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Should we clone extinct humans?

Pro and Con

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Jul 17, 2012, 7:38am Top

Interesting article on human evolution in the NYT:

A Bone Here, a Bead There: On the Trail of Human Origins

What do people think of this?
This raises one more question: Could we ever clone these extinct people?

Science is moving on so fast. The first bit of Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA was recovered in 1997. No one then could have believed that 10 years later we might have most of the genome. And a few years after that, we’d have whole Denisovan and Neanderthal genomes available. So no one would have thought cloning was a possibility. Now, at least theoretically, if someone had enough money, and I’d say stupidity, to do it, you could cut and paste those Denisovan mutations into a modern human genome, and then implant that into an egg and then grow a Denisovan.

I think it would be completely unethical to do anything like that, but unfortunately someone with enough money, and vanity and arrogance, might attempt it one day. These creatures lived in the past in their own environments, in their own social groups. Bringing isolated individuals back, for our own curiosity or arrogant purposes, would be completely wrong.

Edited: Jul 17, 2012, 12:28pm Top

If the hilariously mis-named Homo Sapiens ever goes extinct, I'd be happy if some big-brained future uber-human decided to bring our species back through biotech.

Jul 17, 2012, 12:51pm Top

They're not going to bring YOU back, so why bring back some creature that can't understand the new world the homosupersapiens have built? :)

Jul 17, 2012, 2:23pm Top

Seriously, I'd like to know that the human race would go on. Surely you wouldn't be content to have the world go boom five seconds after you die?

Jul 17, 2012, 2:26pm Top

I thought were are homo sapiens sapiens. Doubly wise.

Edited: Jul 18, 2012, 4:42am Top

Easier to clone Otsi (Ice Man) or one of those South American freeze-dried child mummies? More DNA available? DNA of Egyptian mummies is too degraded I imagine.

I think better to invest that $$ and know how on needs of people currently alive, but if someone felt they had to toy with ancient DNA, I vote for a young life cut short, e.g. the South American freeze-dried mummies, especially if relatives who would welcome them can be found in surrounding area...

They can bring back the passenger pigeons, though! (Spouse is planting American chestnut trees, and I think pigeons nested in that tree species?)

Jul 17, 2012, 4:07pm Top

They're not going to bring YOU back, so why bring back some creature that can't understand the new world the homosupersapiens have built?

Are we sure they couldn't understand the world?

Jul 17, 2012, 4:24pm Top

If we simply clone the DNA, and raise the result within the current time period, then it would be an interesting experiment.

If we were somehow able to bring back the person; the coillection of memories, etc. that make us individuals; then I suspect if the time gap was sufficient enough, being plunged into a world of magic and miracles would be enough to make our world incomprehensible.

Jul 17, 2012, 5:18pm Top

Talking about this in terms of a Neanderthal clouds the issue, I think.

The biological gap between them and us is so small (whether you think of it in terms of genes or in terms of the famous "shave him, dress him in a suit, and he wouldn't draw a second glance on the commuter train" thought experiment) that "should we clone a Neanderthal?" is just a particularly interesting edge case of "should we clone a human?" (For the record, my position on that is: "Sure, why not?" But we should probably give that argument its own thread . . . )

Concerns about a Neanderthal being "unable to cope" with the 21C are, I think, misplaced: As BruceCoulson pointed out, the hypothetical clone would be raised from birth in the here-and-now . . . and feel as comfortable there (and as lost in Ice Age Europe) as we would. There might be epidemiological and chemical-sensitiviity issues . . . but nothing that (given that the clone would presumably receive blue-ribbon medical care for life) should impact its quality-of-life.

The far more complicated ethical question would be: What if we had a clone-worthy DNA sample from "Lucy" or one of her kin? The clone would be hominid, but not human . . . and, with a brain of significantly lower wattage than ours, it would be unable to live on its own in the modern world, or (probably) even to function in human society without a human minder.

Would it be a scientific bonanza to have a living Australopithecus afarensis to study? Sure. Would it be ethical to clone one, knowing that it could not have a life, in our here-and-now as any thing but a test subject or curiosity object? Not a chance in hell.

Jul 17, 2012, 8:08pm Top

but not human . . . and, with a brain of significantly lower wattage than ours,

Is it unethical to clone a chimp, or a dog?

Jul 17, 2012, 8:24pm Top

Seriously, I'd like to know that the human race would go on.

But your "big-brained future uber-human" would be the continuation of the human race, wouldn't it?

I've never understood this "save the human race" stuff, anyway; like in sci-fi stories where the Earth is about to be destroyed and they send off a spaceship packed with human DNA for cloning, but no actual living people...I can see saving people, but why care about the species in the abstract?

Jul 17, 2012, 9:10pm Top

I can see saving people, but why care about the species in the abstract?

I just do.

Jul 18, 2012, 12:32am Top

I can see saving people, but why care about the species in the abstract?

I hear you, but consider some other examples. Do you care about preserving the blue whale as a species, or do you care about specific blue whales?

Jul 18, 2012, 4:56am Top

Do you care about preserving the blue whale as a species, or do you care about specific blue whales?

Neither, particularly, but more about the latter than the former.

Jul 18, 2012, 5:45am Top

As much as it is a matter of sentimentality, there's also an analogue to the use of seed banks for the preservation of biodiversity. I imagine if some future calamity caused a bottleneck in the human genome that endangered the species, it would be handy to have some pre-bottleneck human DNA on hand. As for earlier hominids, who knows? Can't rule out the possibility that it could shed light onto the treatment of present human ailments.

