Half Man, half bear, and half pig. At least, on the Comedy Central series South Park, this is a reality. An episode features Al Gore, a clearly poor mathematician, trying to convince the world of his evidence of this impossible monster (perhaps alluding to the writer’s possible non-belief in global warming or else that they believe he is exaggerating).
I couldn’t resist writing about the episode. I laugh every time, and it is the first thing I thought of when we began discussing chimeras. Honestly though, it would be a disgusting creature if it existed. Even though it would be gross, I don’t think that feelings of aesthetics or creepy feelings ought to be used in an argument. That is such a highly subjective issue that I don’t think that argument should be made. I should say that the thought of any two animals sown together like a patchwork quilt does give me an uneasy feeling, but I wouldn’t attempt to make that into an argument against researching the creation of human organs in pigs or other animals. I don’t think that many people would, given the choice on their death-bed, turn down a heart from a pig. Pig heart or death? Not a subtle phrasing, but it gets to the point. This could be a choice that some will have to make in the future.I will not insinuate that I have all of the answers. I do not know the social implications that successful creation of these organs might have. I do know that if someone were to make the animal rights argument, I might point out that we already raise animals to be slaughtered and devoured, and most of the time this is not in a way that anyone would consider a pleasant way to live or die. I’m not sure what is being done with the organs currently, but it seems that a pig raised to be slaughtered for food could also be engineered to be harvested for an organ.
It is interesting when Dr. Moreau talks about the serpentine-like chimera that he makes, and that it was “just an experiment”. He says that he is doing it all for the purity of knowledge and yet creates this true monster simply because he is capable of doing so. I would be afraid that if we did discover a way to safely create and transplant these organs, other experiments derived from this new knowledge would get out of control. A slippery slope argument is not a valid one though since it bases its argument on no concrete fact. Also, strict guidelines could be constructed in order to placate those more worried members of society. As a science-lover this is an exciting developing field, one I hope that we will continue to explore, but certainly with caution. -Carl W.