Advancements in science and technology are what propel societies forward. Without ongoing research, development, and investment into our future, we are surely doomed to fall to the same fate past civilizations have experienced. While many of the innovations of the past one-hundred years have optimized our lives and revolutionized our world, some experiments have struck a different chord with researchers in terms of our moral and ethical standards for scientific development. Here are some of the creepier attempts at innovation throughout our recent history.
1. Regrowing human limbs from a pig’s bladder.
Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh’s McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine wanted to find a natural way to regenerate human limbs using cells from other species.
They found that the cells scraped from a dried pig bladder were nearly identical to that of human cells and could be used as a base for regenerating cells of severed human limbs.
In one specific example, a man had part of his finger bitten off by a horse. He managed to retrieve the fingertip, but upon arrival at the hospital, he was told it was too late to re-attach his finger in the traditional sense.
One of the doctors was able to create a replica mold of the missing finger using the exact method developed by the University of Pittsburgh. The patient was instructed to apply a powder, also made of pig’s bladder, onto the mold. Within just a couple months, the finger was completely regrown down to the fingernail.
2. The Stanford Prison Experiment.
Researchers at Stanford University sought to investigate the psychological effects of “power”, and specifically the tension often observed between prisoners and prison guards.
In the summer of 1971, twenty-four male participants were selected to participate in a two-week immersive mock-prison experiment in which half were assigned the role of “prisoner” and half were assigned as “guards”.
After only six days, the experiment was abruptly terminated when both prisoners and guards became too difficult to control, therefore compromising the validity and possible outcomes of the simulation.
The experiment proved that when given the chance, those in power will rise to the role, while those not in power are more likely to cave to pressures of obedience. Several of the men involved experienced prolonged side effects including anxiety, hallucinations, and distrust for authority.
3. Can a human brain function in other species?
Scientists at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California wanted to test the theory that human brain cells would have the capability to function and grow in non-human species.
Embryonic stem cells were injected into fetal mice while they were still inside their mother’s womb, successfully creating the first non-human species with human brain cells.
Critics site moral repercussions of the experiment claiming they could essentially make a non-human species “too human”, however, research has been conclusive that the addition of human brain cells had little to no effect on the mouse’s brain.
One major benefit of this experiment is that scientists would be able to better study the effects of brain function, diseases, and medications on non-human subjects. But, the morality debate is still up in the air on this one.
4. RFID chips are being implanted in humans.
Our pets have been implanted with these types of location sensing RFID (radio-frequency identification) chips for years. Each chip is uniquely designed to take in and provide information about the subject.
In terms of our pets, it’s primarily used as a safety device in case they wander off, and it can provide experts with information on who the pet belongs to and how to get them back to their owner.
In recent years, humans have been the target of increased research into the utilization and consequences of RFID chips. The FDA has already approved the implantation process for humans, and the technology is already in use in prisons around the United States.
It’s likely that this technology will expand to hospitals and large corporations in the next few decades. And while it is likely to remain an at-will procedure, many believe it violates basic rights to privacy. An RFID chip implanted in a human will be able to track live locations, provide selected or restricted access to the person, and allow others to track an monitor both internal and external behavior.
5. The Milgram Experiments.
Stanley Milgram was a social psychologist who developed a passion for understanding power, authority, and most significantly, obedience. Milgram wanted to create a scenario in which he could study how ordinary people respond to those in a perceived position of power or authority, and what kind of obedience they would practice.
Participants were told they were taking part in a study about memory and learning. Each participant was instructed to read questions to another “participant” (in reality, this was one of the researchers) in a separate room – they could hear each other, but they did not have visual contact with the other “participants”. The highly controversial “teaching” method had the first participant administer “shocks” if their counterpart did not answer a question correctly.
Each time a participant administered a shock, they would be able to hear screaming and shouting from the next room, in which they were to believe this was the reaction from the other participant, however, they had no idea that the audio and reactions were completely fake.
The experiment showed overwhelmingly that ordinary people are likely to perform dangerously, and possibly even deadly, tasks as long as they were instructed to do so by a person in power. In this case, the person in power was the test administrator who was instructing the participants when to give shocks, and how much electricity to send through. Although some were fed up with causing pain onto another person, “65% of all subjects continue to administer shocks up to the very highest levels.”
6. Henrietta Lacks.
Henrietta Lacks, was born 1920 in Roanoke, Virginia, in 1920. She was a very poor and uneducated African American woman from Baltimore. She was completely unaware that her cells were taken in 1955, taken from her while doctors removed two cervical samples while coming into the hospital after experiencing pain in her abdomen.
The researchers had tried to grow cells in the past, however Henrietta’s were the first one’s to be kept alive and cloned, at least as far as research knows. They were found to be among the most durable cells out there.
Her cells were used in the development of the polio vaccine, as well as for cancer research, AIDS research, gene mapping and many, many other scientific projects. The cells used were deemed the HeLa cell line, which completely revolutionized medical research. She died without a penny to her name and was buried without a tombstones. For years, her family was completely unaware about her contribution to modern medicine.
7. Electroshock Therapy
Dr. Lauretta Bender of the New York’s Creedmoor Hospital believed that electroshock therapy would serve as a completely revolutionary treatment for children that suffered with social issues.
In the 1960’s, she began to test out her theory but using various methods, such as interviewing and analyzing sensitive children in front of large groups. She would then apply a gentle amount of pressure to the child’s head.
According to Bender, a child that moved upon received the pressure displayed early signs of schizophrenia. Since Bender was the victim of a misunderstood childhood, she was believed to be rather unsympathetic towards the children put under her care. By the time her treatments were put to an end, she had already applied her treatment to over 100 children, with the youngest being three years old.
8. Syphilis Experiments.
For an entire two years, between the years of 1946 to 1948, the United States government, together with the president of Guatemala at the time, Juan José Arevalo, as well as several health ministries in Guatemala worked together in a seriously disturbing human experiment.
They took Guatemalan innocent citizens who had no idea they were taking part in an experiment. Doctors infected people deliberately with syphilis, as well as other sexually transmitted diseases.
They infected all kinds of people, including prisoners, mental patients, soldiers, and prostitutes. They wanted to track the untreated natural progression of the diseases. The experiment resulted in over 30 deaths that have been documented. Back in 2010, the United States made a formal apology to Guatemala for taking part in these evil experiments.