Pharyngula

Terrorism works!

A neurobiologist at UCLA, Dario Ringach, has stopped doing research on primates. The reason?

Colleagues suggested that Ringach, who did not return e-mails seeking comment, was spooked by an attack on a colleague. In June, the Animal Liberation Front took credit for trying to put a Molotov cocktail on the doorstep of Lynn Fairbanks, another UCLA researcher who does experimentation on animals. The explosive was accidentally placed on the doorstep of Fairbanks’s elderly neighbor’s house, and did not detonate.

Whoa. Incompetence and thuggish violence—what a combination. I love animals and think they needed to be treated with care and respect (although, if our cat pees on the furniture one more time…), and I can sympathize with people who are concerned about animal research. I would suggest, though, that they spend less time firebombing people and more time working for their local humane society. It’s penny wise and pound foolish to harrass scientists when all you have to do is visit your local grocery store’s dumpster to find malnourished, diseased, and injured cats scavenging for something to eat. Or look into animal hoarding—it’s more common than you might think.

Whatever you do, though, don’t throw away your moral compass as some fanatics do.

Jerry Vlasak, a practicing physician, a spokesman for the Animal Liberation Press Office, and a former animal researcher, said that “obviously the roughly 30 non-human primates [Ringach] was killing every year would be ecstatic” with his decision to halt his work. Vlasak said that when he was an animal researcher, he published papers on his work, but didn’t feel that he contributed anything important to society. As to the Molotov cocktail, Vlasak said that “force is a poor second choice, but if that’s the only thing that will work … there’s certainly moral justification for that.”

Why, no. No there isn’t.

It’s really that simple.

There is no excuse for bombing people. There is especially no excuse for being so stupid that you try to bomb random people. What this is is terrorism, plain and simple, and Dario Ringach is a victim of domestic terrorism.

(via Virtually Shocking)

Comments

  1. #1 Ichthyic
    August 28, 2006

    Gyan, if you can make a positive case (with experimental evidence) that any animal shares the same sense of morality and ethics that any human does, do so.

    otherwise, the idea that human ethics and morality is applicable to any other species is pure hogwash, to put it midly.

    Heck, most argumentation round these parts revolves around not even being able to apply a single standard of ethics and morals to a single group of people who live in the same country, let alone different species.

    The bible does not stand for a set of ethics and morals to a great many people.

    How much different do you think an entirely different species would view it?

    If you want to project your own sense of ethics onto another species, your welcome to, but don’t expect anybody else to agree without at least some objective evidence.

    I do hope you aren’t like one commenter on PT (Carol Clouser) who differentiated between lions and hyenas as “noble” and “cruel”, respectively, because of the way they hunt zebras.

    talk about the very definition of anthropomorphism.

  2. #2 Ichthyic
    August 28, 2006

    I’d be really interested in learning what is the standard atheist researcher’s justification for animal research

    then you’re interested in fairy tales.

    one: there is no such thing as a “standard researcher”, let alone a standard “atheist” researcher.

    two: I myself wrote several sets of justifications for the animal research on fish I’ve done over the years (it’s a requirement for eveyone who does animal research at Berkeley, and also for several grant angencies). Each one was entirely dependent on the specific goals of the research under proposal.

    I do recall that the animal rights groups that put pressure on the city to put pressure on the University initially didn’t even consider fish to BE animals; that came about a year after the program started. IIRC, when I left there were still many animals left out (like insects, worms, etc.). pretty subjective, eh?

    If you want to ask about my personal justification for any given bit of research, I suppose i could say that in general, I do balance whether or not the research involved would be worthwhile given any imposition on a subject’s natural behavior or environment.

    the question becomes, what I see as worthwhile in my eyes might not seem so to another, and how i view “imapact” might not be the same as another’s either.

    Should i then be required to educate any interested party in exactly why it is a worthwhile endeavor at any time?

    and if the person I’m speaking with hasn’t the foggiest notion of the actual value of the research in question?

