Human Exceptionalism

“No Brakes”

I am a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and the Culture. I was recently asked to comment on the UK’s approval of permitting scientists to try and create human/animal cloned embryos, apparently called “cybrids.” It is called “No Brakes.” Here is my conclusion:

What are we to make of this? On one hand, the cybrid story may never amount to much. Given the tremendous difficulties in creating cloned embryos using human eggs, it would seem highly unlikely that cybrid embryos will prove any easier to manufacture. Moreover, even though the animal essence in each resulting stem cell would amount to less than one percent, this foreign substance could be enough to prevent proper embryonic development and/or the safe use of cybrid stem cells in human patients.

On the other hand, the approval by British regulators for creating manimal embryos—and the widespread support for the decision among the American media elite and biotechnology sector–illustrates the growing recklessness and hubris among the scientific establishment.Unwilling to pause long enough for society to ethically grapple with the awesome powers they are assuming, refusing to accept any meaningful ethical limits, presuming that because they think they can do something that they should go right out and do it, advocates for cloning and ESCR have demonstrated that they have no intention in engaging in self restraint. It is as if they have drained all the brake fluid from the bus and we now are careering toward the precipice with seemingly no way to stop.

My point is I don’t see any ethical lines that “the scientists” will ever accept permanently. That means it is up to society, through democratic processes, to tell the powerful biotechnology sector that there are some areas that they cannot enter. But as long as “the scientists” keep hyping CURES! CURES! CURES! it will be a difficult row to hoe.