George Church hit a nerve when he recently discussed re-creating Neanderthals with an "adventurous human female" surrogate, in Der Spiegel. The media attention rapidly became fierce, with dozens of outlets carrying the remarks. Yesterday, Church told the Boston Herald that the whole kerfuffle was based on "poor translation." As for cloning a Neanderthal, he said, "I'm certainly not advocating it … I'm saying, if it is technically possible someday, we need to start talking about it today."
It's good to hear Church disavowing the idea of using genetic engineering, synthetic biology and human surrogates to create a Neanderthal clone baby, at least for the time being. But it's disingenuous of him to shift all the blame onto the translation process. The phrase that clearly got the most attention was "adventurous female human" — and that comes straight from the prologue of his own recent book, Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves (co-authored with Ed Regis, published in October 2012):
If society becomes comfortable with cloning and sees value in true human diversity, then...