George Church & Synthetic Biology. The Neanderthals among us
MANILA: George Church, a respected Harvard professor of genetics, has written a book, Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature And Ourselves (Basic Books, 2012). It's all about human cloning. He wants to regenerate the Neanderthals.
Regenesis? I say it's all scientific bluster.
That's why it's called Synthetic Biology. We cannot reinvent Nature, because it's against Reason: We are part of Nature; if we want to reinvent it, we have to get out of it, and we cannot. We can destroy it, but we cannot reinvent it.
Yes, Sir, we can destroy ourselves. No, Sir, we cannot reinvent ourselves, the most stubborn, the most intractable, the most invidious, the proudest creatures in all of the galaxies! How can we reinvent ourselves, the infernal species that we are? We cannot even reinvent the infernal battery! (Seth Borenstein, 22 January 2013, seattlepi.com). And yes, the battery is 200+ years old.
Be careful what you write for, you just might get it!
Did George Church really propose the cloning of a Neanderthal from collected DNA? He did. "The ethical implications of just this simple aspect of the process are pretty damning," Alex Knapp said (Marc Lallanilla, 22 January 2013, huffingtonpost.com). Knapp, the Social Media Editor of Forbes, is a self-confessed futurist (blogs.forbes.com).
"I'm certainly not advocating it," Church said. "I'm saying, if it is technically possible someday, we need to start talking about it today."
George Church is equivocating. When you're a Harvard professor, or even when you're not, and you write a book in favor of human cloning and say you are not advocating it, what does that mean?
You're only baiting your readers, for maybe a #1 bestseller in the New York Times. Or,
You don't understand the genome of the English language. Or,
You wrote the book without sequencing what could happen when people finally decipher what you mean!
Actually, the book has 2 authors: George Church, the geneticist, and Ed Regis, the science writer. So, Regis is the pen pusher; Church is the red pencil pusher - he must answer for the book.
Here's a review of Church's book by Alexandra Witze (27 December 2012, sciencenews.org):
Why not, after all, synthesize a Neandertal? Church and his coauthor explore the Neandertal genome and how modern humans could be used as a template to re-create one - should society be willing to accept building a Neandertal child in the laboratory. Or how about pushing into transhumanism, the concept that genes could be engineered to give people mental or physical capabilities well beyond their ordinary means?
Man, the sophisticated, clone a Neanderthal, the primitive? With all the sophistication of word processing (I'm using Word 2010 myself right now), we can't even correct our own little English mistake, and so we clone it 2 times in 1 paragraph of 67 words: in the above quote, Neandertal should read Neanderthal. As of this rewriting, 0635 hr, Sunday, 27 January 2013 in Manila, the 3 Neandertals are still scattered there, motionless, brain-dead, their DNA exposed.
George Church is denying the obvious, now that the media have blasted his proposal to kingdom come, which of course he doesn't believe in, I mean, the kingdom to come. You can't believe in God if you believe that you can find the secret of life.
Should we clone a Neanderthal? Actually, this question has been asked years before, and Andrew Brown said, "We have no right to bring anyone else into the mess we have made" (23 June 2011, guardian.co.uk).
Art Caplan said, "It is a fascinating scientific speculation. It is an ethical nightmare that should never be tried" (Lallanilla as cited).
And what does George Church have to say to all that? "Church explained on Wednesday that he was simply theorizing" (Scott Malone, 24 January 2013, news.yahoo.com). His actual words were:
The public should be able to detect cases where things seem implausible. Everybody's fib detector should have been going off. They should have said, "What? Who would believe this?"... This really indicates that we should have scientific literacy.
Church is saying he was misunderstood, or people were putting words into his words. He is saying those people didn't know what they were saying! "We should have scientific literacy."
And I agree. We should have scientific literacy - starting with George Church!
"We really should get the public of the entire world to be able to detect the difference between a fact and a complete fantasy that has been created by the Internet," George Church said. But it was he who created this one; the bloggers and journalists just gave their opinion of it, and they were all against the idea. Malone said in his article:
In the Der Spiegel article, which Church said reported his words accurately, and his recent book "Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves," Church theorized that studying cloned Neanderthals could help scientists better understand how the human mind works. Scientists have already extracted DNA from Neanderthal bones.
Oh my God! You have to study the Neanderthals alive to understand how the human mind works?! Your mind must be Neanderthal.
Why don't you simply ask Edward de Bono, who studied medicine and the human mind? I'm not sure about the exact words, but I remember him saying, perhaps in his book The Mechanism Of Mind, "What does it matter if we understand how the brain works?" He was referring to the physiological, to the gray matter, to what people like to call "the left brain" and "the right brain." I'm saying, why, there is only one, sole, singular, unitary, integrated, unified, whole human brain. De Bono was saying we just have to understand how the mind works productively, critically, creatively. I'm saying, the Neanderthals were crude, barbaric, uncivilized - that would be what we would learn from them.
In fact, as early as 2010, the question had been raised. Zach Zorich said scientists working at 454 Life Sciences in Branford, Connecticut had been gathering DNA from Neanderthal bones "for testing ideas about the biology of our closest extinct relative" (March-April 2010, archive.archaeology.org). About cloning the Neanderthals, he asked, "Should it be done?" and quoted Professor of Biological Anthropology of the University of Wisconsin Madison John Hawks as saying, in effect, "It will be done."
Actually, what George Church & his ilk are trying to do is discover the secret of life, and they think they should start backwards to about 25,000 years ago, when the last of the Neanderthals were still alive. Me, I already know the secret of life, and I can tell you right now, without sequencing genome, whether yours or mine, without spending for each of us $4000 dollars, a king's ransom in these parts.
Cloning is science thinking critically only, not thinking creatively also ; science only thinking critically is man's faith in his own reason, in reasoned truth. Religion is man's faith in revealed truth. So, it comes to this: Your faith, or mine? George Church believes that his science is the purveyor of ultimate truth. I believe otherwise; I believe this, and this was discovered 2000 years ago:
The secret of life is God.