Halting Scientific Inquiry and Is It Ethical?: The Case of the Gay Sheep
As we end the year 2006 on the Bioethics Discussion Blog, I want to challenge my visitors with the final ethical question of the year: Are there some areas of biology where it would not be ethical for scientists to study at all because of the concern of some groups that the potential results of such scientific biological study could potentially be used for acts which would be detrimental and not be in the best interest of those groups or others? What should be the limits of biologic research? Does the public and governmental reactions to stem cell research and cloning tell us anything?
There happens to be, currently, concerns about this matter. And where are the concern directed? Why, it’s the research that is being carried out at Oregon State University and at the Oregon Health and Science University. The research? Learning about what sets the sexual orientation of rams that makes some of them “gay”. These sheep prefer to mount other rams rather than mating with ewes. This behavior reduces the farming value of these animals. If the animal’s sexual orientation could be changed to behave in a heterosexual manner, this would be of benefit. Unfortunately, these studies are felt by some as the beginning of a slippery slope toward the “treatment” of human gay and lesbians, and therefore further studies of sexual-orientation should be stopped.
So the question is whether there is just some research in biology that should never be carried out and it would be better and safer to keep humankind ignorant of some parts the interesting world around us? You can read all about this particular issue in December 31, 2006 Timesonline. Let me know what you think.
May we all have a happy and healthy and ETHICAL New Year with or without gay sheep.