In the sidebar entitled, Cloned Neandertals Still in the Realm of Sci-Fi? (Science, vol. 328:682-683), Elizabeth Pennisi quotes several scholars as questioning why we would want to bring Neandertals back to life in the first place. I agree with them that it is wrong to do so to satisfy scientific curiosity, but suggest another reason: If Modern Man had a hand in the extinction of Neandertal, perhaps we owe it to them to bring them back? We were more brutal when they died out, and they were brutal, too, but today we are more paternal toward endangered species. Doubtless, if they were extant but imperiled, we would take steps to ensure their survival just as we are doing with other jeopardized species today.
There are, of course, other ethical questions to consider. The sidebar asked, for example, if it is ethical for a human surrogate mother to carry the fetus of another species, but we don’t even have to ask the religious world’s opinion on that one. Another ethical question that was not asked in the sidebar is whether we really want to force some Neo-Neandertals to grow up and live in a Sapiens world knowing of their species’ tragic fate. It could be heart-wrenching all around.