U.S. Senator Battles Human-Animal Hybrids

Go home, mermaid. Kansas doesn't want you. (Angelo Cavalli /Digital Vision/Getty Images)

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most of us are staunchly against the idea of genetically engineering a race of half man, half animal monsters. Centaur fetishist aside (look it up, folks), I think the rest of us have seen enough sci-fi and horror flicks to know where you draw the line. So do we really need a U.S. law?

U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (R) of Kansas thinks so. According to the Kansas City Star, he recently proposed the Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act of 2009. There's no word, as yet, if he plans to introduce mutant registration legislation as well.

Brownback charges that this legislation would help protect human dignity. This wouldn't affect such procedures as implanting pig heart valves in humans, and it supposedly wouldn't affect "the use of animals or humans in legitimate research or health care where genetic material is not passed on to future generations."

I'm not the only one making fun of Sen. Brownback. His Democratic adversaries are also giving him a hard time for his so-called "mermaid legislation." But this all goes a bit deeper than silly political maneuvering and cheap jokes.

No one in the states is currently trying to graft a human head onto a giraffe, nor are there government labs filled with ape men. But scientists have produced chimeras with human genes: pigs with human blood, mice with human brain cells and human/cow embryos. However, they're all legitimate scientific experiments with the aim of fighting diseases and better understanding our own genes. The HSW articles on the subject (linked below) break it all down for you.

Critics argue that, at worst, this bill could be used to block important research -- and, at worst, that it shouldn't be at the top of our elected officials' agendas right now.

So what do you think?

Get the details at HowStuffWorks.com: Why are British scientists creating a human-pig hybrid? Why would scientists want to create a hybrid human-cow embryo? Can people get bone marrow transplants from baboons?

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.