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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

UK Crosses the Chimera Line

Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary

This is not a total green light for cytoplasmic hybrid research but recognition that this area of research can, with caution and careful scrutiny, be permitted.

The U.K. Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority approved the creation in principle of certain human-animal hybrids for stem cell research. Researchers may now apply to conduct work that implants human genetic material into animal eggs. Each application would be handled on a case by case basis.

The animal (cow, or rabbit) eggs would have their DNA extracted prior to the injection of human material, but animal traces would remain. The resulting embryo would have a ratio of human to animal genes of approximately 1700:1. Scientists engaged in human embryonic stem cell research think such a process is necessary to compensate for the limited supply of human eggs, although some question the suitability of any stem cells created with this process because of the animal "contamination" (making the human lives destroyed all for naught, by the way).

This, of course, is an obvious consequence of denying the hard cold scientific fact that it is human lives that are being destroyed and exploited in ESCR. But we are not to worry: Hybrid embryos are not allowed to be implanted in a woman and must be killed, er... destroyed, in 14 days. Plus, the HFEA notes that we also have nothing to fear in terms of other kinds of hybrid and chimera research, not only because the scientific community does not wish to perform such research at present, but that the prospect is so distant that they cannot envisage what form this research would possibly take in the future.

We are just supposed to trust them. The Authority says that, having looked at all the evidence, there is no fundamental reason to prevent the research. "We're not creating humans with rabbit ears, as much as Playboy magazine might like that," said Dr. Robin Lovell-Badge, the head of the stem cell biology division at the National Institute for Medical Research in London. "What we are trying to do... is to understand the cause of diseases and the cures for it." Ah, yes. If you ignore that there is no reason to direct research elsewhere other than the most fundamental reasons, and you are willing to grant the utilitarian's sacred license, then maybe you should trust them.

But what of those concerned with the mixing itself of humans and animals? Consider how John Harris, a professor of bioethics at the University of Manchester, said the issue has been misunderstood:

The fear is that (scientists) are trying to breed a human with some other creature.But when you eat a bacon sandwich you take animal cells into your body.

So regarding whether to trust a scientist, my question is this: How could any rational person trust anyone who 1.) tries to equate genetic combination with metabolism and 2.) would dilute the unbridled deliciousness of bacon by jamming it between two pieces of bread?

There it is, isn't it? ESCR isn't about being rational--deny a fundamental truth, praise ends over means, create an inapt analogy to mislead--just let me do it because I can.

[submitted by e-mail]

Update: Jordan Ballor at PowerBlog has more.

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