Thawing Out the Neanderthals

Gregory Cochran, Takimag, January 27, 2013

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.

{snip}

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. {snip}

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.

{snip}

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? {snip}

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. {snip}

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.

{snip}

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.

{snip}

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.

{snip}

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  • David Ashton

    Now if Dr Mengele had thought of it instead….

  • bigone4u

    When America elects its first Neanderthal president, Chris Matthews will feel a tingle up his leg.

  • Robert Binion

    Will I have to pretend that Neanderthal women are pretty, too?

    • Michael_C_Scott

      Different strokes for different folks. A gal who can bench press a jeep has a certain appeal. Clean lines, sharp muscle definition, probably not so good at swimming, but she wouldn’t complain about the temperature I keep the house. I wouldn’t make her angry.

      I think I would draw the line at African’ts and orcs, but push-come-to-shove, I would prefer an orc. With a bit of work with a wire brush and a Brillo pad, her tusks might look a little sexy, and she would come in handy if I had anything very heavy I wanted thrown at someone. I’m sure the smell would come off her in the shower, and I suspect a peasant’s blouse and wool tweed skirt would help set off her rough features. She might even not eat the neighbors.

  • b

    Non-African peoples have Neanderthal DNA. Up to five percent in some cases. Clearly, having some of their DNA is a good thing, considering how backward Africans are.

    • JohnEngelman

      The Cro Magnons who entered Europe about 35,000 years ago were descended from modern humans who had left Africa about 30,000 years earlier. They were quite a bit more intelligent than the Neanderthals whose ancestors had left Africa hundreds of thousands of years earlier.

      We know that because the Neanderthals had a simpler tool kit than the Cro Magnons. Unlike the Cro Magnons the Neanderthals did not practice trade or plan for the future.

      Until the invention of agriculture in the Near East and in what is no China evolution was moving faster in Africa because there were many more people there. A larger gene pool usually evolves faster than a smaller gene pool because there is more scope for beneficial mutations.

      • frederickdixon

        A recent study has shown that bones thought to belong to a six year old neanderthal (based on his level of development) in fact belonged to a three year old. In other words, neanderthals matured much faster than modern humans. As you know, early maturation equals low intellectual level.

      • kerrysmith

        I am fascinated – how do we know that Neanderthals didn’t plan for the future? Underfunded retirement accounts?

  • HadEnough

    Of course, the moolies will be terrified in case the Neanderthals tune out to be smarter then them, a very, very real possibility.

    • Dude

      The who?

      • Michael_C_Scott

        Moolies. It’s Italian slang for “eggplant”, because of the color.

  • The Neanderthal story is neither a hoax or true; it’s just a reporter trying to be provocative:
    Scientist: I’m NOT seeking a mom for a Neanderthal
    http://www.mail.com/scitech/news/1838846-scientist-im-seeking-mom-neanderthal.html#.4142-stage-set1-16

  • Tim_in_Indiana

    I have an old book on Evolution from the Life Nature Library (1962) which shows the Neanderthal man as an ancestor of the Caucasoid race but not the Negroid race. The precursors of the Negroid were the Rhodesian man and the Florisbad Man. However, I believe this chart is woefully out of date, as I don’t think modern science puts the differentiation of the races nearly as far back as the chart indicates. Still, it is interesting.

  • Mark Parker

    Neanderthals are most likely not extinct anyway. They are alive and well and have moved to the Taiga.

    Mainstream science would like you to believe in “evolution” – a gradualistic succession of small changes which turned monkeys into men. The neanderthal has been chosen as the last step before modern man (although when pushed scientists will admit that neaderthals were not ancestors of men.) To reinforce this point of view scientists depict neaderthals as furless, pale-skinned, skin-wearing, proto-humans – strong but ugly.

    They have no evidence for most of this; no evidence they were pale-skinned, no evidence they were furless on their bodies; no evidence they wore animal skins – no such skin has ever been found. All we know of neaderthal physiology comes from bones, and nothing but bones.

    The pale skin myth is particularly amusing. They want to persuade you that neaderthals are nearly human so they show them as pale skinned; seemingly oblivious to the fact that 4 out of 5 humans are not pale skinned anyway! And to show pale skin they have to make them furless (otherwise you wouldn’t see the skin!) But they claim neaderthals lived in the cold north. So they add animal skins to keep them warm. By rights they should have been as furry as a bear. They even had bony nasal adaptations to the cold, but apparently could not grow some fur. The scientists have contorted themselves into a logical impasse and are really just barking unsubstantiated assertions now.

    Most likely when modern man reached Europe they pushed neaderthals north into the Taiga – the great Northern Forest which girds the land below the pole covering Canada, Nothern Europe and Siberia. There they live to this day, not at all extinct, and occasionally being seen by humans. The Taiga is essentially unexplored. It has been flown over of course many times, but is impenetrable to humans on foot. You need neaderthal or bear strength to walk through it. The neanderthal looks like a fur-covered, bipedal, grisly bear. Only close up would you realise you’re looking at a hominid. They are also nocturnal – they timeshare with bears: bears take the day shift, neaderthals own the night.