Edited: Jul 18, 2012, 4:29pm Top

I'm surprised that nobody has raised the ethical issue: is it ethical to take a homo sapiens embryo and replace its genetic material with Neanderthal?

(This is one of the reasons my wife prefers the so-called "pure" science -- there aren't ethical issues in hybridizing different species of fruit flies.)

Jul 18, 2012, 4:54pm Top

That question rapidly turns into a bunch, though. You would, I suspect, argue that it would be unethical to conceive artificially. That stops the question at the beginning :)

Jul 20, 2012, 7:52pm Top

Given a choice between our DNA or our art (our collected publishings, paper, audio, video), that is a bunch of cloned humans on Omicron Perseid 8 knowing nothing of their heritage, or a library on Omicron Perseid 8 holding our heritage and no human DNA left, I think I'd rather have the later. Humans as culture rather then humans as DNA.

Jul 22, 2012, 2:30pm Top

18> the trappings of human culture are irrelevant without humans. while a bunch of cloned humans will build a new culture,

Jul 22, 2012, 4:52pm Top

#19: The trappings of human culture are irrelevant without someone there to interpret them, but that someone need not be human. A bunch of new humans will build a new culture, but why should I care?

Jul 22, 2012, 9:06pm Top

i cannot see any species outside our genus having the same concept of culture as a human.a bach cantata a depiction of battle, the most basic or subtles of stories would hold no emotional significance for them.

Jul 22, 2012, 9:23pm Top

#21: I suspect they'll have a lot of emotional significance, even if it's not the right emotions. And ultimately, I suspect the evolutionary pressures of being intelligent and just existing are going to give them insight into many basic human themes, like those of sexual desire, parenthood and aging.

In any case, however muted the immortality of our culture in the hands of aliens, I don't see any immortality in humans with no cultural connection to humanity. Why should I care if my DNA should live on, if our voices have been erased?

Jul 22, 2012, 9:56pm Top

#21 & 22 ..I dunno , I think you both show a prejudice that {not sure if the above mentioned {sub}species are "outside our genus?" } comes from somewhere outside critical scientific thinking. There were cave paintings associated with the Neanderthals so that would imply a sense of esthetics. To try & predict "cultural tendencies " from a deciphered DNA code is just wild, albeit entertaining, speculation.

As for how they would fit - how about professional sports? I saw some ruminations on this topic after a few internet searches.

Edited: Jul 22, 2012, 11:53pm Top

23 Oh Neanderthals are in our genus definitely, I was discussing the hypothetical intelligent shades of the colur blue on Omicron Perseid 8,

Edited: Jul 23, 2012, 10:12am Top

#23 I was just guessing about genus but here is what wiki says:


Looks like anatomy and tool use are used to differentiate, so all that is subject to new bones being found in a lot of instances.

Hmmm I am smelling tongue in cheek, I missed that in the first post I see. ;-)

Jul 23, 2012, 10:20am Top

All non-African have up to 4% Neanderthal DNA while Oceanians have up to 6% Denisovan DNA.

(There is disputed evidence that some familial groups in the American Republican clade have up to 96% Neanderthal DNA)

Jul 23, 2012, 11:01am Top

26> I have read many conflicting articles on DNA distribution amonst the later hominids,and its confusing but i think it fair to say that it would be surprising if Neanderthals did not have a closer match to the genetic material of other hominid in the area where they arose, than in in an area that was geographically remote from them.

Calling those genes Neanderthal over simplifies it. for one thing we have no evidence that those particular pieces of genetic article originated with neanderthals,and the DNA evidence is itself still challenge-able as are of course any definitions of the various species.

Jul 23, 2012, 12:01pm Top

Calling those genes Neanderthal over simplifies it. for one thing we have no evidence that those particular pieces of genetic article originated with neanderthals

I believe that in the research referenced by justifiedsinner that the Neanderthal DNA actually was recovered from Neanderthal bone marrow.

Jul 23, 2012, 1:16pm Top

And the Denisovan from a finger bone found in a Siberian cave. All the genomes have been sequenced individually and compared to the human. The sequencing shows definite evidence of interbreeding whether consensual or forced is another matter.

Jul 23, 2012, 1:21pm Top

You could look at the X chromosomes and determine if the denisovans or neanderthals interbred with were male or female, right?

Jul 23, 2012, 3:26pm Top

No, a male produces both X and Y containing sperm so the x chromosomes could come from either. A better indicator would be mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) since that only comes from the mother. Neanderthal mtDNA is absent in modern humans which suggests that the women were all human. However, Neanderthal Y chromosomes are also absent in modern humans which presents a bit of a problem. One possibility is Haldane's rule which states that in hybrids (where infertility is frequent) the male child did not survive or was sterile. So only female human/Neanderthal hybrids survived to reproduce.

Jul 23, 2012, 5:03pm Top

28 29. how does common DNA in species with common ancestors indicate interbreeding after the species split? we need a far more complete map of distribution patterns both genetic and geographic before we can say that. at the moment saying pointing at the the evidence of common DNA is like pointing at a miniature poodle and saying the poodle it is proof that they inter breed with standard poodles. it only proves only that they interbred more recently than they did with other breeds.

Jul 23, 2012, 8:26pm Top

#32: how does common DNA in species with common ancestors indicate interbreeding after the species split?

Because if there were interbreeding before we split, then all human populations would have it. Instead, only Europeans have Neanderthal DNA, which indicates that the interbreeding happened after the ancestors of Europeans left Africa.

