Well, it looks like a lazy young adult author has their next book all lined up.
Last week, a Harvard genetics professor caused quite the kerfuffle in the fields of genetics, cloning, morality, anthropology and femininity when he announced that he was looking or a viable candidate to act as a surrogate mother to give birth to a very special baby. And not a special baby in the sense that all babies are special in their own way, or whatever is the latest baby philosophy.
Genetics professor George Church “believes that he can reconstruct Neanderthal DNA, and is seeking a volunteer to have the ‘neo-Neanderthal’ embryo implanted into her uterus.” Church is looking to clone a Neanderthal, but he needs a uterus for the best results.
Or so the media said: turns out that “I can create a Neanderthal baby, if I can find a willing woman,” was actually a mistranslation. And now Church is criticizing mainstream science journalism, “In the interview, Church discussed the technical challenges scientists would face if they tried to clone a Neanderthal, though neither he nor the Der Spiegel article, which was presented as a question and answer exchange, said he intended to do so.” Church said, “‘The public should be able to detect cases where things seem implausible,’ Church said in an interview at his office at Harvard Medical School in Boston. ‘Everybody’s fib detector should have been going off. They should have said, “What? Who would believe this?” … This really indicates that we should have scientific literacy.'”
Science journalism always jumps on the sensational immediately, without any real science knowledge. Case in point: this column. I have absolutely no training in science, and this article is probably next to a “Nails of the Day” column, I just find this stuff interesting. This is just such a fascinating story, from the ‘volunteer womb’ aspect, to the bringing a Neanderthal to life aspect, that it was a given that news organizations would tear this story to shreds like a pack of wild Neander..hyenas.
The always entertaining Weekly World News provided the above image and reported, “Lindsay Lohan read about the idea and said she would do it. Templar was ecstatic that she wanted to take a change. Then, Lohan’s agent demanded seven figures for using her body – and the scientists agreed to pay her.” It’s not that big of a stretch, Linday Lohan has experience with having a clone from shooting The Parent Trap, and experience with bizarreness from her life.
The sad thing about bringing a Neanderthal to life is that it would potentially not be intelligent enough to function in the world, but may be intelligent enough to realize that. “We really should get the public of the entire world to be able to detect the difference between a fact and a complete fantasy that has been created by the Internet,” said Church.
So what will the YA sensation about this experiment be? Does someone fall in love with a Neanderthal? Does a dystopian government force a young girl to give birth to a Neanderthal? Do Neanderthals live among us, and act as a heavy-handed metaphor for people that are disincluded in some way? Or is the protagonist the world’s first cloned Neanderthal, living in a world she doesn’t belong?
I think there’s a lot to discuss here: within the fantasy world where the scientist could actually do this, is it morally right to purposefully bring a possibly suffering life-form into being? Does false science news spreading hurt society? Would you use your body for science while you’re still alive? Is cloning okay in general?