99.9% Man, .01% Animal … TOTAL TERROR!
England, for one, welcomes our new humanimal overlords…
British lawmakers voted Monday to allow the use of human-animal embryos for research after an attempt to ban the technique was overwhelmingly rejected. At issue is a bill that permits scientists to blend human and animal DNA to make “chimeric” embryos from which stem cells can be extracted.
Scientists say the technique could aid the understanding of genetic defects and diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. But critics, who’ve taken a more hysterical view of the mingling of human and animal DNA, call it a monstrous attack on human rights, human dignity and human life. To them so-called “human-admixed embryos” recall the creatures of Marlon Brando’s fey, muumuu-wearing Dr. Moreau and his fantastical island.
Said MP Edward Leigh: “In embryos you do have the genetic makeup of a complete human being, and you cannot splice together a human and an animal. I’m not sure even my greatest political enemies would say that I was 30% a daffodil and 80% a mouse. I don’t believe in my soul or my brain I’m 80% a mouse or 30% a daffodil. But I do think that we are special and, therefore, as the human race is special, it is different from the animal race. And I think that we should take this very seriously.”
Thirty percent daffodil? Eighty percent mouse? Oh, you’re special all right, Leigh. Sure you read the right bill?
Anyway, as New Scientist’s Linda Geddes points out, this is all much ado about nothing. These “human-admixed embryos” aren’t really any more monstrous than you or I. “These embryos contain 99.9% human DNA, and 0.01% animal DNA,” writes Geddes. “Arguably I’m less than 99.9% human myself. Once you consider the billions of bacteria living in my gut and on my skin, the parasitic worms which may or may not be colonizing my intestines, and the fungi causing the itch between my toes, I’m a walking menagerie. In fact, some scientists have estimated that the total number of microbial genes in the human body outnumber human genes by up to 1,000 to 1.”