If Maine coon cats and only Maine coon cats have tiger DNA, it's not based on common ancestor. It's evidence that Frankenstein moved to Maine.

Jul 23, 2012, 10:05pm Top

#32 It's not the common DNA that's interesting it's DNA unique to the other hominids appearing in modern human and not all modern humans but humans with a certain geographical distribution and not all humans there either but a mere 1-4% indicating either infrequent interbreeding or infertile interbreeding.

Jul 24, 2012, 1:44am Top

#31: Neanderthal mtDNA is absent in modern humans which suggests that the women were all human. However, Neanderthal Y chromosomes are also absent in modern humans which presents a bit of a problem.

Really? Doesn't that just rule out all-female lineages and all-male lineages descending from neanderthals?

Jul 24, 2012, 10:06am Top

No, since Neanderthal genes are present in modern humans there is obviously a lineage of some sort.

Jul 24, 2012, 12:46pm Top

33> you greatly overestimate the homegenity of a gene pool.
consider species rings,


Jul 24, 2012, 1:58pm Top

wow, turning into an interesting topic, great posts guys!

Jul 24, 2012, 2:50pm Top

Interesting page.

Jul 24, 2012, 4:37pm Top

#37: We're not a ring species. The simplest way to explain Neanderthal DNA, from a species that only seemed to live in Europe, only showing up in European populations of modern humans is that the ancestors of those humans mated with Neanderthals after they left Africa and moved into Europe.

Jul 24, 2012, 7:36pm Top

Quote from the article at the top:

"We now have the genomes of Neanderthals and of these strange people in Siberia called the Denisovans."

That just sunk in. He means we have the total genomes from all the chromosomes from both of these "species"? does his book show how they "map out" when compared with homo sapiens genome and their sequences that distinguish them from humans? The mapping of the human genome was so recent and with huge amounts of repetitive and "junk" sequences and genes split up on different sites of chromosomes it would be interesting to see a more detailed explanation. Does Chris Stringer's book “Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth.” provide that much information? I guess I will see if the local library has it.

Edited: Jul 24, 2012, 9:22pm Top

Apparently we Homo Sapiens share 96 percent of our DNA with chimpanzees. What does this mean? I'll tell you what it means: Humans are basically SUPERMONKEYS!

As Nietzsche said,
Monkey is a bridge between lemur and supermonkey... a bridge suspended over an abyss.

Edited: Jul 25, 2012, 1:40am Top

#36: No, since Neanderthal genes are present in modern humans there is obviously a lineage of some sort.

I understand that, but you claimed there was a "problem" in there not being mtDNA or Y-DNA from neanderthals in the current human population. I don't see how that's a "problem" since the lack of direct matrilineal and patrilineal descent doesn't rule out any other sorts of permutations containing both males and females in the lineage.

Jul 25, 2012, 6:31am Top

Seriously guys, don't we have enough problems with the humans we already have?

Jul 25, 2012, 6:44am Top

Don't we share 50% of our genes with a banana?

Jul 25, 2012, 7:11am Top

#45 probably somewhere in that region yes.

All the multicellular life on earth is evolved from the same eukaryotic ancestor - http://tolweb.org/Eukaryotes hence we'll have a siginificant genetic overlap of fundamental functions.

It's a complicated subject!

Jul 25, 2012, 11:08am Top

#43 What permutations are they?

Edited: Jul 26, 2012, 2:10am Top

#47: What permutations are they?

Umm, how about all of them? (minus the two single-gendered lineages)

Mitochondrial DNA is transmitted along the unbroken female lineage from mother to daughter. Over the generations the genders would be F, F, F, F, F, F... uniformly female to the present day (and branching every time any of them had more than one daughter, but that's an unecessary detail for now). And the Y chromosome would be transmitted by the all male father to son, M, M, M, M, M, M..... etc.

If the first one in the sequence was a 100% neanderthal female, then the mtDNA lineage descending from her would stop with her first male descendant on that branch (such as with F, F, F, M, F, F, F....) but other genetic material from the neanderthal ancestor would continue to propagate as usual on that same branch. If the first full neanderthal in the sequence were male, then any lineage from him would stop passing along the neanderthal Y chromosome at the first female to show up (such as with M, M, M, M, M, F, M...) but would still be able to pass on other neanderthal genes. Each generation each neanderthal chromosome (not taking crossover into acount) would have a 50% chance of passing on to the next generation. And other factors like two humans who both have a neanderthal ancestor would nudge those chances upwards when they reproduce as well as small population clusters making it easier for any gene to predominate within the group.

Basically, the absence of neanderthal mtDNA and Y-chromosomes in the modern human population does nothing to rule out the inumerable lineages with permutations containing both males and females.

Jul 26, 2012, 2:14am Top

This user has been removed as spam.

Jul 26, 2012, 8:51am Top


Dang, didn't know that Nietzsche was a geneticist. You learn something every day, as Ashley Brilliant use to say http://www.ashleighbrilliant.com/

Jul 26, 2012, 8:53am Top


"Don't we share 50% of our genes with a banana?"

It is the overlap with a kumquat that is really a matter of concern for all right thinking people.

Jul 26, 2012, 8:56am Top


I am curious guys: is posting rather strange responses to posts now a red flag violation of TOS? If so, why aren't the majority of posts in all of the "controversial" threads flagged?

OTOH, if there is no violation, shouldn't Tim be looking into the abuse of this remedy? Tim, are you out there?

Edited: Jul 28, 2012, 12:30pm Top

>52 lawecon:: You do understand that 49 was flagged for spamming, right? Lvhandbag has been littering several threads over the last day or so with spam posts, often including links to knock-of Louis Vuitton merchandise.

