Saturday, April 1, 2017

New Defense: Not Facing "Societal Responsibilities" = Not a Person.

It was reported earlier here (July 2015) that courts in New York were deciding  the fate of non-persons like the chimpanzee Tommy. The cases are still very much active but, not surprisingly, have faced skeptical courts. On March 27, 2017 a new filing was made with Tommy challenging the definition of "person" used by the Court of Appeals.

Bear in mind that the issue in The Hot Monkey Love Trial is whether Bert Gropes, with a single but unique monkey gene can be prosecuted as a “person” for the crimes with which he’s been charged.  How might the New York courts define a “person” if deciding Bert’s case?

It boiled down to this, according to the earlier Court of Appeals decision:

“Unlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities, or be held legally accountable for their actions. In our view, it is this incapability to bear any legal responsibilities and societal duties that renders it inappropriate to confer on chimpanzees the legal rights – such as the fundamental right to liberty protected by the writ of habeas corpus – that have been afforded to human beings.”

This pretty much bodes well for corporations since they are held to that standard and are therefore  "persons" under law. But it doesn't look good for Bert… or, actually, it does if he wants to dodge the responsibilities that come with personhood such as a crime conviction.  Does Bert adequately submit to societal responsibilities? To his non-personhood credit, he loses his job and finds himself with no life and arguably no responsibilities. 

This could open up a whole new defense even for  those who don't have Bert's parahuman genome. Move over, "Twinkie" defense!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Hot Monkey Tech Proves To Be "Post-Fictional"

Is it possible, as presented in the novel, through bioengineering to add a unique monkey gene to a human organism, including from another species? It wasn’t long ago that the idea of editing an organism’s genes – of removing or adding genes such that the chromosomes replicate the change and pass it on to the next generation – was purely the stuff of science fiction. A lot has changed.

The hottest new gizmo frp, the bioetech toolkit in the last few years is called CRISPR. You can almost guess what it stands for: “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.” In short, it means you should not buy a cheap CRISPR and try this kind of gene editing at home without qualified scientific supervision.  

CRISPR’s best application is for snipping genes out, but it can also be used for adding genes as recently described in a December 2016 paper from researchers at the Salk Institute along with others. Notably the technology also works best on cells regularly dividing and regenerating, such as the skin or in the gut. In this new case the inserted gene was used on non-dividing cells and in a way that came with instructions to repair the eye in a blind person, what was previously thought to be irreversible.

So is the monkey tech imagined in the novel prescient, i.e., “pre-” science? Or would it be more accurate to describe it  as “post-fictional.”