Adventures in Ethics and Science

How did we do at dialogue?

In a recent post, I issued an invitation:

I am always up for a dialogue on the issue of our moral relation to animals and on the ethical use of animals in scientific research. If folks inclined towards the animal rights stance want to engage in a dialogue right here, in the comments on this post, I am happy to host it.

(I will not, however, be hosting a debate. A dialogue is different from a debate, and a dialogue is what I’m prepared to host.)

That post has received upward of 250 comments, so there was certainly some sort of exchange going on. But, did we manage to have something approaching a dialogue, or did we end up slipping into a debate?

In considering this question, I want to offer a grid I encountered in the Difficult Dialogues Initiative at San Jose State University, adapted from material from the Public Conversations Project. The grid compares characteristics of dialogues and arguments (which are not precisely the same as debates but are probably close enough for our purposes here):

In an argument, we … In a dialogue, we …
Try to win. Try to understand.
Compete for speaking time. Value listening.
Speak for others. Speak from personal experience.
Create a potentially threatening and uncomfortable environment. Create an atmosphere of safety.
Take sides with others. Discover differences even among those with whom we agree.
Polarize ourselves from those with whom we disagree. Discover shared concerns between ourselves and others.
Feel unswerving commitment to a point of view. Discover our uncertainties as well as deeply help beliefs.
Ask questions to make a point or put the other person down. Ask questions out of true curiosity and the desire to know more.
Make predictable statements. Discover significant new things.
Make simplistic statements. Explore the complexity of the issues being discussed.
Compete. Collaborate.

Now, in the many comments on that earlier post, I think I’m seeing at least some evidence of features from the column on the right.

There seemed to be serious efforts to listen and to try to understand. There were also some interesting differences that emerged among the folks participating who support at least some research with animals. (There was exactly one participant, although a committed one, from the animal rights side of the spectrum, and he also took pains to explain some of his disagreements with other animal rights activists.)

While I can’t speak authoritatively about anyone’s motivation but my own, my sense is that many of the questions that were asked in the comments thread came from a place curiosity and a desire to explore complexities in the issue of what our relation is to non-human animals and of what it ought to be.

But, it did frequently feel like things veered towards the column on the left. There was clear polarization, assertion of points of view without much in the way of collaborative examination of those points of view, and statements from both sides that were predictable, simplistic, or both. And whether or not questions were being asked with the intention of putting the other person down, the snide comments about that other person that accompanied the questions and answers were surely meant to do so.

Which is to say, we haven’t achieved dialogue yet.

For this, I think the primary blame lies with me. Things got started during a stretch of time when I was not available to actively facilitate a dialogue. Among other things, this means I didn’t set a clear set of ground rules or goals (which might have included the grid above), nor did I keep slides into more argumentative behavior on a short leash. Basically, the participants were self-policing. Sometimes that worked OK, and sometimes it kind of fell apart.

I do think it’s worth mentioning, though, that there was only one comment that I didn’t allow through moderation (because it was spam), and while things got heated, they did not devolve to the sort of name-calling and threats I’ve encountered before (even on this blog) when writing about this subject. That seems like a hopeful sign.

There were definitely challenges here beyond the absence of hands-on dialogue facilitation. One of these was the difference between what a commenter may have meant to communicate and what ended up coming across to other participants in the discussion. Undoubtedly, how we interpret each other (in terms of the content of the claim being made, the intentions behind it, the attitude it reflects, etc.) is colored by the previous interactions we’ve had, whether these interactions have been with the same people in different contexts or with others we perceive to be “on the same side” as those with whom we’re interacting. This can make it really hard not to get our backs up from the very outset — even though we can’t really engage each other in dialogue if we’ve already written each other off.

We’re in that Charlie Brown situation, trying to be open to the possibility that this time Lucy won’t snatch the football away as we try to kick it. Only here, no one will literally end up flat on his back if his suspicions turn out to be accurate.

Another challenge to our attempt at dialogue is that one set of positions (that research with non-human animals can be morally justified, that it’s possible to perform such research ethically) was very well represented, while the view on the other end of the spectrum (that human use of non-human animals is immoral) had just one person speaking on its behalf. I think we have to acknowledge that this spread the burden in the dialogue pretty unevenly — our animal rights supporter ended up having to field all the questions about his own position and about related positions which he himself did not hold. That’s a lot of work, and in the exchange here it didn’t look like particularly rewarding work.

Yet another challenge, one perhaps more significant in this kind of online attempt at dialogue than it might be if we were trying to have a face-to-face dialogue, is that it’s much less obvious when your online interlocutors are listening and thinking. Arguably, listening and thinking are at least as important in a serious dialogue as speaking. Knowing at least the regulars from my comments who participated in our exchange, I’d bet good money that they were really considering and reflecting on the points being made. But staring at the words on your screen, it’s not like we see direct evidence of the listening and thinking — at least until it’s followed by another comment prompted by that listening and thinking.

When things got going, a number of people fell into telling each other “What you’re really thinking/feeling/doing here is …” In my experience, this is a pretty reliable way to run things off the rails. We’re not telepathic here, and telepathy shouldn’t be a prerequisite to something like a dialogue. When we try this again (and we will), we’re going to stick with more factually accurate claims like “What you seem to me to be thinking/feeling/doing here is … (and here’s why I get that impression).” This gives us the opportunity to really communicate without having to go on the defensive (or offensive).

The heated exchanges and attribution of questionable motives to each other notwithstanding, I feel like some progress was made in identifying some of the basis for our disagreements. At least some of those voicing support for research with non-human animals seemed to have been thinking in terms of consequentialist ethics that weights the well-being of humans and non-human animals but does not weight them equally. Our animal rights supporter, on the other hand, seemed more committed to a deontological moral framework in which non-human animals do not exist for human use, no matter what benefit might come from it. There were also important and interesting differences of opinion on whether it makes more sense to regard humans and non-human animals as all part of the same Nature, or whether the present state of affairs puts humans essentially outside of Nature. Related to this, differences started to emerge about whether various facts (like humans’ relationship to nature) are relevant or irrelevant to our moral convictions.

Getting down to the root of the disagreement feels like progress to me. But we made less progress “getting meta” on some of this — drawing distinctions, for example between having a moral conviction and having an independent basis for establishing that this moral conviction is correct, or talking about how, in the absent of independent grounding for our convictions, we can come up with reasonable grounds for assigning priority to competing interests or adopt policies that are good reflections of our values even when these sometimes pull in different directions.

Here, if I had been a hands-on facilitator of our attempted dialogue, I could have invoked Martin Buber’s notion of remaining in the tension between holding your ground and being open to the other. Maybe my moral convictions are right. Maybe the other person’s moral convictions are right. Can I acknowledge sensible reasons (not just evil, lazy, ill-informed, or self-serving ones) someone might hold the other person’s position, even if I don’t hold it? In circumstances where we can’t establish with certainty either set of moral commitments as the right ones, how can we move forward together?

This last question is a big one. How should we be part of a larger society whose members are guided by differing moral convictions? What piece of our ideal outcome would we be willing to give up if it meant progress on some other piece of it?

Our first try at a dialogue here on animal rights and ethical research with non-human animals was not a stunning success, but I’m hopeful that it gives us something to build on — especially since I don’t think giving up on dialogue is a good option.

Comments

  1. #1 babble
    October 28, 2009

    (There was exactly one participant, although a committed one, from the animal rights side of the spectrum, and he also took pains to explain some of his disagreements with other animal rights activists.)

    …which inevitably gets lost in the shuffle to class me as “insane” and a “terrorist,” and etc., which is why I have my doubts about this:

    While I can’t speak authoritatively about anyone’s motivation but my own, my sense is that many of the questions that were asked in the comments thread came from a place curiosity and a desire to explore complexities in the issue of what our relation is to non-human animals and of what it ought to be.

    …they did not devolve to the sort of name-calling and threats I’ve encountered before (even on this blog) when writing about this subject. That seems like a hopeful sign.

    I think we have a clearly different perception of what should be considered “hopeful.”

