Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Neanderthal Neighborhoods

Physicist/anthropologist Gregory Cochrane warns us about the dire - but humorous, and dang interesting - consequences of recreating a small tribe of neanderthals from the leftover DNA we've found. 
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.
Well, yeah.


james said...

I don't think we have to worry for a while yet, as the post on Maggie's Farm suggests.

Texan99 said...

But we can make a movie about mad scientists agonizing over it after their worlds collapse, because chaos or something.

I liked Buddy Larsen's comment about the difficulty of cloning without error: "The lost 11th Commandment: let wear marks be your guide to re-assembly."

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Jason Fforde has an alternative future series called Thursday Next series where the Neanderthals are cloned for cheap labor and their lack of reproductive rights becomes a big issue.

jaed said...

Have any SF writers considered the possibility that Neanderthals were smarter than modern humans? That re-introduced Neanderthals would have a marked advantage - the long-discussed "superhuman" successor species, except arising from a past human type instead of by spontaneous mutation?

(Granted, they died out and we didn't, but that doesn't mean they were less intelligent - only less well adapted at the time. If you live largely in the far north and a glaciation starts, you're pretty much hosed regardless of IQ. Maybe they didn't reproduce as fast as the upstart Cro-Magnons pressing in on their territory from the south as the north froze over.)

I kind of like the mental image of scientists and ethicists carefully preparing for a less-intelligent human - oh, the assumptions! the condescension! - only to find their young Neanderthals demanding calculus textbooks and re-engineering their living quarters (carefully designed to isolate them from modern humans, so they won't "feel bad" about being inferior, you see).

Heh heh heh.

Texan99 said...

Neanderthal culture and technology was much the same everywhere it has left traces. Cro Magnon culture and technology changed everywhere it went. I'm not sure how to characterize how smart the Neanderthals were, but they were far less adaptable.