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 Bobryuu
    August 27, 2006

    Is that Vlasak as in the Pickle?

  2. #2 Dianne
    August 27, 2006

    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.

    Then why was he doing that particular research in the first place? I feel my research has contributed. It is unethical to do unnecessary, unproductive research on animals, but that doesn’t make all research on animals unethical or unnecessary. Vlasak is projecting.

  3. #3 Jonathan Badger
    August 27, 2006

    I would suggest, though, that they spend less time firebombing people and more time working for their local humane society.

    You don’t know these people. The Humane Society is the *last* place you’d find them. To them, the idea that the HS puts animals that they can’t find homes for to sleep makes the human society as evil as Nazis.

    I think the only way to understand these extreme animal rights people is to understand that they are to the left what the extreme pro-lifers are to the right — beings of pure emotion rather than reason.

  4. #4 Linda
    August 27, 2006

    The retort could easily be: “animal research is a poor second choice, but if that’s the only thing that will work … there’s certainly moral justification for that.”

    Not that I think animal research is a poor second choice…

  5. #5 MYOB
    August 27, 2006

    We are never going to get rid of terrorism PZ. It’s plain and simple. Whenever someone raises up their hands in anger to try and intimidate someone that is terrorism. Whenever a parent reaches for a toy threatening to take it away if a child doesn’t behave, that is terrorism. It is a threat meant to suggest something negative will happen as a result if you do not comply.
    And it’s terrorism at it’s purest definition.
    The whole premise behind child correction principles we instill in our children are based entirely on terrorism. Fear of being spanked, etc.

    And we are never going to be able to remove it from our beings. It is just a part that has to evolve out of us as time goes by.

    Terrorism goes on all around us. It is everywhere and is going to be a part of us for a very long time.

    So is terrorism useful? Yes.
    Does this mean terrorism is bad? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
    Does this mean that we must judge each act of terrorism on the people committing it and their motives rather than the simple fact they are committing it? Yes.

    Some people trying to save chimps and finds that killin is simple are right. It is simple. It would have done exactly what they expected. But only until someone came around and took the victims place, or they shifted the operation to a more secure facility farther away, and finally when the cops show up at your door and want to know why you smell of gasoline and have lots of empty coke bottles in your garage, etc?

    And that’s where proper thinking needs to come into play.
    It is true that terrorism in this case might save a few lives, but not for long and not forever. As long as the act of terrorism does not result in those experimental animals being freed and returned to some peaceful life somewhere then all is for nothing. If all it does is give them a few months reprieve then it really solves nothing more than give these animals a few months of life at the expense of years from the life of the person killed.

    When it comes to terrorism nobody bothers to gauge the effects of their actions. They are like creationisms and other doubters expecting instant gratification from their actions. Evolution does not provide gratification. It simply prompts more questions, which for folks like us is what makes studying evolution fun. But for those people who want instant answers and cannot accept further questions as answers like we can, it just won’t work. They think that anything which does not explain something is obviously imperfect. When you add with that a culture within the experience that demands capitulation and no questioning of authority then after years of this you are more than willing to think stupid old testement explanations for things cause your mind has been trained not to question it.
    Why is the sky blue?
    Cause god made it that way.
    OK?
    BINGO! Instant gratification!

    So terrorism is not going away and there are reasons why we should measure the methods and expectations of terrorism enough to know that there are times when it is called for. It’s just whether you have planned for the possible results, includin those you did not want or expect.

    MYOB’
    .

  6. #6 complex_field
    August 27, 2006

    The neoCONS ignore domestic terrorism of this type because the islamic fundamentalist type is what will keep them in power. But concentrating on international terrorism at the expense of internal terrorism will result (eventually) in chaos that the myopic bushies cannot imagine.

  7. #7 George
    August 27, 2006

    Ultimately, the ALF does lots more harm than good to the animals rights cause.

    Why people think violence is going to solve anything is beyond me.

  8. #8 John Emerson
    August 27, 2006

    Rightwingers love animal rights domestic terrorists; they can be blamed on liberals. It’s the anti-abortion terrorists that they ignore.

    To a considerable extent the War on Terrors is a war on the internal enemy — liberals who aren’t patriotic enough. The goal is in part to remake the world, but even more so to remake the US.

  9. #9 Pierce R. Butler
    August 27, 2006

    The link provided on “animal hoarding” leads to the website of the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium, which seems sadly out of date.

    Much of the HARC site consists of .pdf files (which I don’t feel like downloading just for a quick scan) but I could find only one reference to an event in 2006, while everything else bearing a date in each of the half-dozen tabs is from 2004 or earlier.

    Once again, it seems as if the issues connected to real problems burn out the handful of activists dealing with them, while the fraudulent crusades attacking bogus crises such as “Darwinism”, gay rights, or the “war on Xmas” never lack for eager troops.

  10. Let’s not forget that thuggish violence worked on Dr. Mirecki last fall and forced him to step down from head of the religious studies department at KU.

  11. #11 Orac
    August 27, 2006

    Jerry Vlasak is a despicable human being. (Alas, he’s also a surgeon.) He’s an apologist for terrorism in the name of “animal rights.” Don’t buy for a minute his “force is only a second option” crap for a minute. Thst’s just his way of trying to stay respectable.

  12. #12 Gyan
    August 27, 2006

    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.

    But PZ’s being disingenuous.

    He says, “There is no excuse for bombing people.

    How about if someone is attacking you or someone else? Or is PZ a devout fan of Gandhi’s ahimsa?

    Presuming that the answer to the first question is “Then, yes”, then consider that these animal research activists (ARA) profess to believe that animals deserve rights equivalent to humans. Would you be content to lodge letters of protest or just march outside the buildings where someone was killing other people, and continued to do so? If no, and if one believes what ARAs believe about animal rights, then attacking the researchers is morally justified. Most people have a strong aversion to this argument not because of the first premise(violence is never OK), but the second(an animal’s ‘right to life’ is as sacrosanct as a human’s).

  13. #13 Jonathan Badger
    August 27, 2006

    Gyan — you don’t have to be a pacifist to categorically deny vigilantism for any cause. It isn’t inconsistent to accept the rights of recognized governments to declare wars while denying the right of individuals to use violence at their own whim.

  14. #14 Shannon
    August 27, 2006

    I agree with Johnnathan Badger on this, mainly because as a former vegetarian (former because it caused me serious health problems), I got into activism and joined PeTA. Unfortunately I did so thinking only that it was a peaceful organization that protected animals via legislation; changing the laws so that even animals who are raised for meat are treated humanely. This is only partly true.

    PeTa not only puts down a significant number of the animals left in their care, they also have a bomber on their payroll and openly support another:

    http://www.activistcash.com/biography.cfm/bid/3369

    http://www.activistcash.com/news_detail.cfm?hid=1777

    For PeTA and those who get converted to their way of thinking, violence against scientists and the destruction of labs (and potentially many humans and animals in the process) is far superior to quietly volunteering at the Humane Society. There’s not as much exposure to be gained and the fear factor is completely absent.

