April 25, 2021

"Scientists Create Early Embryos That Are Part Human, Part Monkey," and I see slightly fewer than 1,000,000 ways this could go badly.

I for one, welcome our new monkey overlords.

I'm not saying that this will result in a race of monkey-slaves doing the bidding of their AI overlords thereby heralding the extinction of the human race, I'm just saying...

Okay, I'm saying that.

Regardless, I am going to nominate this as the week's most unintentionally comical line:

But some ethicists worry about how such research could go wrong.

But need not worry, they have no intention of turning the earth into a dystopian hell where humans are hunted down like animals.

Belmonte acknowledges the ethical concerns. But he stresses that his team has no intention of trying to create animals with the part-human, part-monkey embryos, or even to try to grow human organs in such a closely related species.

They have only good intentions and as everyone knows the road to hell is paved with...

Uh, oh.

"I don't see this type of research being ethically problematic," said Insoo Hyun, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University and Harvard University. "It's aimed at lofty humanitarian goals."

Interestingly, given that the Chinese Communist Party is currently accused of harvesting organs from Muslim slaves for transplant, this could actually be a step up for them, ethically speaking.

And yes, this is starting to sound like the opening act of every single disaster movie ever.

But, I'm probably overreacting.

"My first question is: Why?" said Kirstin Matthews, a fellow for science and technology at Rice University's Baker Institute. "I think the public is going to be concerned, and I am as well, that we're just kind of pushing forward with science without having a proper conversation about what we should or should not do."

Okay, okay, so we have the impassioned moral case for caution being made by the concerned outsider scientist.

Monkey Slave 1

I'm thinking Catherine Zeta-Jones.

And then there's the scientist blind to the moral hazards of his work, ignoring the warnings, obsessed as he is with the purely clinical aspects of his work and speaking in the antiseptic terms of the amoral.

"This is one of the major problems in medicine — organ transplantation," said Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory of the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences in La Jolla, Calif., and a co-author of the Cell study. "The demand for that is much higher than the supply."

Monkey Slave 2

I'm picking up a Robert Duvall vibe here but we need someone younger.

Dwayne Johnson it is.

What am I talking about? In 20 years, this will be what the cast looks like.


The science itself is fascinating. Thousands of people do die each year because of a lack of available organs for transplant, and earlier efforts to create these "chimeras" using sheep and pig embryos (human bacon! try to unremember that!) have failed.

...So Belmonte teamed up with scientists in China and elsewhere to try something different. The researchers injected 25 cells known as induced pluripotent stem cells from humans — commonly called iPS cells — into embryos from macaque monkeys, which are much more closely genetically related to humans than are sheep and pigs.

After one day, the researchers reported, they were able to detect human cells growing in 132 of the embryos and were able study the embryos for up to 19 days. That enabled the scientists to learn more about how animal cells and human cells communicate, an important step toward eventually helping researchers find new ways to grow organs for transplantation in other animals, Belmonte said.

See, no ethical dilemmas here, move along.

"Our goal is not to generate any new organism, any monster," Belmonte said.

It never is.


Believe it or not, it hasn't gotten weird yet.

But this type of scientific work and the possibilities it opens up raises serious questions for some ethicists. The biggest concern, they said, is that someone could try to take this work further and attempt to make a baby out of an embryo made this way. Specifically, the critics worry that human cells could become part of the developing brain of such an embryo — and of the brain of the resulting animal.

"Should it be regulated as human because it has a significant proportion of human cells in it? Or should it be regulated just as an animal? Or something else?" Rice University's Matthews said. "At what point are you taking something and using it for organs when it actually is starting to think and have logic?"

Let's dial it up just a bit more.

"Nobody really wants monkeys walking around with human eggs and human sperm inside them," said Hank Greely, a Stanford University bioethicist who co-wrote an article in the same issue of the journal that critiques the line of research while noting that this particular study was ethically done. "Because if a monkey with human sperm meets a monkey with human eggs, nobody wants a human embryo inside a monkey's uterus."

Oh, yuck!


Greely said he hopes the work will spur a more general debate about how far scientists should be allowed to go with this kind of research.

