I am quite uncomfortable with this idea, to say the least. Your thoughts?
I’m totally against - not to mention creeped out by - the idea of scientists ever attempting to create a whole, functioning interspecies creature that would be a hybrid of human and other animal or animals.
That said, with this news item, after the initial shock, I went back to check whether it was as bad as the headline made it sound, since headlines often exaggerate to draw readers. My conclusion was “probably not,” though I still have reservations.
The embryo in question was a pig one, not a human one. Okay, so far so good.
The human stem cells were adult in origin rather than embryonic. Again, reassuring.
Now to my reservations. Will these sorts of experiments always be conducted within these same parameters? Or will there come a point when another group of scientists decides to use embryonic stem cells from aborted babies, or mixes the DNA to the point where you actually have a cross species creature? In the experiment cited above, the stem cells did some unpredictable things, such as the gallbladder appearing in the earlier rat-mouse experiment. The whole issue of genetic engineering is controversial and fraught with unknowns.
Between the predictable, known hazards and the potential unforeseen ones, I’m for using the utmost caution and strict bioethical oversight. The ethics of one group versus another will vary widely. Publicly funded work may be subject to certain restrictions, but privately funded work can often fly under the radar. So I just don’t know. And admittedly I’m not up to speed with the intricacies of the science, so I may be no more credible than a Monday morning quarterback. I just say we must be extremely cautious and respectful of human life, and of nature in general, have the humility to admit and bear in mind we’re dealing with a lot of unknowns, and remember that just because we can do something doesn’t always mean we should.
Kind of adding my two cents here.
When I first heard about it, the vision I had in mind when hearing ‘chimera’ is a monster-like creature of half-human half-something else. Too much Hollywood? http://forums.catholic.com/images/smilies/tongue.gif
After I read the articles from Discovery and CNN, I think the headline is there for the shock value and click bait.
In this information era, I think it’s almost imperative for us to be vigilant, find credible news sources, also read opposing views (not just the ones that agree with us, to understand how they come to their views), and lastly read the articles in full.
That aside, I pretty much came to similar concerns as mentioned by the previous poster.
Scientific research on non-embryonic sources of stem cells (i.e., adult stem cells or induced pluripotent stem cells) can offer great advances. This research may as well - if it is held to strict ethical guidelines.
I appreciate reading Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk’s Bioethics opinion regarding these matters. He states some pitfalls clearly;
Despite our initial hesitations, certain kinds of human/animal chimeras are likely to be justifiable and reasonable. This comes into focus when we recognize, for example, how thousands of patients who have received replacement heart valves made out of pig or cow tissues are already themselves a type of human/animal chimera.
Yet significant technical and ethical hurdles remain before growing organs in pigs is likely to be feasible. The science is still in its infancy, and researchers have yet to figure out how to make human cells co-exist in a stable fashion with animal tissues. There are abundant concerns about the possibility of transmitting animal viruses to humans especially considering how readily other viruses like avian flu have been able to jump from birds to humans.
Even assuming these kinds of risks are able to be minimized, and pig/human chimeras could be safely produced, there would still be several ethical issues to consider. One concern involves using stem cells from human embryos as part of the process of making pig/human chimeras.
The technology might also lend itself to other unethical practices, like trying to create a pig that could produce human sperm or eggs in its genitalia. Similarly, if human nerve cells were incorporated into a developing pig brain in such a way that the animal developed what appeared to be human brain structures, some have noted there could be questions about the occurrence of intelligence or self-consciousness or other facets of human identity in the animal. Although such concerns seem far-fetched, given the dearth of knowledge about the “scaffolding of consciousness,” it seems reasonable to limit this kind of experimentation.
We tend to view modern scientific progress as a powerful “engine of good” for the well-being of mankind, and therefore we view most scientific research with hope. This is proper and fitting, and to reinforce and reinvigorate that hope, we should continue to insist that cutting edge biomedical research remain in active dialogue and interaction with sound ethics. The expanding study of human/animal chimeras challenges us to reflect carefully on the morally appropriate use of these novel and powerful technologies, so that human dignity will not be harmed, subjugated, or misappropriated in any way.
Perhaps President Trump could order DARPA to begin creating a vat-grown army of U.S. Marine-porcine embryos for a future elite combat division. Imagine the terror our Muslim foes would feel if the Great Satan were to unleash an invading force of demonic non-halal humanoid pig soldiers upon the Middle East! Surely the sight of burly American soldiers with prominent pig snouts and tusks, armed with the very latest in cutting edge armaments and vehicles, would terrify our enemies beyond measure. The psychological edge would virtually guarantee our victory on the battlefield. Sort of like Saruman’s army of Uruk-hai, except with American flag patches, Camel cigarettes clenched in mighty hog jaws, tattoos, beefy muscles and M240 machine guns. Ooh Rah!
Your vivid words match some of the images on the internet.
Ironically, this news story was popularized on the day the Church used to share the Gospel of the unclean spirits in the territory of the Gerasenes/swine herd. usccb.org/bible/readings/013017.cfm
Or research could remain ethical and do something beneficial - like cure type 1 diabetes.
Which would be wonderful provided they follow the principle of moral theology that you don’t deliberately and directly do something evil even if it would result in good. The fact that my late mother battled Type 1 diabetes over half her life was one thing that motivated me to look at this past the sensational headline with an eye to ferreting out the facts. I’m glad I did.
@M-Dent: I will have to check out your link, sounds interesting.
The country’s bacon reserves are at the lowest levels in half a century.
I don’t have anything to add to this other than people are filling themselves with pig.
Rot ro, it may be time to invade Canada.