Sunday, January 3, 2010

How do you feel about cloning prehistoric hominids?

I’ve always found questions that concern this type of cloning to be objectionable at the best of times. Although I am for the cloning of prehistoric animals such as the Woolly Mammoth, I am definitely not for the creation of intelligent hominids. These objections come from both ethical and scientific grounds. Even with the consideration of the amount of knowledge which could be obtained from such cloning I feel my objections are rather mindful given the sensitivity of an issue which has many variables to deliberate upon.

Obviously hominids are different from other animals in the same ways which we are. They can manipulate their surroundings in their favor, create tools, and even have forms of philosophy which makes them a very unique case. Even in terms of humanity some of them seem to have had primitive cultures, these beings were quite human for lack of a better terminology. Now in terms of which hominids are more human than others, I would suggest that the subjects in question should be within the Homo genus rather than covering all hominids.

I feel that the most significant knowledge we could grasp from such clones would be mostly limited to behavioral level, but it seems to me that all natural occurring instincts and behaviors would be severely altered by the interaction between the clone and its handlers. Although it would be interesting to gauge the amount that one of these clones could possibly learn or be taught. These measurements could prove very useful to science all around, but findings would still remain tainted compared to a scientific purist state. This would further negate any reason to clone a hominid for the behavioral concept alone.

I stress that a realistic study of natural behavior would be severely condemned by contamination, forgoing all chance of a credible study of this type in a pure state. Behavioral studies of ancient hominids seem to be very popular recently, especially when it comes to Neanderthal. I would attribute this to the Neanderthal genome being completed, opening many windows to study the basic biological schematic of the hominid. However again we're then left with the behavioral question mark, which we can only begin to make inferences at based on what knowledge we already have.

In a anthropological sense the fine social fabrics which dictate what “Humanity” is and what isn't within the culture which is creating the clone should also be in question. Would a culture which tends to believe that Homo sapiens are the only culturally aware creatures on the planet, and thus would treat a cloned member of the Homo genus as some sort of lab rat. Would a clone be given the same fundamental right of dignity which science attempts to achieve. Realistically, we still haven't perfected that system for modern humans let alone any clones which may appear.

In a perfect world where these clones of the Homo genus could be subject to the same guidelines that govern modern human subjects during any science related experiment. (Such as the Canadian Tri Council If this could be achieved then I would be much more open to the idea.

However if we follow these codes of proper ethical science, it would be a stretch to think that a cloned specimen of the Homo genus could possibly give any cognitive sign that they are willing to be a participant. A being born into "bondage" essentially would have to willfully consent to even being cloned, which really is not possible. Not to mention language, biological, and cultural barriers which would make communication beyond unrealistic.

This is a very thought provoking conversation at times, and so far I've been unable to rationalize a viable way in which we could clone and study an extinct member of the Homo genus in a way in which the fundamentals of ethical science could be preserved. To me the pursuit of knowledge is something which should not transcend certain boundaries, especially those where "human" dignity is at stake.

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