A few days ago I posted about a MAJOR advance in genetic science involving the first known cloning of two monkey’s in China. The cloning experiment was a success and what that means is that we have now breached the last border for cloning primates making it now possible to even clone humans. As if that were not enough now something disturbing is brewing to the point that it is now being reported in the mainstream media. Scientists involved in the cloning said they have no intention of cloning humans and IF you believe that then I might interest you in buying a bridge to nowhere! I can absolutely guarantee you that some scientist in some lab somewhere WILL attempt to clone a human being!! But that is not the story in this post. Rather there is something perhaps even more disturbing than human cloning that very possibly has already taken place perhaps longer ago than we might wish to think and it involves the creation of something known as a “humanzee.” Or should I put that in the plural?
Dr Gordon Gallup is an evolutionary psychologist and he is the man who coined the term “humanzee” which is the name for a human-chimpanzee hybrid! Scientifically and theoretically it IS possible to breed a human and chimpanzee, bonobo, orangutan, and perhaps even other apes such as the gorilla. Sound like science fiction? Well think again because according to Dr Gallup this feat has ALREADY BEEN ACCOMPLISHED!!
Throughout the 20th century this hybridization was attempted more than once. Perhaps the most famous attempt was under former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin who wanted to create a super-soldier part man and part ape. In the old Soviet Union there were many secrets and information about what Soviet scientists were working on was rare and sometimes misleading. But what we do know is that Stalin actually DID have such an experiment going under Dr Ilya Ivanov. The question is did Ivanov succeed? Most information we have on the experiments indicates that he failed but that information may or may NOT be so. The Soviets were renowned for NOT reporting the truth. However, there was another experiment trying to create a humanzee and that experiment took place in the United States in Florida in the 1920’s according to Dr Gordon Gallup and it WAS SUCCESSFUL!!
Dr. Gallup is no crackpot mad scientists nor is he a minor unknown because, in fact, he is rather famous for having created the “mirror test” which proved that chimps, bonobos, and orangutans could recognize themselves when they looked into a mirror and that means that they are self-aware. Oddly, gorillas failed to identify themselves although some more recent experiments indicate they can.
Gallup has claimed in the past and reportedly is once again doing so that his former university professor told him that a humanzee infant was BORN at a research facility where he used to work! It happened in the 1920s in what was the first primate research center established in the US in Orange Park, Florida. According to Gallup the professor told him that scientists at that facility “inseminated a female chimpanzee with human semen from an undisclosed donor and claimed not only that pregnancy occurred but the pregnancy went FULL TERM and resulted in a LIVE BIRTH.” However, the scientists became rather concerned and within a few weeks of the birth they began to consider the moral and ethical considerations of the part human, part chimp infant and they made the decision to euthanize it. Remember, back then religion was paramount. Everyone went to church and preachers had wide influence. Had those powerful preachers known of this experiment these scientists would have been run out of town on a rail very quickly. Evolutionary theory at the time was NOT widely accepted in the general population and had the world known what these scientists accomplished there would have been no end to the condemnation of them and their research. And so, the creators of this “monstrosity” decided to terminate it and they did, allegedly.
According to Dr Gallup the professor worked at the Yerkes Research Center before it moved to Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in 1930. “He told me that the rumor was true,” Gallup says, “And he was a credible scientists in his own right.” This “experiment” was far from being the only such experiment, however. As I mentioned Stalin had a research program going to create a humanzee and so did Maoist China in 1967! In the Chinese program a female primate was impregnated with human male sperm but she died after the lab scientists were forced to abandon their project at the outbreak of the “Cultural Revolution” in China. She apparently died of neglect and the infant was not born although the pregnancy was somewhat far along. China, in those days, was much like the Soviet Union as they too had many secrets and information was seldom reliable when it came to truth. So we really don’t know if this female ape died along with her unborn humanzee or not. However, in 1979 there were several reports in the media with China claiming that they had successfully impregnated a gorilla with human male sperm and the infant humanzee WAS BORN! That story had a short life as after the announcement Communist China had nothing else to say about it. Were there other such experiments? We more than one humanzee born?
As I said Dr Gallup coined the term “humanzee” in the 1970s after a rather odd chimp appeared on the world stage by the name of Oliver. Oliver was a chimp who was bald and who walked on two legs MOST of the time. He preferred the company of humans as he didn’t get along well with other chimps. Much of his behavior mimicked human behavior and this led some to believe that Oliver was actually a humanzee! Tests were eventually done on Oliver and one done in 1996 showed that he had 48 chromosomes and therefore was NOT a humanzee. But other tests showed he had 47 chromosomes which indicated he was indeed a hybrid. So take your pick of which test to believe. In my own mind even though Oliver is now dead I’m still unsure what to make of him. He COULD have been a hybrid or just a smart chimp that had an identity problem.
Dr Gallup and others have pointed out numerous times that it IS POSSIBLE scientifically to breed humans with apes namely chimps,, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas. Humans and the great apes are descended from a single common ape-like ancestor according to our theory of evolution. That common ancestor existed about 7 mya (million years ago). This common ancestor is what connects us to the apes and it is where our shared DNA with apes comes from. That shared DNA is rather interesting. We share about 99% of our DNA with Chimps but humans are closer genetically to bonobos than to chimps! I might also mention that tests on humans and gorillas have shown that we share 98% of our DNA with them and that we share 97% of our DNA with orangutans!!
In my next post on this subject we will consider some of the logistics involved in creating a humanzee. For now, the question is a moral one in my mind. SHOULD we be trying to create such a creature? And IF we succeed (or have we already?) in creating a “super soldier” then how do we control it? I highly DOUBT a humanzee is going to march the two-step like human soldiers with no questions asked! It would be bigger and much, much stronger than a human soldier. It would be intelligent and perhaps even MORE intelligent that a human soldier. So what happens when it (they) decide NOT to follow orders?
Frankly, I’m NOT so sure creating a human-ape hybrid is such a good idea although I must admit that I do find the idea rather intriguing to say the least. There are a lot of unknowns and a lot of questions and moral dilemmas that have to be answered and resolved I think. And what would the creation of such a species do to our religions?
As I said, in my next post we’ll look at some of the logistics of creating a humanzee including chromosomes and some other hybrids that we’ve already created many of which you already know of.