Friday, May 18, 2007

Order your Cat-Woman Chimera Now!



The BBC reports that in a partial victory for rationality and progress, the UK government has agreed to allow the creation of "human animal hybrid embryos" for research purposes only (damn, cancel that cat-woman order!), after initially wanting to ban all such research.

Public Health Minister Caroline Flint denied that the government had staged a climbdown, saying they had always wanted to "leave the door open" for this type of research to be allowed on a case-by-case basis.

She said scientists had put forward more evidence about the importance of using hybrid embryos.

"We saw this was an area where these could be used for scientific benefit."

The draft bill allows the creation of human embryos that have been physically mixed with one or more animal cells. However, true animal-animal hybrids, made by the fusion of sperm and eggs, remain outlawed.

Note that actually true hybridization is still banned - effectively what is allow is the creation of a chimera. Still, even restricted in this manner, humanity will benefit.

Scientists say their work could help find cures for devastating diseases, such as Alzheimer's.

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, head of the division of Developmental Genetics at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research, said: "This research has many potential benefits for the understanding of disease and for treatments and should not be feared."

As usual, the argument against such research is largely based on nebulous claims about "ethics" and "morality," as if research that may lead to actually helping people isn't moral, and as if scientists can not say anything about morals or ethics.

But Josephine Quintavalle, of the campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, disagreed, saying: "It is appalling that the government has bowed to pressure from the random collection of self-interested scientists and change its prohibitive stance.

"This is a highly controversial and terrifying proposal, which has little justification in science and even less in ethics.


As always, what is really happening is that people with religous beliefs about human embryos, beliefs not supported in any way by science, are trying to impose their beliefs on everyone, while under the cover of calling it ethics and morals (and only the religous are allowed to comment on morals in this brave new world we live in).

Note the absurd statement that the Government should take into consideration and act on the best scientific advice ("pressure from a self-interested scientists"), but of course they should bow to pressure from a tiny group of non-qualified, ignorant Luddites.

And as for terrifying, what is terrifying about it? There is nothing terrifying about chimerism (its actually surprisingly common in nature), hybridization or stem cell research. Terrifying is hundreds of millions of children starving or dying of disease each year. Terrifying is overpopulation and climate damage. Terrifying is religious fundamentalism and the brutality it so eagerly incites.

Anyway, hooray for the Labour government in stepping back from uninformed knee-jerk legislating and actually listening to the experts. Its a step in the right direction...

The politically astute will remember that the current US President (GWB) spent time in one of his State of the Nation speeches (normally reserved for such important things as talking about [faked] claims that Saddam was working on getting Uranium from Niger, and also the threat to civilization caused by athletes taking performance enhancing drugs) complaining about "manimals" and how such research would be banned.

Also note that right-wing reactionary "author" (deliberately put in quotes) and anti-science bigot Michael Crichton's novel "Next" contains a subplot about chimerism.

[update: fixed one obvious typo. Added labels. Credit for Cheetara picture: http://www.cheezey.org/thundercats/gallery/cheetaragallery.html].

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