Pig/Man Embryo Renews Ethical Questions

By Stuart Shepard

H. G. Wells wrote the science fiction story about it in 1896. It was a scary sci-fi movie in the 1930s and again in 1996.

Now, it is reality. The "it" that some scientists reportedly attempted is the combining of humans and animals into a hybrid life form. Indeed, U.S. and Australian researchers have created hybrid embryos of human and pig cells, according to recent reports. But whatever "it" was that resulted, scientists reportedly destroyed it before it had barely begun.

"We need to be very careful about playing with mysteries that we don't understand," said Bryan Atchison, with the Family Research Council. Atchison said the raging tide of science is washing over the advance of ethics.

"If we're probing into the human genome or if we're talking about cloning, we need to be very careful that we don't let scientific advance outstrip ethical advance," he said. "We need to make sure that we stay true to time-honored principles when we're contemplating new science."

"What does this mean for humankind made in the image of God?" said bioethicist Nigel Cameron. "If we ask that question, we'll at least begin to get some clarity as to whether these things are good or bad."

Cameron said the ethical dilemmas of such experimentation are huge. "This is far, far more power to do good or to do evil than we've ever had before," Cameron said. "And of course, surprise, surprise, because it's a fallen world, we're going to use it to do evil unless we are very, very careful."

Cameron said scientific research has raised questions of the soul that he calls "weird and dreadful."