Richard Dawkins Says the Birth of an Australopithecus or Neanderthal Would “Change Everything.” I’m Not So Sure.

Richard Dawkins thinks that the recovery of some of our human-like ancestors would “change everything”:

Moving from paper to flesh and blood would require embryological technologies that will probably come on stream during the lifetime of some of my readers. I think it will be done, and an approximate reconstruction of the common ancestor of ourselves and chimpanzees will be brought to life. The intermediate genome between this reconstituted ‘ancestor’ and modern humans would, if implanted in an embryo, grow into something like a reborn Australopithecus: Lucy the Second. And that would (dare I say will?) change everything.

Contra Dawkins, I’m not quite convinced that, say, the birthing of an Australopithecus or Neanderthal from recovered genetic material would “change everything.” Most educated people know that evolution occurred, and is occuring, and that we share a common ancestor with other hominids, and they’ve seen artist reconstructions of these creatures, and they’ve seen images of their bones, and have read what science writers say about them. I think it would be a shock and novelty to see a real Neanderthal baby in a human crib, and it would be a fascinating story following its birth—and it would have a Truman Show quality to it—but I just doubt that, aside from religious fundamentalists, it would cause an earthquake in the psyche of educated people.

And I think that we are being naive about how a piece of evidence functions for the religiously committed. I would guess that most fundamentalists would be unswayed to accept evolution by such an event.
Fundamentalists, afterall, are astute at AD HOC reasoning, and would quickly come up with some bullshit to “explain” the cute little baby Neanderthal.

I can think of an AD HOC move already: “See—the book of Revelation is full of monsters—and scientists are creating the very monsters that will mark the last days!”

See how easy that was?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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