Lab-Tested and Ready

Now that a chastened George W.

Now that a chastened George W. Bush has packed his bags and returned to his first love - brush-clearing - our government can at last face the nation’s challenges with a reasonable hope of success.

Oops. Sorry. I wrote that paragraph a while ago and forgot to change it. What I meant to say is, now that an unchastened George W. Bush has been reinstalled in the White House he can finally ask the question that is permitted only to a second-term president who has earned the respect of the nation and the trust of the military: Namely, where do they keep the aliens?

You know, the bodies of unlucky beings from other planets who, because of a spacecraft malfunction, were forced to land on an unfriendly planet inhabited by petulant primitives with little tolerance for life outside their own narrow world of experience.

But enough about Jerry Falwell.

Let’s talk about science, and not the kind the Bush administration rolls its eyes at and routinely says "BORING!" whenever something like global warming is mentioned. (Not that our nation’s leaders are ignorant of environmental issues, but I heard that House Speaker Dennis Hastert thinks "hubris" is one of those new hybrid cars.)

No, we’re talking about REAL science, important science, the kind of science that has created homosexual rats. (And you thought this column is never serious.)

Scientists have discovered that the so-called "gay gene" - also known as the "not-that-there’s-anything-wrong-with-that gene" - results in a smaller hypothalamus in human males. (I’m already bracing for the coming flood of e-mails titled "Enlarge Your Hypothalamus!") This condition can be replicated in experiments with laboratory rats that cause them to exhibit overtly homosexual behavior.

That’s pretty much where I stopped reading, however, because let’s face it, rats are ooky enough without having to imagine their dating habits. Unless, of course, the behavior observed was rats tidying up their cages, taking extra time grooming, or sending thoughtful notes to scientists on their birthday. But that would be perpetuating stereotypes, and if there’s anything I can’t stand it’s perpetuating stereotypes about rodents, such as the fact that Tom DeLay hoards food pellets.

Scientists experiment more on rats than on any other animal, and it’s not just because they lack union representation. (Actually, as a class, laboratory rats have better benefits than Wal-Mart employees.) Rats are used because they contain a similar genetic code to humans. When pressed, researchers will admit the one major difference between the two species is when a human scurries across the street at night nobody involuntarily shudders "Yeeeeeeeeessh!!!" and then throws a garbage can at him. Other than that, however, rats and humans are pretty much alike. Which is why concern is often raised when studies discover substances that cause cancer in rats.

To be honest, rats getting cancer has never really bothered me. In fact - and I hope this doesn’t seem cruel - I’m all for rats getting cancer. Or, for that matter, tuberculosis. While we’re at it, throw in irritable bowel syndrome and a root canal. The point is, we have enough of those slimy little guys running around already, and not just at the National Rifle Association. The less rats, the better, has always been my motto. Well, that, and "follow every rainbow."

(This just in: Scientists working for the U.S. tobacco industry have discovered that rats who smoke look really cool.)

Recently, researchers have also begun experimenting with pigs, in some cases successfully implanting human tissue. In the near future, entire organs could be harvested from livestock, an advancement that would greatly benefit those currently waiting for life-saving transplants, such as Donald Trump, who’s in line for a soul.

Despite the obvious medical benefits of this research, however, not all would welcome such advances. Take the Tin Man, for instance: "I don’t have to give you a heart," said the kindly wizard, his warm smile calming the fears of Dorothy and her friends. "It was here all along. In that pig over there."

Others would fully embrace the benefits. If such a procedure had been available years ago, the Kennedy family wouldn’t have needed an Austrian body builder to improve its gene pool. And it’s pretty much assumed that the current governor of California, in his early years, would not have hesitated in adding, say, pig transplants to his admirable model of healthy living, which includes exercise, sensible eating, and massive injections of steroids.

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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