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Neanderthal rights? Send in the clones

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While the rest of us are debating who has a right to free CTA rides, some scientists are struggling with a more esoteric question: What rights do Neanderthals have?

Lori Andrews, a professor of law at Chicago-Kent and an internationally known expert on biotechnologies, says the question is becoming more relevant as technological advances bring closer the day when cloning Neanderthals would be possible, if not necessarily wise or ethical.


Recently, scientists completed a "rough draft" of the Neanderthal genome that showed Neanderthals and humans share 99.9 percent of their genes, she said. Among the findings: Neanderthals had genes associated with speech and a predisposition to red hair.

As a result, Andrews thinks a cloned Neanderthal would be accorded all human rights under the Constitution and international treaties.

The difficulty of cloning something as old as a Neanderthal from deteriorated DNA is gradually being resolved as scientists learn how to build a genome from different sources, Andrews said. But that doesn't change the ethical questions, including whether Neanderthals might have disappeared because they were susceptible to diseases they could spread to homo sapiens, she said.

And here's another intriguing thought: If a Neanderthal were cloned and gestated by a human mother, it's possible no one would realize that individual was not homo sapiens, especially "if he were dressed up in a suit and got a haircut from Joe the barber down the street," Andrews said. Homo sapiens vary enough in their looks that a Neanderthal's appearance might not seem that unusual.

Cloning a Neanderthal may never happen. But if it does, we should make it clear right now: No free rides on the bus.

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2 Comments

Where do you stand on free rides for Neanderthals with disabilities (including but not limited to mammoth induced)?

it time to start recognizing the reality of Homo sapian as one evolving spices not diverse branches that went extinct , Homo Neanderthal has left a lasting legacy from Mediterranean basin to Australia and china , the inter mixing of dna over the past 10,000 years makes difficult to know where it all began , with 400,000 year old settlements in Germany to the 50,000 year old culture in Australia out of "the Mediterranean basin" may be a better description

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Frisbie published on February 24, 2010 8:27 PM.

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