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July 30, 2005 6:08 PM   Subscribe

Senate proposal to ban Chimeras - How long will it take our elected betters to tank all US scientific research on moral grounds. I don't see christian ethics stopping the Chinese
posted by sourbrew (47 comments total)

 
I want a pet Chimera!!! How cool would that be? I have to start thinking of the right combination now...
posted by j-urb at 6:21 PM on July 30, 2005


Weissman has already created mice with brains that are about one percent human.

Later this year he may conduct another experiment where the mice have 100 percent human brains. This would be done, he said, by injecting human neurons into the brains of embryonic mice.

Before being born, the mice would be killed and dissected to see if the architecture of a human brain had formed. If it did, he'd look for traces of human cognitive behavior.



This is just entirely problematic. Imagine two creatures, one a mouse body with a 100% human brain, and the other a human body with a 100% mouse brain. Which is a human? Which should have human rights? Which should be poked and prodded and dissected at will?

When I think of human animal chimeras I honestly imagine the development of an entire slave class. They'd be animals so they'd have no rights, but they'd have the capacity of human beings to think and feel - and work.

This isn't just a religious backlash against science. These are real ethical dillemas. I don't know what makes a human a human, but I don't really want to take the chance of someone with as much capacity to think and feel as I have being treated like this human-brained mouse this Weissman guy is thinking of making.
posted by leapingsheep at 6:31 PM on July 30, 2005


IIRC, the idea isn't so grand as to create mice that think like people. It's to create Mouse brains made from Neurons that are chemicaly compatable with human brains -- chemicaly. That way you could more precicely test brain medicines for humans
posted by delmoi at 6:37 PM on July 30, 2005


Sounds like Weissman needs a friend in the form of a talking mouse he can carry around in his pocket.
posted by disgruntled at 6:38 PM on July 30, 2005


Kansas can't stop science.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 6:40 PM on July 30, 2005


Despite my pro-science stance I am for the banning of chimeras. They are dangerous creatures that should not be toyed with.

Wait, you don't mean mythological creatures? Then I take it back.
posted by substrate at 6:44 PM on July 30, 2005


IIRC, the idea isn't so grand as to create mice that think like people. It's to create Mouse brains made from Neurons that are chemicaly compatable with human brains -- chemicaly. That way you could more precicely test brain medicines for humans

Human cognitive behavior sounds like more than chemical compatibility to me.
posted by leapingsheep at 6:44 PM on July 30, 2005


I can't believe the stupidity of our leaders - to make all this noise about Chimeras when anyone with sense knows that Hydras are much more dangerous. To say nothing of the corrupting influence on our youth of the Satyr and River-Nymph Agenda.
posted by freebird at 7:04 PM on July 30, 2005


But it remains okay for God to create chimeras, just like it's okay for God to perform the vast majority of abortions?
posted by kimota at 7:18 PM on July 30, 2005


Personally, I think we'd be much better off if we could inject some key Bonobo genes into the human germline.
posted by alms at 7:25 PM on July 30, 2005


Paging Jeff Noon
posted by amberglow at 7:52 PM on July 30, 2005


Screw that, I want my Nature's Turkey!

(See also this post.)
posted by homunculus at 7:53 PM on July 30, 2005


Kansas can't stop science.

This should be on a bumper sticker.
posted by Rothko at 7:58 PM on July 30, 2005


Thank you substrate and freebird, I was afraid I was the only one with that particular chimera bent ..

having said that, um, i fear mouse men, but I also figure that somewhere in an evil laboratory there are evil geniuses being funded by evil private groups that don't give two hoots about this law. as long as it makes rick sanotorum feel good i guess...
posted by cavalier at 8:01 PM on July 30, 2005


Looks like someone in the US gov't needs to realize fullmetal alchemist is a fictional cartoon.
posted by shepd at 8:04 PM on July 30, 2005


How long will it take our elected betters to tank all US scientific research on moral grounds?

Well, technically that's already started, hasn't it? However, I was very surprised to wake up this morning to learn that Bill Frist, of all people, has backed stem cell research. Now THAT'S worthy of the thread's title "WTF Mate"...
posted by Effigy2000 at 8:10 PM on July 30, 2005


"I don't see christian ethics stopping the Chinese."

Too bad simple common sense and decency isn't stopping them (and others.)
posted by Coherence Panda at 8:10 PM on July 30, 2005


"Scientists have begun blurring the line between human and [other] animal"
humans are animals. FWIW. My thoughts: as long as we don't make something as smart as a human Im alright with it. It'd suck if we never got to be conquered by our own robots because "man's new and improved best friend" realized most humans are weak slow and filled with delicious meats.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 8:15 PM on July 30, 2005


The Jesse Helms: that was beautiful.
posted by hototogisu at 8:27 PM on July 30, 2005


sheped, I think you meant to link to here. It's the official site of the best anime series in the history of all time.
posted by Chomskyfied at 8:51 PM on July 30, 2005


They'd be animals so they'd have no rights, but they'd have the capacity of human beings to think and feel - and work.

