Acton Institute Powerblog

What Do You Call This?

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From Live Science, there are plans to create a pseudo-woolly mammoth from frozen DNA. The trick is to take the male sperm DNA from a woolly mammoth sample and the egg from its closest living relative, the elephant. “By repeating the procedure with offspring, a creature 88 percent mammoth could be produced within fifty years.”

Such a creature is technically a chimera, “an organism or tissue created from two or more different genetic sources.” This usage is related to the creature from Greek mythology, the Chimera, who had various and sundry body parts from different animals.

I’ve written a piece (yet to appear) on the recent attempts to create animal/human chimeras and the theological and ethical implications. But what would you call this woolly mammoth/elephant chimera? A mammophant? An elemmoth?

Update: Jonah Goldberg at NRO indirectly gives us a good suggestion: “Snuffleupagus”

Update #2: It’s settled. Apparently, according to Everything2.com, “When the male and female of both species can each be combined to form the hybrid, it is the name of the male that is used first.” So we have the name: “mammophant.” I think that the full scientific taxonomy should be mammophantus snuffleupagus, however. Also, there’s a dispute on the definition of chimeras, which Everything2.com contends involve “more of a Frankenstein-type process of gene splicing, cell modification, implantation, and embryo modification.” I find this to be a sub-category of chimera. Perhaps there should be a natural/artificial distinction among chimeras.

HT: The Corner

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty, where he also serves as executive editor the Journal of Markets & Morality. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary. He has authored articles in academic publications such as The Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, and Journal of Scholarly Publishing, and has written popular pieces for newspapers including the Detroit News, Orange County Register, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In 2006, Jordan was profiled in the book, The Relevant Nation: 50 Activists, Artists And Innovators Who Are Changing The World Through Faith. Jordan's scholarly interests include Reformation studies, church-state relations, theological anthropology, social ethics, theology and economics, and research methodology. Jordan is a member of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), and he resides in Jenison, Michigan with his wife and three children.

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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