    All the while PeTA, who claims to be appalled that the HSUS would put even one sick animal to sleep, puts more animals down in a year than the HSUS does in two, yet continues to take money from unsuspecting members to continue their ‘good work’.

    They are also targeting children with the most disgusting, horrific comic books and pamphlets ever created. Comics with names like ‘Your Mommy Kills Animals’ that have frightening language and horrible bloody images of cartoon Mommies viciously murdering cartoon animals. Many of the student leaflets also feature images of animals skinned, beaten and dead.

    http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=36208

    This is why I now refuse to support them. PeTA is second only to ‘One Solution’ (AKA Only One Solution, an organization that is currently trying to find scientists willing to create a toxin to poison the world’s water supply and kill all humans, thereby creating a world devoid of animal suffering), in violent ideology and ways in which they encourage others to further their goals.

    Quiet, nonviolent activism is not going to be enough to satisfy people like this. They’d rather kill you than listen to you.

    Hypocritical of them in light of their own animal killings? Yes indeed. But that doesn’t stop them from doing everything they can to keep those membership dollars and other donations rolling in.

  15. #15 huxley
    August 27, 2006

    Shannon,

    Any cites on “Only One Solution”? Sounds more like a bad Michael Chrichton book, a quick googling found nothing.

    BTW, citing WorldNetDaily and Activistcash.com undermines an argument. One is a propagandist rag (jeez, just look at it), the other is an astroturf operation.

  16. #16 Dustin
    August 27, 2006

    I guess my question is, “Why is Jerry Vlasak still a free man?” I mean, here we have someone openly condoning terrorist acts. We’ve hauled people off to Guantanamo for simply having had the misfortune of standing in a convenience store five blocks away from the detonation site of an IED.

  17. #17 Ktesibios
    August 27, 2006

    More on Shannon’s Astroturf source:

    From PRWatch: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Center_for_Consumer_Freedom

    Did you know that the Humane Society of the United States is among the organizations attacked by the CCF? Here’s their perspective:

    http://www.hsus.org/about_us/about_hsus_programs_and_services/eye_on_the_opposition/center_for_consumer_freedom.html

    The claims of being a former PETA supporter coupled with the citing of wingnut and corporate-shill sources remind me powerfully of something Orwell wrote in The Road to Wigan Pier:

    As I said apropos of Galsworthy, the opinions of the sentimentalist change into their opposites at the first touch of reality. Scratch the average pacifist and you find a jingo. The middle-class I.L.P.’er and the bearded fruit-juice drinker are all for a classless society so long as they see the proletariat through the wrong end of the telescope; force them into any real contact with a proletarian — let them get into a fight with a drunken fish-porter on Saturday night, for instance — and they are capable of swinging back to the most ordinary middle-class snobbishness.

  18. #18 Splash
    August 27, 2006

    Everybody,
    Let’s not forget that the federal government has undoubtedly infiltrated PETA and ALF and populated those organizations with agent provocateurs who advocate and try to prompt acts of violence in order to discredit the organizations. There is a long history of this, with Cointelpro in the 60s to Earth First in the 80s and beyond. Not that there are no idiots in the animal rights movement, but these stories have to be taken with a grain of salt, especially when organizations that have pledged nonviolence suddenly seem to be engaging in acts of violence.

    Having been an activist in the environmental movement for years, it is clear to me that all the serious people in the movement who have been around the block recognize the strategic mistake in acts of violence where one of the most important goals is gathering public support for a cause. Based on the extensive history of infiltration of such groups, you have to suspend judgment until there is proof. After all, look at all the negative press in this blog alone that this incident has generated. Who benefits?

  19. #19 Dustin
    August 27, 2006

    Splash, that’s only scratching the surface. The government is also using mind control rays from satellites to make the nice animal rights people firebomb scientists.

    I can help you, though. If you send me $70 (US), I’ll send you a precision engineered tinfoil hat that’s guaranteed to protect you from Uncle Sam’s hypnorays.

  20. #20 hoody
    August 27, 2006

    Animal rights protesters are bizarre.

    VIOLENT animal rights protesters are functioning evil.

    And (just a friendly reminder!!) NONE of them vote Republican!! They vote either Green or Democratic.

    Three cheers to PZ for attempting to keep the loons on the reservation.

  21. #21 Kagehi
    August 27, 2006

    Yeah. Somehow people miss it, probably since groups like PETA are *usually* careful to not let it slip, but the truth is, they are not interesting in equal rights for animals, they are interested in **only** animals having the rights. In the case of PETA, they equate seeing eye dogs, house pets and even gold fish as “slaves”. They literally believe in a utopia world where humanity is disconnected from nature, by placing “itself” in the cages and letting the animal world go on without us so much as accidentally stepping on a mouse, if it somehow got into the “cage” that kept us from hurting all the poor animals. Their founders, and high level leaders, are completely and totally insane.

  22. #22 Stogoe
    August 27, 2006

    Thanks, Dustin, for being a dick.

  23. #23 Kagehi
    August 27, 2006

    Oops. Seems to be a minor gap in a sentence there:

    “…go on without us, so even so much as accidentally step on a mouse, if it somehow got into the “cage” that kept us from hurting all the poor animals, would be defined as murder.”

    Think I was trying to type two completely different sentences at the same time again.. lol

  24. #24 Dustin
    August 27, 2006

    Hoody, if by “friendly” you meant “obnoxious and extraneous” you’re correct. But, deductive sequential reasoning doesn’t seem to be your strong suit, does it now?

  25. #25 Mnemosyne
    August 27, 2006

    Shannon may possibly be a plant, but it’s pretty well-known that PETA euthanizes animals given to their care. Two PETA volunteers were arrested in Virginia last year for doing euthanizations in the back of their van and then dumping the animals’ bodies in various dumpsters:

    http://tinyurl.com/hkrte

    No tears for PETA. They’re sick, sick people.

  26. #26 Stogoe
    August 27, 2006

    hoody, what about abortion bombers? Are they not also functioning evil? They vote Republican. What about the NRA? They endorse shooting any black people who scare you. On the street. In cold blood. They vote Republican. These guys are functioning evil, and yet you jump in bed with them without any reservations.

  27. #27 Mnemosyne
    August 27, 2006

    Whoops, sorry — here’s the right link:

    http://tinyurl.com/8fccl

  28. #28 Stogoe
    August 27, 2006

    So much astroturf. Were we expecting a shipment? And when can we send it back? I hope they didn’t charge us…

  29. #29 Mnemosyne
    August 27, 2006

    The Roanoke News-Herald is now “astroturf”?

  30. #30 Jonathan Badger
    August 27, 2006

    Let’s not forget that the federal government has undoubtedly infiltrated PETA and ALF and populated those organizations with agent provocateurs who advocate and try to prompt acts of violence in order to discredit the organizations

    Please show me evidence that even *one* act of violence committed by PETA or ALF was caused by of of these “agent provocateurs”. It seems you are falling for the “No True Scotsman” fallacy — because no “true” member of ALF would do such an awful thing, it must have been due to an evil government agent!

    all the serious people in the movement who have been around the block recognize the strategic mistake in acts of violence where one of the most important goals is gathering public support for a cause.