    It is also worth keeping in mind that they have been our enemy since prehistory. Ask a five-year-old child to draw “a monster” and see what you get: dark fur, teeth, glowing eyes (caused by the tapetum lucidum, the reflective layer under the retina which gives the owner night vision in many species, although not in humans) but most unexpectedly the monster will be bipedal! We have an instinctive image of our nemesis coded into our genes and that image is easiest to access by asking children, who do not have too much book learning to mask out their instincts.

    Our constant companions, the canines, also fear and loathe exactly the same template. (You would need to dress up a bit to put this to the test!) Dogs have been man’s companion since man first walked the Earth. The scientists cannot tell you how far back their domestication goes (although some will pretend to know) but they will admit that humans understand dogs at a very profound level (play a dog owner a recording of a dog barking and they will translate the noise into English easily: dog is warning of a threat; dog is greeting a friend; dog is frightened; etc.) We understand dogs at a profound instinctive level. And they understand us even better. Research shows that dogs are better at reading human facial expression that humans themselves!

    I suspect that that the only true World War was the undocumented hundred thousand year war between Homo sapiens and Homo neaderthalensis. They were five times stronger than us; better adapted to the cold of Europe; the dark was their friend and our enemy. This was a war we should by rights have lost. The neaderthal had all the advantages. Our ace in the hole was our alliance with the canines. Dog night vision is 5 times better than human. Dog sense of smell is hundreds of times better. Together we beat them; just. We pushed them north where they still live.

    As an aside one might ask: why don’t humans have night vision like other animals? Surely it would be so useful? Yes it would, but it adds a degree of fuzziness to the day vision which would preclude reading and writing. “Evolution” had the forethought to strip out that crystalline layer from our eyes so that a hundred millennia later we could go on to produce the great literary works; write emails; develop technology and the like. Evolution is clever like that. We nearly went extinct for lack of night vision but it was worth it in the long run. (I’m being sarcastic here!)

    For further information on the neaderthal you may like to google “alma” and “kaptar”.

    • Distant Observer

      Given that Neanderthals are related to modern Europeans but not to Africans, what if these new Neanderthals turn out to dislike Africans and use every opportunity to show it? Imagine the political incorrectness.

      • Anonymous

        The scenario is no different from the case of Hispanics. That should give you a clue.

    • NeanderthalDNA

      No, it looks like most neanderthals were light skinned. In fact, their skin color appears to have mirrored modern human variations based on their environments. This has been shown pretty convincingly by recent genetic scientific analyses. Either the same genetic process happened to neanderthals as to modern man (lightening of skin to survive in northern environments, vitamin D synthesis, etc.), or modern man received something in this regard from neanderthal or both. Do a little Googling and check it out.

      Regardless, I’m sure we will discover far more as genetic science progresses and gets around to all the questions, and as we uncover more fossils and archaeological evidence.

      We have absolutely no credible physical evidence, by the way, of hairy surviving Neanderthals or any other Sasquatch-like hominid anywhere. To my knowledge. And yes, I’ve burrowed down that rabbit hole in my time.

    • kerrysmith

      You would be just great at campfire stories! Brrrrr……

  • They must have so much to teach us. I can’t wait to try their restaurants! Wait a minute; okay, we thaw out their DNA, and how many generations until this guy shows up?

  • yawn………………

  • chosen race

    Just the remnants of the original single human race that have been found by the current pc archeologists for decades now with the dinosaurs who were all wiped out in the great flood 4500 yrs ago by their creator for egregiousness and the three new world order races made to repopulate the earth in their new homes in the continents of Europe Asia and Africa. When will the truth come to light? Dont hold your breath because this would immediately erase the Darwin bullshit and evolutionary lies leaving only the ancient hebrew Torah as the real truth along with the completed Constantine canonized dual Book that is the top seller alltime of all media Word or Books and a belief of 1/3 of the earths population as the largest on the planet.
    Furthurmore the single human race would never be agreed upon because we know the Book makes the white caucasoid Shem race the blessed chosen race on the planet because they kept the Word and this includes the white Euros, white jews and white arabs.
    Its the only real truth that has stood the test of time and whites keep shooting themselves in the foot by dissing it like all the liberal devils including the one in the WH who may be the AC.

  • NeanderthalDNA

    How did I miss this?

    So, like Geico guys for real? In general I’m all for pushing the envelope. Would love to see a real Jurassic Park and firmly convinced a few more well armed helicopters and tight security could contain any stupidity.

    I have a remarkable, cynical, faith in homo sapiens, especially those with a splish splash of neanderthal DNA…

    In terms of finding the woman…Ilya Ivanovich found a few good sturdy devoted Soviet women willing to be inseminated with ape sperm in the late 20’s. So many zingers floating around in my head now, har har…

    Regardless, for better or worse, my belief is that if it can happen it probably will. Sooner or later.

  • Michael Harreskov

    Perhaps 10000 years from now people will debate the cloning of the now extinct Caucasion Race.

    • Mark Parker

      I think white people will be completely mythological within a thousand years; not ten thousand. I suppose that pictures will exist – Mount Rushmore will still be there. Will white people get any credit for their achievements: first on moon, invented antibiotics, electricty, etc? Quite possibly not. The darker races will rewrite the history books to favour themselves. We could be demons by the year 3013 AD.