Cloning Neanderthals

According to an article from Fox News, cloning Neanderthals to create healthy, living specimens could become a reality 944NqQ Of course years ago when Jurassic Park first came out, scientists were discussion the possible reality of cloning dinosaurs. Now, thanks to the incredible increase in computing power over the last few years, sequencing genomes for such a project is becoming a real possibility according to Archaeology Magazine.

Cloning is still an inexact science, however. Restoring the DNA of a specimen tens of thousands of years old faces the challenges of chemical changes, breakdown of the biological matter and a myriad of possible contaminants.

Even if those challenges can be overcome, the question still remains: Should this be done? If so, to what end? If Neanderthals were brought back, would they qualify for human rights? If there were colonies of them, how would they support themselves and their families? Would Geico be sued for hate speech or would they be the major employer for Neanderthal kind?

What do you think? Are Neanderthals close enough to us to be considered to have human rights? Would we have living vignettes in natural history museums? What effect would Neanderthal tribes have on our world today? On Religion and Creationism?

For more information visit http://www.archaeology.org/1003/etc/neanderthals.html


Advertisements

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed 2

Ben Stein hosts this documentary which “examines the criticisms and hostilities that exist in today’s scientific field (both academic and professional) towards peers and journalists who subscribe to or even entertain the perspective of Intelligent Design in science”.

I have unfortunately failed to make it all the way through this film as of this writing. At the one hour mark, I set it aside for the time being. The cinematography and editing make it extraordinarily difficult to follow. The interviews with such notables as PZ Meyers pharyngula and Richard Dawkins richarddawkins.net along with Intelligent design proponents at The Discovery Institute www.discovery.org and more are interspersed with black and white film clips from what appears to be the early years of the Berlin Wall. There are other nonsensical clips inserted to act as confirmation of a point that had just been made by an interviewee.

In all honesty this looks like something a first year film student would throw together the night before a project was due while he was still high. Now IF you can get past that, the movie asks a valid question.

According to the narrative, a group of scientists, teachers and a journalist have all either been fired, censured or generally had their careers ruined for bringing up the question of Intelligent Design. Details are sketchy as to the content that led to the censure/firing, etc. The film indicates that in the cases shown, merely mentioning Intelligent Design or writing about it led to the firings. IF this is the case, why were these people censured so severely?

In the film, the main argument for creationism seemed to be that since a single cell is so complex, there must have been a designer. Most of those interviewed shied away from the idea that the designer was the Judaeo Christian god. They instead asked that the concept that “something greater than ourselves” be investigated as a possible theory for the origin of life.

It seems a reasonable request until you consider that they can’t or won’t even define what that “something” might be. They are simply theorizing that because everything is so complex that it could not possibly have happened by chance. Their example of why it couldn’t was an animation of a guy and a bunch of slot machines.

Like I said…stoned first year film student.

I’m bothered by the idea that these people supposedly all lost their jobs and careers, or nearly so, because they discussed an alternative idea. The makers of this film took pains to equate the censures and firings with Nazi Germany. Obviously an extreme example. It poses the question, however, “At what point does freedom of speech cease to be free?’. I hope someone will investigate this further and find out why these people were treated like this..

Mr. Whuffkins

This post is a complete flight of fancy. I’m stealing the idea from Skepchicks and running with it.

A couple days ago one of the Skepchicks posed this question: If you could have any animal as a pet, and have it magically be domesticated and friendly, what would you choose?

Most people chose big cats. One person went with a Velociraptor. So I thought “Hmm…how can I take that to the next level? Oh *I* know! THIS  guy! http://bit.ly/4FdxYw : The Mapusaurus roseae.

This dinosaur was larger than the T-Rex and may have even been bigger than Giganotosaurus, the guy that took over the mantle of “Biggest Badass” from good ol’ T. In other words Mapusaurus rosae, or as I like to call him, Mr. Whuffkins, was longer than a four-story building is tall. So, yeah…big meat grinder on legs.

The question on Skepchicks included the word “friendly”. Sure, Mr. Whuffkins would be friendly TO ME and to people I liked. But lets have some fun here for a minute. If YOU had the biggest carnivore the world has ever seen at your disposal, what would YOU do? Personally, I’d have bullet proof armor and a saddle made for Mr. Whuffkins. Then I’d take him around to places like the Westboro Baptist Church where Fred Phelps hangs his hat. I’d explain to Mr. Phelps that when he says things like “God hates fags”, it makes Mr. Whuffkins vewwy sad. When Mr. Whuffkins gets sad, he gets hungry. He’s a stress eater, doncha know.

Voila! Instant social reform!

Don’t like the way things are going in Washington DC? Mr. Whuffkins and I are happy to go eat..er..greet a few Congressmen and Senators. I can see it now. Me and my pet wandering the world making change happen wherever we go. Barack Obama would have nothing on us!

It would be like the old children’s book “Danny and the Dinosaur”, just a bit, well, bloodier.

Unfortunately there would be a drawback to keeping Mr. Whuffkins as a pet. No, not the food bill. He’s magical so he wouldn’t need to eat. Except for those times I wanted him to, that is. The big drawback would be the fundamentalists and creationists claiming that me and Mr. Whuffkins are proof that people used to live side by side with dinosaurs and even ride them. After all Mr. Whuffkins would be “domesticated”.

And so, the dream dies.

It IS fun to pretend sometimes though. See? Even skeptics have vivid imaginations!




Expelled: Intelligence Not Allowed

This morning I saw the last 10 minutes of Ben Stein’s documentary ‘Expelled: Intelligence Not Allowed”. I had heard nothing about this until now and I have plans to record a showing on the morning of the 20th so that I can review it in full.

In the few minutes I saw, Stein uses the imagery of the Berlin Wall as being the barrier between scientists and intelligent design. He proposes that more be done to investigate the notion that if not some kind of god, then some sort of greater intelligence is responsible for the beginnings of life on this planet and the Universe as a whole. Of course this has been done with an additional emotional appeal to the ideals of freedom.

He even interviews Richard Dawkins. You can see that Mr. Dawkins is trying very hard to be kind and patient with Mr. Stein in answering his questions. I do wish that Dawkins would have explained that his lack of belief in a god has to do with a lack of testable evidence.

At one point Stein brought up the quote about the god of the old testament. Dawkins read the complete quote about that god being a blood thirsty misogynistic ethnic cleanser, etc. Then Stein asked if he believed in a kind, loving, gentle god. That would be the god of the new testament if I’m not mistaken.

Isn’t Ben Stein Jewish? My understanding, and please kindly correct me if I’m wrong, is that the Jewish people follow the old testament and the Torah, a book I am not familiar with. My reading of the old testament shows precisely what Mr. Dawkins says.

I’m looking forward to watching the entire documentary and I’ll post a review soon.