    That’s one strategy, sure. Grassroots, and all that. But violence (or the threat of it) sometimes works too, as it seems to here. That doesn’t justify it, of course, but terrorism wouldn’t exist as a strategy if it didn’t yield results sometimes.

  31. #31 Shannon
    August 27, 2006

    I’m not a plant. I started out as a paid PeTA member then discovered that they were more terrorist organization than a force for serious animal protection.

    My apologies for the sources. I have read about these issues with PeTA in several places and seen newscasts about the bomb issue but these were the quickest links to the information I could find on the internet.

  32. #32 Stogoe
    August 27, 2006

    you’re either a plant, or a concern troll. Goodbye.

  33. #33 Gyan
    August 27, 2006

    Jonathon Badger: you don’t have to be a pacifist to categorically deny vigilantism for any cause. It isn’t inconsistent to accept the rights of recognized governments to declare wars while denying the right of individuals to use violence at their own whim.

    Since the government itself conducts or funds some animal research, they are complicit and no longer a source of “justice”. Individuals are allowed to use violence under certain conditions i.e. self-defense and the like, e.g. if you see a child being abused, is it alright for you to use force on the perpetrator to stop the behavior?

  34. #34 Phoenician in a time of Romans
    August 27, 2006

    There is no excuse for bombing people.

    I dunno. If, say, the evil Indonesian horde invaded New Zealand, bombing its cities, rounding up and torturing dissidents and installing a sham puppet government, I’d feel quite justified in bombing their soldiers over here. I suspect more people in the West would be sympathetic to my insurgency than to the right of teh Indonesian military to an untroubled occupation.

    Application of this general principle to other locations is left as an exercise to the reader.

  35. #35 Jonathan Badger
    August 27, 2006

    Individuals are allowed to use violence under certain conditions i.e. self-defense and the like, e.g. if you see a child being abused, is it alright for you to use force on the perpetrator to stop the behavior?

    No. Not at all. If I see a criminal act, I may inform the authorities about the situation if I think that’s appropriate, but I certainly wouldn’t leap in like a spandex wearing superhero to punish “evildoers” myself.

  36. #36 Dustin
    August 27, 2006

    Whether or not it is appropriate to use violence to prevent child abuse is entirely beside the point. Child abuse is a purely malicious act against a human and has no gainful end. Animal reseach, to the contrary, is not a thing that ethical scientists do simply for spite, it isn’t done to a human, and it does have a gainful end — one that you, Gyan, have personally benefited from.

    There is, of course, a complete spectrum of acceptability in animal research. Some of it is useless, unilluminating and cruel. More of it, however, is not. When animal rights activists ignore the broader moral spectrum and resort to violence at all, let alone without attempting to distinguish the ethical scientists from the few bad apples, they’re becoming the moral equivalents of the right-to-lifer who would assassinate a doctor in front of his own children because the assassin failed to distinguish between a man who had a lifetime of conscious experience, a family, a personality, and a high degree of medical training and an unborn fetus.

    That kind of black and white moral absolutism is not only dangerous to ethical people who don’t deserve the wrath of anti-abortion crusaders or molotov cocktail brewing animal rights activists, it’s dangerous to their families, and it’s dangerous to the activists. Remember, after all, that Paul Hill was put to death.

  37. #37 Dustin
    August 27, 2006

    Ahh, not to mention that it appears to be dangerous to elderly neighbors who probably wouldn’t be able to get out of their houses once they were set on fire by a molotov cocktail. If that thing had gone off, I promise you’d be singing a different tune right now, Gyan.

  38. #38 AoT
    August 27, 2006

    ALF has done a lot of good and a lot of their work has been freeing animals from commercial fur farms and factory farms. The fact that ALF took credit for this attack is rather odd as it directly contradicts their credo.

    http://animalliberationfront.com/ALFront/alf_credo.htm

    As for the need to use the law for dealing with abuses, you are welcome to obey the law even unto unjust actions, of which not stopping someone from abusing a child is one, but don’t expect your subservience to make you a moral or ethical person.

  39. #39 Shannon
    August 27, 2006

    Nor am I a concern troll. I merely pointed out that PeTA is not what they claim to be. There are many other animal rights organizations who do what they claim and make a genuine contribution.

  40. #40 Dustin
    August 27, 2006

    Yeah, and I keep hearing that terrorism is against the credo of Islam too.

    That’s the thing. There’s what people say, and then there’s what they do.

    As for this:

    As for the need to use the law for dealing with abuses, you are welcome to obey the law even unto unjust actions, of which not stopping someone from abusing a child is one, but don’t expect your subservience to make you a moral or ethical person.

    Thanks for ignoring everything I just said. That’ll teach me to sheathe my snark and deliver an argument calmly! Also, you people need to lay off Shannon, or at least start making some sense when you call her a troll.

  41. #41 Gyan
    August 27, 2006

    Jonathon Badger – Not at all. If I see a criminal act, I may inform the authorities about the situation if I think that’s appropriate, but I certainly wouldn’t leap in like a hspandex wearing superhero to punish “evildoers” myself.

    a)I’m talking about an acute event, not a long-term behavior. The police may be too late.

    b)In the case of chronic behavior, the police will very likely agree with you that child abuse is wrong and should be stopped. Unlikely in the case of animal research. As an analogy, consider the era when spanking a child was not illegal and was an accepted conditioning tool.

    Dustin: Animal reseach, to the contrary, is not a thing that ethical scientists do simply for spite, it isn’t done to a human, and it does have a gainful end

    The ‘gain’ part is irrelevant. Animals are being put either to death or through known or potentially painful procedures. If you are not okay with that happening to a human in an experiment that may produce some gain, but okay with that happening to an animal, then you hold them in a different moral stead. The ARAs don’t.

  42. #42 Dustin
    August 27, 2006

    Jesus Christ. That’s what I just said. And I said that not regarding them as morally distinguishable is bad. Next time, read a little before jumping on the post button.

  43. #43 AoT
    August 27, 2006

    [quote]Thanks for ignoring everything I just said. That’ll teach me to sheathe my snark and deliver an argument calmly![/quote]

    Sorry, that was meant to be directed towards Badger, not you.

    As for the Islamic comparison, it isn’t a very good one. ALF is an anarchist organization the membership of which consists of people who take action while following the credo. I am not trying to argue that all animal rights folks follow this, I was just pointing out that I was suprised that ALF took credit because it violates the credo, or would have if the molotov went off.

  44. #44 Caledonian
    August 27, 2006

    Ignoring the issue of whether the cause in question has merit, what’s all this about the individual use of force being wrong? You’re against citizen arrests, rebellion against government forces, and personal self-defense? Individuals have no power to do a thing, yet in a group they can somehow grant that power to individuals?

  45. #45 Gyan
    August 27, 2006

    Dustin – And I said that not regarding them as morally distinguishable is bad.

    I heard you the first time. The ARAs say that they should be treated equivalently. You, obviously, disagree.