    …while the view on the other end of the spectrum (that human use of non-human animals is immoral) had just one person speaking on its behalf. I think we have to acknowledge that this spread the burden in the dialogue pretty unevenly — our animal rights supporter ended up having to field all the questions about his own position and about related positions which he himself did not hold.

    Thank you for at least acknowledging that.

    That’s a lot of work, and in the exchange here it didn’t look like particularly rewarding work.

    This is technically accurate, but not especially important. My aim isn’t to win converts to AR among the pro-vivisection crowd. That’s a completely useless, useless effort. Folks convinced that there’s no underlying moral issue to the use of animals for human ends are going to more than likely stick to that position no matter what.

    It takes a moral awakening – that cannot happen by being talked into it – in order for things to change.

    Talking *about* it can lead someone to the place where it can happen, but it *cannot* make it happen. The former is my goal. Attempting to create the latter is lead-into-gold.

    Yet another challenge, one perhaps more significant in this kind of online attempt at dialogue than it might be if we were trying to have a face-to-face dialogue, is that it’s much less obvious when your online interlocutors are listening and thinking.

    It should be obvious that the pro-test (in both senses of the phrase) side of the argument a) weren’t listening and b) aren’t going to.

    Which, again, I was expecting at the outset.

    Our animal rights supporter, on the other hand, seemed more committed to a deontological moral framework in which non-human animals do not exist for human use, no matter what benefit might come from it.

    This is accurate as a statement of moral principle, but again, leads to all sorts of silliness about forcing folks to die short of lifesaving research, etc. etc. etc.

    *Would* I force humans to do something else if I could? Absolutely.

    I cannot. No one in the AR movement *can*. Shrieking – endlessly – about us promoting “terrorism” and other irrelevant silliness aside, we’re no closer to *ending* research today than we were a century ago, or 20 years ago, or…

    My aim is just to get folks to acknowledge this honestly.

    If your position is that there’s no underlying moral objection to use, *use will persist.* It does not matter how many times you’re telling me your uses are humane (as conveniently defined *by* humans, *for* humans).

    Getting down to the root of the disagreement feels like progress to me.

    Again, I think we have wildly divergent views on what should be considered progress.

    This last question is a big one. How should we be part of a larger society whose members are guided by differing moral convictions? What piece of our ideal outcome would we be willing to give up if it meant progress on some other piece of it?

    That is, of course, the $64,000 question. It’s unresolvable, until generations of folks are raised with an AR mindset. When two or three generations of humans *grow up* with the idea that the *use* of animals for human purposes simply *cannot* be morally justified, THEN useful change can occur. Until then, it’s all just rearranging the deck chairs. The ship itself is still unsalvageable.

  2. #2 Pat Cahalan
    October 28, 2009

    Minor note: Babble was a she (at least, of course, this is what was claimed, who knows on teh Intrawebs).

    For the record, I haven’t signed the Pro-Test position myself, primarily because I don’t like the way clause (2) is written.

    I did in fact spend almost all of my time responding to Babble, as opposed to some of the Pro-Test people on the thread, but that was largely due to the frequency of Babble’s postings and the fact that she was talking directly back at my posts (even though she was the only AR person on the thread, she did win the post count for her side handily), and not quite so much because I’m a “pro-tester” (which I’m not, exactly).

    The independent basis note was largely glossed over because Babble more or less conceded to inevitability and thus there was nobody discussing that from the AR side. At that point I was tempted to take up that question from the AR side, but I was already taking up too much time on the one thread as it was, and I didn’t want Babble to think I was trying to be condescending. The question of the social implications of individual moral or philosophical frameworks lacks immediacy when you’re trying to suss out the frameworks to begin with, of course.

    The biggest problem with online discourse is that it’s easy to attribute voice that isn’t there.

  3. #3 Sweetwater Tom
    October 28, 2009

    I did not participate in the previous conversation.

    I don’t know what is “right” or “best”, but I am pretty sure that some animals deserve more legal protection than they have now. I came to this conclusion reading about the intelligence, emotional capability, and cooperativeness of marine mammals such as Orca/Killer Whales and other dolphins. We have animal cruelty laws, but they have limited application — cattle, hogs, dogs, horses, etc. No one cares much about rats or house flies. I can’t help but think that some animals are “human” enough to be granted some sort of elevated legal status.

    This probably muddies the waters for the animal rights questions, but I wanted to toss in my idea. Thanks,

  4. #4 babble
    October 28, 2009

    No, Pat, I’m not female. Heh. At least I corrected myself when I assumed gender. To claim such a fantastic interest in specificity, you’ve missed some glaringly obvious bits.

    You weren’t paying attention to me, as I said.

  5. #5 babble
    October 28, 2009

    You didn’t see me claim to be female, because it *did not happen.* Sigh. As I said, if you’re going to pat yourself on the back for caring about details, well. Care about details.

  6. #6 D. C. Sessions
    October 28, 2009

    My main reaction was “meh.” About five comments in, everyone had identified the fundamental differences, and from there on it was (at best) repetition with variation.

    Points for trying to keep it civil and on-topic, but IMHO not terribly productive in the sense of anyone developing a deeper understanding of differing views (or for that matter of the complexity of the issue.)

  7. #7 D. C. Sessions
    October 28, 2009

    It should be obvious that the pro-test (in both senses of the phrase) side of the argument a) weren’t listening and b) aren’t going to.

    There is a difference between “not listening” and “not agreeing.” Confusing the latter for the former is one of the early steps on theHoly Warrior catechism.

    It’s unresolvable, until generations of folks are raised with an AR mindset. When two or three generations of humans *grow up* with the idea that the *use* of animals for human purposes simply *cannot* be morally justified, THEN useful change can occur.

    That is a counsel of despair.

  8. #8 babble
    October 28, 2009

    Yes, but that doesn’t actually mean much. Nothing is going to change while we splash around justifying this use or that; not a thing. Yes, we’ll perhaps implement this standard of welfare or that, here or there, when it suits us…

    But it will be *when* it suits us, *as* it suits us, just as it always has been. That’s the problem.

  9. #9 Pat Cahalan
    October 28, 2009

    > No, Pat, I’m not female. Heh

    Oh, my apologies. I misread one of the replies to your cat posts and did a pronoun re-assessment. My bad.

    If you referred to your gender earlier in the thread, I missed it because (as I said), I didn’t read the start of the thread.

    > You weren’t paying attention to me, as I said.

    Yes, because that was totally the central point of the conversation. Sheesh.

  10. #10 babble
    October 28, 2009

    Yes, because that was totally the central point of the conversation. Sheesh.

    It simply makes the case that you spent an awful lot of your time scolding me for not “hearing” you, while you didn’t bother to listen to me. Pot, kettle, Pat. You can’t call it if you’re ALSO doing it.

    That you’re here saying you would have played devil’s advocate in the thread just points out that you’re right: I’d have seen that for the glaringly obvious condescending silliness it would have been.

  11. #11 babble
    October 28, 2009

    That you’ve spun your OWN pronoun misperception into a claim that I *claimed* to be female…

    Minor note: Babble was a she (at least, of course, this is what was claimed, who knows on teh Intrawebs).

    Isn’t something you really ought to handwave away. The ENTIRE thread centered on you and several others hanging your perceptions and misperceptions of AR on me, and various other bits of idiocy, and when it became clear that trying to have a real discussion about ANY of it with you lot was impossible, the only possible use any of it had was to hang in until folks finally admitted some kernels of truth.

    Dario finally stopped pretending the “alternatives” angle he’d tried to push several times carried any weight because he didn’t view the underlying issue of use to even BE an issue.

    DuWayne FINALLY got around to his sole purpose for being in the thread: calling me insane and making idiotic accusations of terrorism.

    Rinse, lather, repeat.

    You folks want to pretend to be flinging daisies? Have at it. Pretend away.

    I’m not going to assist you in that.

  12. #12 Pat Cahalan
    October 29, 2009

    > It simply makes the case that you spent an awful
    > lot of time scolding me for not “hearing” you, while
    > you didn’t bother to listen to me.

