News this week that a Neanderthal surrogate was wanted rocked the pop science world as the possibility of species revival was discussed — but hot on the heels of the bizarre proposal came a wave of ethical concern over the implications of cloning a long-dead race of near-humans.
The “Neanderthal surrogate headlines,” in truth, followed a far less sensational headline and a discussion in Der Spiegel, a German paper, with molecular biologist George Church.
(It should be underscored that Church is not yet even close to seeking a gestational surrogate for the next Neanderthal birth, but the tone in which the scientist discussed the potential scientific breakthrough was enough to convince many science fans an attempt could be on the close horizon.)
As we mentioned previously on The Inquisitr, it’s not the first time Church has said a Neanderthal surrogate may be wanted in the near future, and last year he even speculated that human women will be lining up to gestate the dead species should the first attempt go well — noting if one woman gives birth to a “healthy, normal Neanderthal baby… then, everyone will want to have a Neanderthal kid.”
But not everyone is as hot on the idea of Neanderthal pregnancy as Church. The biologist’s proposal has sparked concern about the implications of impregnating a human woman with what would essentially be a science experiment.
National Review‘s Wesley Smith says that the proposal of a Neanderthal surrogate is the worst sort of mad science, decrying the idea in opining:
“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.”
Bioethicist Arthur Caplan went so far as to tell ABC that ethics alone will curb the Neanderthal surrogate idea, saying:
“I understand what George is saying. It’s interesting. But I don’t think it will ever happen… It lurches too close to exploitation. It rubs up too closely as starting to turn into bringing somebody into existence just as an object of other people’s interest.”
Caplan also notes that, even if a wanted Neanderthal surrogate materializes, the question of whether a reborn Neanderthal would be prone to disease or certain death gives many pause as well.