  46. #46 Jonathan Badger
    August 27, 2006

    Ignoring the issue of whether the cause in question has merit, what’s all this about the individual use of force being wrong? You’re against citizen arrests, rebellion against government forces, and personal self-defense? Individuals have no power to do a thing, yet in a group they can somehow grant that power to individuals?

    Damn straight I’m against crap like “citzen arrest”. I’m also against lynch mobs and creepy “militia” movements that see themselves as rebels against the government. Society is all *about* giving authority to the government that we don’t allow to individuals.

  47. #47 Jonathan Badger
    August 27, 2006

    As for the need to use the law for dealing with abuses, you are welcome to obey the law even unto unjust actions, of which not stopping someone from abusing a child is one, but don’t expect your subservience to make you a moral or ethical person.

    In a democracy, deferring justice to the proper authorities isn’t “subservience”.

  48. #48 Mnemosyne
    August 27, 2006

    If you are not okay with that happening to a human in an experiment that may produce some gain, but okay with that happening to an animal, then you hold them in a different moral stead.

    It’s true, I do. Animals and humans do not have the same moral stead, because animals do not have rationality.

    For example, I realize that to my cat, taking him to the vet is a horrible thing. He’s in a room with strangers and bright lights and they stick him with needles and put thermometers up his ass. Being the human, however, I realize that his inconvenience is for a higher good, because the vet is trying to cure him.

    If my cat was on the same moral stead as I am, I should never take him to the vet, because it’s traumatic for him.

  49. #49 Gyan
    August 27, 2006

    Animals and humans do not have the same moral stead, because animals do not have rationality.

    Rationality’s a non-issue, e.g.

    a)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.

    b)Putatively rational adults, suffering from terminal illness, are denied the right to die with dignity in most jurisdictions barring a select few. They have to suffer needlessly till they die of natural causes. What’s the ‘higher good’ in these cases?

  50. #50 ArtK
    August 27, 2006

    AoT said:

    ALF has done a lot of good and a lot of their work has been freeing animals from commercial fur farms and factory farms.

    I’m sorry — I’m very much opposed to fur farming but ALF’s actions are as bad as the farmers. One of two things happens when you suddenly release semi-domesticated preditors en masse: They either die quickly from starvation, or they predate on the local ecosystem that’s unprepared to handle them.

    Smashing cages and “freeing” animals to die is the act of children who can’t see even one step into the consequences of their actions. It’s the act of terrorists who are trying to make a point, even if they harm the ones that they are ostensibly trying to help.

  51. #51 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.

  52. #52 wm
    August 28, 2006

    I’d be really interested in learning what is the standard atheist researcher’s justification for animal research. Is it typically “rationality?” Does rationality mean that animals with more complex brains are justified in using less developed animals for whatever purposes that make sense to the “complex brain” animals? So that means that if there was another animal out there that had a more complex/rational brain than humans that it would be ok for them to experiment on humans? And that geniuses can experiment on normal folk like me?

    I think that the religious justification for animal research is that God created humans with souls and gave them dominion over animals to use as they will. Which makes sense in its own way if you buy into the religious paradigm. I would think that animal research would give atheists pause, though. Particularly research on primates.

  53. #53 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.

  54. #54 quitter
    August 28, 2006

    I blogged on this as well. I think the main misunderstanding that the animal rights people have when it comes to biology, is how fundamentally our science relies on animals. It simply is not possible to do research without the death of animals. Sorry.

    I get tired of this argument for two reasons. One is kind of a Monty Burns argument, that Nature threw hurricanes and poison monkeys at us for millenia, so why should we feel guilty about being on top after our long fight to dominate the food chain. I value human life too much to let rodents stand in the way of scientific understanding. The second is that people who argue against animal research have no idea how biology works. Maybe that sounds extreme, but sorry, you people are totally ignorant of what we do in the lab.

    Everything we do is dependent on studying animals, products from animals, animal tissues, animal proteins, animal cells etc. There is no avoiding it. They tell us that we can just study cell culture? What do we feed those cells with? Serum from baby cows (FCS). Aww the poor baby cows! How about immunology? Those antibodies we use to detect proteins? That whole revolutionary science based on the immune system? Where do we get these reagents? Rabbits, donkeys, mice, goats, etc., we prime them to be immune to a foreign protein then we drain them of their blood. The cell lines we study? All purified from animal sources, especially primary lines which often need to be periodically rederived since most immortalized lines are so artificial. How do we study gene functions? Knock out or knock in in animals like mice. How do we study diseases? We model them in animals and try to cure them there before moving to humans. How do we understand toxicity of drugs for potential therapies? We use animals.

    And guess what. Pretty much in every case, the animals die. Scientists don’t like that they have to kill animals but they do it, because human life is worth more, and like mature individuals we recognize this. We don’t mistreat animals (we have vets, institutional review boards, animal protocols, etc. to make sure we are humane) but we do have to use and kill them for research. Yes, boohoo, cute little animals die so you can have the drugs that keep you alive into old age. This is science. Deal with it. To be against animal research is to be against all biological science. This is not being facetious or extreme, it is simply impossible to do meaningful biological research without the death of cute little animals.

    Also notice the correlation between the cuteness of the animals and how much the animal rights people care. They certainly don’t care about fruitfly studies, or people killing millipedes, or ugly spiders. The animals essentially have to be cute and furry to be considered more important than human knowledge.

  55. #55 Phoenician in a time of Romans
    August 28, 2006

    The animals essentially have to be cute and furry to be considered more important than human knowledge.

    Presenting an interesting problem since, in general, “cute and furry” translates into “more applicable to human research”.

  56. #56 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).

  57. #57 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.

  58. #58 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.

  59. #59 RavenT
    August 28, 2006

    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).

    I think you mean to say “similar”, as “isomorphic” is an overstatement. An isomorphism is a bijective mapping (one which is one-to-one and onto), so that each structural part corresponds to one and only one structural part in the other species. So it’s fair to say that mouse hearts and human hearts are isomorphic viewed at the chamber level, as each chamber corresponds to exactly one chamber in the other species. But prostates are not isomorphic between male mice and male humans, as mice have 5, while humans have only one. So the mapping is not one-to-one and onto.

    But except for fairly specific structures, most cross-species anatomical correspondences are *not* isomorphic, although they are similar. And even if you have a systematic way of representing the components of the complex behaviors you mentioned, they differ in so many details that isomorphisms would be the exception.

    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.

  60. #60 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.

  61. #61 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).

  62. #62 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.

  63. #63 bernarda
    August 28, 2006

    I am more inclined to support PWEETA.

    http://www.ooze.com/pweeta/

    “PWEETA (People Who Enjoy Eating Tasty Animals) wants to end the suppression of mankind’s phobias with certain meats and meat by-products.”

    Click on the “Meat Movie” and see an animal rightser threaten the group promoting meat saying “you’re a criminal”.

  64. #64 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?

  65. #65 Gyan
    August 28, 2006

    RavenT: I think you mean to say “similar”, as “isomorphic” is an overstatement.

    I’m only referring to superficial features, particularly those which are directly identified with sentience like eyes and vision.

    As for “human goals”, are you asserting that animals cannot benefit from them as well?

