Tuesday, February 17

Neanderthal rights

Coming soon to a womb and controversy near you:
The ancestral lines of Neanderthals and modern humans split about 800,000 years ago, making them our closest relatives on the hominid family tree. Neanderthals inhabited ice age Europe and parts of the Middle East before going extinct 30,000 years ago. A team of researchers led by geneticist Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany announced last week that they had completed a draft sequence of the genome of Neanderthal humans. Eager evolutionary biologists believe that comparing the Neanderthal genome with our own will throw considerable light on the genetic changes that gave us our big brains, language, and the ability to create culture.

Once the Neanderthal genome is complete, could it then be used to clone an actual Neanderthal? Harvard University biologist George Church thinks so. He told The New York Times that a Neanderthal could be brought to life using present technology for about $30 million. How? Church would modify a modern human genome so that its DNA matches the Neanderthal version. To avoid ethical problems, Church tells the Times, this Neanderthal genome would not be inserted into a human cell but instead into a chimpanzee cell. This chimp cell would be reprogrammed to an embryonic state, and then introduced into a chimpanzee's womb where it would develop into a Neanderthal infant.

I imagine Christianists will be against it since, y'know, we'd be undoing their loving Lord's work. Or something:
And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children built.  And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.  Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

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