Magazine article The Human Life Review

Neither Man nor Beast

Magazine article The Human Life Review

Neither Man nor Beast

Article excerpt

Fact, it has been said, is stranger than fiction. And fiction can be pretty strange. Take, for instance, an 1896 novel by famous English thinker, H.G. Wells, "The Island of Dr. Moreau." As one can see from the date of its publication, the book was written on the threshold of a new century, and Wells, famous as a "futuristic" thinker, was trying to look ahead.

The novel continues to fascinate readers, and has spawned three films, including one of the same name that starred Marlon Brando in 1996.

The premise of the novel is that a scientist, on a secluded island, undertakes experiments to combine humans and animals. One might call this simply a wild and crazy idea, but a harmless one for a novel, an idea producing plenty of chills and thrills for readers and for moviegoers. After all, it would never happen in real life.

Well, hold onto your hats. It is about to happen. Not here (at least, not yet), but in England. On Sept. 5, a government agency (called the Human Fertilization and Embryology Agency or HFEA) decided to let scientists, mad or otherwise, create human/animal hybrids. Let me repeat: Science fiction will become science fact very soon; and man and beast will be combined into one.

A bill will be introduced in the British Parliament this fall to make this a positive right under English law, rather than simply the consequence of an administrative interpretation (which the HFEA issued). It is likely to pass, but even if it does not, the administrative interpretation of the HFEA will permit creation of human/animal hybrids to go forward. And go forward it will, for this is no hypothetical possibility-two teams of scientists have already applied to the HFEA to create human/animal hybrids.

The HFEA spent a lot of time in making its decision in drawing distinctions between different kinds of human/animal hybrids-cytoplasmic hybrid embryo research (the creation of cybrids), hybrid embryo research (the mixing of animal and human gametes), human chimera embryo research (human embryos with animal cells added in early development), animal chimera embryo research (animal embryos with human cells added), and transgenic human embryo research (human embryos with animal genes inserted during early development). All five create a living thing that is a mixture of man and beast. …

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