    I just rechecked, and unless I missed it twice (certainly possible given the volume), I don’t see you referring to yourself as male, Babble, unless by “homosexual” I’m supposed to infer “gay male” instead of “lesbian”. Maybe that’s a common inference of which I’m not aware.

    I don’t think anything you said has any sort of feminist/non-feminist bent, so I’m not sure how a mis-association of gender is ironclad proof that I wasn’t listening to you, but if that’s the way you want to believe it, I suppose you’re going to go ahead.

    That seems a pretty odd and trivial note to hang “making the case” on, though.

    > That you’re here saying you would have played
    > devil’s advocate in the thread just points
    > out that you’re right

    Er, you’re assuming (wrongly, as it happens) that I’d be *playing* devil’s advocate. Independent basis is an important point of social issues no matter upon which side of a particular moral question one comes down, given the base operational rules of the republic in which I live. I agree, for example, that in many current (legal) cases of abortion the act is not morally justifiable, but there is no independent basis for me to claim it would be reasonable for me to seek establishment of that belief in our current social system (in fact, I’ve argued on more than one occasion that it is unethical for me to attempt to codify this belief in law).

    The case for ending animal use is (IMO) actually much clearer and easier to make. Like I said in the other thread, you can make lots of cases for ending animal use, outside of a moral one. Some of them, given the current state of our ecology, are pretty compelling.

    But, as I said, you didn’t bother to pursue it, so it didn’t seem germane to the conversation between the two of us, so.

  13. #13 babble
    October 29, 2009

    You’re STILL not really listening.

    That you’ve spun your OWN pronoun misperception into a claim that I *claimed* to be female…

    Minor note: Babble was a she (at least, of course, this is what was claimed, who knows on teh Intrawebs).

    Isn’t something you really ought to handwave away. The ENTIRE thread centered on you and several others hanging your perceptions and misperceptions of AR on me, and various other bits of idiocy, and when it became clear that trying to have a real discussion about ANY of it with you lot was impossible, the only possible use any of it had was to hang in until folks finally admitted some kernels of truth.

  14. #14 babble
    October 29, 2009

    But, as I said, you didn’t bother to pursue it, so it didn’t seem germane to the conversation between the two of us, so.

    ‚Ķbecause flailing around with ecological justifications or other bits of this or that or the other argument aren’t going to CHANGE anything. Again, you’re *not listening.*

    Nothing is going to change while we splash around justifying this use or that; not a thing. Yes, we’ll perhaps implement this standard of welfare or that, here or there, when it suits us…

    But it will be *when* it suits us, *as* it suits us, just as it always has been. That’s the problem.

    For every claim I *could* easily make about factory farming/CAFO being bad for humans and the planet, and hell, other animals in the abstract, it *will not change anything*.

    Folks will pat themselves on the back for buying happy meat with a sticker on it, which will be utterly meaningless, other folks will claim, some truthfully, many outright dishonesty to “sustainably hunt” every tidbit of meat they eat…

    Rinse, lather, repeat. It’s *meaningless*, in the extreme, which is why I didn’t bother with any of it. I’ve been down this road too many times with you people, and I’ve heard it all. Countless times.

  15. #15 Pat Cahalan
    October 29, 2009

    Wow, is this an example of the atonal nature of textual communication.

    > That you’ve spun your OWN pronoun misperception
    > into a claim that I *claimed* to be female…

    >> Minor note: Babble was a she (at least, of course,
    >> this is what was claimed, who knows on teh Intrawebs).

    That was not meant to be some sort of insinuation that you were misrepresenting yourself malignantly, it was an idle observation on the nature of anonymous internet communications. I can see in retrospect that you might certainly take it that way, given the psychic load of being the lone gunman on the last thread. Again, honest apology for that, and one for the phrasing as well. If there was one thing that was clearly demonstrated on the previous thread, it’s that you have a solid conviction, I truly did not mean to imply (even loosely by extension) that you were misrepresenting your *position*.

    > …because flailing around with ecological
    > justifications or other bits of this or that or
    > the other argument aren’t going to CHANGE
    > anything. Again, you’re *not listening.*

    No, I heard you say this, I just don’t think it’s true. I alluded to it myself on the previous thread.

    It’s certainly not true in my case, I’ve changed my mind about a lot of things as I’ve gotten older, usually because of working out actual justifications for things and finding contradictions in my own thought process, and trying to resolve them.

    I don’t even understand exactly why you’re saying this (other than frustration, which is reasonable given the public’s general uncharitable view of your stance), given that you have affected change, in yourself, you’ve probably seen it in others, and when you entered into the thread one of your early comments (among the ones I read) is that you were posting not for “us” (that is, the supposedly pro-test crowd), but for other people who might come along and be persuaded by your position. You certainly forcibly reiterated that you believed that your position would come to be considered the correct one in time, which is obviously predicated on change.

    > Nothing is going to change while we splash around
    > justifying this use or that; not a thing.

    … case in point, things certainly *have* changed, even in the last 40 years. Much for the worse, as far as agriculture goes, but certainly much, much for the better as far as animal testing and general animal welfare goes. Your note about blowtorching a dog on the previous thread was, on the face of it, just wrong… there is no way in hell that you would get such an activity approved by an IRB at almost all if not all research institutions in the U.S. Are there some scientists who would do it anyway, or some institutions that would support it? Probably/possibly, I’m not so naive to believe otherwise, but it’s *clearly* not the norm and not considered acceptable. Animal welfare (your preferred term) laws do exist. Michael Vick would not have been prosecuted 40 years ago for dogfighting, and definitely would have continued playing in the NFL.

  16. #16 Cleveland
    October 29, 2009

    How should we be part of a larger society whose members are guided by differing moral convictions?

    That is, of course, the $64,000 question. It’s unresolvable, until generations of folks are raised with an AR mindset.

    Whoooosh!!!! Right over ol’ Bubbles’ head.

    It is a fantastic question though. Oh, wait, we have a longstanding and well tried answer. Rhymes with “Fool of Paw”….

  17. #17 John C. Welch
    October 29, 2009

    As soon as one side, (doesn’t matter which one) claims any form of moral high ground, or states/implies that their side is the side of morality, then you have as much chance at dialogue as you do with anyone else convinced that their side is the only moral side.

    zero.

  18. #18 DuWayne
    October 29, 2009

    Just to clarify a rather important point.

    I am not accusing you, babble, of being a terrorist. I am rightfully accusing you of associating yourself with people who advocate terrorist activities. That dealing with the terrorism advocated by people you associate with is my primary goal in this whole discussion has never been hidden away anywhere – I have been clear about that from the outset. Clicking over to the post Dr. Freeride linked in her first post makes my position quite clear and you have seen me elsewhere on the tubes to be aware of that.

    And that is the point of what drove this discussion, the pro-test petition. The whole reason pro-test exists, is because of AR terrorists. You seem to find the references distasteful, but you have associated yourself with people who support terrorism, which speaks much louder than your claims of non-violence. If you do not like being painted into that company, take yourself out of that company.

    I have done exactly that. I used to be very big into environmental activism, to the point that I engaged in civil disobedience. When it came to dealing with terrorism, I disassociated myself with a group that I had been a huge part of. I didn’t make excuses, I didn’t throw out any “yeah, buts” – I cut off all ties and denounced the actions of terrorists. That is what it takes. And I don’t hang around blogs that advocate terrorism.

    Don’t want to have terrorism thrown at you, then cut yourself off of it.

    I think that John Welch has rather made the point about the possibility of dialogue. It is kind of pointless when the common ground we have – and most of us have far more in common with you, than with people who have no concern for animal welfare – is completely irrelevant to you. Because there is a great deal of common ground here. On a spectrum from your position to the opposite extreme, I doubt many people here are any closer to the center, than they are to your position. Because no matter how much it makes you feel better to think that I like to kill, I do not. And I am dead solid against allowing animal suffering.

    It isn’t that you are unwilling to engage in dialogue, I just don’t think you can. You have yet to clearly define your position, because apparently that’s not what it’s all about. You refuse to accept take any of us at face value.

    There is very little point, except to prod you to show exactly how little substance you have to offer the discussion. To make sure that you do not achieve your goals of convincing the bystanders.

