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Developmental biologist Stuart Newman is locked in a six-year battle with the US Patent Office. He is requesting a patent on the production of human-animal chimeras-in order to prevent anyone from making such creatures. Mark Dowie tells the story in "Gods and Monsters" in the current Mother Jones (Jan/Feb 2004). Dowie points out that "taken to its most extreme but not necessarily impossible end," chimera technology could be used to create "altered primates with enough cognitive ability to ride a bus, follow basic instructions, pick crops in 119 degrees, or descend into a mine shaft without worrying their silly little heads about inalienable human rights and the resulting laws and customs that demand safe working conditions." Such creatures, Dowie writes, would "threaten either to erase taboos we still embrace, like bestiality, or reintroduce practices we'd hopefully sloughed off, like slavery."
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Is there any chance that the creation of part-human chimeras would be permitted? Some bioethicists are unwilling to draw a line that would prevent it. In "Crossing Species Boundaries," Jason Scott...