Plot spoiler warning: One plot-line in my scientific techno-thriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH, touches upon the sensitive possibility of creating hybrids combining human and chimp cells and characteristics. But my post here won’t spoil the story, I promise. (Even though, by the way, a “Chimp Donnie appears in some of the scenes.)
But now, in the “real world”, not the world of sci-fi– Wait! Stop the presses! These days maybe there is scant to little difference between “real” science and “science fictionalizing” what is perhaps just round the corner—for good or bad.
Sorry for the interruption. As I was saying, David Barash, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Washington, explores some broader implications—and ethical dilemmas—in an article, “It’s Time to Make Human-Chimp Hybrids” in the magazine NAUTILUS. http://nautil.us/issue/58/self/its-time-to-make-human_chimp-hybrids
Definitely worth reading, whether or not you come to agree with all of his in-favor arguments.
Usefully, early in the article, he clarifies the distinction hybrids and chimeras: “It is unclear whether my own imagined chimphuman will be a hybrid (produced by cross-fertilizing human and non-human gametes), or a chimera, created in a laboratory via techniques of genetic manipulation.”
He uses both “chimphuman” and “humanzee,” by the way.
(In fairness, I’d point out –possible plot-spoiler—that the method developed and being tested by Dr. Doug Daulby, lead character in A REMEDY FOR DEATH, suggests a third way of fusing humans and chimps. And hence brings its own unique ethical and legal issues.)
By the way, this concept of combining different sorts of animals—including even humans with animals—is not really so new, after all. It’s been done with race horses and various farm animals for years. But did you know that nearly a century ago the Russian biologist Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov was working on creating animal hybrids, including “zeedonks” (from combined zebras and donkeys)?
And there’s more! In the late 1920’s, with the support of Stalin, he experimented with injecting human sperm into female chimps, and then the reverse! Apparently nothing came of it.
Enough said here. The link to Dr. Barash’s article in NAUTILUS is above. And let me give a plug for NAUTILUS magazine as well, in which I first came on via this article. Terms itself “a different kind of science magazine,” and does seem to be precisely that. Fascinating articles, and welcomes new subscribers, in print or e-edition. The link is http://nautil.us/ (note the exact spelling.)
Just to give a sense of the savvy: this pic below is used to accompany the Barash article in NAUTILUS Look closely! That one spooky pic conveys so much.
There’s another article, by John Ellis, commenting on the Barash piece in PJ MEDIA https://pjmedia.com/faith/push-make-human-chimp-hybrids/ The title, “The Push to Make Human-Chimp Hybrids”, correctly suggests that he is less enthusiastic about the possibility.
Sample sentences from that article: “Ultimately, what Barash is after is the erasure of the uniqueness of human personhood. His argument for the making of a human-chimp hybrid is built on his rejection of any real distinctions between humanity and the rest of the animal kingdom.”
Professor Barash’s article was adapted from his upcoming book THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY: USING SCIENCE TO SEE OUR SPECIES AS IT REALLY IS. Coming, summer 2018, Oxford University Press.
And after passing on all these plugs, time for a plug of my own for A REMEDY FOR DEATH. (Available in both p-book and e-book editions at the usual book-sellers, including Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/REMEDY-DEATH-Playing-body-biotech-ebook/dp/B00946XVKW/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1521574977&sr=1-3&keywords=mcgaulley
(Sorry for long link; can’t get the system to work right.)
My blog–in case you arrived here by other means– is www.MichaelMcGaulley.net )