    What if I myself question the immediate value from a purely pragmatic sense, but see a potential for the results to be worthwhile to future endeavors?

    are you starting to see my point yet?

    there is NO objective thing anybody can agree on except that whenever an animal is kept captive, that it be treated as well as possible given what we know about it’s husbandry.

    …and that’s exactly where most of us who do work with animals, in my experience as a scientist, agree.

    I can give specific examples if you think it would clarify the issue for you further.

  3. #3 Ichthyic
    August 28, 2006

    Also notice the correlation between the cuteness of the animals and how much the animal rights people care.

    When did you have to file your first animal use protocol?

    1989 for me (that was the year they decided that fish were animals).

  4. #4 Gyan
    August 28, 2006

    Ichthyic: Gyan, if you can make a positive case (with experimental evidence) that any animal shares the same sense of morality and ethics that any human does, do so.

    otherwise, the idea that human ethics and morality is applicable to any other species is pure hogwash, to put it midly.

    Well, a human’s conception of morality dictates how that human ought to behave, so whether animals share our morality is irrelevant.

    If you want to project your own sense of ethics onto another species, your welcome to, but don’t expect anybody else to agree without at least some objective evidence.

    Evidence has very little bearing in this matter.

    The ARAs

    1)see some animals as sentient and who can suffer, although beyond insects, it gets very fuzzy.
    2)consider it cruel & immoral to subject sentient subjects to suffering/death unless there’s a ‘good reason’, which, in this case, happens to be the knowledge gained towards human goals, not for the animal subjects.

    So, what’s the evidence for sentience? Strictly speaking, no more than the evidence that solipsism is false. But most of the common species used (rat, mice, primates) share basic brain architectures with humans, and are isomorphic in morphology(eyes, ears, i.e. the apparatus we humans identify as the enablers of our conscious experience) and dynamics(purpose-driven behavior i.e. bonding, grooming..etc).

    Humans discriminate by nature, i.e. slavery, tribes, mental normativity (asylums)..etc. The trend has been to progress towards egalitarianism. But the (sentient) human – (sentient) animal divide remains fairly intact. If empathy-driven morality demands that suffering be not inflicted, then that divide is wantonly breached with animal research whose principal aim is to advance human goals.

  5. #5 quittter
    August 28, 2006

    Ichthyic:
    When did you have to file your first animal use protocol?

    1989 for me (that was the year they decided that fish were animals).

    I’m pretty young, so 2002. Also, most my protocols are for rodents, mouse, rabbit, rats etc. The funny thing is I really like rodents, have a pet mouse and everything (she’s sitting on my shoulder right now). But when it comes to my science, there’s no question. They die so I can work on our research into atherosclerosis, as basic at it is, it is more important than their lives.

  6. #6 Ichthyic
    August 28, 2006

    Evidence has very little bearing in this matter.

    no sooner do you say this, that you post:

    some animals as sentient and who can suffer, although beyond insects, it gets very fuzzy.

    and then basically proceed to tell us how important the evidence of isomorphism is to your argument.

    both statements SCREAM for evidence to support them. Which other than claiming “isomorphism”, you did not attempt to provide in the slightest.

    so, in your mind, it’s that if an animal “looks” enough like us, it shouldn’t be experimented on?

    sounds pretty pathetic. I can think of lots of “intelligent” animals that don’t look anything like us in any way. What about an octopus? Heck the animal rights folks don’t even think they are animals (must be under some “shelfish” category).

    then you proceed to claim that subjective morality is the criteria we should use:

    If empathy-driven morality demands that suffering be not inflicted, then that divide is wantonly breached with animal research whose principal aim is to advance human goals.

    I would simplify that to pure anthroporphism.

    congratulations on your realization that:

    one, these claims DO require evidence, and

    two, the idea of “empathy-driven morality” is no different from any form of subjective anthroporphism.

    care to try again?

    I’m sure you could do better.

