Recently, reports spread like wildfire that Harvard geneticist George Church was seeking an "adventurous female human" to be a surrogate mother to a cloned Neanderthal. Church clarified that he was theorizing about the requirements for a Neanderthal clone, rather than actively trying to create one. For now, there's no indication that any scientist is actively attempting to clone a Neanderthal. But a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds that most Americans are opposed to allowing any scientist to attempt such a feat -- with or without a human surrogate.
The survey found that only 17 percent of Americans said scientists should be allowed to clone a Neanderthal if it were possible, while 63 percent said it should not be allowed. Support for the idea dropped even lower (though not by much) if a human surrogate were required -- 15 percent said scientists should be allowed to clone a Neanderthal and 66 percent said it should not be allowed under those circumstances.
Some bioethicists have suggested that cloning a Neanderthal would be unethical. A Neanderthal clone may lack immunity to modern infections and be especially susceptible to disease, or there may be deformities or other health complications stemming from problems in the cloning process, scientists have said. A cloned Neanderthal may also struggle with being the only member of a resurrected species.
That poll responses changed so little after the human surrogate was introduced to the questions suggests that for most Americans, the issue may simply be that a Neanderthal is far too close to human for comfort. In fact, an almost identical percentage of Americans said they thought scientists should not be allowed to clone a human: 16 percent said they should be allowed to try to clone a human, and 66 percent said they should not.
Respondents were somewhat more open to the idea of cloning another long-extinct animal, the wooly mammoth. But even so, opposition outstripped support for allowing scientists to attempt it. Thirty-one percent of respondents said scientists should be allowed to clone a mammoth, and 46 percent said it should not be allowed.
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The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Jan. 25-26 among 1,000 U.S. adults. The poll used a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance. Additional crosstabs for the poll are available here.