    In most cases, they are not intended to. Insulin therapy was developed to ease the suffering of human diabetics; that it works on animals is a plus.

    Which other than claiming “isomorphism”, you did not attempt to provide in the slightest.

    There is none. There’s also no evidence that you’re conscious other than the fact that, if I met you, I believe you would look like a human, talk like one & produce a wretched look if you sprained your ankle..etc. Consciousness isn’t observed, it’s attributed. Witness the debates over whether fish feel pain. Hence, “evidence” has little bearing on this matter. Attribution depends on one’s heuristic for signs of sentience. ARAs believe some animals are. Others share that belief but don’t extend the same right to life. Others don’t share the belief. There’s no “objective” evidence to bear light on this matter.

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

    All there is. The chief difference is between consensus morality or idiosyncratic ones. What consensus morality does hold is that humans shouldn’t be wantonly subject to suffering. It holds this, IMHO, because people apply the golden rule. The current boundary is at humans, but ARAs extend it further. Now, you argue in a later post that some research does “directly benefit” those animals. But that research may benefit those animal populations, only rarely that animal. But such practices aren’t allowed on humans. We don’t test the LD50 of a new drug on a child by reasoning that it will directly benefit children. Because in our case, we emphatically realize that we exist as individuals and we cherish the property of individuality mainly because we cherish our very own. In the case of animals, due to the huge differences in the expression of sentience, especially communication abilities, we don’t care about individuals most of the time, hence more readiness to treat animals as instances of a specific prototype. This makes it more easy to rationalize the “greater good” (mostly human progress) as sufficient to sacrifice a few instances of those animals.

  66. #66 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.

  67. #67 RavenT
    August 28, 2006

    I’m only referring to superficial features, particularly those which are directly identified with sentience like eyes and vision.

    But those are not superficial at all; they are extremely complex phenomena. The inter-species differences in eyes and vision are so great that researchers cannot even agree whether or at what level eyes are homologous among vertebrates and invertebrates. So if you are going to argue that that makes them “isomorphic”, because at a very abstract level we happen to use the same term to refer to these complex anatomical structures, then your argument is trivial. 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.

    The first irony here is that if you trivialize the term “isomorphic” in that way, then you are making a stronger case for animal experimentation. By calling everything at the abstract term level identical, you gloss over the very real differences that make translation from lab results in experimental animals into clinical practice in humans problematic. A better tactic would be to emphasize the differences, not the similarities, and to claim that those differences invalidate animal research. As a generalization, it wouldn’t be any more true than your previous one, but it would support the point you are trying to make much better.

    In most cases, [treatments derived from animal research] are not intended to [benefit animals as well as humans]. Insulin therapy was developed to ease the suffering of human diabetics; that it works on animals is a plus.

    The second irony here is that your second argument undercuts your first one–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.

    Besides, I call bearshit on this argument–literally. 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.

    What consensus morality does hold is that humans shouldn’t be wantonly subject to suffering. It holds this, IMHO, because people apply the golden rule. The current boundary is at humans, but ARAs extend it further.

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

    We don’t test the LD50 of a new drug on a child by reasoning that it will directly benefit children.

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

  68. #68 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?

  69. #69 Shannon
    August 28, 2006

    Huxley,

    Here is one of the links:

    http://www.onlyonesolution.5u.com/01.html

    They have an identical site with another provider, but some of the links on that site are broken.

    I used to chat with a lot of activists while I was with PeTA, and a shocking number of them (both members and non-members, animal rights activists can be an unusual group), actually embraced the ideology of Only One Solution. Of the ones I knew with a website or blog, probably about half linked to OOS and several also posted the link as their signature in their emails.

    One girl told me, “I don’t have a problem with it. I think it’s the only way to end animal suffering so I’m all for it, even though it means I’ll die, and everyone I love will be killed. Humans are cruel anyway, and animals are better off if we don’t exist.”

  70. #70 Greco
    August 28, 2006

    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?

    Let’s go one further: do you think people do not die or suffer on placebo or better-standard-of-care groups?

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

    You?

    If I was still unsure whether you’re a childish troll, that does it.

  71. #71 Gyan
    August 28, 2006

    do you think people do not die or suffer on placebo or better-standard-of-care groups?

    Sometimes they do, like in the recent case in Britain of those 6 volunteers, but they are only subjected to it after some animals have been subject to it.

  72. #72 RavenT
    August 28, 2006

    You?

    Ah, I spent time trying to clarify your points because I thought you were interested in a serious discussion.

    I won’t make that mistake again.

  73. #73 quitter
    August 28, 2006

    Reading the comments on this post I see animal rights extremists who say we can do research without animals are just denialists like IDers or creationists. They have that same infuriating tendency to argue by nitpicking from a state of total ignorance about science.

    I don’t have the energy to keep it up, I am a quitter after all, but pretty much all I can say is, if you actually studied Biology, got a PhD doing actual biological research, you could never hold these opinions. Because then you’d see that animal research is fundamental to biological research. Not just studies on animals, but using animal products, animal tissues, cell lines derived from animals, antibodies generated in animals etc. To call for an end to animal research is to call for an end to biology. We wouldn’t even be able to study cell culture without cow serum. We wouldn’t be able to see the proteins cells make without antibodies from cute little rabbits and mice. Without animal research we would be relegated to studying human disease in yeast and bacteria (oh god I hope some retard brings up computer modeling in this thread too).

    I say, all the animal rights arguments are just troll arguments. They’re just denialists, treat them ass such.

  74. #74 Greco
    August 28, 2006

    Sometimes they do, like in the recent case in Britain of those 6 volunteers, but they are only subjected to it after some animals have been subject to it.

    And what possible relevance does that have, little trollie? Can you offer even one argument that is not an argh-ument?

  75. #75 wm
    August 28, 2006

    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 could have worded my question better. I’m not saying that all researchers are “the same”, but it does seem to me that many researchers would have a similar set of values when it came to animal experimentation. Perhaps I’m wrong. While I do enjoy a good fairy tale every now and then, what I was asking for was information.

    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?

    Of course you have no obligation to explain anything to me – I was just asking out of a desire to learn and discuss and this seemed like a great place to do that. I am not asserting that I have any answers. I wouldn’t think that your personal education of any interested party would make a lot of sense – hard to get anything done if you spend all your time discussing why you’re doing it! But it does seem reasonable to me that as a society we should try to set standards for being humane – whether to our fellow humans or to other inhabitants of the earth.
    It seems that the ethical argument for animal experimentation boils down to the following:
    – Biology requires experimenting on and killing animals
    – We are intellectually superior to other animals and based on this are ethically justified in killing them to advance our understanding of them and ourselves since this experimentation results in direct benefit to us and other animals.
    Is this the main gist of the ethical argument for animal experiementation? Is there more to it? Are there any good articles that anyone could recommend discussing the ethical underpinnings of animal experimentation?