Edited to correct the misspelling of the name of a man whose merchandise I will never be able to afford -- thanks to K.J. below for pointing out the error!

Jul 26, 2012, 3:38pm Top

#48 Of course such pairings are possible but we are dealing with population genetics i.e. all possible pairings, cross-pairings, single children, multiple children etc. But what is the possibility that there are 1-4% of Neanderthal genes in modern Europeans but no Y-chromosome lineages or mtDNA lineages given that contact between the two groups continued in Europe for at least 12,000 years? Models show that the interbreeding rate was less than 0.1% or only 120 pairings (i.e 1 per 100 years) which is extremely low considering the length of time they were in contact. Simple lineage breaks, as you specify, would not account for such a low rate of transmission. Almost complete sterility between Neanderthal and human pairings is much more likely.

Jul 26, 2012, 8:56pm Top


Are you sure? Did you ask those who did the flagging?

Edited: Jul 28, 2012, 12:30pm Top

>55 lawecon:: You know, for someone who regularly berates others for poor observational skills, you seem to be extraordinarily obtuse when it comes to the obvious reasons why lvhandbag is flagged.

Or are your skills of deduction not sufficient to connect the handle (obviously short for "Louis Vuitton Handbag") with the phrase "Replica Handbags For Sale" and links to www{dot}louisvuittonen{dot}com (posted in flagged comments here) to conclude that his comments represent the type of spam specifically forbidden by the TOS, to wit:

"LibraryThing is not an advertising medium. Egregious commercial solicitation is forbidden." (TOS)

Edited to correct the misspelling of the name of a man whose merchandise I will never be able to afford -- thanks to K.J. below for pointing out the error!

Jul 28, 2012, 10:47am Top


I am sorry, was that an answer to my question or just further justification for a claim that you still don't know to be true?

Edited: Jul 28, 2012, 11:58am Top

#And this is all so impirtant because . . .? If it really matters so much to you, as one of the flaggers, I can confirm that I flagged the message (as I have done many similar ones from the same member) because pushing fake handbags (or anything else) on LT is spam*.

Since none of us can possibly know any other member's reasons for flagging or posting anything at all I am baffled as to why this particular one, which is probably more obvious than most, is worthy of special attention. Or have I missed the new rule about having to explain the reasoning behind everything we do to one particular member? As my Mum used to say, some people could pick a fight in an empty room.

ETA - *And judging by the fact that the member has now been suspended for 'unusual activity', it seems the PTB would agree.

Edited: Jul 28, 2012, 11:46am Top

>56 nathanielcampbell: "...(obviously short for "Louis Vitton Handbag")

One might wish to be careful with comments about 'observations skills', when one does not appear to know that Louis Vitton is a misspell (c'est Louis Vuitton, m'sieur).

Edited: Jul 28, 2012, 8:38pm Top

>48 Lunar: you've confused me. mtDNA is transmitted from mother to daughter, but also from mother to son. A son who has a daughter contributes the mtDNA he received from his mother to his daughter. And a mother who has a son and a daughter still has contributed her mtDNA to her daughter, so even were her son to have only sons (thus ending that mtDNA line), the mother's mtDNA line would continue through her daughter and her other children.

I'm not getting how a Neanderthal woman's mtDNA lineage would stop just because she has one son. I must be misunderstanding something.

I would agree however that the absence of Neanderthal mtDNA in modern humans is not evidence against interbreeding. YOu are right that myriad gene contributions other than mtDNA and y-chromosome are possible.

Edited: Jul 28, 2012, 11:23pm Top


"Since none of us can possibly know any other member's reasons for flagging or posting anything at all I am baffled as to why this particular one, which is probably more obvious than most, is worthy of special attention. Or have I missed the new rule about having to explain the reasoning behind everything we do to one particular member? As my Mum used to say, some people could pick a fight in an empty room."

Let me explain, Booksloth, since you, and possibly Nathaniel, have missed the reference. The reference is this: I have had a long standing conversation with "management" of Librarything about how they monitor and police these forums. One of their points has repeatedly been that they rely primarily on "self-policing" through the red flag system. They don't take the red flags as definitive, but they apparently have a mechanism where if a particular poster starts accumulating numerous red flags, they take a look, try to determine if there are TOS violations and apply the remedies that they think are appropriate.

Now, as I've said to them and everyone else many times before, these forums are the property of Librarything and its owners and they can, therefore, manage them in any manner they see fit. However, if the goal of this system is, as it would seem to be, to preserve a reasonable environment for productive posting, then my observation is that this system doesn't promote that goal. Instead of thinking about why they are flagging a particular post, a certain covey of posters just routinely flag posts that they don't like, either because they don't like the substance, or the tone or the poster. I have seen this behavior repeatedly, and thus am not at all quick to presume that a post or poster with numerous red flags is anything more than a somewhat obnoxious atheist Trotskite on a soap box in the yard of an Andrew Carnegie factory. It would help somewhat if "management" stated why a particular poster is being sanctioned, but they typical don't do that. Further, on some of the occasions they have done so (e.g., a certain Nazi that was posting to these forums a few months ago) the reasons stated are clearly pretextual.

Now all of this, in this instance, is, of course compounded by the fact that Nathaniel and I have been irritating each other. I am irritated by him because, although a former intellectual historian myself, I don't like his continual references to what some writer said or some Church canon was in the Middle Ages (e.g., the reference to a 12th century monk in a discussion about the modern use of BCE/CE). I find these posts of his to be both irrelevant and often disruptive of a discussion that is being otherwise productive.

