A story on the web about a planned Neanderthal clone and the alleged search for a surrogate to carry the extinct species should the idea move forward was intriguing and captivated the pop-science world for a day or so — until Harvard geneticist George Church clarified that what appeared to be an international game of “Telephone” caused the tale to morph into something it wasn’t
Church became internationally buzzed about when the Neanderthal clone tale hit, and many began to speculate on whether the surrogacy suggested was a breach of ethics or otherwise an unwise initiative.
Outlets across the world picked up on the Neanderthal clone bit, via the Daily Mail but originally traced back to Der Spiegel, but Church has commented on the attention and said the press was a bit hasty in their framing of the interview — which had been, by the way, translated from German.
According to Church — who had been quoted as saying previously that Neanderthal babies could become an in-demand in-vitro trend, explained that his words were translated and taken out of context. He says press twisting is the real story at hand, and tells the Boston Herald that the intersection of technology and journalism allowed the Neanderthal surrogate story to grow legs in a time where news is a bit more instant than it has been:
“The real story here is how these stories have percolated and changed in different ways … I’m sure we’ll get it sorted out eventually … I want to use it as an educational moment to talk about journalism and technology.”
Of the idea a human surrogate carry to term a Neanderthal clone, Church clarifies:
“I’m certainly not advocating it … I’m saying, if it is technically possible someday, we need to start talking about it today.”
According to the geneticist, of the decades of interviews he has done on the subject, the Neanderthal clone tale is the only one to be handled and spun in such a fashion.