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The Moral Stupidity of Trying to Clone a Neanderthal Baby


About this idea of cloning a Neanderthal baby, the moral stupidity of it is staggering. Even if currently feasible in technical terms, which I doubt, and however fascinating to come face to face with such a creature, think of what it means: The production of a being who is very close to human, living out his entire life as the object of gawking curiosity. Try to imagine the day-to-day existence of this person.
And for what? Just our own gratification, especially that of Harvard Medical School geneticist George Church. What Church needs now, he says, is in an “adventurous female human” to carry the baby.

“It depends on a hell of a lot of things, but I think it can be done.”
Professor Church’s plan would begin by artificially creating Neanderthal DNA based on genetic code found in fossil remains. He would put this DNA into stem cells.
These would be injected into cells from a human embryo in the early stages of life.
It is thought that the stem cells would steer the development of the hybrid embryo on Neanderthal lines, rather than human ones.

Check out the transparently phony attempt to rationalize the scheme in a moral framework:

[Church] believes his project could benefit mankind.
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.”

The Daily Mail quotes one critic:

Philippa Taylor of the Christian Medical Fellowship said: “It is hard to know where to begin with the ethical and safety concerns.”

To which Biologic Institute’s Ann Gauger, co-author of Science and Human Origins, replies:

George Church is a brilliant scientist enamored of his own technical skills. But I am with Philippa Taylor. We are not talking about guinea pigs here. We are talking about human persons. The difficulty of getting the modifications into chromosomes without generating additional mutation is quite large, and the risk of profound defect to any engineered baby is even larger. There is a reason this is illegal.

If it’s not illegal, it should be. Discovery Institute’s Wesley J. Smith writes at National Review Online:

I can’t think of anything morally valid about this idea. The woman would be treated as a mere brood mare, and who knows what adverse physical consequences could flow from gestating a non human. The Neanderthal, if born, would likely be deformed, as we have seen with animal cloning. The human embryo would be used as a mere thing-again! The Neanderthals were a social species, rational and self-aware, probably possessed of moral agency and a sense of spirituality. A Neanderthal child, even if born without birth defects, would likely suffer from being recreated as an experiment in an act of scientific hubris, and without any others of his or her kind with which to associate.

This is science as it would look completely cut loose from any sense of a transcendentally given order of things. For more on that theme, see John West’s The Magician’s Twin.
There’s a monstrous nerdiness to the idea: An utter tone-deafness to the moral implications of pursuing the ultimate science-fair project. It’s what you’d naturally get in an undesigned, unplanned and unintended biosphere, as Darwinian advocates and other materialists portray our world.
Image credit: Neanderthal Museum/Wikipedia.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.