    Yes, boohoo, cute little animals die so you can have the drugs that keep you alive into old age. This is science. Deal with it.
    I can’t see how the “cuteness” of the animal is relevant to the ethics of killing it. And why would someone who is interested in the welfare of their fellow creatures accept harm to those creatures just “because this is science?” Re. “boohoo” – you seem to be mocking people who feel compassion for the suffering of others. I don’t think that is particularly laudatory, and it certainly isn’t an attitude that would tend to make non-scientists trust in the ethical behavior of scientists.

  76. #76 quitter
    August 28, 2006

    WM,
    I’m sorry, it’s a reaction to complete and total ignorance of the ARAs. Everybody loves the benefits of biological science but once they see it kills little animals they get all upset. Every single medical innovation is built on the back of this kind of research, and to challenge our right to do this research is to challenge all of biology/medicine/health sciences. The complete and total lack of understanding of biology reflected by ARA arguments therefor makes me lose my patience, like saying we should use computers instead of animals (check out the similar discussion over at Pure Pedantry. Statements like these are so dumb, they cause miniature strokes in my brain in the area of my “being an asshole” inhibition circuit.

    Anyway, be assured, I like animals, I’m kind to animals, I don’t like killing them, but I will to pursue research. We do it carefully and humanely, we are supervised by vets, review boards, and government agencies. We strive to limit undue suffering, we have to justify our protocols every year to our review boards, and it can be very tedious. That’s why I get very pissed when the ARAs make it sound like we squish mice for fun or that we “torture” animals. I’m sorry, but there is so much oversight that these claims are ridiculous.

    Further, I am offended by the idea I keep on seeing of “personhood” of animals like rodents or even many primates, and this idea that their lives are in any way equivalent to human lives. This comes from total unfamiliarity with these animals, I’m sure. I like mice, but they’re not people, and monkeys may be cute, but still, not people. It also just reflects a very immature worldview about life. Humans are giant killing machines and pretending we can go throughout life without the death of the occasional furry animal is just silly. Nature is about both life and death, and we are surrounded by death, but we don’t acknowledge it. Every minute your body is killing microbes, it enslaves them in the GI tract to help digest food, when you shower, brush your teeth, eat food, you are destroying other forms of life from bacteria to fungus to little animals like mites (yes you are covered with little spiders all the time, sorry). Our existence requires the death of other creatures, plant or animal, because we aren’t capable of carbon-fixing by photosynthesis. We use pesticides on crops (even organics use “organic pesticides), we poison pests in our homes, we drive over the ocassional squirrel, we build buildings on top of habitats and then birds fly into the windows and die, so to stop all taking of animal life we’d pretty much have to withdraw from the world itself. We have to get our energy from somewhere, live somewhere, and move about while protecting our bodies from the invaders all around us that care nothing for the sanctity of our lives. This requires some things to die, that’s why I say, deal with it. Death is unavoidable, it’s part of life, stop crying about it and grow up.

    So when people think we should suspend research for the sake of cute animals I think they lack a mature understanding of how life on this earth evolved. It’s not harmonious and loving where we all get along and live happily ever after, life is based on death, lots of death, all the time. Nature is indifferent to our survival, we are not in communion with it, we live in spite of it.

    In terms of ethical discussions from an atheistic standpoint I guess the source to go to would be Singer at Princeton, even though I don’t agree with him.

  77. #77 Greco
    August 28, 2006

    I can’t see how the “cuteness” of the animal is relevant to the ethics of killing it.

    How worried are you about the ethics of your body killing billions of bacteria, fungi, protozoa to stay alive? Every day?Right now?

  78. #78 Stanton
    August 28, 2006

    Gyan, wm, Phoenician, have you forgotten, or are you all ignoring the fact that you’re supporting an organization that places absolutely no respect for human life, aside from their own members?

    Here you all are, chastizing people for supporting animal testing, and yet, the “people” of ALF attempted to set fire to the house of an elderly couple, whose only crime was to be the neighbors of ALF’s intended target, who was to be murdered.

    I find your arguments of how animals are sentient, or deserve to be accorded as much respect as people, and how it is inherently cruel to do any sort of testing on them, even to cure disease, to be hollow, given as how you don’t so much bat an eye about the fact that you support a group that prefer to get its point across by blowing up buildings and committing arson, with a malicious disregard for human life.

  79. #79 RavenT
    August 28, 2006

    While I do enjoy a good fairy tale every now and then, what I was asking for was information.

    Fair enough–I’m willing to talk to anyone who’s interested in a real discussion, as opposed to someone who’s just trolling. (I would have said talking to Gyan on the other hand has proved to be just like casting pearls before swine, but then s/he would just have had the vapors over it: “OH NOEZ–TEH POOR SWINES!”)

    Is this the main gist of the ethical argument for animal experiementation? Is there more to it? Are there any good articles that anyone could recommend discussing the ethical underpinnings of animal experimentation?

    I am not specifically trained in ethics, and I can only speak for myself, but it seems to me that no matter which course we choose, suffering will always be a part of it. You can never eliminate suffering, but maybe–through more and better knowledge–you have a chance to minimize it. The knowledge we gain through animal research benefits humans and other animals, and in my opinion, that minimization of suffering is the only chance we have to do something about it.

    Re. “boohoo” – you seem to be mocking people who feel compassion for the suffering of others. I don’t think that is particularly laudatory, and it certainly isn’t an attitude that would tend to make non-scientists trust in the ethical behavior of scientists.

    Well, I didn’t write that, but I certainly understand the sentiment behind it. Your mileage may vary, of course, but it seems to me that the mocking is overwhelmingly going the other way.

    In the last two weeks, I’ve rescued a stranded baby rabbit, tried unsuccessfully to rescue a crow who was too injured to save, crunched vaginal cytology data for a project to try to help endangered bears have better reproductive success, and finished my dissertation (in which “anatomical isomorphism” is rigorously defined), on an information system that I hope will boost the health of both humans and animals by sharing relevant cross-species anatomical information. Before that, I kept two diabetic cats and one hyperthyroid cat alive for a couple of years by curtailing my life enough to be home at specific time to regularly administer medicine derived from animal research.

    For all my real-world efforts, I just got accused of endorsing the “wanton suffering” of animals. So I trust you’ll understand why I think Gyan is just a poser who wants to be *perceived* as caring about animals by spouting a lot of simplistic blah-blah*, while attacking people who do the hard, frustrating, and morally much more difficult work of actually balancing all those interests and suffering, and trying to find the optimal compromise for all species involved.

    * Note to Gyan: In addition to “isomorphic”, try justifying your argument in the “quantum nature of reality”. That’ll *really* impress people.

  80. #80 Reginleif
    August 28, 2006

    MYOB: The whole premise behind child correction principles we instill in our children are based entirely on terrorism. Fear of being spanked, etc.

    Jesus Farquhar Christ on a teacake with clotted cream. I sincerely hope you never breed.

  81. #81 Gyan
    August 28, 2006

    RavenT: Ah, I spent time trying to clarify your points because I thought you were interested in a serious discussion.

    I didn’t accuse you affirmatively, but if animal research for human ends is wanton cruelty, then your positions put you in that camp.

    quitter: pretty much all I can say is, if you actually studied Biology, got a PhD doing actual biological research, you could never hold these opinions. Because then you’d see that animal research is fundamental to biological research.

