For the first time, biologists have succeeded in growing human stem cells in pig embryos, increasing the possibility that one day soon we may develop human organs in animals for later transplant. . . This means that the human-organ-growing pigs would be examples of chimeras—animals composed of two different genomes—a human and a pig. When the human stem cells are implanted into an early pig embryo, the result is an animal composed of mixed pig and human cells.
In early August 2016, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it was planning to lift its ban on funding some research that injects human stem cells into animal embryos. This rather remarkable decision involves growing human tissues or organs in animals to better understand human diseases and develop therapies to treat them. That scientists are placing human cells into animals is not new; this has been a common practice for years. What is new here is that such implantations involve human stem cells being placed in animals. Human stem cells are placed into developing animal embryos where they can become any type of cell—for organs, blood or bones. The larger goal of such a practice could be, for example, growing a human kidney in a pig for a transplant back into a human.
One of the most fundamental of all biblical propositions is that humans are created in God’s image: That humans both resemble God (e.g., attributes such as intellect, emotion, will) and represent God (i.e., as His theocratic stewards, Gen. 1:26ff) provide the basis for the worth, value and dignity of humanity.
Over the last twenty years especially, homosexuality has been reframed as an issue of rights. The debate over same-sex marriage has been redefined that way as well. Overall, both issues are now viewed exclusively as a civil rights issue. One of the primary results of viewing these as civil rights issues is the tendency to limit First Amendment rights, especially the freedom of speech and the freedom of religious expression. In other nations, we are already seeing this occur. In England, a Catholic school was forbidden to fire its openly gay headmaster. In Canada, the Alberta Human Rights Commission forbade a Christian pastor from making “disparaging” remarks about homosexuality or even repeating biblical condemnations. Such blatant challenges to free speech are not quite yet occurring in America, but we are almost there.
Ethically speaking, does the end always justify the means? Does a seemingly good end (having healthy babies free of all genetic disorders) justify the means (in vitro fertilization, preimplantation genetic diagnosis, etc.)? Reproductive and Genetic Technologies have empowered humans to a degree unimaginable only a few years ago. These technologies are also empowering parents to decide what kinds of children they want. Therefore, these technologies raise profound ethical questions, including ethical questions about the human embryo.
In late November, the Nonhuman Rights Project filed a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a chimpanzee named Tommy of Gloversville, New York. Stephen M. Wise, leader of the Nonhuman Rights Project, is demanding that the State Supreme Court in Fulton, County, NY recognize Tommy as a legal person, with a right to liberty, but one that has limits. . .
How should we think about this rather novel and extraordinary legal argument to establish that chimpanzees are legal persons, with rights and liberties? Permit me to offer several reflections on the growing animal rights movement
The Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 changed America. Abortion remains one of the most contentious issues in our culture, with positions on both sides of the divide uncompromisingly hardened. For many, it is the touchtone issue of life. And perhaps because it deals with life and its value, it will never diminish in its importance to American civilization. Several thoughts:
At the center of the Postmodern worldview is the doctrine of personal autonomy–the idea that as free humans we are a law unto ourselves. In Postmodernism, the self defines reality. There are virtually no boundaries for behavior and there are few authority figures that matter anymore. Autonomy impacts all aspects of culture–entertainment, business, law, leisure and religion. The autonomous self defines reality because there is nothing transcendent to do so. If there is a god, he is a deistic god, who is more therapeutic than sovereign, and who serves at the behest of the human. Such a claim has a haunting ring of familiarity to it, for the book of Judges has as its refrain, “Every man did what was right in his own eyes.”
Modern technology is changing the definition of fatherhood and the rights that go with it. Consider two cases: (1) A pregnant woman wants an abortion. Her husband does not. Should he have a say in her decision? (2) A woman wants to become pregnant with frozen embryos. Her ex-husband opposes the decision. Should he have a say in the decision? Legally, the answer is no to the abortion case and yes to the frozen embryo case.
Gregory Berns, professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University, argues that “dogs are people, too.” He bases this rather stunning conclusion on brain scans of dogs he and his colleagues at Emory have conducted. . . How should we think about Berns, his work and his conclusions? Should dogs be granted personhood? Should they have rights equivalent to humans? Is there a Creation-Order difference between dogs and humans? What is the fundamental difference between a dog and a human being?