Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Chimeras on the loose

NY Times has an article on chimeras, where cells of two different species are mixed together to see what happens. They've already created a mouse whose brain was 1% human, and they've thought about upping the percentage. There are some obvious and not-so-obvious ethical questions, but I'm interested in one idea mentioned in passing, "monkeys with human larynxes."

I've thought that giving great apes larynxes so they could speak instead of just using sign language would help us intuitively understand the ethical implications of treating apes like any other animal. I'd like to hear someone who thinks it's okay to treat apes as fundamentally different from humans tell me why other types of chimeras are okay, but this wouldn't be. The Times says "Evidently the first rule of chimeric chemistry is not to make creatures whose behavior straddles the perceived division between the human and animal worlds," but that straddling may exist naturally where apes are concerned - the larynxes would just help us hear about it.

keywords: science, apes

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