    I agree, but this is a different issue.

    And what possible relevance does that have, little trollie? Can you offer even one argument that is not an argh-ument?

    You should stop trolling yourself before accusing others of it.

    quitter: We have to get our energy from somewhere, live somewhere, and move about while protecting our bodies from the invaders all around us that care nothing for the sanctity of our lives. This requires some things to die, that’s why I say, deal with it. Death is unavoidable, it’s part of life, stop crying about it and grow up.

    I perfectly agree (sincerely). So, let’s allow volunteers for clinical studies where possible, and skip the use of animals beforehand, who have no conception of what they may be put through.

    have you forgotten, or are you all ignoring the fact that you’re supporting an organization that places absolutely no respect for human life, aside from their own members?

    I don’t support the ALF. I joined this thread disputing PZ’s stance that organizations like ALF claiming to believe what they do, had no excuse to hurt humans in support of their cause. We allow similar actions when humans are involved. The ALF extends that right to animals, so its morality is not suspect, although it may be with regards to consensus morality. I haven’t audited the ALF, and so don’t endorse/oppose them in particular.

    RavenT: in which “anatomical isomorphism” is rigorously defined

    Well, the laity don’t attribute sentience based on rigorous standards of anatomical isomorphisms, but heuristically.

    For all my real-world efforts, I just got accused of endorsing the “wanton suffering” of animals.

    You’re applying some sort of calculus to adjudicate your net contribution to animal welfare. Doesn’t matter if you’re Dr. Jekyll in the home as long as you’re Mr.(?Dr.?)Hyde in the lab, then the accusation’s appropriate.

    In addition to “isomorphic”, try justifying your argument in the “quantum nature of reality”.

    That’s 3rd on my list after selective Biblical quotes and the divine morality derived from the golden mean. But of course, you in return may just absolve yourself by claiming that you can’t really be certain whether you’re torturing the cat, sort of like the practice of lethal injection with a couple of dummy injectors to provide some semblance of moral escape.

  82. #82 RavenT
    August 28, 2006

    Whatevahs, Gyan.

  83. #83 wm
    August 28, 2006

    Gyan, wm, Phoenician, have you forgotten, or are you all ignoring the fact that you’re supporting an organization that places absolutely no respect for human life, aside from their own members?

    Here you all are, chastizing people for supporting animal testing, and yet, the “people” of ALF attempted to set fire to the house of an elderly couple, whose only crime was to be the neighbors of ALF’s intended target, who was to be murdered.

    I assure you, I have no intention of chastising anyone, I find terrorism in any form reprehensible, and I’m not supporting any organization. I admit to being a vegetarian, though … and to having a husband who is a meat eater. I don’t chastise him for eating animals – nor do I think that eating animals is “evil” – I just prefer to take this small step to help reduce animal suffering. Of course I also hit squirrels with my car, tread on bugs when I’m hiking through the woods, and slap hungry mosquitoes when they attempt to dine on my blood, so I’m obviously not doing all I could be doing in that respect. Quitter of course is right that death is a part of nature. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not beneficial to us to try to find kinder ways to live. Personally, I’d much rather live in a world where humans greatly value all life and by default would try for non-violent solutions to our problems than live in the violent world we inhabit today. So much suffering is caused by separating ourselves from other creatures – whether that separation is between people of different religions, people with different politics, or between humans and non-humans.

    There’s no question in my mind that at least some animals are similar to us in many respects, just from observing their behaviors – that’s why I ended up becoming a vegetarian – too much observation of a cat of mine with a terminal bowel disorder. I think that most people would come to the same conclusion after observing animals like cats or chimps for any great length of time. 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. I know that many researchers are very caring, compassionate people (such as RavenT with his animal rescue efforts). But I’ve also heard stories of some researchers “tormenting” animals to basically duplicate existing research when testing the latest cosmetics. From the reassuring descriptions I’ve been hearing here of animal research oversight it sounds like this may be a thing of the past and that there are now safeguards to address it.

    What I wonder is how scientists tend to draw the line on what animal experimentation is acceptable and what is not. (No, I’m not assuming that all scientists draw the line the same way) Scientists don’t typically experiment on “dumb” humans who are unable to object or dissect healthy humans to see what makes them tick. These things are obviously way on the “unacceptable” side of the line. So how do they decide that it’s ok to experiment on chimps? And when making these decisions, do they err on the side of gleaning new data or on the side of causing less immediate harm to other animals?

    Thanks, Quitter, for pointing me at Singer – I’m anticipating looking into his views.

  84. #84 quitter
    August 28, 2006

    I perfectly agree (sincerely). So, let’s allow volunteers for clinical studies where possible, and skip the use of animals beforehand, who have no conception of what they may be put through.

    Gyan, you are retarded. I’m sorry. There is just no other way to put this. You are a denialist who is refusing to acknowledge that testing can not begin with humans. What you’re saying doesn’t even make sense. It’s like saying we should travel to the moon by starting from Mars. It’s like saying you should build a pyramid from the top down.

    Medicines that we use to treat diseases aren’t pulled out of the goddamn ether and tested randomly in huge batches on animals (although some cancer research is performed this way on cells looking for specific properties). You just don’t understand what you’re talking about, and refuse to listen to use when we explain to you that what you are saying makes no sense. You are a denialist, just like the creationists are, you will not listen to reason, so drop it already.

    We don’t start off with perfect understanding of diseases and which drugs work. Figuring these things out takes years of experimentation on model systems like cells (from animals and fed with animal serum) and animals like mice and rats. Before you could even think about treating a disease in humans you have to have a pretty good understanding of how the disease works from animals, and ideally, figured out a way to cure the animal model. Further, 90% of basic science research in biology is going to be on animals, animal proteins, using cells from animals etc. What you suggest also is fundamentally against basic research that we do every day to understand the basic mechanisms of biology. Not everything is cures for cancer and miracle drugs, a lot of it is just figuring out what genes do what, and what they interact with etc. We can’t just make these things out of thin air, they have to come from somewhere.

    Face it, you fundamentally do not understand biological science. Every time you say we should just “skip” the animals reveals you’ve never worked in a lab, don’t have a degree in biology, don’t know what you’re talking about. As always with denialists, you’re arguing from total ignorance, and refusing to be informed. You are just wrong, wrong wrong.

  85. #85 Gyan
    August 28, 2006

    quitter: You are a denialist who is refusing to acknowledge that testing can not begin with humans.

    Why not? Why does it have to start with animals?

  86. #86 quitter
    August 28, 2006

    AhhhhhHHH!HHH!HH!H!!!

    I give up. It’s like talking to a freaking wall.

  87. #87 Greco
    August 28, 2006

    You should stop trolling yourself before accusing others of it.

    I wasn’t “accusing”, I was stating a pretty obvious fact. All the more obvious because I asked a question and you dodged it: Why. Is. That. Relevant?

  88. #88 Gyan
    August 28, 2006

    Greco: Why. Is. That. Relevant?

    That animals are subjected first?

