Pharyngula

The manimal will have a British accent

Well, not really—but the UK government will tolerate and support research into human-animal hybrids. No one is interested in raising a half-pig/half-man creature to adulthood, but instead this work is all about understanding basic mechanisms of development and human disease.

Scientists want to create the hybrid embryos to study the subtle molecular glitches that give rise to intractable diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cystic fibrosis. The researchers would take a cell from a patient and insert it into a hollowed out animal egg to make an embryo, which would be 99.9% human and 0.1% animal. Embryonic stem cells extracted from the week-old embryo would then be grown into nerves and other tissues, giving scientists unprecedented insight into how the disease develops in the body. Under existing laws, the embryos must be destroyed no later than 14 days after being created and cannot be implanted.

(I don’t care for how they phrased it: these will be a collection of animal-derived cells that contain human nuclear DNA. They will not be human.)

This is precisely the kind of useful biomedical research our American president called one of the “most egregious abuses of medical research” in his state of the union speech last year. Essentially, the only people who oppose it are confused wackos with delusions about the ‘sanctity’ of human life who think a few cells in a dish should have more rights and privileges than an adult woman—a substantial chunk of the Republican base.

We see once again where the so-far eminently successful American scientific machine is stymied by the religious twits who have looked at the possibilities of 21st century biology, and turned away, allowing other countries the opportunity to pass us by.


I should have included a link to this other article, in which government ministers declare that they will no longer oppose the research.

Comments

  1. #1 Colugo
    February 28, 2007

    “Essentially, the only people who oppose it are confused wackos with delusions about the ‘sanctity’ of human life who think a few cells in a dish should have more rights and privileges than an adult woman — a substantial chunk of the Republican base.”

    That statement ignores the bio-Luddite left, which I have discussed (with several links) in my comments in previous threads. Some names: Claire Nader (sister of Ralph), Jeremy Rifkin, Stuart Newman, Marcy Darnovsky …

    I understand that it is much more satisfying to go after the “godbags” than to criticize those on one’s own side of the left-right divide. Left bio-luddite circles partially overlap with left anti-euthanasia activists (those on the left – including Ralph Nader – who opposed pulling the plug on Schiavo), animal rightists, and radical greens.

    On the other side, David Barash and Richard Dawkins have discussed the salutary results of the creation of a human-chimp hybrid; namely, the living refutation of outmoded theological and philosophical essentialist notions about the divide between humans and animals. (In the case of Dawkins, it’s just an idle thought experiment, but Barash may be serious; I’m not sure.)

  2. #2 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2007

    My impression of all this is that sentience, which seems to be the agreed upon difference between man and animal, is not a cut and dried thing, but a spectrum, and where we draw lines in determining where we apply these ethical judgments seems to me to be very arbitrary.

    arbitrary indeed.

    actually, Jason thinks you can in fact get some ojective measure of sentience and sensation that applies to all animals, therefore they all have rights (IIRC, he cuts it off at plants though).

    the fact that this ISN’T a logical argument has failed to reach him.

    In fact, I think the reason we separate the unborn from the born, and animals from humans (when we do), is for a very simple reason:

    empathy.

    once born, an attachment is made to the baby that simply doesn’t exist in the same way prior. this is perfectly explicable from an evolutionary standpoint (read any ten papers on the evolution of parental care). Moreover, the simple reason we think killing babies abhorrent is because we empathize directly with those whose babies have been killed (IOW, the pain the death of a baby causes is readily understandable). No empathy, no immediate sense that there needs to be protection.

    It’s a natural reaction, but trying to say there is some scientific basis to it based on some arbitrary measure of “sentience” is just hogwash.

    to continue into the animal realm, many of us get emotionally attached to pets, so we can immediately empathize with someone whose pet has been killed.

    …and going outwards from there…

    baby seals are the reason why there was a strong reaction to killing fur seals; had nothing to do with conservation biology, or any attempt to apply sentience to the seals, it was displaced empathy simply because the baby seals have big eyes and look “cute” (perhaps some of you might recall the posters of baby seals that were used by the anti-fur activists – awww, those big, dark eyes and cute pug-nosed faces).

    really, that’s all it is, projections of empathy.

    that said, I see nothing inherently wrong in applying empathy (there is no reason to deny what one feels), but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking it has anything to do with some directly measurable aspect of “snetience” or whatnot. that’s not and shouldn’t be the role science plays in these things, though it can be used to argue for restraint in an overly exhuberant application of emotional projection (like explaining why culling deer is necessary when they are severely overpopulated).

    as to the rest, like the laws created in Roe V Wade, these are merely pragmatisms created to balance any number of conflicting interests, which take into account biology as just one factor.

    so, getting back to the topic of the thread, it’s projected empathy that causes people to think that creating “manimal” would be “wrong”.