He is disturbed with me because I believe that it is often more important to get straight the positions and reasoning of our contemporaries on this or that issue than it is to trace the remote intellectual ancestry of those positions. As an intellectual historian I was able to keep the two separate and straight, apparently he is not. He is what we use to call an "intellectual imperialist," probably because most people are continually telling him that his interests are "useless." I am not one of those people, but he seems to confuse being useful and being someone who specialty is applicable to all issues all of the time. On matters of sports, on matters of the hard sciences, on standards of fine literature or brilliant artistic performances, on a whole host if issues, I am silent because I know that I am ignorant. I simply wish he would follow that lead, or at least be more modest in his comments and claims.

Edited: Jul 28, 2012, 11:25pm Top

#60: A son who has a daughter contributes the mtDNA he received from his mother to his daughter.

No, fathers do not pass on any mtDNA to any of their children. Mitochondrial DNA is not contained in the nucleus of the cell and are not transmitted by spermatozoa. They are acquired in utero from the mother and only from the mother.

I'm not getting how a Neanderthal woman's mtDNA lineage would stop just because she has one son.

Only if she had no daughters. Or if her daughters had no daughters. Or if her grandaughters had no daughters...

For example, you have the same mtDNA as your maternal grandmother. But if she had a son then your cousins though that uncle wouldn't have her mtDNA. It's a tree that branches with each sibling and each branch ends when it leads to a male child and the branches only continue with female offspring.

Jul 28, 2012, 11:57pm Top

Yes, you are right about the X from the male not conveying mtDNA.

But you have clarified that this: "If the first one in the sequence was a 100% neanderthal female, then the mtDNA lineage descending from her would stop with her first male descendant on that branch " is only true if she has no daughters, or no further descendants along the female line.

Jul 29, 2012, 1:41am Top

#64: That's why I originally said "on that branch." The male offspring's sister would represent a new branch carrying their mother's mtDNA.

Jul 29, 2012, 2:44pm Top

>61 lawecon:: That is perhaps the most reasoned attempt you have given to explain your irritation with me; and while I do still feel that I can make contributions to discussions (such as about gay marriage -- after all, it was in the 12th century that the Church formally defined marriage as a sacrament, thus indicating that the evolution of medieval concepts of marriage might, in fact, be useful as historical background to understanding how Christians today have arrived at their positions) out of my own expertise, I will take your call to a bit more intellectual humility under advisement. (My wife, by the way, also had to take me down a peg this weekend on that regard -- I know that I am still relatively young and have much still to learn.)

As regards the flagging: I was, indeed, well aware of the long-standing beef you have with Tim. The thing that I was trying to get you to see was that your inability to perceive the simple reasons for the flagging of lvhandbag was provoked by that irritation. In other words, pretty much everybody else was able to understand quite well what was going on, but you, because of your pet-peeve, insisted on some type of invincible ignorance.

Jul 29, 2012, 7:58pm Top


As a matter of fact, Nathaniel, you have engaged in another misjudgment. The post I commented on by Lvhandbag is the only such post I have seen by him for several weeks (perhaps months). The only thing I knew about him was that he posted weird and irrelevant things and that he was suspended at one point for no stated reason. I am so sorry that I didn't catch the reference, but my wife views $500 handbags much as I view $500 sports tickets (i.e., we laugh our heads off at those who engage in such stupid frivolity). So, wrong again.

But now that you're taking a more reasonable tone, let me reiterate and stress one thing I said above. I don't think that your profession or preoccupation is at all useless or stupid or many of the other things mindless sorts may have said to you. I think that it may be very enlightening to the rest of us in particular discussions. I just don't think that it is the appropriate reference point in every possible discussion, even every possible discussion on history of religion or theology or philosophy.

Some time, perhaps, I can provide a post on just how much 18th and 19th century associationist psychology influenced the premises of modern liberalism. But, frankly, I haven't done so this far because it takes a great deal of background to see the point, and I don't presume background in those who plainly don't have it. You might proceed likewise. Most of us haven't read even the classics of Medieval thought. It wouldn't hurt if you started a few threads giving us an overview on the content of some of the most influential, their context, and what their relevance is for today's issues.

Jul 29, 2012, 8:30pm Top

#61: I have seen this behavior repeatedly, and thus am not at all quick to presume that a post or poster with numerous red flags is anything more than a somewhat obnoxious atheist Trotskite on a soap box in the yard of an Andrew Carnegie factory.

You don't have to presume; you can check. And in this case, it was pretty clear that this was not someone with a disliked position on the subject.

I find these posts of his to be both irrelevant and often disruptive of a discussion that is being otherwise productive.

In what way is going off on a rant about how you don't like an existing feature of LT relevant and non-disruptive of a discussion in Pro and Con?

Jul 29, 2012, 11:27pm Top

Good grief, another example of interbreeding?!

Genetic Data and Fossil Evidence Tell Differing Tales of Human Origins
Geneticists studying DNA now say that, to the contrary, a previously unknown archaic species of human, a cousin of the Neanderthals, may have lingered in Africa until perhaps 25,000 years ago, coexisting with the modern humans and on occasion interbreeding with them.

Edited: Jul 30, 2012, 12:13am Top

I am reading the book mentioned in post 1, meanwhile I will try to locate the tribe that Daryl Hannah and Raquel Welch belong to. I think that tribe requires closer scrutiny. {It this is too off topic a humor break I will delete it}

One advantage of bringing back the extinct species is the jobs it would create debating over whether or not they have souls.

