It's not every day you read a story that asks womankind in general if a spot of prehistoric breeding is on the cards. On behalf of my fellow womb-carriers I'd just like to go on record as saying "dinner and a movie first, if you don't mind".
If you haven't read the story in question, allow me to summarise. Scientist with extravagant beard wants to clone a Neanderthal and needs a volunteer uterus, specifically one attached to "an adventurous female human". So far, so B-grade (I'm seeing Liam Neeson as the mad scientist though Caitlin Moran favours Bill Murray, but her imaginary film is a rom-com whereas mine is strictly Mystery Science Theatre 3000 hence the different casting ideas)
I desperately want to be a fly on wall when George Church, the scientist in question, pens that particular personals ad.
WOMB TO LET
Desperately seeking adventurous female human for 9 month relationship with prehistoric foetus. Must love dogs (or children who look like dogs) and be an anti-extinctionist. Non-smokers preferred.
(I really wanted to include "do you have a cave in your Neander Valley that we could explore?" but that would have been gross so I'm glad that I didn't)
If you read the story properly though (instead of skimreading it) there don't appear to be any actual plans to make this happen. Church only says that it would be possible given the advances in extraction and copying of DNA, and that there might be some benefits for society in having a few Neanderthals knocking around. So it doesn't look like he will be placing that personals ad in the immediate future.
But it surely is an interesting idea and I couldn't help mulling over why anyone would actually want to gestate and birth a Neanderthal baby. But heck, Maria Shriver had 4 of Arnold Schwarzenegger's kids, so it's not like this is totally without precedence.
But why? What would be the motivation for having a Neanderthal baby? Isn't having a human one hard enough? And that's when I figured it out. Extra points for added difficulty. I'm talking competitive mummy syndrome.
I didn't have an epidural.
I didn't have gas.
I didn't even have a human. Top that, b**ches. My baby came out with five o'clock shadow and brandishing rudimentary tools... and I didn't take so much as a Panadol.
God, can you imagine the sanctimonious smugness?
And as far as developmental milestones go, the Plunket book isn't going to be much help is it? All those usual milestones of crawling, forming words and figuring out that your hand is actually attached to you wouldn't necessarily apply with a Neanderthal baby. For all we know they're on solids after a week and changing their own diapers at the age of 3 months. Apparently Neanderthal babies have brains about the same size as human babies though I'd be more concerned about the size of the head myself.
But imagine the great relief of never having to compare your baby with little 8 month old Tarquin, whose Mandarin is really coming along and who has a favourite pâté (he has a very mature palate). With a Neanderthal baby all pressure to perform is off. There basically is no yardstick (or Tarquin) by which a Neanderthal baby can be measured.
I'm starting to see how this might appeal to a certain sort of person.
And we need to keep this in perspective, for when it comes to things that are wrong and unnatural, the Marriage Equality debate presents us with some prime examples. Take for instance the "interesting" ideas put forward by the head of the Sensible Sentencing Trust about the effects that Marriage Equality will have on the crime rate. This proves that there is at least one thing worse than giving birth to a Neanderthal, and that's producing a Garth McVicars (Homo sapiens sapiens bigotus).
So what do you think would be the appeal of birthing a Neanderthal baby? Added difficulty? the satisfaction of knowing that your child actually is special? Why would anyone want to do this?