Comes Now the Dread Humanzee?


The Scotsman has published a somewhat overwrought article about the possible creation of chimp/human hybrids. The Scotsman reports:

A LEADING scientist has warned a new species of "humanzee," created from breeding apes with humans, could become a reality unless the government acts to stop scientists experimenting.
In an interview with The Scotsman, Dr Calum MacKellar, director of research at the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, warned the controversial draft Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill did not prevent human sperm being inseminated into animals.

He said if a female chimpanzee was inseminated with human sperm the two species would be closely enough related that a hybrid could be born.

He said scientists could possibly try to develop the new species to fill the demand for organ donors.

Leading scientists say there is no reason why the two species could not breed, although they question why anyone would want to try such a technique.

The image
Actually, such interbreeding might just work. Back in 1977, a researcher published results in the journal Anatomical Record showing that human sperm could penetrate gibbon eggs. But would it be wrong to breed such hybrids?
The Scotsman turns to some of the ethical considerations:
Professor Hugh McLachlan, professor of applied philosophy at Glasgow Caledonian University's School of Law and Applied Sciences, said although the idea was "troublesome", he could see no ethical objections to the creation of humanzees.

"Any species came to be what it is now because of all sorts of interaction in the past," he said.

"If it turns out in the future there was fertilisation between a human animal and a non-human animal, it's an idea that is troublesome, but in terms of what particular ethical principle is breached it's not clear to me.

"I share their squeamishness and unease, but I'm not sure that unease can be expressed in terms of an ethical principle."

I discussed some of the ethical issues involved with "uplifting" animals to human-level intelligence in my column "Humanizing Animals." Whole Scotsman article here.