In my usual browsing through the BBC News site today, a couple of headlines caught my eye:

$80m Train Journey

Well, actually two train journeys, with 150 passengers on each, but that’s still a phenomenal $266,666.67 per ticket!

$80m is the cost in development aid that the South Koreans had to pay the North Koreans in order to persuade them to run this little exchange of trains. It makes for some very pretty pictures, and is probably a step towards reconciliation, but you gotta ask “Is it really worth it?”

Human-Animal Hybrid

The British government have proved yet again that they have neither backbone nor moral compass, as they grant permission for the development of human-animal hybrid embryos. Now, this is permission in principle only, but its still a pretty appalling development, and horrible case of a climbdown in the face of media interest (and who would have expected that from the Blair government!).

This whole area of human fertility and stem cell research (and before you comment, they ARE interrelated) is one that has consistently troubled and disturbed me. It is part of the scientific reductionism that seeks to dehumanise us, to describe us simply as animals or complex machines; that sees no distinction as to what makes us human. We are not ‘made in God’s image’, no longer ‘a little lower than the angels’, we are just bunches of cells; so why not poke them, pull them apart, and mix them with cells from other sources…?

I have to admit that I really do admire scientific ingenuity sometimes (I am after all and engineer by training, if not trade). Problem: we don’t have enough human embryos to research with (probably because most people still consider them babies??); solution: make our own! The human-animal hybrids in question are cows eggs, removed of DNA, with human DNA inserted. A Frankensteinian flash of electricity later, and we have a living, growing chimera.

I can’t really describe how abhorrent and amoral I think this is. It shows utter disregard for human life and human dignity. The possible benefits (potentially slightly faster research on some debilitating conditions) don’t in my mind outweigh the negatives (moral precedent at the very least).
I’m very definitely ranting now, so I’ll stop. For a more reasoned, balanced moral outlook, I’d imagine that CMF will have something up in the next day or so… (they have two previous statements on this, here and here).

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