On a related note, there's an article up at Archaeology.org on the ethics of cloning Neanderthals.** After all, we've got bits of their DNA*** so why not? Well…
- Would they be classified as humans or animals under the law?
- Would there be anti-Neanderthal racism, and how fair would it be to subject them to that?
- How ethical would it be to clone Neanderthal tissue for organ transplants or medical tests?
- Given the risks with current clones—they die a lot—how can we bring sentient life into the world knowing we've just sentenced it to death?
- Especially since they wouldn't be immune to a lot of the stuff we are?
Another question that's brought up in the article is: Would Neanderthals be able to cope with modern society? The writer quotes from both sides of the debate. Personally, I think they'd be able to deal. There'd be an adjustment period, but they'd cope. Why? Because there hasn't really been enough time for humans to evolve to cope with cities. We've evolved a culture that demands them, but we're still working on getting everyone the evolutionary adaptations that condition us for crowds of people, vehicles, and cramped living quarters.**** If we can (mostly) deal, why couldn't a Neanderthal? They had a pretty sophisticated society themselves.
That said, could they cope with space travel?
(The article includes some more mundane questions, which have been thrown around for a while—Did we interbreed? Are we really separate species? Who was smarter?—which are also interesting from a science POV, but I'm pretty sure they've been covered. Somewhere. If not, they should've been.)
I haven't read the Neanderthal Parallax series (yet), but from the descriptions, I'm betting it covers some of these questions. Same goes for the Thursday Next books, which have cloned Neanderthals in a parallel universe, and whose clones brought their very passive culture with them and are now more a curiosity than anything. (I've read some of those.) There's still a lot of room to play, though, especially in a more hard-sf vein than … whatever Thursday Next is.
* which you should totally subscribe to, or at least read, because it's awesome
** found via Futurismic
*** not nearly enough for cloning yet, unfortunately, and then we have to find a way to do it without Neanderthal cells
**** At least, that's what my science reading's told me. It could be outdated.