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Three Dilemmas of Chimeras

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Introduction to Biology
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01 January 2000

The Three Dilemmas of Chimeras

Abstract. Chimeras were initially known as mythological creatures consisting of traits from multiple animals. In recent times chimeras are with the realm of scientific. Recent advancements with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) therapies have helped increase scientific understanding in a previously unnoticed phenomenon. IVF increases the likely hood of multiple blastocysts merging to become one organism. Moreover, developments in cellular research stem cell research, and cross species transplants has brought the possibility of human-nonhuman into the forefront of scientific research for which we are ill prepared. There are three dilemmas that are shaping public policy, and constraining scientific research. These dilemmas are political, ethical, and moral. As we work to answer these dilemmas, we also stumble to maintain international leadership in scientific advancement.

Chimeras are an interesting realization in modern science. A chimera was initially mentioned in ancient Greek literature as a beast consisting of a lion, a goat, and a snake. (Homer & Murray, 2012) This definitely sounds like an archaic depiction of a mythological creature, but the title also has some contemporary uses. In modern biology, a Chimera is simply an organism with multiple Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequences. On the surface, this subject seems like an interesting biological focus, but one may find it hard to research this subject of biology without scratching the surface of the political, ethical, and moral implications that are part of the conversation when discussing the subject manner. The political, ethical, and moral implications that come into conversation once the subject of chimeras is brought to the table are particularly important. They are particularly important because the very prestigious place in which modern science sits is called into question when political, moral, and ethical dilemmas are scarcely answered by our current understanding of the world and clash with many belief structures. Political, Ethical, and Moral questions about cellular research are important because the affect every aspect of scientific research. In this paper the importance of these three points will explored in greater depth. The political dilemma expressed when discussing cellular research, chimeras, and specifically stem cell research greatly impacts the ability of scientific organizations to even conduct research on the subject at hand. The political dilemma in scientific research is of great importance because law makers set the legal limitations for research. So as to not begin a discussion in political philosophy, let’s initially agree that politics, at least in the United States, is based on a two party system with a few independents. Politicians find their selves in only a couple of places administratively, along party lines, or across party lines. To represent their electoral base, they walk this line either to one side or another. In a journal article called Regulating Scientific Research, the author introduces the article with a striking quote, “In our current political climate, decisions about whether to fund research on new stem cell lines or do chimera experiments seem to arbitrarily depend on the religious and economic interests of the administration. Not unreasonably, many scientists believe that science should be left to its own devices in determining research priorities and conducting research” (Intemann & Melo-Martin, 2008). Although is this a highly opinionated quote, this conceptualizes the political dilemma and its importance in regards to scientific research. The party lines and the emotional beliefs of the electoral base motivate the politicians, either with regard, or regardless of their own opinions and beliefs. The moral implications of cellular research and the possibility of human-nonhuman organism are of great importance to the conversation of scientific research. The growing horizon of stem cell research is waiting and begging to be explored. What about the prospect of a human-nonhuman organism developing into a sentient being? What is the moral status that would be granted to this prospective being? Quite frankly, even the most versed speculative philosopher would be at great pains to explore this implication. What is the moral status of a human? Should the moral status justly outweigh the moral status of a sperm whale? This is simply the area of our understanding in which beliefs must take the place of reasoning. That is until the day comes that we have data and experience to support any conclusions in this area. The author of the article, Cross Species Boundaries, Neville Cobbe writes about the possibility of moral status in a human-nonhuman research experiment, Cobbe writes, “Even if it should become possible to accord similar moral status to all sentient beings regardless of species membership, such that physically healthy human-nonhuman chimeras were permitted to survive to term and otherwise treated with due respect, they still could suffer as a result of the denial of other freedoms and possible identity crises resulting from their unique natures” (Cobbe, 2007). Now considering the moral implications of a unique chimera and the moral status granted to the possibility of a chimera surviving into adulthood this seems like a logical point. Logically for this type of research to progress, eventually a chimera will have to be allowed to fully develop and survive into adulthood. If and when this happens, these are situations that will best be answered by minds of a elevated manner with a thorough understanding of the subject manner, and not speculations by the general public. The third dilemma facing cellular research in regards to human-nonhuman chimeras is the bioethical dilemma. The ethical questions as to whether a human-nonhuman blastocyst should be allowed to fully develop and exist into adulthood is a difficult premise to take because there is no basis from which it consider this dilemma. It was quoted in Cobbe’s article that, “if it cannot be shown that it is intrinsically bad for a particular being to ever live, it may be said to benefit such a being by bringing about or preserving its existence once it has been created” (Cobbe, 2007). Is it ethically wrong to bring a being into existence only to be studied? There is simply no data or previous experience to guide our cognitive dissonance. But, this is a dilemma that is used to constrain scientific research and advancement and shape public policy. In the article entitled, Chimeras, Moral Status, and Public Policy, the author Robert Schrieffer writes, “one striking feature of the chimera debate is that numerous groups that believe these issues can be adequately handled within the existing ethical and regulatory frameworks” (Streiffer, 2010). Unfortunately the current ethical frameworks simply do not support the premise of human-nonhuman organism surviving past a primal stage because this is where public policy halts scientific research and in turn experience for ethical framework. The scientific and ethical understanding of chimeras will be relative to the boundaries of public policy and the constraints on science. In summation, the three dilemmas of cellular research are of particular importance to the advancement of scientific research. To avoid a stalemate of scientific advancement, these dilemmas will have to be met with reasonable measures to increase understanding and guide political, ethical, and moral questions. In the end, the traits of human curiosity will eventually outshine fear and misunderstanding. As we are able to reconcile the important dilemmas facing new areas of understanding, we will in turn increase our understanding of the natural world around us and solve the problems of today. Relatively speaking it was not possible to sufficiently answer the political, moral, and ethical question of human slavery until we were able to look inside ourselves and decide the course of history without the aid of the available political, moral, or ethical framework of the time.


Cobbe, N. (2007). Crossing Species Boundries. Zygon, 599-628.

Homer, & Murray, P. A. (2012, October 1). Homer, Iliad. Retrieved from Perseus Digital Library:

Intemann, K. K., & Melo-Martin, I. d. (2008). Regulating Scientific Research. The FASEB Journal, 654-658.

Modell, S. M. (2007). Approaching Religious Guidlines for Chimera Policymaking. Zygon, 629-641.

Mott, M. (2012, January 25). Animal-Human Hybrids Spark Controversy. Retrieved from National Geographic News:

Rollin, B. E. (2007). On Chimeras. Zygon, 643-647.

Streiffer, R. (2010). Chimeras, Moral Status, and Public Policy. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 238-250.

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