24 January 2013

Cenozoic Park, Here We Come!

First, scientist discuss the possibility of bringing mammoths back to life.  Now, Someone is discussing the possibility of bringing back Neanderthals.

To be fair, Professor Church was quoted in two interviews: one in which he is all gung ho about the possibility of cloning a Neanderthal, and another in which he says he was misquoted about being ebullient over the possibility of cloning a Neanderthal, and then proceeds to be ebullient over the possibility of cloning a Neanderthal, only not at this exact moment.  Got that? good.

Now what, you may ask, are the benefits to humanity that we should pursue this course of action?  Church lists several possibilities, each one qualified with "mights" and "may be" and "possible that".  He suspects that resurrecting their genome will create greater genetic diversity amongst humans (so now we would have to mate with Neanderthals) possibly preventing future plagues.  On the other hand, other scientists point out that Neanderthals have not been exposed to modern diseases, so maybe not so much.

Then there is this peculiar possibility:

He told German magazine Der Spiegel: ‘Neanderthals might think differently than we do. They could even be more intelligent than us.

‘When the time comes to deal with an epidemic or getting off the planet, it’s conceivable that their way of thinking could be beneficial.’
In between the "might", "could even be" and "it is conceivable", Prof. Church is putting forward the idea that Neanderthals could help us with the space program.   ummm...


I used to read about the Neanderthals, because, you've got to admit, they're kind of cool.  I checked up on some more recent sources before writing this little post, to see if our knowledge of them has radically changed.  Some ways, but not others.  What I read in the past, and what I read now, generally focuses on two aspects of the Neanderthals.  One, their brains were bigger than ours.  Two: so were their muscles.  These guys were immensely strong.  Now, given these two attributes, upon which did they depend for survival?  There is a lot of evidence that they depended on brute force over brains.  Their tools, for instance, barely changed over the entirety of their existence.  One tribe lived next to a river full of fish, but their garbage shows they did not touch the fish for food, but instead hunted large animals with weapons that meant they had to get up close and personal.  Not surprisingly, broken bones are very common among Neanderthal remains.  The long and the short of it is:  If you are hoping for Neanderthals to help  us off the planet, you'd better clone a lot of them, so they can toss us.

But let's say they really can use that big brain they have,  Is it really a good idea to bring back a people who are naturally far stronger than us, potentially smarter than us, teach them everything we know so they actually can be smarter than us, and then hope they love us? 

Once again, scientists are so busy wondering whether or not they can do something, they don't stop and think whether or not they should.

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