  19. #19 babble
    October 29, 2009

    … case in point, things certainly *have* changed, even in the last 40 years. Much for the …worse, as far as agriculture goes, but certainly much, much for the better as far as animal testing and general animal welfare goes.

    Which sounds nice, but again, *doesn’t* get to the real point. As I said over there, if humans decide humans will benefit, a given test WILL occur. That we’ve moved the decision-making process from *a few* humans to *a few more* isn’t as relevant as you apparently want to believe it is.

    So long as we persist in thinking animals exist *for our use*, use *will* persist, and will conditionally regard welfare, as it suits us, *when* it suits us, and nothing more.

    …Michael Vick would not have been prosecuted 40 years ago for dogfighting, and definitely would have continued playing in the NFL.

    Which is still largely meaningless. Vick was jailed not because he did very many bad things to dogs but because he – as a celebrity – was an easy target for society to wag its finger at, while we largely ignore everything else.

    He’s he’s rehabbing his image with the help of a very well funded animal welfare organization that’s using the whole thing to press for more donations, and will you honestly be even the slightest bit surprised when he returns to pro football after a sufficient number of public apologies?

    This isn’t indicative of a change. It’s just indicative of PR.

  20. #20 David Jentsch
    October 29, 2009

    What is missing here is the human element of the discussion, I think. In my own face-to-face conversations with animal rights activists, we first acknowledge (in an informal way) that all participants are reasonable, good people with understandable motivations driving their positions. When you start from that, you can work to explore and understand how they achieved that different perspective. Clearly, my own conversations with anti-research individuals have not yielded any converts, nor are they likely to do so in the future, but I think that it’s crucial to the dialogue that we value the opinion of those involved in the collaboration, rather than merely deciding in advance that their final position is the only thing that matters in determining their value and that of their perspective. These are the sorts of moral, high stakes positions that John (#17) is referring to.

  21. #21 babble
    October 29, 2009

    Whoooosh!!!! Right over ol’ Bubbles’ head.

    Not really; I just don’t accept that the premise of the question ITSELF is as meaningful as folks here might wish to think. You’re essentially asking me how do we get the AR movement to see animal exploitation as something other than slavery. The answer is quite simple: you don’t.

    That I’m required to adhere to a certain standard of legal conduct is a separate issue; that doesn’t make any useful claim that there’s useful dialog to be had on ANY of these issues…which position I’ve been more than clear on from the very beginning.

    I think that John Welch has rather made the point about the possibility of dialogue.

    There IS no common ground; that you spent an awful lot of time calling me dogmatic is neither here, nor there, DuWayne. It doesn’t matter in the slightest. That you seem to have hit on the very place I *came into* the discussion is nice for you, perhaps, but it took you long enough. Or, rather, it didn’t, did it? As you yourself admitted over in the other thread, you’re using me just as much as I’m using you.

    I’m just not pretending to be “all about dialog” through any of this.

    What is missing here is the human element of the discussion, I think. In my own face-to-face conversations with animal rights activists, we first acknowledge (in an informal way) that all participants are reasonable, good people with understandable motivations driving their positions.

    Which is not happening here, and is not going to. I’m just not going to pretend otherwise.

  22. #22 DuWayne
    October 29, 2009

    But it will be *when* it suits us, *as* it suits us, just as it always has been. That’s the problem.

    That just isn’t true babble. The changes that have been made and continue to be made are because people make arguments for those changes. This is where I have a serious problem with your position. I agree with you on far more than I disagree. A whole lot of people do. But because you are making this an all or nothing affair, you are not taking part in a conversation that actually does change things. If, as you hope, we are ever going to be in a place where we humans decide not to exploit animals anymore, it is going to be through incremental changes.

    Let me couch it in a different issue, that may allow you an objective view of what I am saying. I believe absolutely in the legalization of almost all illicit drugs, prostitution and gambling. Bottom line, I believe that all of those things should be legal and we should stop imprisoning people for doing those things. Ultimately, my fight will not be over until the laws allow for all of those. That does not mean that I am not a strong advocate for legalizing cannabis for medical use and ultimately for recreational use. I have lobbied for both.

    I accept that all of those changes aren’t going to change at once. And as much as I would like to see the harm caused by the illicit nature of non-cannabis drug use, prostitution and gambling, I am more than happy to accept the reduction of harm that comes with medical cannabis and which will come with legal recreational cannabis. For some people, when the goal of legalizing cannabis is met, they are done with the fight. For others, the fight has only just begun – some of them, like myself, have carried that standard for a much longer time. Others were convinced to pick it up because of their interactions with people like me, while we were fighting for that early step of legalizing medical cannabis.

    I am not saying this because I agree with your larger goals. I most obviously do not. But there are levels of this fight that would easily allow us to be allies, just as there are a host of other issues that I am certain would find us fighting side by side. There is a place for us to work together to foster change, in spite of our disagreement on the end goals. I would love to see vast improvements in animal welfare laws, especially in regards to factory farming. I would also love to see us wasting far less resources on meat production and focus many of those resources on producing more food.

    There is no reason whatever, that we should not be able to work together towards those goals, even if achieving those goals would not end the fight for you.

    For every claim I *could* easily make about factory farming/CAFO being bad for humans and the planet, and hell, other animals in the abstract, it *will not change anything*.

    This is demonstrably untrue. Things have changed and are changing. They are not changing to the degree that you want them to, but they are changing. The difference between now and when I was a child is incredible.

    The question is what is important? Is it more important to stick to an all or nothing approach and affect no change? Or is it more important to improve the lot of non-human animals, as much as possible while pursuing your absolute goal?

    Dario finally stopped pretending the “alternatives” angle he’d tried to push several times carried any weight because he didn’t view the underlying issue of use to even BE an issue.

    No babble, Dario just gave up on trying to convince you that developing alternatives is important too. Just like my supposed admittance that I am here because of the terror angle was all in your head, so was this one. You are the one who is considering the idea of seeking alternatives, mutually exclusive to not believing use is inherently immoral. Just as you are the one who was somehow thinking I was trying to hide my motivation for taking part in this discussion. They aren’t mutually exclusive and I have been more than a little outspoken about my feelings on terrorism.

  23. #23 babble
    October 29, 2009

    I accept, as I’ve accepted all along that *some* changes have occurred. The point you’re missing is that in many cases, those are trivial, and in nearly all they’re used to justify use in the first place. Pro-Test *itself* rests on two fundamental claims:

    - Humans benefit

    - Our uses are humane

    This does not, in any way, address the moral issue. It’s not surprising in the least, because it isn’t supposed to. It’s to sell the current way of things, with trivial changes here or there, when we feel like it, *if* we feel like it.

    You can keep dancing around calling me a not-quite-but-still-a-TERRORIST! (cue scary music) all you like. If you actually believed I was insane, you’d not bother with any of this; it doesn’t matter. Not a shred of it. The only thing that *does* matter is getting underneath the endless (and ultimately useless) welfare justification.

    If you want to push this, just like you did last time, we’ll grind this back down to you shrieking terrorist, terrorist, terrorist in the hopes that I’ll storm off mad. I won’t.

    Your agenda is as plain as day.

    So is mine.

    I’m simply more honest.

  24. #24 babble
    October 29, 2009

    The problem, as ever, is that you’re asking us to work with you on a few things that you might agree are awful (CAFO) while essentially ignoring everything else that’s also awful. You’ve already got the animal welfare movement for that. The reason the AR movement broke away from the existing animal welfare movement was because we didn’t see what was happening as actual progress. Welfare has been around, in one form or another, for more than a century. It isn’t working. It just isn’t. We’re no closer to ending testing today than we were at any point in the past, and large-scale industrial agriculture is worse now than it’s ever been, and getting steadily more so. Pretending otherwise is just pretending otherwise.

    Continually claiming the very many “great advances” in welfare that you see when you look at this isn’t relevant. It just isn’t. If you want to animal welfare movement to bray endlessly about the many great things that are happening, they’re (I’m sure) more than happy to do that.

    AR doesn’t need to fill that role; giving humans indulgence to do what they want is a social role that’s already been filled.

