Human/Animal Chimeras, Oh My!

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British regulators have authorized stem cell researchers in that country to go ahead to combine human nuclear DNA with animal eggs to produce chimeric embryos from which to extract stem cells.  The BBC reports:

Scientists want to create hybrid embryos by merging human cells with animal eggs in a bid to extract stem cells. The embryos would then be destroyed within 14 days.

The cells form the basic building blocks of the body and have the potential to become any tissue, making them essential for research.

At the moment, scientists have to rely on human eggs left over from fertility treatment, but they are in short supply and are not always good quality.

Critics say they are repulsed by the idea and there must be no creation of an animal-human hybrid.

They say it is tampering with nature and is unethical. Some believe the research is also scientifically unnecessary.

It is already illegal to implant human-animal embryos in the womb or bring them to term.

The BBC quotes opponents of the research:

John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), said: "The HFEA decision represents a disastrous setback for human dignity in Britain.

"The deliberate blurring of the boundaries between humans and other species is wrong and strikes at the heart of what makes us human."

This mirrors the Vatican's condemnation of the research last year which called it a "monstrous act directed against human dignity."

Biologist-manque (and disbeliever in biological evolution) Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) wants to outlaw such research here.

As I noted before, the Vatican's statement brings up the question: If the presence of 13 animal genes (in animal egg mitochondria) is not enough to block the installation of a human soul, how many would be?

Whole BBC article here.

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  1. Shades of the fears Birchers used to have about Soviet ape armies being grown and trained in Siberia.

  2. but can we use this technology to make a monkey with four asses?

  3. Doubtless someone is thinking of how certain members of the Reason staff would be perfect for human-weasel chimeras.

    I’m seeing a J and an R, could those be initials?

  4. At long last, the day of the feared and mighty HUMANZEE is nigh at hand!

  5. Flying monkeys. Dagnabit, Where are my flying monkeys

  6. More and more, I am convinced that Heinlein was a prescient genius. Read Friday and then look around the world today…

  7. The glow in the dark cat was pretty cool, guys. But I want my flying monkeys!

  8. This kind of research doesn’t excite me, really. I mean, I want to be able to have animal powers myself. Sure, I could create a half-me, half-chimpanzee clone, and the clone would totally rock… but what about me?

    When they can start changing the DNA of living humans already born, this Chimera stuff will be interesting.

  9. This is fucked up, there aught to be a law to ban this because it is fucked up.

  10. How many animal genes would it take to block a human soul? I think the point is that we don’t know. Since 60-80% of human embryos don’t implant and are flushed out, I tend to think maybe the soul is imbued around the time of implanting in the uterine wall, but the point is we don’t really know. It’s a huge moral hazard if you decide wrong. Do you want to be morally culpable for mass murder, or intentionally deforming people with animal genes. As libertarians we respect the rights of individuals. Let’s err on the safe side of the question of how and when an individual is formed.

  11. The see through frogs were kinda neat, but still, I want flying monkeys!

  12. “If the presence of 13 animal genes (in animal egg mitochondria) is not enough to block the installation of a human soul, how many would be?”

    Trick question; there’s no such thing as a soul.

    Snark aside, the only way this sort of stuff would REALLY bother me is if it resulted in live critters with the capacity to reason at anything approaching human levels.

    (I use the qualifier “REALLY” because bringing any of these creatures to term creeps me out, though not necessarily enough to ban the activity. At the embryo stage I’m not bothered at all.)

  13. As libertarians we respect the rights of individuals. Let’s err on the safe side of the question of how and when an individual is formed.

    Flying monkeys aside, we libertarians can’t even define when a zygote/embryo/fetus reaches the status of person. Nor can the rest of society.

    Although I don’t foresee human/animal hybrids in my lifetime, I don’t doubt that they are possible and will eventually be created. The philosophers, religious and secular, have some difficult work ahead. The implications of gengineering are beyond my (anyone’s?) abilty to completely predict. Like the last 100,000 years, humanity will likely stumble blindly forward.

    I’m certain when our ancestors first tamed fire, there were those that counseled erring on the side of caution. We are in the infancy of taming genetics. It’s humbling, scary, and exciting as can be.

