Of Mice and ‘Men’

Thanks to OpinionJournal – Best of the Web Today for noting this surreal story:

Mice Guys Finish Last

The Associated Press reports on the latest chimerical goings-on in American higher education:

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In January, an informal ethics committee at Stanford University endorsed a proposal to create mice with brains nearly completely made of human brain cells. Stem cell scientist Irving Weissman said his experiment could provide unparalleled insight into how the human brain develops and how degenerative brain diseases like Parkinson’s progress.

Stanford law professor Hank Greely, who chaired the ethics committee, said the board was satisfied that the size and shape of the mouse brain would prevent the human cells from creating any traits of humanity. Just in case, Greely said, the committee recommended closely monitoring the mice’s behavior and immediately killing any that display human-like behavior.

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I’m not sure what to say about this. Is it a good idea to see if this can help cure Parkinson’s or Alzhiemer’s? Is it just interesting because we’d like to see what happens? (Probably the best argument.)

Can the morphological differences be factored out, given the order of magnitude difference in brain weight and shape?

What if it were applied to the US Senate?

And there are many more questions:

Would the mice, if they reproduced, pass on human brain cells to their offspring? What can a peanut sized brain do even if, assuming it would be true, human brain cells are superior to mouse brain cells for mice?

The supremely interesting question is: What, for mice, is “displaying human behavior”?

Complaining about the lack of opposable thumbs? Writing a new Stuart Little screenplay in their litter? Setting up glittering Mickey Mouse statues as graven images? Creating bellthecats.blogspot.com? Marching outside FDA headquarters with little signs saying “Ban Coumadin” and “Chimerae are people, too?” Voting Democrat?

Maybe it’s the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fear – these are the mice that are going to be PO’d if they’re stopped from finding the actual question, (we know the answer is 42) to “life, the Universe and everything.”

So, “closely monitor” and “immediately kill” any mutant mice that display human behavior?

Does it take one to know one? Has PETA been consulted?

This is the thought product of Stanford University when they’re being informal?

Mighty Mouse help us if they (Stanford or the mice) ever get serious.

2 thoughts on “Of Mice and ‘Men’”

  1. Hershblogger asks and answers an excellent question:What if it were applied to the US Senate? . . .What can a peanut sized brain do. . .It may be worth the research, if only to discover if mice would engage in human-political math, whereby 100 brains multiplied by themselves equals 2 thoughts (the majority’s and the minority’s).P

  2. I certainly agree with P. I am further struck by parallels such as: What we would do with our Senators if we started detecting human behavior in them? After all, we can clearly detect mouse behavior in Republicans at this very moment.Democrats, for the most part, would have to get into the Class Mammalia first.