    Again, welfare is an exceedingly convenient thing for us to claim, and it’s entirely conditional. If it weren’t, factory farming simply *would not exist.* We will use animals, for the foreseeable future, and we will ignore animal suffering *as it suits us to do so.* This is not progress.

  25. #25 Cleveland
    October 29, 2009

    Not really; I just don’t accept that the premise of the question ITSELF is as meaningful as folks here might wish to think. You’re essentially asking me how do we get the AR movement to see animal exploitation as something other than slavery. The answer is quite simple: you don’t.

    WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSSSSHHH!!!!

  26. #26 babble
    October 29, 2009

    Blah, blah, blah. That you’re going to keep on amusing yourself is neither here, nor there.

    “This last question is a big one. How should we be part of a larger society whose members are guided by differing moral convictions? What piece of our ideal outcome would we be willing to give up if it meant progress on some other piece of it?”

    Short answer: we don’t give up, until humans as a society stop using animals. Whatever concessions folks may make in the short term are the distraction we’re expected to fall right into so that use can persist.

    We don’t talk about regulating rape or murder to make them kinder, even if we allow that a rape-free society will likely not occur. Please, for the love of God, no more irrelevant debates about animal consent. I understand that you don’t see the situations as morally comparable. I do. Regulating the use of animals to magically make it kind enough such that use is not morally problematic will a) not happen as a practical matter and b) is only ever done to perpetuate use in the first place. We’ll enact whatever bare minimum of welfare makes us feel good about ourselves, and doesn’t hurt the bottom line (too much). The rest is noise.

    Once again, if you want the animal welfare movement to fall all over itself to congratulate you for your “humane use” of animals, they WILL do that. It will do whatever it does for you, and you’ll continue doing whatever you *want* to do.

    I’m just not going to pretend that any of that is progress, or that any of it really means anything.

  27. #27 Dario Ringach
    October 29, 2009

    The main obstacle to our conversation was the charge that our side was not engaging in dialogue in good faith.

    We say we do animal research because we truly believe it contributes to the health of both human and non-human animals. They say that we do it for the money.

    We say we actually embrace progress towards finding alternatives to the use of animals in research. They say we just want to keep the status-quo and call such statements a “smokescreen”.

    We say that we feel the work can be ethically justified. They say they can’t help us here. That we need to undergo so sort of religious/spiritual experience and be enlightened by the truth.

    I personally have no problem understanding that their opposition to research is a result out of a deep concern and empathy for the lives of animals. I never challenged that.

    Why can’t the opposition accept our stated intentions at face value?

  28. #28 babble
    October 29, 2009

    Why can’t the opposition accept our stated intentions at face value?

    Because there IS a financial interest, Dario. Yes, yes, it’s for the good of all humankind, which makes folks feel good about themselves. All sorts of things make humans feel good about themselves. That’s not really what’s important.

    You’re not doing the work for free. Drug companies don’t do duplicative work just to be mean (well, some of them may, but that’s a whole other discussion). They do it because they *can*, and because there’s boatloads of money to be made by doing it.

    I’m not (personally) saying that’s your sole motivation, but it’s not as if it doesn’t come to bear on all of this, either.

    I’m not calling for a spiritual conversion, so much as just opening your eyes. I went. I looked. I *saw*. I went to dairy farms, years ago, before things were even as bad as they are now. I went to slaughterhouses. I saw with my own eyes what happens to spent dairy cattle. So I stopped bullshitting myself and telling myself that meat – which I *had* given up for religious reasons – was any different than dairy, eggs, etc.

    I’ve worked animal shelters, and I’ve seen the full range of human “compassion” for the pets they say they love in one minute and throw away the next.

    I know it’s easier to just pretend I’m prattling on and that I’m mentally unstable, and the rest of it. But I’ve *seen*, because I took the time to open my eyes. You could, too. You just won’t, most likely.

  29. #29 DuWayne
    October 29, 2009

    No babble, pro-test rests on one and only one fundamental claim. That we will not allow terrorists to stop essential research. That is what pro-test was founded for – a response to terrorism. I am not accusing you of being a terrorist and am not going to allow you to characterize my position as something other than it is. I believe you when you claim you do not believe in violence or the use of violence in furthering your cause. I am bringing up terrorism, because that is the fundamental issue here and because while you do not support it, you associate yourself with people who do. You cannot get away from that, no matter how much you might like to, unless you denounce terrorists and those who support them.

    AR doesn’t need to fill that role; giving humans indulgence to do what they want is a social role that’s already been filled.

    And fighting a fight you can actually make strides in doesn’t mean you have to indulge anybody. There is no reason you cannot fight for animal welfare under the current paradigm, while also fighting for an entirely different paradigm. A hell of a lot better than tilting at windmills, fighting a fight you are not going to win any time soon, if ever, at the cost of all else you might actually accomplish to improve the lot of animals.

    Again, welfare is an exceedingly convenient thing for us to claim, and it’s entirely conditional. If it weren’t, factory farming simply *would not exist.* We will use animals, for the foreseeable future, and we will ignore animal suffering *as it suits us to do so.* This is not progress.

    Nor is it progress to simply whine about a lack of progress, because you aren’t willing to actually fight the worst offenses of factory farming alongside allies who don’t share the same long term goals as you. What really sucks about this, is that you have a lot of very important points that a lot of people can agree with – including myself. But as long as you a) associate yourself with supporters of terrorism and b) refuse to accept alliances with people who do not agree with your entire position, you are going to be sitting on the lonely fringe accomplishing nothing to improve the lot of animals now.

    When I have claimed you’re insane, this is why. Well this and your proclivity for all caps on random words. You are ignoring every bit of common ground that you have – not even noticing that there are a lot of people who agree with a great deal of what you have to say. You don’t seem to care, because short of agreeing with you absolutely, anything that anyone else has to offer is completely irrelevant. I call you insane, because to functionally make this easier for you to palate, you choose to pretend that we are all evil people who could care less about how animals are treated, instead of accepting that we actually believe what we claim to believe. And I claim you’re insane, because your dogma blinds you to the reality of the place humans have in our ecosystem.

    I believe that you are being honest – that isn’t in question here. I have no doubts about your sincerity. I just really have a hard time understanding why you question everyone else’s.

  30. #30 babble
    October 29, 2009

    There is no reason you cannot fight for animal welfare under the current paradigm, while also fighting for an entirely different paradigm.

    You’re not really listening, DuWayne.

    I’d be fighting to make it easier for people to keep on buying happy meat with meaningless little stickers on the side of the package that said “humanely raised”, as if that made everything okay.

    It doesn’t. It really, honestly just *doesn’t.*

    If YOU want to align yourself with the organized animal welfare movement, feel free. If you want that movement to tell you very many good things about what you’re doing, *they will do that.*

    I believe that you are being honest – that isn’t in question here. I have no doubts about your sincerity.

    Except, of course, when you do:

    You are very obviously an ignorant little git, who simply wants to pretend to care about animals, because it gives you something to get all worked up about.

    Let’s not play make-believe, here, DuWayne. You’re claiming simultaneously that I’m a true-believing whackjob who as a result can’t reason his way out of a paper bag, AND that I’m doing all of this for the sole purpose of getting “worked up online.”

    You’re likely to continue making both claims, as it suits you to do so, I imagine, but really: let’s not play make-believe, here.

    I just really have a hard time understanding why you question everyone else’s.

    Setting aside the above (no matter which claim you’re using at the moment, either of them fit as an underlying motive, so if I’m *either* of the things you’ve proposed, you don’t actually have a hard time understanding this at all, do you?), it’s not actually about any individual’s motives.

    It’s the entire culture, top to bottom, that will go right on using animals in ways that cause suffering, and turning a more-or-less blind eye to that suffering in order for use to persist.

    The only real question is if that will persist for the next few human generations, or for the next thousand years.

  31. #31 Pat Cahalan
    October 29, 2009

    > Please, for the love of God, no more irrelevant
    > debates about animal consent.

    They’re not irrelevant, and (in the context of the previous thread), it wasn’t a matter of debate, at least as far as I was coming from.