  14. Suddenly, I’m not half the man I’m ‘spose to be…

  15. If you’re driving down a two-lane road when it’s dark and raining out, you’re in a hurry, and you see a human-shaped object laying on the road covered by a coat, would it be OK to just drive right over it? I mean, it might just be a mannequin.

  16. Between the coming zombie plague, the inevitable robot rebellion, the evolving monkeys and now a scourge of Manimals running amok, we’re doomed.

    Damn you, SCIENCE!!!!

  17. Since 60-80% of human embryos don’t implant and are flushed out, I tend to think maybe the soul is imbued around the time of implanting in the uterine wall, but the point is we don’t really know.

    How does this inference make sense? What additional premises and steps of logic lie between the premise “60-80% of human embryos don’t implant and are flushed out” and the conclusion “the soul is imbued around the time of implanting in the uterine wall”? This appears to require an additional premise that if an embryo fails to implant, we have good reason to believe it has not been imbued with a soul. On what evidence do you base this?

    It’s a huge moral hazard if you decide wrong.

    That’s not what moral hazard means.

  18. “The deliberate blurring of the boundaries between humans and other species is wrong and strikes at the heart of what makes us human.”

    Please note that this is not a statement of concern about the well-being of chimeras.

    This is the same hatred of nature that underlies evolution denial. It’s the need to deny that we differ only by degree, not kind, from other species.

  19. Agreed, joe.

    Could that argument be extrapolated to races (that is, the irrational distinction between humans of different colors)? I think so.

  20. It’s a huge moral hazard if you decide wrong.

    Since there is no such thing as a soul, not so much. As to when a fetus becomes a person, I choose viability. This narrows the morality window to a couple of weeks give or take – parasitic organism prior, human being thereafter.

  21. Taxpayer money stolen to pay for government-funded morally objectionable research. Oh my!

    The ability of leftist cosmotarians to switch into socialist defense mode never ceases to amaze me.

  22. “If the presence of 13 animal genes (in animal egg mitochondria) is not enough to block the installation of a human soul, how many would be?”

    Well, let’s see…Since we share something like 98% of our genome, containing tens of thousands of genes, with Chimpanzees, how does the inclusion of 13 more ‘animal’ genes suddenly ‘block the installation’ of a human ‘soul’?

    And while we’re deriving our biology from that authoritative scientific text, the Bible, what exactly is the ‘soul’? How do we know it’s located in our genes? What if the ‘soul’ is located in some other structure, say, the connectivity of neural circuits in the brain? Might that mean that, without a brain, an embryo doesn’t have a ‘soul’?

    But, maybe your ‘soul’ IS located in your genes. Uh oh….better not blow your nose, or clip your nails, or take a crap: you’ll be spreading your ‘soul’ all over creation. And guys, don’t even think of washing those bedsheets……

  23. It’s the need to deny that we differ only by degree, not kind, from other species.

    If it’s only a difference in degree, where do we get off letting humans vote but not animals? Let alone eating animals, but not eating humans.

  24. CharlesWT –

    Your link made me smile this morning. Salamat.

  25. Taxpayer money stolen to pay for government-funded morally objectionable research. Oh my!

    Is SPUC against all government funded research or does SPUC want a veto over what avenues that research should investigate?

    I strongly suspect the latter. If you have any info that indicates otherwise, I’m listening.

  26. crimethink,

    If it’s only a difference in degree, where do we get off letting humans vote but not animals? From the same place that leads every other species in existence to treat members of its own kind differently from others species; our genetic and biological nature.

    The real question is, where do we get this capacity to extend consideration to any members of any other species at all? Look there for what makes us special (though not unique, thank you Koko), not is any absence of relationship with other species.

  27. crimethink, the difference between adults and infants is obviously, even to a creationist, only one of degree, yet we have no trouble determining that infants lack the reasoning skills necessary to confer the entire menu of rights.

  28. If your point, crimethink, is that the habits enforced on our by our genetic and biological heritage are not sufficient to provide moral justification for our actions, I’d agree. Being perhaps the only species capable of realizing this, and yet having societies and moral codes that, in many ways, have that nature as their underlying moral founcation, we seem to have so re-visioning and renegotiation to do. I’d say that things like vegetarianism are efforts in that direction.

  29. “on us” or “on our societies” would both work up there in that first line.

    “some re-visioning”

  30. Oh let them have at it.
    It’s not like you could make British people any uglier.

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