Neanderthal cloning chatter highlights scientific illiteracy
Church became the subject of dozens of posts and tabloid newspaper articles calling him a "mad scientist" after giving an interview to the German magazine Der Spiegel.
In the interview, Church discussed the technical challenges scientists would face if they tried to clone a Neanderthal, though neither he nor the Der Spiegel article, which was presented as a question and answer exchange, said he intended to do so.
"Harvard professor seeks mother for cloned cave baby," read one headline, on the website of London's Daily Mail.
But Church explained on Wednesday that he was simply theorizing.
Still, the readiness of bloggers, journalists and readers to believe he was preparing an attempt to clone a Neanderthal, a species closely related to modern humans that went extinct some 30,000 years ago, led Church to ponder scientific literacy.
"The public should be able to detect cases where things seem implausible," Church said in an interview at his office at Harvard Medical School in Boston. "Everybody's fib detector should have been going off. They should have said, ‘What? Who would believe this?' ... This really indicates that we should have scientific literacy."
Despite the spate of articles comparing him to the character in the book and movie "Jurassic Park" who attempts to open