    > I understand that you don’t see the situations
    > as morally comparable. I do.

    I didn’t say they weren’t morally comparable (actually, what I said was the exact opposite). I said they were incommensurable, which is not the same thing. I even provided a specific way to compare them, you didn’t want to do that, regarding it as some sort of logic trap to justify some sort of use. For whatever definition of “use” you’re using.

  32. #32 babble
    October 29, 2009

    I’ve heard multiple versions of the “you ought to work with persons A, B and C that I like for various subjective reasons, and you ought to disassociate from persons D, E and F that I dislike for various reasons.”

    A couple of things to consider:

    I publicly called it McCarthyism when Gary Francione did it to me, based on nothing more than membership in a facebook group. Francione *knows* me – well enough to offer to link to my blog and websites from Abolitionist Approach, and we’ve spoken MORE than a few times.

    Can you even begin to imagine how much less motivated I am by McCarthyism when it comes from folks actively opposed to AR as a concept?

    Sorry, kids. You don’t get to vote on my associations. Posting comments on a blog doesn’t force anyone to do anything, and given that folks need to go out of their way to see any of it, the level of fantasy involved here is getting more than a little ridiculous. It would be easier to swallow if DuWayne hadn’t showed up to brag about being armed.

    Childish braggadocio abounds, on all sides of this. You folks can pretend your side is lilly-white and untouched, but it isn’t.

    Secondly: what you’re asking me to do – you’ll read various bits of irrelevant fluff into this, I’m certain, but no matter – is akin to asking a pro-life activist to work with the pro-choice camp to make abortions safer.

    They’re not going to do that.

    We’re not going to help the animal welfare movement. Helping the animal welfare movement is something you’re more than free to do, and it will do whatever it does for you. But it will excuse things we’re not willing to excuse, and it will not *meaningfully* change the reality of animal suffering in the long term.

    If we *were*, we’d be doing that, instead.

  33. #33 babble
    October 29, 2009

    Not the actual point, Pat, but I think you know that already. Again, this is in response to DuWayne’s specific claim (and various general claims) that I should be willing to make alliances with folks like DuWayne for the purposes of meaninglessly “regulating” CAFO. Won’t change anything on the ground, at all, and is a meaningless strategy to begin with.

    Humane rape is still rape.

    “Humanely” – I stress the quotes here – raised animals are still treated horrendously as far as I’m concerned and end up every bit as dead, for every bit as much a trivial reason whether *I* dance around pretending that the animal welfare movement is making such great progress, or not.

    Why should I help you folks in any of that? What will be the actual change to come of that? We’ll move a few semantic definitions of “humane treatment” around a few times? It’s a distraction, and nothing more.

  34. #34 DuWayne
    October 29, 2009

    babble –

    I’d be fighting to make it easier for people to keep on buying happy meat with meaningless little stickers on the side of the package that said “humanely raised”, as if that made everything okay.

    No you would not. You would be fighting to stop the inhumane treatment of animals that is happening now and which it would be possible to stop long before it is ever going to be possible to stop exploitation of animals altogether, if that ever happens. You would be putting a significant dent in the suffering of animals now, instead of some far off future that will likely never come.

    This is a lot like trying to say that it would be unacceptable to accept any small legislation that increases the equality of gays in our society, because we have to have it all now. Give me a break – do you want to reduce the suffering of animals or not?

    Let’s not play make-believe, here, DuWayne. You’re claiming simultaneously that I’m a true-believing whackjob who as a result can’t reason his way out of a paper bag, AND that I’m doing all of this for the sole purpose of getting “worked up online.”

    They aren’t mutually exclusive and I didn’t say for the sole purpose of anything. This is no different than my assertion on my own blog, that Dr. Steve Best is both a power hungry activist extremist who was looking for a cause and a true Believer in the AR cause. It is no different than some televangelists who revel in the power, prestige and money, while also devoutly believing their own BS.

    You are rather unbalanced and lacking in reason. You also are obviously someone who desperately needs a cause that can encompass you, give you a sense of purpose – allow you to get really good and angry. Not only is that not mutually exclusive to being a true Believer, being a true Believer is an essential ingredient for you.

    Let me ask you a very tangential question that does in fact tie in to where I am going. You will either answer or no – if it helps, I will answer my question as well. I am an atheist. Are you an atheist as well?

    I’ve heard multiple versions of the “you ought to work with persons A, B and C that I like for various subjective reasons, and you ought to disassociate from persons D, E and F that I dislike for various reasons.”

    I am not a huge fan either really. But the bottom line is what do you actually believe and what tactics do you believe are acceptable? What do you want your name associated with? What kind of actions do you believe are going to actually further your cause, as apposed to causing a backlash? I am not asking you to respond, I am asking you to consider the questions.

    I cut ties with people I cared a great deal for and people whom I had protested beside, been maced beside, been beaten by cops alongside and gone to jail alongside, because they crossed the line or advocated crossing the line. That is not something that is easy to do – the personal friendships aside. It was hard alienating myself from an organization that I had helped build. But when I asked myself the questions I hope you will ask yourself, I concluded that I did not want my name associated with violence, I did not want to associate with people who advocate for violence and that violent tactics do nothing but cause backlashes that destroy public support.

    It would be easier to swallow if DuWayne hadn’t showed up to brag about being armed.

    Let me make something abundantly clear about why I did that. Your terrorism advocate friend at NIO Camille posted my email address and as much information as she could find about me. Within several hours of that and my posting a critique about Steve Best, I got a couple of threatening emails. Not one to beat around the bush, I made it clear that I am not terribly hard to find and that finding me might not be such a grand idea.

    Given that people in the extremist AR movement have felt perfectly comfortable blowing up cars, invading homes, tying up families and terrorizing them, while people like Best and Valasak are openly advocating violence against people instead of just things, I am not going to wait for some jackass to come to me. This isn’t the first time I have been threatened by terrorists or more than likely in this case someone who has no intention of doing anymore than typing at me – I doubt it will be the last. I merely wanted to make it good and bloody damned clear that I am not an easy mark.

    Secondly: what you’re asking me to do – you’ll read various bits of irrelevant fluff into this, I’m certain, but no matter – is akin to asking a pro-life activist to work with the pro-choice camp to make abortions safer.

    No, a much better analogy is that we are asking the anti-choice camp to encourage the use of condoms.

    Won’t change anything on the ground, at all, and is a meaningless strategy to begin with.

    It reduces the suffering of animals, which I thought was the point to begin with.

    “Humanely” – I stress the quotes here – raised animals are still treated horrendously as far as I’m concerned and end up every bit as dead, for every bit as much a trivial reason whether *I* dance around pretending that the animal welfare movement is making such great progress, or not.

    Then help change how they are raised, even if you can’t change the dead at the end bit right now. Not only would that help reduce the suffering of animals, it would also put you in close quarters with people who are closer to your view than they are to mine and provide you with the opportunity to encourage them to come towards your more extreme position.

    And for the record, I was actually thinking you would do well to fight for reducing the consumption of flesh, something I support because of the environmental impact, it would encourage more judicious use of resources and because it would cut deeply into mass meat farming and make it easier to develop considerably more humane methods of farming. I.e. cause exponentially less animal suffering.

  35. #35 babble
    October 29, 2009

    This is a lot like trying to say that it would be unacceptable to accept any small legislation that increases the equality of gays in our society, because we have to have it all now. Give me a break – do you want to reduce the suffering of animals or not?

    No, what you’re actually asking is for the gay rights movement to accept meaningless fluff that isn’t advancing anything at all beyond allowing OTHER folks to pretend they’re doing something “good for the gays.” It doesn’t have any actual impact on gay *people* at all.

    The animal welfare movement will do whatever it does; you’ll support whatever you support. Neither of you need me. Neither of you WANT me, despite your alternating claims that I’m out of my mind, but hey, if I *really* cared about animals I’d do stuff you found less objectionable.

    You’re not that important, DuWayne.

    And for the record, I was actually thinking you would do well to fight for reducing the consumption of flesh…

    Having been on the welfare side of the fence for years and years, animal welfare advocacy doesn’t reduce the consumption of animals as food in the slightest. Not a bit.