You mean like a Starbucks barista?
posted by squirrel at 8:53 PM on July 30, 2005


Good thing they're moving to ban this. This dude looks like he could totally kick my ass:



I mean, come on, the snake is just overkill at that point.
posted by wakko at 9:10 PM on July 30, 2005


Why are there so many of you trying as hard as you can to belittle the problem? We have scientists creating new forms of life that will be well outside of the contemporary ethical bounds. They are doing this without regard to morals or simple common sense. Further, when anyone tries to reign them in a bit, just so that we gain some time to think about what we're doing, the scientific community reacts with ridicule and outrage. (Perhaps I have just answered my own question.)

Why don't we have the duty to control the pace of scientific advancement? Why is it so hard to believe that there are some things we aren't ready to do?
posted by oddman at 9:18 PM on July 30, 2005


"morals or simple common sense"
what is immoral or runs counter to common sense about creating hybrids?

i would agree there are potential risks, but none that I can see that are unacceptable. I mean, if we think we can handle the risks of nuclear energy/bombs, and extremely virulent pathogen research, why not this?
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 9:27 PM on July 30, 2005


I think the're going to do it anyway, and already have, with other animals and plants. Don't we already have spiders (silkworms?) with goat genes and tomatos with some genes from something living added, etc?
It's just a matter of time before they find out that some animal's genes will stop cancers from forming or that adding something from a fish will provide better protection than just taking omega-3 or something (if this bill covers genes too). We're never ready for scientific advancement at all, but that never stops scientists.

It's terrifying, but it's definitely going to happen. Some private lab somewhere will do it.
posted by amberglow at 9:31 PM on July 30, 2005


i can't spell at all today--sorry
posted by amberglow at 9:32 PM on July 30, 2005


I do wonder tho, how this squares with the attempts to define fetuses as people, and the whole stem cell thing. Right now, embryos aren't people in the legal sense, and so aren't human, right?
posted by amberglow at 9:34 PM on July 30, 2005


Why don't we have the duty to control the pace of scientific advancement? Why is it so hard to believe that there are some things we aren't ready to do?

Let's play devil's advocate and say, okay, we should restrict science. Who makes that decision? Citizens in a democracy — or a tiny religious patriarchy (which is how it's done now)? For that matter, what do we do about other countries that won't play along with our "rules" (like Italy, China and South Korea)?
posted by Rothko at 9:35 PM on July 30, 2005


I demand that the ban be widened to include Griffons, Centaurs, Manticores and Hydras as well.

Thank you squirrel and The Jesse Helms.

Do you have any idea what you're talking about oddman? Several months ago the National Academies released a report making recommendations and setting guidlines for embryonic stem-cell research and the production of chimeras. Wired had a nice summary.
posted by euphorb at 9:43 PM on July 30, 2005


"It's terrifying"

I just don't get that. Why do you care? I'm trying hard to see what really bad things could possibly happen relative to, say, burning fossil fuels and inducing serious global warming. What, you think that there will be an epidemic of pig-hands turning on their owners? There's about twenty other technologies that I can see causing more possible harm than this sort of biotech and those don't seem to concern that many people. Face it, this "we're going outside the contemporary ethical bounds" is really just "going outside the contemporary moral bounds" which is really just Leon Kass's "if it makes me feel icky, it probably is WRONG. WRONG, I TELL YOU!" moral pseudo-philosophy.

If the human species survives the next few hundred years, I can promise you that we'll have tranformed ourselves into something different than what we are now. Likely things that we would have a hard time feeling comfortable calling "human". So? What's so special about being just like us? How much of this is latent creationism in our culture which sees Man, perfectly created in God's image?

In every one of us is an unreasoning and unquestioned conservatism that strongly prefers the status quo about many things...just because. Or a chauvinism that assumes that what is familiar is what is "best".
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:10 PM on July 30, 2005


There sure are a lot of people here preparing to say "I told you so."
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:41 PM on July 30, 2005


wouldn't that be quacking "I told you so" or hissing "I told you so" or roaring "I told you so" ...?
posted by amberglow at 10:44 PM on July 30, 2005


The best part is the pay raise the Senate will give itself, tucked neatly between the definition of "chimera" and the part of the bill that tells people not to make them.
posted by voltairemodern at 10:58 PM on July 30, 2005


That and pork-barrel money to DeLay's district.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:01 PM on July 30, 2005


Well said, EB.

