A leading scientist has warned a new species of "humanzee," created from breeding apes with humans, could become a reality unless the government acts to stop scientists experimenting.

In an interview with The Scotsman, Dr Calum MacKellar, director of research at the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, warned the controversial draft Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill did not prevent human sperm being inseminated into animals.

Let's set aside whether this will ever actually happen. If it did, how should we treat the humanzee born to the world of a human mother? What rights would it have if any and on what basis would we assign rights to it?

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Michael Crichton wrote an interesting book on it: "Next".

I think a lot of the human perception of intelligence sits in a person's ability to speak comprehensively.
I doubt that many people will see a humanzee as anything different if it still looks like a chimp.
But why base ethical treatment on the basis of intelligence? Would we treat mentally disordered, senile or infants differently if they lacked even the intelligence of a dog? Now we understand that we evolved and were not created and given dominion over other creatures, isn't a species basis for ethics just arbitrary? The humanzee issue raised here is just a means of revealing how discriminating we can be just on the basis of species.

This pose an interesting ethical question: How would we deal with a new "emerging" intelligent species? Are we willing to give them some rights? Are we more prone to put them into slavery?

David Livingston Smith explains that we are willing to inflict harm into those that we consider "other" or "separate aliens" (That's why I hate the "illegal alien" term when talking about immigrants).

It is very easy then to imagine a new world, a reverse version of the "Planet of the apes" where we, humans,  would be supervising hordes of humanzees.

After all, we have been feeling the center of the universe from the very beginning of our species. Why would we change?

The ethics are really interesting. I'm not sure we need to consider how we might deal with a new intelligent species when there are already other intelligent species in the planet. Should intelligence be our yardstick for the application of ethics? Seems arbitrary to me and it might throw up some conundrums like how to deal with senile humans and intelligent dogs. Isn't a better basis to ethics the minimisation of harm and suffering and the promotion if health and well being? To me, while intelligence could certainly impact on the ability to suffer, its almost as arbitrary as deciding ethics on the basis of skin colour or sex.

To me, while intelligence could certainly impact on the ability to suffer, its almost as arbitrary as deciding ethics on the basis of skin colour or sex.

That's true in most cases, and it's even arbitrary historically/culturally wrt which animals we eat. E.g. we westerners don't eat dogs, and Hindus (?) don't eat cows. Our level of empathy with specific animals informs what we choose to slaughter and eat, and how we feel they should be treated.

I think that's right. It's largely a cultural reason why some animals are treated better than others. I suppose the keeping of slaves is or has been part of culture in various parts of the world too, failing to trip ethical considerations in many otherwise decent people n just because that's what everyone does. Its the culture. I wonder what it takes to get people to look at the ethics of what they are doing in situations like these. That's why I think the humanzee question is so interesting and maybe helps us see that we are part of the animal kingdom and not distinct from it.
We just need to do the thing to find out. Apparently it's effectively been tried, and I wouldn't be entirely surprised if at some point in the last 100,000 years it's been done-- there are places today where you can pay to have sex with an orangutan, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if some curious tribal had sex with a chimp at some point in the last hundred millennia, and I wouldn't be surprised if it resulted in some kind of pregnancy, though I'd be surprised if it ended any way but horribly. We just need to try the thing with the benefits of modern medical advancents. I could probably pull this off with $10,000 and Craigslist. "Wanted. Healthy woman for artificial insemination. Will pay $10,000 for 9 months or less of pregnancy." That's more than $1000 a month, I am absolutely positive that I can find a woman to do this (assuming I don't have to tell her I'm inseminating her with chimp semen, but you know? I'm pretty sure I could find a woman who would do it even if). The problem is getting chimp semen...
Pay to have sex with an orangutan? Seriously? That's so bizarre. I'm struggling to imagine such a scenario.


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