    You seem to think I hunted around for some magical fringe cause just to suit my unstable persona. I didn’t.

    I *am* working to reduce consumption of flesh, by doing the thing the welfare movement has not done, and will not do: advocating veganism. Those who will listen will listen. Those who won’t won’t. Worrying about the ones who won’t is a waste of time.

  36. #36 babble
    October 29, 2009

    No, a much better analogy is that we are asking the anti-choice camp to encourage the use of condoms.

    Given that “humanely raised” animals will still live lives of immense suffering (in my view) and will still end up in the same slaughterhouses, no, this analogy makes no sense at all. Condoms prevent the *existence* of the problem in the first place (most of the time, anyway); that doesn’t have anything to do with the act of aborting after the pregnancy has occurred. (I am not claiming here to be pro-choice OR pro-life). What you’re asking me to do is work my way around making the morally objectionable act “less” objectionable by treating some animals (very, very few) very slightly differently from the norm.

    That doesn’t make killing and eating them okay, DuWayne. You’re asking me to put my efforts behind selling indulgences to people who refuse to give up eating animals for utterly selfish, utterly trivial reasons.

    I’m not going to do that, no matter how many times you tell me you think that’s a really good idea. I understand that you think so. I don’t care that you do.

  37. #37 babble
    October 29, 2009

    The welfare regulation we can *pass* at any given legislative level doesn’t put a dent in anything. That’s the problem.

    The industry has pushed various forms of “happy meat” for decades. Most of THAT (the overwhelming majority of it) is simply marketing. Meanwhile, the vast majority of animal products produced, now and for the foreseeable future are coming from factory farms. We will not “put a dent” in the treatment of these animals by shuffling around a few more bits of utterly meaningless, watered down (non-)regulation.

    Essentially what folks are saying here is that I should see being beaten with a pipe seven times instead of 10 as a victory.

    It’s “less” suffering, of a sort, perhaps, but it’s not MEANINGFUL.

    It would be better not to be beaten *at all*. So that’s where the real effort lies.

    The rest is meaningless. Exceedingly so.

  38. #38 babble
    October 29, 2009

    One other bit that bears really considering, I think. Animals produced for consumption will still be killed and eaten, regardless of how they’re treated while alive, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, the “humanely” treated ones are still treated horribly.

    Assume I’m pro-life, for the sake of this example.

    You’re not asking me to help you promote condom use. You’re asking me to help you promote D&C instead of late-term. Yes, if I’m pro-life, late-term is probably worse on my hierarchy of bad things to think about abortions, but a first trimester standard abortion *is no better.*

    Comparing this to birth control has no real relevance.

  39. #39 John C. Welch
    October 30, 2009

    yep…dialogue so not ever happening on this.

    Babble has the moral high ground, and so is not listening to anything anyone has to say that doesn’t agree with their position.

    No, the other side has the moral high ground.

    At least, at least, i take comfort in the fact that so far, at least in this article, no one has trotted out the ignorance of stating computer simulations can do it all. That one is just wrong, wrong, factually, empirically, and amorally wrong.

  40. #40 babble
    October 30, 2009

    I’m listening. I’m just not hearing anything I haven’t heard and rejected 35 dozen times already. So DuWayne is back to flinging irrelevant bits of this or that.

    It would be different if i was claiming useful dialog *could* happen on any of this. I’m not.

  41. #41 John C. Welch
    October 31, 2009

    I’m listening. I’m just not hearing anything I haven’t heard and rejected 35 dozen times already. So DuWayne is back to flinging irrelevant bits of this or that.

    Thank you for proving my point so handily.

    You have no interest nor desire in dialogue, only endlessly repeating your points and disparaging the other sides, by whatever means are at hand, until you feel you’ve ‘won’ and then you move on to the next victim.

    the other side’s not much better.

    Humans engaging in polite informed debate is one of the most precious, and completely fantastic myths in society. The sooner we understand that this polite debate concept is at best, a momentary aberration only used by what are barely evolved baboons because their arms are tired out from throwing rocks at each other, the more realistically we can approach problem solving.

    People are so surprised when fanatics on various sides of an argument resort to violence. I’m only surprised when it’s not the first option.

  42. #42 Mylasticus
    October 31, 2009

    Regarding the idea of dialogue v. debate, I think that Dr. Free-Ride makes a good assessment that there were no clear definitions given in the original post, hence success in progressing to something new, different or informative, was almost impossible.
    The argument about animal rights tends never to lend itself to dialogue, it assumes too personally important a place to allow for non-acceptance of one’s given position. Death penalty and abortion arguments are mostly the same, in my personal experience; a series of refutations that only depend upon whomever says something first. If A1 starts, then the response is !=A1, if B1 starts, then the response is !=B1. The general pattern consists of:
    I believe X
    You’re wrong to do so.
    No I’m not.
    Yes you are
    No.
    Yes.
    It’s like this……
    No, it’s never been like that…..
    (by this time someone notices a critical error in typing/composition)
    Oh well, you said in a previous comment that…..
    You obviously misread me.
    I can’t see how
    Well, you did. Besides, this is about you being wrong….
    You’re the one who’s wrong….
    You’re a pudding head.
    Mashed potatoe face….
    You’re not listening
    You don’t hear me.
    Well, you’re wrong
    LOL, you’re so wrong
    ROFL, you’re so wrong you don’t even know I’m right!
    Oh it is to laugh, you’re just stubbornly wrong.
    I’m not stubborn I’m right!

    If it goes on long enough, and especially if it’s a first year philosophy course, then one party will be forced to break out….yes….the Nazi gambit! AHA!

    Well, if you were right, then we’d all be…NAZIs!
    What! I never said that!
    You meant it.
    No I didn’t,
    Did too.
    Did not.
    You’re a Nazi.(sing-song)
    Well, you wouldn’t even know what the Nazi position was unless it interested you. and it would only interest you if you were a..Crypto-Nazi!

    And so on until, as always, the crushing grip of logic drives us to discovered insight.

    Nevertheless, the grid offered, in the second post about the differences between what a debate is and what a dialogue is might be a good spot to start. A thought I’d offer, (maybe it’s worth what you pay for it, or less ;-) is that one could start with a mutual area of concern. What is the area that all do agree upon? Is there one? That would be a good first step. Maybe ask each side to identify one thing that the other has said which is acceptable and explain why?
    Another tactic, force each side to make a credible attempt at summarizing without judgemental language, the opposing viewpoint. For example, “It’s immoral to forego all animal testing since it might introduce a product that could harm humans. This is true because humans are inherently given more rights than animals, and this is true because humans have, and should, identify with each other’s needs more than those of animals.”
    Or, “It’s important to be consistent in our application of beliefs. Not being so would suggest our morals are trivial, and potentially whimsical. For instance, we certainly would never suggest that testing upon profoundly impaired children such as those born only with a rudimentary brain-stem, or who would otherwise have no ability to comprehend sensory input because it would result in suffering of some kind. If another species is, in comparison, more capable of comprehending and experiencing the suffering, it’s similarly unacceptable to argue that a member of that species in good health should be used for testing knowing that it would cause harm. The goal should be to reduce suffering in the world.”

  43. #43 becca
    November 1, 2009

    Ya know, this whole “you are who your friends are” bit of “palling around with terrorists” thing always bugs me. On the one hand, I’d view at as disingenuous in the extreme if somebody told me “oh, I’m not a terrorist, I just belong to the KKK and run around in sheets and a hood because of the solidarity”. On the other hand, any number of specific US military acts are viewed by some abroad as terrorism, and this is carried out with our tax dollars in our names. Surely it is rational to admit there are *degrees* of associating with terrorists and for some cases you can’t assume how much support someone lends to others that share their cause unless you actually have some direct data?

    “Because no matter how much it makes you feel better to think that I like to kill, I do not. And I am dead solid against allowing animal suffering.”
    Ok DuWayne. I have to call this one out. How do you know death doesn’t intrinsically involve suffering? How many times have you died? And do you ever eat standard factory farmed meat, and can you honestly say this cannot involve suffering?

