Human + Chimp = ?

John Wilkins john at
Mon Jul 22 03:14:28 EST 1991

In article <536.28871ecf at> kliman at writes:
>In article <1991Jul17.020458.16514 at>,
john at (John Wilkins) writes:
>> I strongly suspect the only arguments are along the lines of the purity of
>> morphology of a species in God's eyes, which I suspect is question begging
>> the evolutionist point of view, or a social engineering question of the
>> unforeseeable consequences of such a race (a la SF), which is no real
>> at all, since EVERYTHING we do has unforeseaable consequences.
>If ethics simply reflected religious beliefs, wouldn't all atheists be 
>Of course there are ethical questions raised by tampering with a human embryo,

>at any stage.  Research performed to alleviate human sufferring can, in my
>view, be rationalized.  And preliminary studies on model systems must be
>employed (and successful) up to the point where human embryos can no longer
>be substituted for.  Certainly, no sane individual would tamper with an
>otherwise healthy late-stage human embryo.
>Research aimed at fixing wht ain't broke (e.g. ovum-fusion and genetic
>engineering of gametes), again in my view, falls under a different category.
>There are obvious alternatives, such as adoption, that preclude the necessity
>of tampering with gametes.  There is no pressing need to take chances.
>Research that simply aims to satisfy curiosity has to answer to society.  It
>goes beyond fixing what ain't broke.  Studies on human-chimp hybrids do little
>to benefit society.  They would not show us anything of general importance in
>genetics and evolution - other hybrid studies are better suited to addressing
>scientific questions.  At what point would the studies end?  Would all
>surviving blastulae be destroyed, or would researchers see how far they could
>take the embryo?  And what happens if a human-chimp is actually born (as far-
>fetched as that may be)?  Or do we abort our creatures at the last possible
>moment (presumably the mother will be a chimp, but the fetus, being a hybrid,
>may be protected by a conservative supreme court)
>To assert that the no real ethical questions exist in the absence of religion
>is absurd.  In fact, if anyone can present a clear argument in favor of such
>research, given the FACT that some segments of society will be opposed, I
>like to see it presented.  (And please don't say that the hybrids can be used
>for potential medical breakthroughs - there's already a moratorium on some
>fetal research, and I'm sure the same arguments would be used for half-human
>fetuses, let alone those out of the womb).
>- Rich Kliman
Sorry - my verbal shorthand. I meant that in THIS case, the objection is
primarily religion-based, or derived from religious presuppositions. I have
never seen an objection against cross-species fusion that stood up based on,
say, utilitarian ethics. However, that doesn't mean that I think there is none.
Of course research must answer to social concerns, but research that had to
justify every new act of curiosity would never get anywhere. I speak as a
government employee. I am not even sure that the ban on foetal research is
justified on good ethical grounds, unless the principle of "thou shalt not
offend thy neighbour's scruples" is an ethical ground.

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