Re: Chimp uplifting: Morality Strikes Back?

Keith Elis (
Thu, 20 Nov 1997 17:06:26 -0500

Twink wrote:

> At 00:04:19 Date: Wed, 19 Nov 1997 -0500 Keith Elis
> >>> How? Artsem a few chimps using some sperm. It would seem extremely
> >> simple and could be done without leaving much evidence behind.
> >[snip]
> >>
> >>Not that I see anyone really advocating this, but what exactly would this
> >>procedure accomplish for us? And is it ethical?
> It would be a cheap, quick way to show it can be done.

To show cross-breeding of chimps and humans can be done? If so, you're right, it
would be a cheap,quick way to show it could be done.

> >>My personal ethics can accomodate an uplift by way of cortical augmentation
> >>or other such biological procedure, but only insofar as it provides
> >>empirical
> >>data for use in similar procedures on humans. It seems unlikely that
> >>crossbreeding a chimpanzee with a human will give us any information along
> >>these lines and I have difficulty viewing this as uplifting a chimp, rather,
> >>it seems more like retarding a human being on purpose, and for no valid
> >>reason.
> I understand. It was merely a suggestion. Recall my initial post.
> Some people outside this list agree with you -- viz., that uplifting
> is akin to trapping a human mind in a nonhuman (less than
> human?) body.

No, no. I'm not talking about uplifting, which I find to be pretty fascinating.
I'm talking about a mere cross-breed of chimp and human. What would be the purpose
other than to show that a cross-breed is possible?

> However, would you judge it the same if, say,
> we found a genetic sequence which would increase intelligence
> in chimps, would it be wrong to insert it in them?

(I'll refrain from using "wrong.")

Inserting a genetic sequence to increase chimp intelligence is not unethical in my

> If not, imagine
> that this sequence is from a human. Is it still not wrong to insert
> it?

It's still not unethical.

> If not, imagine (I know this is getting repetitive:) it is a
> substantial amount of human genes and the method of
> insertion is artsem. Is it still not wrong?

Now it is unethical.

You're not inserting anything, except in a ribald, figurative sense.

Inserting a sequence of human genes to improve an animal is much different than
the wholesale blending of human genes with chimpanzee genes to make some new,
still not human-equivalent, species of animal. It's not human, and it's not a
chimp. Sure it's still a primate, but if the only goal is merely a smarter primate
-- well, just look in the mirror. With uplifting, our goal is not merely a smarter
primate, but specifically, a smarter chimp. Artifical insemination (I'm assuming
this is what "artsem" means) does not meet this goal, and we learn nothing about
how to augment human beings. In short, uplifting a chimp to human intelligence is
okay by me because it's still a chimp -- and it's a better chimp by my standard
(smarter = better) -- and we gain valuable empirical data for use in augmenting
ourselves. Mere cross-breeding is not the same as uplifting.

> At what point did the
> experiment become wrong

The experiment became unethical at the exact moment when your goal went from
"let's make a chimp smarter" to "let's see if this can be done."

> and why?

The belief that "anything that can be done should be done" is the exact reason why
ethical systems develop in the first place. We are not intelligent enough to know
what is objectively good or objectively bad in every situation. Given this, we
also take prima facie that "not everything that can be done, should be done." In
addition, we don't even necessarily need to so somethings to know they can be
done. At first, I was asking what other purpose this experiment could have, given
that I wasn't entirely certain if it was ethical or not. Since the only other
purpose you offered was "can be done, should be done," I regard this as without
ethic, which means for me, unethical.

> What standard do we
> use to judge?

The question is better put, what standard do *you* use to judge? Moral relativism
is serving me well these days...

But scientists do have ethical guidelines for themselves. Unfortunately, they
don't help much when you're stuck in the middle of a gray area.

> >>I think any serious proponents of this idea need to answer at least two
> >>questions:
> >>
> >>1. Will crossbreeding chimps and humans help us augment human beings?
> I believe my initial post answers this question. The data from it will
> also give us more parameters on just how far intelligence can be
> stretched inside the biotic realm.

If your above suggestion is true (not just hand-waving), then it may be a valid
reason. I don't want to argue the merits, but suffice it to say, if I were
deciding funding, I'd need some pretty good evidence.

> >>2. Is there any other reason to do it?
> I believe my initial post answers this one too. However, I think it
> better to try uplifting with other species and not use crossbreeding.


[Stepping down from a shaky soapbox..]

Boat drinks,