Acton Institute Powerblog

Of Mice and Men: What it Means to be Human

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Jordan Ballor writes about the ethical and moral implications of creating genetic chimeras. Ballor comments on a recent New York Times editorial promoting chimera research, calling their thinking "scientific pragmatism" and criticizing the general lack of understanding of both human nature and athropology. "The creation of new kinds of chimeras, using manipulation at the cellular and sub-cellular level, raises the stakes considerably," writes Ballor about the level of public controversy involved with chimera research thus far. Pursuing further research without adhering to an objective set of moral and ethical guidelines could have a devastating effect on our humanity.

Ballor has written about chimeras on this blog before.

Read the full text here.

Jonathan Spalink


  • Philip Aaronson

    It’s difficult to credit your arguments against chimeras. The ‘stewardship’ issue seems to be quite a stretch, after all if we were responsible stewards for animals we wouldn’t be eating them, would we? Your need to include the conflation of the completely separate issues of chimeras and stem cells illustrates even more clearly how few good arguments you’ve really got. And it’s always a sign of desperation when someone brings the Nazis into an argument.

    Most animal chimeras involve the insertion of a single gene (of approximately 30,000) into an animal’s genome. These experiments are designed to analyze the function of the protein coded for by that gene. I certainly agree with you that it is immoral to create human-animal hybrids which would involve the insertion of enough human genes into an animal’s genome to significantly humanize it, but for one thing there are very few scientists who would want to do that, and for another they’d probably never get money to do so. My guess is, however, that your objections to chimeras really lie in the fact that their existence undermines your argument that humans are ‘simply the evolutionary heirs of less developed creatures’.

  • Lee

    There are human hybrids living among us humans, that is a provable, demonstratable fact. No matter what mankind produces, they can never produce human soul beings.

  • Thomas Sundaram

    To Mr. Aaronson’s comment about natural stewardship not involving the consumption of animals: I should think that there are still yet two sides of that issue. If, after all, there is a disproportionate population of an animal species in the wild, to the point that it becomes hazardous to human life, it is perfectly natural that we should "thin the herds", so to speak, if only so that the gift of human life is not unthinkingly overrun by ignorance of our own state of survival. If the world were overrun by Tyrannosaurus Rexes, I should think the first stewardship-related concern to go would be whether or not we should eat them.

    As for your subsequent commentary about the tinkering-with of genomes and thus animal-human hybrids: It is the sad truth that in practice, scientists too often ignore their perfectly natural distaste of an idea and attack the situation "in the name of science," as if science were somehow a will-possessing individual. As for money, you must certainly see that in this world there are those who pursue grotesqueries such as this, and moreover, that some are in fact quite wealthy. Companies like Imclone, university studies, or even men (or rather, as Lewis says in his "Abolition of Man", Conditioners) like those Nazis mentioned may be seen as a case study of this. This, as a side note, is also a reason for citing the horrific eugenics experiments; no matter what the atmosphere in which they are conducted, the same things can be done in a scientific cleanroom as in a Nazi laboratory. I do not see this as a sign of desperation, and from Mr. Ballor’s learned commentaries on other subjects I do not see how one can deduce him to be a "desperate" man.

    Just telling it the way I see it.