Conscience and Chimeras
We often search for the figurative “best of both worlds” in our day-to-day lives. Diet soft drinks offer the flavor without the fattening calories and sugars of conventional sodas (although there is that sticky debate over aspartame…). The same principle applies to low-fat, low-cholesterol foods. Outside of consumer goods, we pursue a lifestyle that offers everything we desire – both enjoyment and relative stability.
On these topics, there is little discourse about the ethics behind creating “hybrids” in this manner. Of course, these entities and abstracts do not involve living creatures with the capacity for pain. Vivisection, as discussed in H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, offers a (fictional) glimpse into the pre-IRB world of unregulated animal experimentation. Moreau argues that pain is of little consequence, but contemporary philosophers such as Peter Singer and most laypersons would likely debate that contention.
A picture of a chimera (geep): does it disturb you? http://imgsrv.1051thebuzz.com/image/krsk/UserFiles/Image/Geep.jpg
Although ethicists seem to have reached a consensus that a negative gut reaction towards a particular subject or action – a “gut reaction” – does not justify declaring an action as immoral or unethical, many would assert that such internal feelings serve as a warning, a moral compass to regulate overzealous forays into ethically murky waters. However, I have a difficult time agreeing with such sentiments. Organ transplantation, vaccination, and other biomedical procedures were met with similar resistance when first introduced, but today these methods are by-and-large praised for their contributions to human health. Admittedly, unlike these procedures, the benefit of creating chimeras in a laboratory is not easily apparent at this time.
And as for my opinion? Well, I do not believe scientists and researchers should explore the world of chimeras unless suitable precautions are taken; humane, sterile, and heavily-regulated laboratory procedures meant to enhance scientific inquiry while concurrently protecting the subjects from pain should be used. Of course, we cannot attain informed consent from other animals, but this would not bother Dr. Moreau, for he asserts that intellect is superior to pain. He would likely say, “If animals cannot convey their sentiments, why concern ourselves with it?”