Here be Dragons

Creationist Sam Brownback (for the senator’s own deeply disingenuous explanation of where he stands on evolution check here) is once again taking up the cudgels for junk science, this time with the introduction of a strange unnatural thing known as the Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act of 2009 (co-sponsored by Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu in, I assume, a cheerfully cynical attempt to shore up her standing with some sections of her socially conservative state’s electorate). While I, for one, would not welcome the return of either Doctor Moreau or the Minotaur to this planet, this silly piece of legislation is, as Reason’s Ron Bailey shows here, not only based on some questionable science, but could, if passed, prove to be damaging to existing lines of research that are about as far removed from the monstrous as it is possible to be.

Politically however, proposing this bill has, sadly, some logic to it–at least if you see these matters through Brownback’s eyes. By not so subtly playing the Frankenstein card, this law is designed to exploit public fears of where genetic science could lead, and to use those fears to drum up support for Brownback’s own highly sacralized notions of what it means to be human. The penalties contained in the legislation (according to Ron Bailey, up to ten years in jail and/or a million dollar fine) are also striking, particularly as Brownback is (to his credit) something of a prison reformer, and is thus well aware of what incarceration in today’s America entails. Penalties on this scale are designed not only to shut down the lines of research that would be prohibited by the legislation, but also any research that risks coming anywhere close to anything that could be caught by Brownback’s law. That’s an old legislative trick, but it doesn’t make it any less dishonest.

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