"I don't think we're on the edge of beyond the Planet of the Apes. I think rogue scientists are few and far between. But they're not zero," Greely said. "So I do think it's an appropriate time for us to start thinking about, 'Should we ever let these go beyond a petri dish?'"

It's telling that it does not even occur to him that the petri dish can be problematic. At what point are we dealing with an embryo that is arguably human? What would be the criteria? Is it even possible to create a criteria?

For several years, the National Institutes of Health has been weighing the idea of lifting a ban on funding for this kind of research but has been waiting for new guidelines, which are expected to come out next month, from the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

An article announcing this from 2016:

"Part-human, part-animal embryos."


April 25, 2021 at 04:15 PM in Science | Permalink | Comments (3)

October 15, 2020

The Truth Is Out There. Maybe That's Where We Should Leave It.

You know you’re living in strange times when legitimate evidence that UFOs exist isn’t the biggest story of the year.

Here are the facts as we know them: There are flying objects breaking the laws of physics as we understand them, zipping about our country including military facilities and we have absolutely no idea who or what they are.

Now let me be clear, I’m not saying these are aliens.

Guatemala just doesn’t have that kind of technology.

And I’m not saying these are extraterrestrials. We haven’t seen hard, irrefutable evidence of that yet.

What I am saying is, there are flying objects breaking the laws of physics as we understand them, zipping about our country including military facilities and we have absolutely no idea who or what they are!!

Are you okay with that? We’re not okay with that.

Are they from the future? From the past? Chinese? Russian? Interdimensional?

Is there a good choice?

There used to be one:

They didn’t exist.

We went with that for years, people were seeing things, they were crazy, and so on.

Good times.

But the government has been forced to be more forthcoming with information after some footage the Navy had was leaked to The New York Times:

The Navy eventually confirmed the leaked footage and had this to say about it:

“DOD [Department of Defense] is releasing the videos in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos. The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as ‘unidentified’”

Oh, well, that explains everyth… Wait, what?! The footage is real?! And you don’t know what those things are?!

Do you feel comforted? We don’t feel comforted.  It’s more like abject terror mixed with foreboding.  That’s kind of the opposite of comforted, isn’t it?

Now that we think about it, we may have preferred the lying. The government is good at lying. Go with your strengths, we say.

It gets even crazier:

Now, it is important to keep in mind that this is coming from, well, Harry Reid. For all we know, Harry Reid has anonymous sources telling him the extraterrestrials haven’t paid income taxes for 10 years.

If you’d like to learn more about these and other developments and the potential hazards these unidentified phenomena might present, we suggest you check out this new documentary:

Oops, sorry, wrong clip.

Try this one:

Sweet dreams.


October 15, 2020 at 08:42 AM in Current Affairs, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 15, 2020

Are You Going To Believe Them, Or Your Own Lying Eyes?

If you are confused with some of the media accounts regarding the Covid-19 virus, it could simply be because you are still relying on “old science.”

This is a common error.

Much in the way old math has been replaced by “New Math,” old science has been replaced by “New Science.”

The difference is important. Old science was grounded on the fundamental principle that conclusions must remain subject to scrutiny and therefore need to change in accordance with new data and observations whereas New Science is grounded in the fundamental principle of because I said so.

Let’s take a look at this in practice.

If you were to examine the recent data coming out of Georgia and Florida using old science, you might inadvertently conclude that it may indeed be possible to begin reopening our economy and yet still see infection rates maintain their decline and “flatten the curve.”

However, using New Science, we’re staying closed for three more months because I said so.

See how much less burdensome that is?  You barely have to think at all!  Here are your complimentary drugs and alcohol.

Those of you unfamiliar with New Science might mistakenly believe it sounds an awful lot like religion. Nothing could be further from the truth.  People who adhere to New Science believe you should accept without question the things a ruling elite tells you despite there being little to no observable evidence in support of, and possibly even contrary to, those pronouncements.

In stark contrast, people who adhere to religion are Republicans.

And that’s why smart people know they should stick to science. Science helps everything make sense. There's no reason to be confused anymore. For example, still trying to understand why engaging in anonymous sex hookups on Tinder is okay but shaking hands isn’t?

Because I said so.


May 15, 2020 at 12:20 PM in Covid-19/Coronavirus, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)