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Salt Lake City Weekly Scary Science or Brave New World?

APRIL 13, 1998:  If it weren't scary enough that scientists have learned to clone sheep, they now believe they can clone humans, too.

Think of it: an entire team of Michael Jordans. Although there is no law against it, a wide range of clergy, scientists and other ethicists are very much opposed to the notion.

But hold on to your hats. The cloning of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Leonardo DiCaprio may be only the beginning. Recently, a pair of cell biologists applied for a patent on a technique that supposedly would accomplish the crossing of humans with other species.

That conjures up images of the half human-half horse centaurs of Greek mythology or University of Arkansas fans wearing those strange Razorbacks hats.

This sort of inter-species crossing already has been accomplished by scientists. They have successfully crossed a camel and a llama, yielding something called a "coma." Researchers crossed a goat and sheep and came up with a "geep."

Of course, it's long been known that you can cross a horse and a donkey to get a mule—which are sterile, by the way. Lions and tigers have been mated in zoos to yield ligers.

But that pales in comparison to crossing people with chimpanzees. The offspring, which might be called "cheople," could be used for medical research, the scientists say. In the wrong hands, cheople could be used as slaves. Why not get cheople to clean the house and do the yard work? Ethics often go out the window when confronted with fast economic gain.

There is a suggestion, too, of crossing a human with a baboon to come up with a "humboon." They would be great for heart research but could also be put to work in sweatshops. Who knows?

Scientists might cross a person with a gorilla and come up with a "perilla," or would it be a "gorson"? These gorsons would be better than a good Doberman pinscher watchdog, but would it be fair to keep a human-ape chained up and eating out of a dog dish?

Perhaps the scariest proposal, and one that has been seriously suggested as having great scientific and medical research possibilities, is the combination of a human and a pig. Many organ systems in people are similar to those of swine. These "sweople" offspring might lead the way to prolonged life for humans.

Fortunately, the scientists applying for the patent say they won't use the techniques, and want only to prevent others from charging down this path to a brave new world. That's probably a good thing, since we humans seem to have difficulty solving the relatively simple problems that face us now—like how to get the freeway fixed.


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