    It’s relevant because it just highlights that animals are dispensable.

    quitter: I give up. It’s like talking to a freaking wall.

    Huh? I am asking you to explain why! You just mentioned what all you source from, & do on animals, but didn’t explain why the analogues from humans won’t do.

  89. #89 Stanton
    August 28, 2006

    Medical experiments have to be performed on animals, first, because of two main reasons:
    1) There are legal repercusions if the experiment kills or irrepairably harms a person. Given as how most modern-day countries, as opposed to say, Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union under Stalin, value their citizens as people, and grant them legal rights, should a scientific experiment harm or kill its (human) subject, the person, or the person’s living relatives have the legal ability to sue the experimentors.

    2) It is extremely expensive and difficult to experiment on humans to begin with, to say nothing of time-consumption. It is much easier, and cheaper to care for animal analogues, than it is for humans, themselves. Animals like flies, mice, dogs, or cats are experimented on because they are relatively easy to care for, and grow quickly.

  90. #90 quitter
    August 28, 2006

    Thanks Stanton, in the face of such extreme stupidity I just froze. I couldn’t believe that I was about to explain to someone that when animals are studied in research they don’t survive. Most are killed at the end of the study and their organs harvested for protein, RNA, histology etc. Also, that making gene knock-out humans isn’t going to happen, that the blood supply couldn’t support our cell lines if we used human serum for our cell culture, that we can’t immunize humans with antigens of unknown pathogenicity to generate antibodies, that we can’t inbreed humans to create syngeneic populations for study, etc.

    This guy is so clueless about biological science that he thinks humans could substitute for what we do in either basic or clinical research, it’s just a little bit too much for me to deal with. So much ignorance, I worry about education in this country.

  91. #91 quitter
    August 28, 2006

    By clinical in this case I meant directly relating to human illness, I didn’t mean to suggest clinical studies aren’t performed on humans. We do, but only after we’re pretty confident they won’t fall over and die by testing things in animals first, which usually is a good indicator. Not always, but enough that it’s valuable. Another big lie of the ARAs is that animal toxicity studies aren’t valuable because animals are so different from humans. (Wait for the presentation of BS data from ARA brochure in 3…2…1…)

  92. #92 Gyan
    August 28, 2006

    Thanks, Stanton.

    quitter: I’m not sure why you think I’m ignorant about the basics of biological research. I asked you because I wanted your answers to tease out which reasons are scientific & which ethics-bound.

    To start with what you said,

    that making gene knock-out humans isn’t going to happen

    Why not? Ethics?

    we can’t immunize humans with antigens of unknown pathogenicity to generate antibodies

    Same thing here?

    we can’t inbreed humans to create syngeneic populations for study

    Ditto.

    Obviously, the ALF thinks you should treat animals the same. And like you said, most animals are killed after the study. So that’s a fundamental problem for them with animal research.

    And as I said, at the beginning of my very first post, I’m personally for animal research. I just don’t rationalize it as some ‘greater good’ crap. I like the biological knowledge base to increase, and if a few critters die in the process, so be it.

    But if the ALF folks believe what they claim, then there’s no moral inconsistency in their actions.

  93. #93 quitter
    August 28, 2006

    Oh great, so you’ve been purposefully obtuse this entire time. That’s so much better.

  94. #94 Gyan
    August 28, 2006

    so you’ve been purposefully obtuse this entire time.

    Obtuse? No, I just wanted your answers, whereas you kept assuming that had I known, I wouldn’t have asked.

  95. #95 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.”

  96. #96 pdw
    August 29, 2006

    wm, in addition to Peter Singer’s philosophy, you may want to look up James Rachels’s book, Created From Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism.

    And for those looking for an introduction to ethical philosophy, I’d recommend Rachels’s “The Elements of Moral Philosophy”.

  97. #97 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.

  98. #98 Stanton
    August 29, 2006

    Also, the main reason why humans aren’t used to make vaccines is because the chance of creating an autoimmune response rises exponentially, where the vaccine recipient’s immune system becomes conditioned to attack the person’s own tissues.

    A very similar scenario occured during the creation of a swin influenza vaccine, in that there was a protein in the capsid (protein envelope) of the virus that was identical to a protein found on the surface of human nerve cells.

  99. #99 Keith Douglas
    August 30, 2006

    wm: Singer also provides recipes for food! His Writings on an Ethical Life includes a recipe for lentils. Rather unique amongst philosophy books to have a recipe.

    As for the subject of the thread, long ago I took part in a debate on non-human animal experimentation as part of a public speaking class. I took the against side to have practice arguing views I disagreed with. I had trouble remaining biologically honest, I have to admit. In the case of vegetarianism, I know it is next to impossible to produce an argument that rules out all meat eating and yet doesn’t rule out plants and fungi too. On the other hand, it seems that at least on the awareness and neural activity grounds there are some minor discontinuities, which might permit eating cnidaria …

  100. #100 wm
    August 30, 2006

    He he … it’ll be interesting to see how a philosopher rates as a chef …

    Keith, I’d be really interested in how plants and animals get grouped into the same category in the “vegetarianism” debate. I’m an engineer, not a biologist, and much more familiar with electrical circuits than with animal biology. To me there seems to be a big difference between a chicken and a plant or a fish and a fungus. The animals seem much more responsive and self aware. I can see how the simpler the animal, the more plant-like it may be. But it doesn’t seem that it’s the really simple organisms that usually comprise the greater part of the meat in most people’s diets.

    I would love to be convinced, to be honest, I really really used to enjoy meat … 🙂

  101. #101 andy.s
    September 3, 2006

    To Stogoe re the NRA:

    “What about the NRA? They endorse shooting any black people who scare you. On the street. In cold blood. ”

    Really now, Stogoe, let’s not get silly. You appear to be referring to the NRA’s support for the repeal of “Duty to Retreat” laws in regards to self defence situations.

    You should probably be aware that only a few states had such laws to begin with. In most of the country, DTR is not enforced.

    There are arguments for and against DTR, but calling it a license to shoot African Americans in cold blood is just plain silly.

    Sorry, PZ, if this drags the thread off topic. I just couldn’t let that statement pass unanswered.

  102. #102 RS
    September 16, 2006

    The reasons people get caught up in terrorism is that their leaders can not compete with other religions, philosophies, etc. on the basis of what they have to offer. Terrorism is a temporary “shortcut” to achieving their goals, however it’s a poor marketing plan for long-term support by the populace.

    What works of art, music, books or inventions have terrorists created? What medical breakthoughs have they discovered? What wonderful products have they brought to market?

    Today’s underlying roots for terrorism are designed for control. Control of Middle East oil, control of South American oil, etc. Today’s terrorism is also run by educated people, usually well off and well educated, seeking control over vast wealth while exploiting others to do their bidding. Currently, “heavenly rewards” are “promised” since it is cheaper than giving up earthly treasures. The reality is, no one on earth can gurantee that you will receive 72 virgins, salvation, mansions, gold. or anything else. These heavenly rewards are always something extremely good and based upon something here on earth that people can relate to in their imagination.
    For all we know we may be the workers in the heavenly manure shoveling Department of Sanitation.

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