Human + Chimp = ?

kliman at kliman at
Fri Jul 19 16:18:06 EST 1991

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 the
> morphology of a species in God's eyes, which I suspect is question begging from
> 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 argument
> 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 would
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

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