Jul 30, 2012, 5:21am Top


I see. If someone else goes completely off topic, this is just a chat room. If I do it, it is a rant.

I think that your personal prejudices are also showing, prosfilaes. But keep it up, it is nothing but amusing for those of us who recognize the context and what you are about.

Jul 30, 2012, 6:10am Top

Some people behaviour have becoming "extinct" and "weird'.Maybe,we, homo sapiens have co-existed with the dinosaurs and even becoming to behave one, liked a "modern day" dinosaurs. Why, do we need public funds to resurrect things."extinct" and "gone foreever".There are now free "one-way ticket"fare to the planet, Mars to colonise. Look forward. The world is getting crowded.Ha! ha ! search for less stress

Jul 30, 2012, 6:27am Top

#71 Maybe,we, homo sapiens have co-existed with the dinosaurs

Um, no, we haven't.

Jul 30, 2012, 10:01am Top

71> what? no on second thoughts don't bother.

Aug 7, 2012, 3:54am Top

A joking matter.

Aug 7, 2012, 10:06am Top

For modern humans, language, as well as DNA helps untangle our wanderings and mixings. Apparently there's a hint (no proof) in our language and genes that Caucasians and some Native Americans, (BC coastal, Apaches) may have some common ancestry in old Central Asian tribes!

There's a new DNA study of various Jewish peoples: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/07/31/1204840109.

(An article on the study will be available briefly to nonsubscribers: http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/342855/title/North_African_Diaspora_w...)

Aug 7, 2012, 11:47pm Top


Maybe you can help us out with this study on Jewish genetics?

Most nonOrthodox Jews are not surprised by a result that Jews are not genetically of a common historical grouping. More Jews lived outside of Judea than inside by at least the late Second Temple period (and probably long before that). Judaism use to be a proselytizing religion that actively sought converts (and then Constantine). Rumors are that the largest Jewish nation after the Third Revolt was the Khazars, who converted as a nation outside the boundaries of the Roman Empire when Byzantium was the Roman Empire.

What I have never understood about these studies, however, is where they get their base of comparison. There are also studies that maintain that a majority of the Kohanim are descended from Aaron and this study makes remarks about certain present day Jewish groups being descended from the Sephardim at the time of Ferdinand and Isabela.

Ah, how can one know? Did Aaron or the ancient Sephardim leave test tissue samples or blood samples stored near absolute zero in some vault of the ages with which I am unfamiliar?

Aug 15, 2012, 4:33am Top


"The existence of a 500,000-year-old shared ancestor that predates the origin of Neanderthals provides a better explanation for the genetic mix.
Diversity within this ancestral species meant that northern Africans were more genetically similar to their European counterparts than southern Africans through geographic proximity.
This likeness persisted over time to account for the overlap with the Neanderthal genome we see in modern people today. Differences between populations can be explained by common ancestry, Dr Manica said.
"The idea is that our African ancestors would not have been a homogeneous, well-mixed population but made of several populations in Africa with some level of differentiation, in the way right now you can tell a northern and southern European from their looks," she said.
“Based on common ancestry and geographic differences among populations within each continent, we would predict out of Africa populations to be more similar to Neanderthals than their African counterparts – exactly the patterns that were observed when the Neanderthal genome was sequenced, but this pattern was attributed to hybridisation.
"Hopefully, everyone will become more cautious before invoking hybridisation, and start taking into account that ancient populations differed from each other probably as much as modern populations do.”
Northern Africans would be more similar to Europeans and ancient similarity stayed because there wasn't enough mixing between northern and southern Africans.

Aug 15, 2012, 5:21am Top

I suspect scientists will debate the relative contributions of shared ancestry and of hybridization for years to come!

"...Population diversity, known as substructure, cant explain data on the shared genes, said David Reich, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, in Boston who authored the 2010 study."

"We have ruled out the possibility that ancient substructure can explain all the evidence of greater relatedness of Neanderthals to non-Africans than to Africans, he added."

"Dr Manica said hybridisation between Neanderthals and humans can never be disproved entirely. "

Aug 15, 2012, 9:41am Top


Yept, that was the answer I expected.

Aug 15, 2012, 11:37am Top

>78 margd:

So a common ancestor, and Africans diverged in a way that, coincidentally, eliminated those genetic elements that Neanderthals kept? Am I getting that right?

Aug 15, 2012, 1:14pm Top

Hybridization: Because Asians and Europeans have some Neanderthal heritage it's thought that the cross occurred early in their trek out of Africa. (The only fossils of what are thought to be human-Neanderthal intergrades ARE found in the Middle East.) If there was no more significant mixing of the two species, advantageous Neanderthal genes in humans would be selected for, neutral or unexpressed Neanderthal genes would be diluted by subsequent human pairings, and disadvantageous Neanderthal genes would be selected out. (Correct me any time here, geneticists!)

Common ancestor: There would be a lot more time for random mutation and selection to act on humans and on Neanderthals, so I would THINK that unless some common genes were extremely advantageous, it would be unusual to find sections of DNA unusually similar between the two species?

Some of us would prefer not to have Neanderthals as close relatives, so this scientific debate will have public attention until the question is resolved--and if evolution and climate change is any indication, even longer! ... If deniers think Neanderthals ancestry is bad, wait until they discover that human's two lice have a different lineage: crab lice are more recently acquired from gorillas, whereas head lice have a much longer association with humans. :)

Aug 15, 2012, 5:10pm Top

78> nods neanderthals and Europeans originated from North African a common North African precursor. but Europeans never exited the homo sapien gene pool to form their own species,

as to Hybridisation people have been known to marry their horse before now so its hard to believe no sexual interaction ever occurred. Its just that it does not appear to have been any more genetically significant than lion/ tiger and donkey/zebra crosses.

