory input, and the hypothalamus. This means they would have been able move with quick reaction times and excellent coordination (not tripping over tree roots and shit) which would have been especially important in chasing prey or fleeing predators... or each other. They would be able to tell their way around without a problem, venturing hundreds of miles through wilderness without once getting lost. They would have been able to filter out ambiance to hear an animal or to note minor movement in a bush under a tree down a hill. And their hypothalamus suggests that they were very hormonal, impulsive, aggressive and horny.

If we were to bring back a few hundred thousand today they'd be a red-haired, pale-freckled, hirsute, chinless, foreheadless race of hyper-muscular, athletes, rapists, and convicts. They would be able to communicate, but only on the level of a toddler.... "Give me!" And you will indeed.


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*Their sense of smell wasn't worse than Homo Sapiens, but perhaps the way their brain processed smell was different. Or, maybe, Homo Sapiens had a wider range of smells in southern climes that Neanderthals didn't in Ice Age Eurasia. The absence of fruit and other tropical/temperate smells in Ice Age Eurasia might account for it.
Bob Dylan Roof

Good post, Ango. But your description doesn't correspond to the current characterizations of the Neanderthal, which describe a sophisticated human population with a more advanced toolkit than contemporary homo sapiens sapiens, advanced artistic instincts, and a possible religious culture, evidenced in their use of red ochre as a pigment (prior to modern humans, as far as we know), beading, and burying their dead with offerings.

I'm just a layman, but this is the image of the Neanderthals scientists are currently pushing. It is possible that this is another example of the low instincts of modern scientists, who derive satisfaction from belittling everything in man and making humans appear vulgar, small, and insignificant in comparison to other phenomena that they discover.