Riding Shotgun: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dog-Boy

Experimenting with that oh-so-fine line between man and animal.

“Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research: human cloning in all its forms, creating or implanting embryos for experiments, creating human-animal hybrids, and buying, selling, or patenting human embryos. Human life is a gift from our Creator — and that gift should never be discarded, devalued or put up for sale.”

— President George W. Bush, 2006 State of the Union Address

Human-animal hybrid? So, Dr. Moreau is Osama’s right hand man now? Should we be on the lookout for guerilla attacks by actual gorilla-people? Or a vast army of dog-boys trained to sic our nation’s vital areas?

The answer is … YES! Probably. Maybe. But it might be good to approach this issue with a little caution and concern, considering our species’ spotty track record of deciding who is and isn’t human.

Human-animal hybrids have been among us for at least three years, since scientists at the Shanghai Second Medical University fused human cells with those of a rabbit in 2003 to create the first human-animal “chimera.” The fetal hybrid lived for several days before it was killed to harvest its juicy, juicy stem cells.

In 2004, researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota created pigs with human blood flowing through their veins in order to better understand how a virus can jump species.

And just last January, a professor at New York Medical College sought a ruling on a patent he filed in 1997 on a proposed monkey-man. He didn’t actually want to create the monkey-man; he just wanted to see what the U.S. Patent Office would do. He was denied on the grounds that the creature would be too close to a human being to allow for patenting.

But the monkey-man is coming. Oh, yes. But first: the mouse-man!

Irving Weissman, an adult stem cell researcher at the Stanford School of Medicine, wants to develop mice with human neurons in their brains. He’s already managed to breed mice with 1-percent human neurons. In March of last year, he proposed to increase that to 100 percent. Stanford gave Weissman the go-ahead on the condition that the experiment be terminated if the mice started exhibiting human characteristics. Considering that neurons make up only 10 percent of brain matter, both Weissman and the Stanford ethics committee thought this highly unlikely.

But don’t talk to Congress about unlikely. They’re just itching to stamp out some mouse-men.

A bill, submitted by Kansas Senator Sam Brownback (R) — “The Human Chimera Prohibition Act of 2005″ — has been sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee since July. Should the bill become law, Weissman’s experiment could land him in jail for up to 10 years and get him slapped with a million-dollar fine.

Given Sen. Brownback’s philosophical track record, he probably figures the ban will save everyone a lot of time: if he makes sure the dog-boys are never born, he won’t have to round them up into camps and gas them when they grow up and turn gay or vote Democrat.

It seems like the shocked and disgusted conservatives, academic and political alike, just can’t keep their twitchy little knees from jerking out. Too many times seeing Planet of the Apes, maybe? Their strategy: when the monkey says “No,” we blow its fucking brains out. Then, there’s no ape revolution, Charleton Heston never finds the Statue of Liberty on the beach, and mankind isn’t left to diddle with nukes at the center of the planet.

But with thinking like that, our legislators are totally missing the bright side of the dog-boy/mouse-man equation.

Sure, the big question is: at what point do they become too human? It takes a strong stomach to spray deodorant into the eyes of a rabbit that can tap out “In great pain; tell Marsha I love her” in Morse code with its wired-together forepaws.

So what if they start thinking like us? Doesn’t that make them U.S. citizens? Sure, they’re smaller and hairier than the average citizen, but so’s Robin Williams and we let him do shows at the Met.

American citizens, born and bred in the United States of America with American human DNA and American rodent (or dog or pig) DNA. American citizens that can think and reason and … work, by gosh! They can dig our ditches, pick our fruit, build our office buildings — all those jobs we’ve been letting illegal immigrants do for years can finally go to good ol’-fashioned American hybrid human-animals.

And what if these chimeras turn out to be loyal patriots? Why, we’ve found a solution to our troop-depletion problem! We’ll see how those insurgents handle the first charge of the all dog-boy brigade. Present that argument to Congress and they’ll be buying human neurons by the truckload and renting out petting zoos.

Of course, this might not be altogether feasible — so many new citizens when Social Security is already strained to the breaking point. Maybe each one would be just half a citizen. Three-fifths tops. Why, they’d only be partly human, after all. There might even be some wording in the Constitution we can use.

Or are we getting ahead of ourselves?

Maybe the best we can hope is that Congress — and mankind at large — keeps its mind open. Human? Not human? Spotty, spotty, oh-so-spotty track record.

And if someday a little white mouse, faced with the choice between an electric shock and a morsel of cheese, should raise itself onto its hind paws and utter a tiny “No,” we should not kill it out of hand. These mouse-men and dog-boys could represent our partners in forging a better planet.

And if something goes wrong, then we gas them.

Article © 2006 by Steve Spotswood