Last week I discussed the Myth of Crossing Species Boundaries, which reflected on the fictional works of yesterday and today. So, as I promised, I wish to address now “the context that made these fictional fears, so real.”
Indeed, we are and have been capable of amazing scientific feats (well not me). Among many other skills, we are able to mess with tiny parts, and manipulate them to be and do things outside their normal function…
We are able to grow human parts in/on an animal, fuse human cells with animal eggs, create animals to have human blood running through their veins, attempt human organ growth in animals, implant a mostly human organ into an animal, and even transplant human-brain stem cells into an animal brain.
However, as Paige Cunningham wrote in a recent article: “When the great naturalist Joseph Kolreuter [pioneer in study of plant hybrids] painstakingly and methodically cross-pollinated hundreds of plants in the 18th century, he could not have foreseen the 21st century version of hybrids: human-animal (HA) hybrids.”
In its natural form (or traditional understanding), ‘hybriding’ takes place during mating or crossing, as in the case of a plant’s cross-pollination or a horse and a donkey being the last two animals on an island… The new understanding, armed with the unraveling of DNA and new reproductive technologies, involved a Doctor (Mad Scientist) wearing a lab coat in a clean room.
These new processes enabled a new world of possibility. A new world of promise. Promise of potential cures. Promise of a new life. Promise of replaceable parts. Promise of a better future. This is why we so quickly breeze past the concerns of science fiction and the warnings uttered by the skeptical.
But promise, in any form, is rarely without its ethical and theological concerns. As we are well on our way into HA hybrid research we would do well to reflect upon these critical questions:
Is there a qualitative difference between being human and being an animal?
Are there no boundaries to our research on animals?
Do any boundaries even exist? Boundaries between species, boundaries we ought not cross…
What of human dignity?