Aug 15, 2012, 5:12pm Top

81> Because Asians and Europeans have some Neanderthal heritage it's thought that the separation occurred in their trek out of Africa.

Edited: Aug 16, 2012, 10:35pm Top

#77 In Lone Survivors Chris Stringer mentions, while in a discussion about brain evolution, that there are many sites with stone tool etc. evidence of habitation in Africa but over 50% of them have no anatomical fossil records associated with them. Makes the debate more cloudy I guess.

As stated above I am about to complete Lone Survivors and have reached the conclusion that we should clone those extinct humans! Then we should study them intensely, having them perform a myriad of instructive and illuminating tasks. And after debating about whether or not they have souls- incessantly, we should fete them with a many days long and wonderful celebration and then dissect them. That would be the morally correct thing to do and we could answer the question about souls by having seances to contact them in the spirit world after their passing and all the morphological questions through their dissection.

I think many and various religious and scientific foundations would be willing to donate funds for this so as to not make it another open ended taxpayers burden.

Edited: Aug 17, 2012, 2:12pm Top

A nice overview of our tangled ancestry, as now understood--available to non-subscribers for ~ one week:

Tangled Roots: Mingling among Stone Age peoples muddies humans’ evolutionary story
By Bruce Bower
August 25th, 2012

Citations & References :

* L. Abi-Rached et al. The shaping of modern human immune systems by multiregional admixture with archaic humans. Science. Vol. 334, October 7, 2011, p. 89. doi:10.1126/science.1209202. Abstract available: Go to http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleListURL&_method=list&_Ar...

* O. Bar-Yosef and A. Belfer-Cohen. Following Pleistocene road signs of human dispersals across Eurasia. Quaternary International, in press, 2012. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2011.07.043.

* W. Liu et al. Human remains from Zhirendong, South China, and modern human emergence in East Asia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Vol. 107, November 9, 2010, p. 19201. doi:01.1073/pnas.1014386107. Abstract available: Go to http://www.pnas.org/content/107/45/19201.abstract?sid=f413ad3b-02bf-47ac-99c2-b9...

* P. Skoglund and M. Jakobsson. Archaic human ancestry in East Asia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Vol. 108, November 8, 2011, p. 18301. doi:10.1073/pnas.1108181108. Abstract available: Go to http://www.pnas.org/content/108/45/18301.abstract?sid=baac2efd-7dcf-4a51-bc9a-98...

* J. Shea. Refuting a myth about human origins. American Scientist. Vol. 99, March-April 2011, p. 128. doi:10.1511/2011.89.128. Abstract available: Go to http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/feature/2011/2/refuting-a-myth-about-hum...

* F. Smith et al. The assimilation model, modern human origins in Europe and the extinction of Neandertals. Quaternary International. Vol. 137, July 2005, p. 7. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2004.11.016. Abstract available: Go to http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleListURL&_method=list&_Ar...

* J.R. Stewart and C.B. Stringer. Human evolution out of Africa: The role of refugia and climate change. Science. Vol. 335, March 16, 2012, p. 1317. doi:10.1126/science.1215627. Abstract available: Go to http://www.sciencemag.org/content/335/6074/1317.abstract

* C. Stringer. What makes a modern human. Nature. Vol. 485, May 3, 2012, p. 33. doi:10.1038/485033a.

* X. Wang et al. Specific inactivation of two immunomodulatory SIGLEC genes during human evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in press, 2012. doi:10.1073/pnas.1119459109.

* M. Wolpoff. How Neandertals inform human variation. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Vol. 139, May 2009, p. 91. doi:10.1002/ajpa.20930. Abstract available: Go to http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ajpa.20930/abstract

Edited: Aug 17, 2012, 3:53pm Top

Dang, thanks for going to all the trouble Margd. I don't have time to view them all now but good to have the links!

::Later:: Read the first article and found this interesting: "Shea says. Homo populations apparently adapted toolmaking to environmental conditions rather than crafting increasingly complex tools over time. Contrary to conventional archaeological thinking, no tool style distinguishes Neandertals from H. sapiens, Shea argues."

Edited: Aug 21, 2012, 1:45am Top

Prof. John Hawks http://johnhawks.net/weblog is generally quite reliable in my experience.

He has a piece out addressing the recent paper challenging human-Neanderthal interbreeding: http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/neandertals/neandertal_dna/neandertal-ancest...

Highlights: "Paleoanthropology is a field where data are rare and precious, and we do a lot of arguing about the validity of models. I love arguing about the validity of models (Cliff Notes version: All models are wrong).
Genomics is not such a field. We have abundant data today to compare with Neandertal genomes. Yet puzzlingly, the idea of Neandertal ancestry has been challenged by several papers that haven't performed any new empirical comparisons at all. I'm struggling to figure this out. We have an unparalleled ability to explore the genomes of humans and Neandertals, and we should believe a computer model with no empirical data?"


