I have been busy for the past few days: term has started, and while I usually prepare for courses in a leisurely way, this time I've been making up for a few weeks spent on Oxycodone. (Since I'm teaching a class on, among other things, addiction, this might have come in handy, but I decided not to try to cultivate an addiction to painkillers.) This is why I've been a Bad, Bad Blogger recently. This is your new open thread, in which you can talk about whatever you want: Alito (the thought of someone with a breathtakingly expansive view of executive power on the Supreme Court just now horrifies me); the State of the Union address; whatever.
I didn't watch the speech myself, since I decided reading it would be quicker, and in any case these speeches bore me even when they are not made by someone whose words mean nothing. I just finished reading it, and I was struck by this:
"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."
I'll leave aside the 'cloning in all its forms', which refers to reproductive cloning, which everyone wants to outlaw, but also to somatic cell nuclear transfer, an extremely useful way of deriving stem cells that I described here. (Scroll down to 'The Main Issue'.) What, exactly, does Bush mean by 'human-animal hybrids'? Any being that has human and animal parts? So much for Jesse Helms, who had a pig valve transplanted into him. (Don't laugh. Jesse Helms, like anyone who has received such a transplant, is technically a human/non-human chimera.) Does a "human-animal hybrid" mean a being that has been created not by putting a bit of animal into a human, or vice versa, but by breeding humans with animals? As far as I know, no one has proposed doing such a thing. So what does he have in mind?
Bear in mind when considering this that a lot of the very useful genetically engineered mice used by researchers have some human bit or other. They are not "human" in any morally significant sense -- they just have the odd human gene. Did Bush really mean to outlaw the Harvard OncoMouse and its various friends and relations? Or did it just make a good sound bite?
Your guess is as good as mine. Have at it.