“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” That’s a rather famous quote from Dr. Ian Malcom of the first “Jurassic Park” movie. He was attempting to warn Jurassic Park’s owner that a “wild animal park” with living, breathing and carnivorous dinosaurs was probably a bad idea. He was right, but scientists today haven’t taken that message to heart.
There is nothing wrong with pursuing ways to make people healthier and to eliminate or lessen the effects of certain diseases. Scientific advancements have brought prosperity into our modern-day society in ways that have never been seen before, but there must be some limits.
Some scientists studying Alzheimer’s have expressed interest in creating human-monkey hybrids or chimeras in order to study the debilitating disease better. This will be done by injecting certain human genes into monkey embryos. The scientists believe that this will help them create better treatments by having a more human type test subject to experiment on.
There are already some researchers who have modified the brains of monkeys for other projects, but not to the extent suggested by scientists in the article. Sounds like a real “Planet of the Apes” scenario, right? As a reminder, that situation didn’t turn out any better than what happened in Jurassic Park. While both of those movies were created for entertainment purposes, the negative outcomes aren’t outside the realm of possibilities if either of these situations occurred.
While the desire to find a cure for a disease like Alzheimer’s is admirable, mixing the genetics of humans and animals is delving more into science fiction than actual science. The question always becomes, once you start where do you stop? In order to find a cure for cancer, are we going to give monkeys a human liver? Once scientists open Pandora’s box, it is hard to stop.
As one scientist said about the situation, “To be honest, it just really ethically scares me.”
Another article that made the rounds this week talked about how scientists in Israel believe they’ve created a process that would allow mammals to mate and produce offspring of only one sex. The scientists believe that this process could be applied to humans. Of course, there are inherent problems with this new step in genetic engineering.
“…If a mad ruler decides he wants to engineer the people to have only male or female offspring – we have provided the proof of concept,” one of the scientists on the project said.
No offense to the scientists, but if they’ve foreseen this problem then why continue and publish the research? It seems like mankind in general would be better off without that knowledge, especially if the process falls into the wrong hands. There are multiple instances where various governments could use it to create mostly male babies, which are the desired sex of a baby in much of the world. A numerical imbalance between the two sexes in certain countries is already causing massive problems and could only be made worse by this technology.
To reference “Jurassic Park’s” Dr. Malcom again, “Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet’s ever seen, but you wield it like a kid that’s found his dad’s gun.”
He’s not too far off.
There must be some limits in scientific experimentation, especially when it comes to messing with a core part of what makes us human. Our genetic code isn’t something that scientists should mess with in the pursuit of knowledge, however admirable the intended outcome might be. Before delving into the realm of science fiction to sate their curiosity, scientists should focus on more ethical alternatives that don’t turn animals into pseudo-humans.