Scientists in Britain are actively pursuing a morally bankrupt scheme to fuse human embryos with rabbit egg DNA. The proposed research, first reported last January, would create hybrid human-rabbit embryos. The fused embryos would be 99.9% human and .1% rabbit or cow. The embryos would be allowed to develop for up to 14 days and then destroyed.
Of course, the proposed research is structured to sound harmless enough. It involves "only" .1% rabbit DNA. The human-rabbit embryos will be allowed to mature for "only" 14 days.
You know how these things work. Scientists will start at .1% to get the precedent established, and then they can work their way up from there. In fact, they probably picked the figure of .1% for just that reason. It's the camel's nose in the tent. They'll start .1%, and at 14 days, and then -- why not let the embryos/fetuses grow just a little more? Why not just add a little more human DNA? And a little more? Why, one more day or two -- or one more week -- and we might learn something that could cure a disease!
Indeed, you'll hear a lot about how this kind of research "might" cure Alzheimer's and other diseases, but of course that is a matter of speculation. That is the nature of experimental science. Besides, you can justify anything scientists ever want to do, immoral or not, by appealing to the possibility of new learning that might prove useful in the future.
Yet many potentially useful scientific experiments are never conducted on humans because they are just plain wrong. We don't deliberately create children with deadly diseases in order to test cures for such diseases, no matter how many lives such research might save. We recognize that each and every human life is precious.
Besides, there is more than one way to peel a banana. Scientists are making great strides in using adult stem cells from human fat to grow new tissue such as muscles that might soon repair damaged hearts, peripheral nerves, and even bone. Such research raises no ethical concerns since the stem cells being used are not embryos.
Of course, allowing human embryos to be conceived for the express purpose of destroying them raises the same ethical problems as abortion. Adding animal DNA to a human embryo is even worse.
It's one thing to genetically engineer green glowing pigs, but when you start mixing human and animal genes in an effort to create part human/part animal hybrids, you run into a whole host of moral problems the likes of which the world should never see.
If scientists succeed at this, they or their successors will eventually create embryos, and people, who aren't fully human. The hybrids will be, by definition, biologically "subhuman."
Imagine how the inspiring words of the Declaration of Independence would sound, in such a brave new world:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In the case of a human/animal hybrid, what inalienable rights would such a living thing have?
And if you had a newborn hybrid that was .1% human, and 99.9% rabbit, or 25% human and 75% rabbit, would it be O.K. to kill it -- or would killing it be murder?
If there is something about killing a newborn rabbit-human hybrid that seems troubling, then killing the same hybrid when it is only a 14-day old embryo is also troubling.
Would you eat a rabbit stew made from a rabbit-human hybrid that was 99.9% rabbit and .1% human? If not, why not?
Granted, there is overlap of DNA throughout the animal kingdom. We've long been told that chimpanzees share 98.5% or 99% of their DNA with humans. It turns out that the number is actually lower -- probably less than 95%.
That's still a lot of similarity. But these are similarities that pre-existed human efforts to tinker with creation. If scientists begin to engineer hybrids that never existed before, they will spring open a Pandora's box the likes of which the world has never seen.
Do you want the kind of world where someone asks, "Are you a man or a mouse?" and someone has to actually stop and think before answering?
Do you want to live in a world where a puppy looks at you with big, sad eyes, and you catch just a glimpse, or more than a glimpse, of a trapped human soul?
We will soon live in that kind of a world, or our children will, unless we draw the line. We need to say "no" to animal-human hybrids of any kind, and we cannot waver in that resolve.
And yet no matter what we do, it is quite possible that foolish scientists somewhere in the world will eventually create human-animal hybrids. What we will do with such unfortunate creatures when they make it to our shores, I do not know. For me, any spark of human life is sufficient to justify the utmost respect.
How we approach these issues will say a lot about our own humanity.