Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Chimeras

A few weeks ago it was announced that England would allow medical research efforts to create chimeras—creatures that are part human and part animal. This was going to be accomplished by attempting to clone human DNA placed in an animal egg. The animal egg would be taken from the animal and its DNA removed, the human DNA inserted, and an electrical stimulation applied in an attempt to create a clone. The clones would then be used for research purposes.

As I have indicated here already, cloning of human beings in and of itself is morally objectionable. First, it creates an unconscionable risk to the human subject created for the research, and second, the current plan is to destroy all of these embryos in research. In other words, we are creating human beings for their destruction in scientific research—a most heinous thing to do. While it is perfectly reasonable to use money and things to try to help the human medical condition, it is not proper to use the lives of other human beings in order to further our medical knowledge or well being. As Leon Kass has pointed out, it says something about a society that is willing to destroy a future generation in order to prolong the lives of the present generation. Then on top of this whole problem of cloning, you have the problem of creating a being that is part human and part animal. This creates another level of moral complication.

In the first chapters of Genesis, God makes it abundantly clear in the narrative about creation that human beings and animals are not the same kind of thing. Human beings are created in the image of God. They had a special, unique creation event in which God breathed the spirit of life into the human being. All human beings are in the continuity of that original breath of life. To intermingle an animal with a human is to denigrate the image of God, to cheapen it, to lessen it, to disregard it. Throughout the Mosaic Law, God has many somewhat inexplicable passages in which He seeks to have the Israelite people maintain certain kinds of organizational purity. He does not allow them to mix various kinds of threads like cotton and wool in order to make hybrid clothing fabrics. He does not allow them to eat a calf that has been cooked in the milk that God gave to the calf’s mother to provide nourishment to the calf. Surely these rules were not given for the sake of fabrics or foods, but rather they are deeply symbolic of something else—of God’s desire to create in the Jewish people a respect for God’s design and the purposes for which things were created within that design. Mixing human and animal in the way that scientists do when they create chimeras is disregarding God’s created order. It is combining two things that are different for principled and significant reasons. I don’t think God would take any great offense, for example, at the creation of pluots which combine apricots and plums. But I do think that combining human beings and cows is definitely more morally problematic. In addition, as the Evangelical Outpost has pointed out in a recent post, what is going to be the future attitude toward these creatures if they are raised to survive? Will we create a new race of slaves—creatures who exist to be used by us rather than for their own sake or for God’s glory?

It is amazing the degree to which the kinds of experiments that were the subject of horror films and shocking science fiction fantasies of the past are now regarded as mundane academic pursuits. Stories about scientists creating beings that were part human and part animal a mere 20 years ago would have been regarded as sensational science fiction about “mad” scientists. Yet a mere generation later, we do not even raise an eyebrow about this sort of thing provided that we have the ideological bribe of a possible medical breakthrough to heal some disease or lengthen our lives—even if the breakthrough is never really delivered. Have we no shame? Do we see no limits? Does the hubris of scientism know no bounds?


FreeIndeed said...

What kind of medical research could this possibly be for?!

When you first mentioned Chimeras, I thought you were writing about something different. I was fascinated by a documentary I saw a couple of years ago on people who are born Chimeras of a different sort. Basically, an individual is called a Chimera when they have 2 or more sets of DNA and, since it's a relatively new discovery, the medical community has no idea how many Chimeras actually exist. That they are proven to exist, however, raises a lot of questions about using DNA in establishing paternity, crime data, etc. It even raises an issue in establishing maternity as several women have found out the hard way.

This kind of half human/half animal Chimera, however, is disgusting and nothing short of diabolical!

Sacchiel said...

This leads to further bizarre implications as evidenced by newstories such as this one.

A Professor is quoted as saying, "It is beyond our judgment".