    …and Jessica Alba does have that “cute” thing going for her, even if her acting is abysmal. I mean, did you see “Fantastic Four”?

    ugh.

  3. #3 Jason
    February 28, 2007

    Ichthyic,

    Moreover, the simple reason we think killing babies abhorrent is because we empathize directly with those whose babies have been killed

    This hypothesis is obviously false, since we think the killing of babies by their parents is abhorrent.

  4. #4 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2007

    This hypothesis is obviously false, since we think the killing of babies by their parents is abhorrent.

    huh?

    duh, the bottom line there is really that we think the killing of babies abhorrent to begin with, othewise, what on earth would we care what the parents did?

    you have a genuinely bizarre way of applying logic.

  5. #5 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2007

    It’s your mispresentation of my beliefs that isn’t logical, not my argument

    here’s what I said:

    …sentience and sensation that applies to all animals, therefore they all have rights (IIRC, he cuts it off at plants though).

    can someone else point out where I have misinterpreted Jason’s argument?

    I rather think jason doesn’t believe this to be a fair interpretation of all the drivel he posted in the other thread.

  6. #6 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2007

    I don’t know what it means to “defend” a preference.

    LOL. remarkable, given that that is exactly what you’ve been doing for days now.

    you have a preference for thinking that “sensation” is relevant to the issue of “rights”, and have vehemently defended that preference.

    I see… the problem is you have no ability to actually examine your own arguments.

    got it.

  7. #7 Jason
    February 28, 2007

    Ichthyic,

    the bottom line there is really that we think the killing of babies abhorrent to begin with, othewise, what on earth would we care what the parents did?

    Right. We think the killing of babies is abhorrent whatever the feelings of their parents. We think it’s abhorrent even if the parents hate their baby and kill it themselves. That’s why your hypothesis that “the simple reason we think killing babies abhorrent is because we empathize directly with those whose babies have been killed” is obviously not true.

  8. #8 Jason
    February 28, 2007

    Ichthyic,

    can someone else point out where I have misinterpreted Jason’s argument?

    No one else needs to. I’ve already pointed out where you misrepresented my beliefs. Contrary to what you said, I do not believe that all animals are necessarily sentient. I’ve never said I believe that. I’ve never said anything like it.

    you have a preference for thinking that “sensation” is relevant to the issue of “rights”, and have vehemently defended that preference.

    No, I don’t have a “preference” for thinking that. I do think it.

  9. #9 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2007

    That’s why your hypothesis that “the simple reason we think killing babies abhorrent is because we empathize directly with those whose babies have been killed” is obviously not true.

    right, so obviously a parent killing their babies is the norm to apply in your standard?

    Moreover, how do you know that in your hypothetical case, the parents who killed their babies were not in the same pain anybody else would have been?

    Using an outlier like that is like saying we should use a schizophrenic to analyze what represents normal human behavior.

    If you argue from outliers, you will tend to miss the actual picture, don’t you think?

    oh no, wait, you don’t think.

    sorry.

    why anybody bothers debating you about anything is beyond me at this point.

    ever think you would be better off trolling some other site?

  10. #10 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2007

    No, I don’t have a “preference” for thinking that. I do think it.

    LOL

    you’re an idiot.

    now you know why I stopped debating you in the other thread.
    you apparently have no comprehension of what you are saying most of the time.

    I’ll wait for someone who isn’t learning disabled to comment.

  11. #11 Russell Blackford
    March 1, 2007

    By the way, I was sure that this was going to be another thread about Richard Dawkins – it was what first came to mind when I read the words “British accent”. Maybe I’ve been watching too many videos relating to Dawkins of late.

  12. #12 David Marjanovi?
    March 2, 2007

    So where did I begin AS AN INDIVIDUAL? I began where and when my parental gene lines merged to initiate the process that formed me, when the egg from my mother and the sperm from my father fuzed.

    I’d say a bit later. There is no telling how many individuals even a blastula can become — it can easily grow into identical twins. At that age mammalian individuals can split and merge.

  13. #13 David Marjanovi?
    March 2, 2007

    So where did I begin AS AN INDIVIDUAL? I began where and when my parental gene lines merged to initiate the process that formed me, when the egg from my mother and the sperm from my father fuzed.

    I’d say a bit later. There is no telling how many individuals even a blastula can become — it can easily grow into identical twins. At that age mammalian individuals can split and merge.

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