Rise of the Planet of the Chimeras
As I read Greene et al.’s on neural grafting in non-human primates I kept referencing one thing, the recent film Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Rise of the Planet of the Apes has striking similarities with the Greene article, if you don’t look at the details it could even be plagiarism. However, the overlapping content is less important to me than the repeated theme I take from both the article and the film: when do creatures warrant the treatment of humans and what are the ramifications of treating humane animals.
Green et al. tackles the ethics of research on grafting neural cells into the brains of human primates. The article raises questions on how ethical the process of human to nonhuman primate (H-NPH) grafting is. The message I received from the article is that it was in fact ethical to do so. It was not unnatural or cruel to graft human cells into primates in the name of science. It becomes unethical only when the primate turned chimera develops human level mental capacity (ie self awareness, language, rationality, etc.). This is an awfully egotistic view to take. It places humans on an entirely different ethical plane than animals and even humane chimeras. This school of thought where humans are held high above animals is dangerous, as Rise of the Planet of the Apes shows.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes does not deal with chimeras, but the line is blurry. In the film, human drugs that enhance neural function are being tested on chimpanzees. The tests far exceed expectations and the mental capabilities of chimpanzees continually expand. As the movie tells it, the primates are still solely their species and not a cross between humans and apes. However, the adaptation of human level mental ability by the apes gives them a feeling of being a chimera that translates well to study the dangers of unethical treatment of human-esque creatures.
In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, researchers hold the same human-centric values of ethics that the committee led by Greene did. They cared little for their primates and did not heed their developing humanity as dangerous. They only saw the developing mental capacities as astounding and boding well for the future of the human race. The scientists ignorance of the humanity of the chimeras would be there downfall. All revolution stems from injustice, and it would seem that since early humans stood on two feet we have been fairly unjust. Luckily, we have the wits to keep our discriminatory regime in place, but chimeras may seek their liberty as revolutionaries have in the past.
The intelligent primates were successful in over throwing the tyrants governing them, and this should serve as a warning to researchers today. Through manipulation and pursuit of knowledge, scientists edge closer to creating beings that are very similar in humanity to your classmates and neighbors. The developing humanity of lab chimeras must not be taken for granted and the fine line between when a creature warrants human treatment must be toed lightly. If the ethics of creating and treating chimeras are taken lightly, we may be antagonizing a foe far more formidable than we ever expected. It is a possibility that our hands are forming the race to succeed us as the dominant planetary species not only by creating it but also fueling its need to ascend human control.
I’ve learned my lesson from Cesar, leader of the apes. Scientists might want to as well.