April 30, 2008

Dissing Humanity With Chimp DNA

By: James Poulos

Ronald Bailey has an amusing enough post on Those Crazy Scots — specifically, Scots toying with the idea of crossbreeding people and monkeys. Problem area:

Professor Hugh McLachlan, professor of applied philosophy at Glasgow Caledonian University’s School of Law and Applied Sciences, said although the idea was “troublesome”, he could see no ethical objections to the creation of humanzees.

“Any species came to be what it is now because of all sorts of interaction in the past,” he said.

“If it turns out in the future there was fertilisation between a human animal and a non-human animal, it’s an idea that is troublesome, but in terms of what particular ethical principle is breached it’s not clear to me.

“I share their squeamishness and unease, but I’m not sure that unease can be expressed in terms of an ethical principle.”

I shouldn’t need to say this, and it’s quite horrific that any professor of philosophy should need it explained, but the ethical principle behind keeping the human species pure holds that our ethics are human ethics because we are human beings. ‘Naturally’ enough, human ethics includes such principles as ‘don’t torture animals’, but principles like this collapse if torturing animals is bad only, or primarily, from the perspective of the animals being tortured. Torturing animals violates human ethics because it’s bad for the humans doing the torturing. It’s extra-mindbending to think that the people inclined to miss this point might also incline to be the ones who emphasize how torturing humans is wrong from the perspective of the torturer and not just the tortured.

Anyway, human ethics requires above all and before anything else a respect for the human that considers human beings, in general and in particular, as biologically inviolable creations. (This can hold whether you’re a theist or not. See Jurgen Habermas’ “The Future of Human Nature.”) Using human ingenuity to make humans less human is about as unethical a waste of time as I can possibly conceive.

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