    “So long as we persist in thinking animals exist *for our use*, use *will* persist, and will conditionally regard welfare, as it suits us, *when* it suits us, and nothing more.”
    babble, I’m sure you’ve realized this, but I think it needs to be made explicit, to clarify to everyone why you are facing such an uphill battle here.
    We haven’t even achieved this utopian moral standpoint with respect to other humans (“As you yourself admitted over in the other thread, you’re using me just as much as I’m using you.”).
    If you can’t even stop viewing humans as a means to your ends, how is everyone in the world supposed to stop viewing all animals as having utility?
    Sure you can argue that humans are allowed to exercise their free will, but in some senses, there is an element of coercion in nearly every human interaction (certainly an identifiable element of it in virtually all interactions between humans of different social power statuses).
    That said, I think we all do draw lines in the sand as to where force becomes excessive. But the notion that viewing people or animals as having various utilities is intrinsically an evil way to view them, is simply not practicable.

    babble, the other thing that leaves me perplexed by your positions is that they are simply not at all in line with my experience. You say people do animal research for financial reasons. At least for basic scientists, this simply doesn’t make any more sense than saying people do yeast research for financial reasons (I mean, yes it’s great to make better bread and beer, but if you know much about what we’ve learned about biology from The Awesome Power of Yeast Genetics, you must realize how little profit could have been motivating things).
    You say you’ve been to dairy farms. Now, I don’t pretend there aren’t unpleasant ones out there. But my cousins operate a dairy farm. I have some pretty positive views of dairy farms (the smell of manure = Christmas!) Those cows seem to be at least as content (and in some ways, better cared for) as their dogs or cats. If keeping animals as pets is somehow comparably benign slavery, and this is evil slavery, I just don’t understand the distinction.

    “I’d be fighting to make it easier for people to keep on buying happy meat with meaningless little stickers on the side of the package that said “humanely raised”, as if that made everything okay.

    It doesn’t. It really, honestly just *doesn’t.* “
    So if I were to fight to make it required that the government pay for rape kits instead of charging victims, would that necessarily be saying rape is okay?

    “Comparing this to birth control has no real relevance. “
    What about oral contraceptives? Seems directly analogous to me.

    “Clearly, my own conversations with anti-research individuals have not yielded any converts,”
    Your statement sounded so reasonable, except for that phrase. It’s like calling someone “anti-choice” (or, in this case, if they called you “anti-animal” or simply “anti-rights”).

    “The sooner we understand that this polite debate concept is at best, a momentary aberration only used by what are barely evolved baboons because their arms are tired out from throwing rocks at each other, the more realistically we can approach problem solving.”
    Hoo-hoo-hahahahaHA!
    It’s hard to have dialog, even when you’re smart and trying (see my response above)

  44. #44 DuWayne
    November 2, 2009

    Ok DuWayne. I have to call this one out. How do you know death doesn’t intrinsically involve suffering?

    I obviously cannot. I can however, make a reasonable assumption that starving to death or getting a disease due to overpopulation is likely far worse than a quick death. But that has little to do with my argument. The bottom line is reducing suffering, something I support absolutely.

    And do you ever eat standard factory farmed meat, and can you honestly say this cannot involve suffering?

    I have already answered those questions. Yes, it does intrinsically cause suffering and unfortunately, I do occasionally eat it. I am against mass factory farming, but am also not in a position to turn down food when it is offered. This is somewhat hypocritical, but I never claimed to be perfect.

    Surely it is rational to admit there are *degrees* of associating with terrorists and for some cases you can’t assume how much support someone lends to others that share their cause unless you actually have some direct data?

    I have never argued that there aren’t degrees of association or even of the extreme of the terrorist acts themselves. But when one frequents the blogs of people who are openly advocating terrorist activities and listening to/recommending videos and essays of people who do the same, then I think it is reasonable to say that one is associating with advocates of terrorism and that any claims they make about being against such tactics ring somewhat hollow. This is not terribly complicated.

  45. #45 babble
    November 24, 2009

    babble, I’m sure you’ve realized this, but I think it needs to be made explicit, to clarify to everyone why you are facing such an uphill battle here.

    That I’m “facing an uphill battle” in this doesn’t change the fact that it’s what I think is right; this is akin to saying slavery will never be abolished in my lifetime, so an absolute position that slavery is wrong is a waste of time, and I should put my efforts behind regulating (human) slavery instead.

    No, I shouldn’t. This is why DuWayne’s comparison to birth control doesn’t work. He’s not asking me to help him promote condom use (or your own example of oral contraception) vs. abortion. He’s asking me to promote one kind of abortion over another, and demanding that I should see that as morally acceptable, *because he does.* Once again:

    “Assume I’m pro-life, for the sake of this example.

    You’re not asking me to help you promote condom use. You’re asking me to help you promote D&C instead of late-term. Yes, if I’m pro-life, late-term is probably worse on my hierarchy of bad things to think about abortions, but a first trimester standard abortion *is no better.*”

    Assume for me that *any and all* uses of animals are inherently immoral. Asking me to promote so-called “humane” animal use is just asking me to promote one kind of abortion instead of another, not asking me to promote birth control which (ostensibly) prevents pregnancy in the first place. If we were talking about things that progressively eliminated animal use, THAT would be a comparable situation, but we’re not actually doing that. We’re talking about promoting the use of animals for the foreseeable future. I’m not going to help you folks do that, and you don’t want or need my help to do it in the first place. DuWayne raising the point is just so he can pat himself on the back for caring about “humane use” and has nothing at all do *do* with me in the first place, which is why I said “you’re using me as much as I’m using you.”

    If *all* use is ideally off the table, and if I see *all* use as morally abhorrent, even if I make allowances for some things (pets, very conditionally) that doesn’t mean that clearly optional uses (food) are magically okay if we choose to tell ourselves that the animals in question have been well treated.

    No, they haven’t, and it’s really just what we tell OURSELVES, anyway.

  46. #46 babble
    November 24, 2009

    Those cows seem to be at least as content (and in some ways, better cared for) as their dogs or cats. If keeping animals as pets is somehow comparably benign slavery, and this is evil slavery, I just don’t understand the distinction.

    …except for the fact that I never called pet-keeping benign. I called it less awful than several other things one might choose to do, but still wrong as an absolute question. Again, I’m not saying humans should keep pets in perpetuity. I’m saying we should care for the ones that are here and not breed any more of them.

    Surely your cousins don’t expect you to believe that their dairy cattle are dying of old age, do they?

    When those cows are past their useful lifespan as milk producing machines (however “contented” they may seem), they are sold for slaughter, because they’re not commercially viable to feed and provide veterinary care until they die naturally.

    This isn’t what we (typically) do to pets, so, no, in general cases these aren’t comparable situations at all.

    It’s more comparable to what commercial pet *breeders* do to *those* animals; three guesses where I come down on that question.

  47. #47 babble
    November 24, 2009

    So if I were to fight to make it required that the government pay for rape kits instead of charging victims, would that necessarily be saying rape is okay?

    Again, not really comparable to what DuWayne asked me to do.

    He’s said, several times, that if I “really” cared about animal welfare, I’d be helping him advocate for “humane” animal use. This is akin to saying I can be opposed to rape in theory, but I really should be working on efforts to make sure that the rapes that *are* done are being done “nicely.” No, I should oppose the act of raping someone *at all*.

    You’re comparing the treatment of the victim in the aftermath of the rape to the act of raping the victim in the first place.

    The ONLY morally consistent position is to work to END animal use. Period. Anything else is just humans telling themselves whatever they want to hear to justify the perpetuation of the abuse and killing of animals for whatever purpose suits us. Again, we may enact some fluffy bit of irrelevant welfare regulation here or there, but it’s rescindable on a whim, even if enforced (and even that is a huge conditional).

    Why is it that folks seem to assume I didn’t start out where most folks do? I *began* as a welfare advocate, like nearly every other human in the developed world. We ALL wish to pat ourselves on the back for treating animals “humanely.” It doesn’t actually mean anything; that’s the point.

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