  7. #7 Ichthyic
    August 28, 2006

    I’m pretty young, so 2002.

    ..and i can already tell you’re pretty sick of it. lol.

    get used to it, they do seem to get more invasive and ridiculous every year.

    the first one i filed in 1989 was 3 pages long. two years later (yes, only two), it was ten pages long.

    the last one i filed had so many redundant and ridiculous questions it felt like i was presenting a thesis defense to a 6 year old (why is the grass green, mister?).

    *sigh*

    like i said, though, the positive side is that it teaches many new students the importance of good animal husbandry, as they at least have to know and cite how the animals under concern are typically cared for.

    most researchers take it upon themselves to learn about these things anyway, as it only makes sense from a productivity standpoint (especially if you plan to breed the animals). there were a few notable slackers when i was a grad student though, and I think perhaps this helped out in that area a bit.

    It’s basically a sound thing to do (require use protocols), but not for the right reasons (to placate a lobbying group).

  8. #8 Ichthyic
    August 28, 2006

    As for “human goals”, are you asserting that animals cannot benefit from them as well? I have kept two elderly cats alive with reasonably good quality of life, 15-18 months after their diabetes would otherwise have killed them, by means of insulin, a therapy which was developed through animal research. So I don’t think that “human goals”, whatever they are, are necessarily antithetical to animals’ health and welfare.

    indeed the benefits to animals go far beyond medical research.

    the entire field of ecology often requires the study of particular species in order to determine the effects of removals or introductions within a given ecosystem.

    we often disect a sample of fish from a given population in order to determine reproductive rates, cycles, do studies on embyology, etc., in order to learn how to maintain a “sustainable yield”, for example, or to study their genetics in order to determine the variability within a given population, etc.

    there are literally THOUSANDS of things we research on animals that pretty much end up directly benefitting the animals themselves.

    I don’t do medical research on fish, for example, but my work does contribute to the knowledge of how those fish reproduce, interact with other species, and communicate (kinda my specialty).

    some of that is of benefit to us from an intrinsic standpoint: just to better understand the world around us; and some of that is of direct benefit to the fish themselves, especially species that are being commercially exploited, or whose habitats might be threatened by one thing or another.

  9. #9 Ichthyic
    August 28, 2006

    The meat industry is so efficient in its use of spare meaty bits, that it gets 20% more meat per cow than in the 1960s. The industry uses this surplus to maintain a 63 ft. Cow Golem that stands ready in a packing plant to destroy Chicago if need be.

    that cow doesn’t belong to Miss O’Leary, does it?

  10. #10 Ichthyic
    August 28, 2006

    I’m only referring to superficial features

    indeed.

    Your whole argument is entirely superficial.

    But such practices aren’t allowed on humans.

    this is so naive as to be laughable. do you think there are no such things as human trials? no research has ever been done in the field of cognitive psych?

    you’re done.

    thanks for playing.

    If you actually come back with something intelligent, you might get a better response.

    One last question:

    You present these arguments as if they are not your own, but rather those of all “ARA’s”.

    are you sure that’s how you want to represent it?

    that alone is likely entirely a projection on your part.

  11. #11 Gyan
    August 28, 2006

    Ichthyic: Your whole argument is entirely superficial.

    You could show that, instead of just asserting it, but I guess that seems to be your way.

    do you think there are no such things as human trials? no research has ever been done in the field of cognitive psych?

    From an earlier post of mine in this thread:

    Toddlers are also as irrational as animals. But you wouldn’t use them in lab experiments unless the toddler itself had a potential gain or the experiment was benign.

    You present these arguments as if they are not your own, but rather those of all “ARA’s”.

    My very first statement in my very first post:

    Just to avoid the flames, let me preface by saying that I think animal research is OK (with some basic ethical guidelines), if only because there’s currently no other avenue.

    Come back when you actually have a substantial rebuttal instead of this hand-waving approach that seems to qualify as robust for you.


