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Neanderthal fan

Can we make a pet project out of our human ancestors?

Published: Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 8:21 a.m. CST

(Continued from Page 3)

(MCT) — In the most depressing scientific news in years, it turns out that the scheme to clone a Neanderthal baby is about as real as Manti Te’o’s girlfriend.

The esteemed Harvard Uni-versity geneticist George M. Church — who helped start the Human Genome Project — blames the confusion on a bad translation of an interview he did with Germany’s Der Spiegel. The account then was morphed on the Internet by reporters desperate for a good cave man baby story.

Church was horrified to learn it had been reported that he was actively searching for a healthy woman to help clone a cave man baby. Not true, said Church.

“I’m certainly not advocating it,” Church told the Boston Herald, yet not before adding rather ominously: “I’m saying, if it’s technically possible someday, we need to start talking about it today.”

Why not start talking about it right now?

Once I heard it may someday be possible to clone a grunting, hairy-backed, bandy-legged Neanderthal of low intelligence — not human, per se, but rather humanoid in nature — I really wanted one of my own, even if my enemies might call it Mini-Me.

After all, who wouldn’t want to own a pet Neanderthal?

If you were hungry, you could put some cash into a can draped around his neck and tell your pet Neanderthal to run over to Mr. Beef on Orleans. All he’d have to do is learn Chicago’s magic words: Beef. Hot. Dry.

“Mr. Beef?” asked my colleague Old School. “That’s kind of a waste of a Neanderthal, isn’t it?”

Oh, no, just as long as he doesn’t scarf down my scrumptious Mr. Beefs. Neanderthals would also be perfect for countless menial tasks, including pulling rickshaws to cut down on our gas emissions in cities or passing out palm cards on Election Day.

But we’d better not let them procreate. And while we’re at it, we should probably lop off their thumbs. As anyone with cable TV knows by now, if humanoid creatures start using their thumbs to make tools, their brains will begin growing, and they’ll become unmanageable and hostile.

What America needs right now — with our deficit spending completely out of control — are docile hordes of hairy beasties, a permanent underclass of eager workers to keep our economy and social entitlements going at little or no cost to taxpayers.

Washington Post science writer Brian Palmer wrote in Slate last year that Neanderthals had a “clear power advantage” over modern man. Adult males averaged 5 feet 5 inches tall and possessed “Popeye” forearms, possibly the result of a life spent stabbing woolly mammoths and straight-tusked elephants to death and dismantling their carcasses.”

They had stronger upper-body muscles, a wider pelvis and a “lower center of gravity than Homo sapiens, which would have made him a powerful grappler,” Palmer wrote.

Our pet Neanderthals would make perfect combat athletes. We could wager on them when they perform in the arenas on Sundays and not feel guilty about concussions and ACL tears.

Neanderthals would most likely replace the ubiquitous vicious pit bulls in rap music videos. What rapper could resist having his own snarling pair of hairy Northern Europeans?

“But then you run other risks,” said Old School. “Say you send him to Mr. Beef, and he starts grabbing at his private parts on a public street. That could be embarrassing. And what if you have to discipline your Neanderthal when he throws his feces, then he starts looking at you.”

What do you mean, he starts looking at me?

“I’m all about sci-fi,” Old School said as I typed his quotes. “What scares me most is that moment when the creature reasons things out. And they always do. It’ll probably happen while you’re typing. That’s when he calmly pulls your head off with the spine attached and begins running around your office howling with glee.”

According to the mangled version of professor Church’s plan, Neanderthal DNA would be recreated from fossils, put into stem cells and then injected into a human embryo produced with the help of an “adventurous” female volunteer. The hoped-for result: baby Neanderthal.

I discussed the idea with a few women who kind of agreed to volunteer, as long as they receive all movie and reality TV rights, book deals and proceeds from merchandising (like Neanderthal baby diapers in woolly mammoth earth tones).

“I need a contract,” said a respected broadcast journalist. “I’m not carrying a cave man baby without a contract.” But most women declined. “I married a cave man,” said another. “And I’ve already given birth to his kids.”

Sadly, some women just don’t get it. So I ask the rest of you to consider the benefits: An entire class of humanoids laboring to protect our hefty federal entitlements, and all we have to do is feed them hot dogs and perhaps a few candied nuts on government-mandated secular holidays.

We contacted Nazca Fontes, founder and president of ConceiveAbilities, one of the nation’s oldest egg donation-surrogacy facilities here in Chicago. She wasn’t enthused.

“I’m sure you’ll find someone out there willing to do this who is ‘adventurous,’” she said. “I’d say that any woman worth her salt would probably not do this on a lark just for pure adventure.”

You just never know.

Sadly, such creations do have a way of turning on us, in the movies. We use science to play God, then our appetites compel us to send them to Mr. Beef and some moron forgets to lop off their thumbs.

Then it happens: They start looking at you.

———

John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may send him email at jskass@tribune.com.

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