"For example, our comparisons quickly refute the hypothesis that Neandertal similarity comes only from ancient population structure in Africa. That hypothesis predicts much more heterogeneity within Africans in Neandertal similarity than exists today. We've shown that the heterogeneity in Africans is basically the same as within Europeans or Asians, and that the variance among African populations so far is quite small. Those are very simple observations, which are consistent with what Yang and colleagues 2 concluded on the basis of the frequency spectrum of Neandertal alleles in large samples of living people. Even though many Neandertal-shared SNP alleles came from incomplete lineage sorting, the signature of excess Neandertal sharing outside Africa must come mostly from recent introgression. In Ewen Callaway's article about this research, David Reich dismissed the new paper by Eriksson and Manica as "obsolete". I agree. The paper describes a model without carrying out any new empirical comparisons, and so has fallen behind where the science has gone."

This is only one of the several points he makes in countering the Common-Ancestor-Only position. Interested parties may wish to read the piece.

Aug 24, 2012, 6:40am Top

Language info can supplement DNA info at least for more recent human migration, e.g.,

Scientists use techniques from epidemiology to argue that based on the location and age of the common ancestor of 103 ancient and contemporary Indo-European languages, Caucasians spread with the expansion of agriculture from Anatolia (present day Turkey) beginning 8,000 to 9,000 years ago--not north of the Caspian Sea as semi-nomadic pastoralists 5,000 to 6,000 years ago.


Sep 20, 2012, 8:48pm Top

Just fyi--available to non-subscribers for ~ a week:

Africans’ genes mute on human birthplace
DNA studies fail to locate root of the species
By Erin Wayman

"The origin story for Homo sapiens is a messy tale. Rather than emerging from one small population, the human species likely evolved from a dispersed, complex network of groups that mixed and mated with each other, scientists report online September 20 in Science."

"The new research is one of the largest genetic studies of southern Africa’s click-speaking hunter-gatherers known as the Khoisan. Sometimes called Bushmen, the Khoisan are the world’s most genetically diverse people and diverged from other populations very early in human history."

"The new work dates the genetic split between the Khoisan and the rest of humankind to at least 100,000 years ago, which is in line with other estimates. That’s 55,000 years older than the next branch on the human family tree, when Central African pygmies split off. The researchers also found that the Khoisan divided into a northern and a southern group approximately 35,000 years ago."

"But when the scientists looked for genetic clues pointing where in sub-Saharan Africa humankind began, they couldn’t trace modern groups back to any one region. That suggests early humans came from a highly structured population with genetic exchange between subgroups..."

Citations & References :

J.K. Pickrell et al. The genetic prehistory of southern Africa. arXiv: 1207.5552v1. Go to http://arxiv.org/abs/1207.5552

C. Schlebusch et al. Genomic Variation in Seven Khoe-San Groups Reveals Adaptation and Complex African History. Science. Reported online September 20, 2012. doi:10.1126/science.1227721.

Oct 24, 2012, 5:52am Top

A little OT, but interesting! New study supports hypothesis that grandmothering was a key behavior that shaped our species. Go, grannies, go!

Grandmas Made Humans Live Longer

"Computer simulations provide new mathematical support for the "grandmother hypothesis" – a famous theory that humans evolved longer adult lifespans than apes because grandmothers helped feed their grandchildren...."

"Many anthropologists argue that increasing brain size in our ape-like ancestors was the major factor in humans developing lifespans different from apes. But the new computer simulation ignored brain size, hunting and pair bonding, and showed that even a weak grandmother effect can make the simulated creatures evolve from chimp-like longevity to human longevity."

Moreover, "..."Grandmothering gave us the kind of upbringing that made us more dependent on each other socially and prone to engage each other's attention," she adds. That, says Hawkes, gave rise to "a whole array of social capacities that are then the foundation for the evolution of other distinctly human traits, including pair bonding, bigger brains, learning new skills and our tendency for cooperation.""

Dec 11, 2012, 11:23pm Top

Childbirth will be outdated. Cloning must be BANNED.

Jan 20, 9:33am Top

Before cloning extinct humans, we should save primate species that are still hanging in, ~60% of which are threatened with extinction and ~75% have declining populations(!):

Alejandro Estrada et al. 2017. Impending extinction crisis of the world’s primates: Why primates matter. (Review) Science Advances 18 Jan 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 1, e1600946 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600946 http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/1/e1600946


Nonhuman primates, our closest biological relatives, play important roles in the livelihoods, cultures, and religions of many societies and offer unique insights into human evolution, biology, behavior, and the threat of emerging diseases. They are an essential component of tropical biodiversity, contributing to forest regeneration and ecosystem health. Current information shows the existence of 504 species in 79 genera distributed in the Neotropics, mainland Africa, Madagascar, and Asia. Alarmingly, ~60% of primate species are now threatened with extinction and ~75% have declining populations. This situation is the result of escalating anthropogenic pressures on primates and their habitats—mainly global and local market demands, leading to extensive habitat loss through the expansion of industrial agriculture, large-scale cattle ranching, logging, oil and gas drilling, mining, dam building, and the construction of new road networks in primate range regions. Other important drivers are increased bushmeat hunting and the illegal trade of primates as pets and primate body parts, along with emerging threats, such as climate change and anthroponotic diseases. Often, these pressures act in synergy, exacerbating primate population declines. Given that primate range regions overlap extensively with a large, and rapidly growing, human population characterized by high levels of poverty, global attention is needed immediately to reverse the looming risk of primate extinctions and to attend to local human needs in sustainable ways. Raising global scientific and public awareness of the plight of the world’s primates and the costs of their loss to ecosystem health and human society is imperative.

Jan 20, 10:29am Top

>93 margd: Of course, we should save nonhuman primates. But whether or not it is advisable to clone extinct human lines, I suspect we could do both if we put the resources into it.

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