    RavenT: You might as well argue that humans are isomorphic to fruit flies, because the term “body” is isomorphic to the term “body”, and both humans and flies have bodies.

    It gets fuzzy beyond insects, and I guess I should include insects as well. Come to think of it, I don’t think any ARAs do target insect-research, although I could be wrong. But I did name three examples (rats, mice, primates) which qualify well enough.

    A better tactic would be to emphasize the differences, not the similarities, and to claim that those differences invalidate animal research.

    I’m arguing about a completely different point, so this “tactic” is not needed. I’m arguing about why ARAs believe that (certain) animals are sentient and deserve to be left alone. Efficiacy of animal research is irrelevant.

    if everything is isomorphic across species at the abstract level you are arguing, then there is no distinction between human and other diabetics, and that it works on animals is not a plus; it’s an intrinsic property of the disease. Again, you’d do better to emphasize that diabetic cats rarely get cataracts, and diabetic dogs rarely get diabetic neuropathy, and claim that this obvious non-isomorphism invalidates translational research.

    It invalidates some research on some animals, but like I say above, that’s not the underlying reason, so this is irrelevant.

    I’m involved with a couple of different studies intended to assist endangered bear species to reproduce more effectively than they currently do, and we use poop for endocrinology, vaginal cytology, and behavior (which is extremely complex, and not at all “isomorphic” as you claim). If anything comes out of this that benefits humans, it will literally be a side effect, as carnivore reproductive physiology is so different from primate reproductive physiology. So this research is directly intended to benefit animals; it isn’t just a “plus”, as you claim.

    From an earlier post of mine: “In most cases, they are not intended to.“.

    Take a rough guess on the amount of lab-based animal research funding (i.e. where animals are subject to drugs, dissection..etc) that’s primarily intended to

    1)progress human knowledge or human-centered goals
    2)progress animal-welfare goals

    Perhaps you could show us someone here who believes that animals should be wantonly subject to suffering?

    You?

    I see that you are unfamiliar with pediatric phase I clinical trials, as well.

    So these kids are dosed without the hindsight of the results of animal trials?

  12. #12 pdw
    August 29, 2006

    wm wrote:

    I had thought that atheists who understood evolution would tend to have less of an “us/them” view of animals – perhaps having a view of all creatures as being closer or more distant cousins depending where they lie in the tree of life.

    Some do. For instance, Richard Dawkins supports the Great Ape Project, an organization, cofounded by Peter Singer, that works to extend certain rights to the great apes. He wrote an essay called “Gaps in the Mind”, which you can find here:

    http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-archive/Dawkins/Work/Articles/1993gaps_in_the_mind.shtml

    Carl Sagan also endorsed this animal rights group shortly before his death. Neither are/were vegetarians and both endorse animal experimentation on animals further away on the evolutionary tree.

    I agree with Dawkins’s argument, although I am not so quick to transition from animal rights to animal welfare. I think it is rather clear (ironically, due to experiments on animals) that all mammals and birds have some level of consciousness and are capable of suffering in ways very similar to humans, so I accord them much greater moral concern than most people in our society. My moral concern lessens as the animal’s nervous system and behavior become simpler, but there is no hard boundary where I say these animal’s lives are sacrosanct and these animal’s lives are disposable. I merely try to minimize the harm done. Indeed, I’m sure we all do, although while most people see a great chasm separating humans from nonhumans, I see “differences of degree, not of kind.”

  13. #13 wm
    August 29, 2006

    Thanks, pdw, for your thoughts and for the link to the Dawkins essay – what a great piece! It makes a lot of sense to me – I’m going to have to read the book from which it is excerpted. I’m going to read the other books you mentioned as well – I really appreciate the recommendations!

    I read quite a few Singer essays yesterday per Quitter’s recommendation, but found a lot of his lines of reasoning and conclusions very questionable – his premises I think are too constrained and his “value” metrics assume a lot more knowledge than I think is available and totally omit many types of value that most humans would be able to agree on. He certainly provides food for thought, though.

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