Also, MetaFilter: quacking "I told you so"
posted by squirrel at 11:08 PM on July 30, 2005


I think the author of the bill is more worried about, you know, a baby with a goat's body and a human head, and what that would mean for the kid2, a fully cognizant freak who can't blame it on an accident of nature because it was some guy in a certain building who was having fun with his grant money. And there you are with cloven hooves. So you clip-clop down to that building only to find out that he has retired to a country estate on all the money he earned upon your birth and his subsequent fame. So you trot to the estate, which turns out to be a farm, and it's a goat farm. And some of the goats are looking pretty good to you, especially the one with the yellowish fur, but you control yourself for the moment and break in to the giant farmhouse/mansion, where you find the scientist dressed in a beaver suit and reciting "The Owl and the Pussycat." So...
posted by pracowity at 12:09 AM on July 31, 2005


We have scientists creating new forms of life that will be well outside of the contemporary ethical bounds.

Just like nectarines and those evil broccoli-cauliflower hybrids!

*signs petition for modern day inquisition to begin*
posted by three blind mice at 12:37 AM on July 31, 2005


A bicycle racer, Tyler Hamilton, was accused of blood doping. When his blood was examined, he was found to have two blood types. The anti-doping authorities think he took transfusions of packed red cells to increase his oxygen carrying capacity. His explanation: He had a chimera or vanishing twin (see earlier thread).
posted by fixedgear at 3:24 AM on July 31, 2005


Should be OK as long as they can breed us a Pegasus, too.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:51 AM on July 31, 2005


How much of this is latent creationism in our culture which sees Man, perfectly created in God's image?

I agree that that has something to do with it, but I think there's also something to be said for the question of human rights. It's very difficult to philosophically account for the idea of human rights without making an appeal to a Creator that endowed them, yet I'd say most of us believe in them. That's why this is such a complex issue, and not simply reactionary ickiness.

That said, I don't think the solution is banning this, because it just pushes these issues under the rug and pretends we don't need to deal with them. Science moves forward and the solution is not to prevent its movement, but to figure out what to do with it. Legislative energy would be better spent deciding the definition of a human being with respect to chimeras so that the application of laws to them can be figured out. That, of course, would be frought with difficulty and debate, but that's not a reason to ignore it.
posted by purtek at 5:16 AM on July 31, 2005


I would think that the creation of creatures that look, think and act like people, but are genetically different, and patented so that major corporations would make billions of dollars from them would offend a bit.

And "slaves" is an understatement. Corporations could rake it in selling their internal organs for transplants, trying out all sorts of pharma on them and their offspring, inducing mutations to see what they can get, surgical manipulation to make interesting cyborgs, and lots of other Frankensteinian notions, ad nauseum.

Since genes aren't good enough as a discriminator, they would fall back and use "intelligence" to determine if they are property or not. And it would be strictly forbidden to educate them, or train them so that they might exhibet intelligence.

Come to think of it, there isn't a single measure of intelligence that people have that some animal doesn't. And if we don't torture animals then the chinese will.
posted by kablam at 8:53 AM on July 31, 2005


I would think that the creation of creatures that look, think and act like people, but are genetically different, and patented so that major corporations would make billions of dollars from them would offend a bit.

Cloud Atlas deals with this in one section, to great effect. As do many books and movies, etc. It's so weird how media and art prepare us for some things, even if it's negatively.
posted by amberglow at 9:04 AM on July 31, 2005


At first, I could have sworn that the post read "Senate proposal to ban Christmas."
posted by sklero at 10:55 AM on July 31, 2005


What, you think that there will be an epidemic of pig-hands turning on their owners?

I was in favour of biotech research at first, but this terrifying prospect has forced me to reconsider.
posted by Krrrlson at 3:14 PM on July 31, 2005


i'm still largely in favor of bio-tech research, but i agree with many here that some recent developments in bio-tech seem to merit an extremely careful and considered approach. we've made the mistake of diving into new technologies without properly considering the consequences many times before, so we definitely need to think through these ethical issues (and no, doing that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with religion--ethical philosophy predates judeo-christian thought by many, many years) and to develop thoughtful guidelines and ethical standards for bio-tech research. unfortunately, it's unlikely our current legislators will have a sufficient depth of understanding to be up to the challenge. imo, this means the scientific community has to take the lead in putting serious thought and consideration into developing guidelines of its own (which hopefully is already happening).
but yeah, in practical terms, no legislation is ever going to stop some sufficiently brilliant rogue scientist from creating giant scorpions with human intelligence or whatever, when it really comes down to it. ultimately, ideas can't really be controlled, no matter how much nations like china (and arguably, the us in recent years), seem to think they can be.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 6:05 PM on July 31, 2005


Oh, .these .people .have .been .at it .collectively for years now. Who is going to ban them?

(links point to W1K photoshop contests)
posted by Laotic at 1:33 AM on August 1, 2005


Its very simple people: The society with the fewest barriers to good science is the society which ``wins.' Your currently living in the ``winning' society. If you ban Chimeras, stem-cell research, genetic modification of humans, etc., you will only be ensuring that the US falls from power.

You'd need a global ban on Chimeras to have any impact. Sound familiar? Didn't Marx himself say you needed global revolution for socialism to work?
posted by jeffburdges at 6:58 AM on August 1, 2005


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