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Friday, June 08, 2012

A mammoth project

“The genomes of the two species [extinct wooly mammoths and African elephants] differ by just 0.6 percent, half the difference between us and chimpanzees. By identifying and swapping the different sequences, you could potentially rewrite an elephant genome so that it reads like a mammoth one.”

There’s a good article here on the challenges and the hypnotic attraction of trying to clone a wooly mammoth. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2012/06/06/will-we-ever-clone-a-mammoth/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:%20NotRocketScience%20%28Not%20Exactly%20Rocket%20Science%29 

It reminds me a bit of speculation that we could possibly clone or otherwise re-engineer our cousins, the Neanderthals.

Except for one thing. If mammoth cloning works, we put the mammoths in zoos or into wildlife parks. If they don’t make it, so what.

Neanderthals might, or might not, be far too close to us to do that. And yet they aren’t us, and perhaps can’t speak or think as well.

Or, perhaps, they can speak or think all too well and long term we might find ourselves outcompeted.  It’s hard to tell, but there’s definitely room for creepiness and lots of science fiction ethical speculation.  And perhaps my great-grandchildren will do it.