Pharyngula

Animal research: indispensable

The scienceblogs team seems to be forming a united front on at least one specific issue: in support of research in the face of animal rights extremists. This is prompted by the case of a researcher in drug addiction whose home was vandalized by domestic terrorists, and who has written an op-ed defending the use of animals in research.

I said at length what I think about animal research several years ago, in our biology discipline’s policy statement on dissection. It’s pretty darned simple: we can’t figure out how something we don’t understand works without studying the subject. We can’t learn more about cells without studying cells; we can’t learn more about animals without studying animals; software simulations and thought experiments do not substitute.

Comments

  1. #1 G. Tingey
    November 5, 2007

    Ah, animal rights …

    For the Cats, or the Mice?
    For the Buzzard, or the Rabbit?
    For the Sperm Whale, or the Squid? (Don’t answer that one, PZ!)

    Perhaps these idiots should be forced to watch Carol Capeck’s “Insect Play”?

  2. #2 AlanWCan
    November 5, 2007

    But can’t you just look it up in the Bible? It has all the answers right? Right?

  3. #3 Sean
    November 5, 2007

    I think Alan has a jam in his targetting system. Happens often. The rightwingers say and do so many nutty things that you just kind of fall into a rut.

    I have found very few evangelical types who have issues with the use of research animals. Hell, if anything, they often swing so far the other way they want to pillage the whole animal kingdom under the assumption the Rapture is nigh.

    Animal rights extremists are more likely to be godless, left wing nutjobs.

  4. #4 MartinC
    November 5, 2007

    I agree with Sean on this one. You cannot use the religious/non religious divide as a marker for people views on animal research. Look at Bill Maher. I tend to agree with him when he talks about religion but he is a member of PETA – who no doubt have some decent aims but also some completely kooky objectives that include ending all animal research. Its a question of where you draw the line I suppose and I draw it at humans.

  5. #5 Anne Nonymous
    November 5, 2007

    I accept of course that if one is to learn about animal guts one needs to actually look at and manipulate animal guts. However, I’m deeply uncomfortable with the notion of harming animals with any reasonable level of intelligence just because we think it’s interesting.

    Sure, there’s this sort of big picture goal where we’re training future doctors to save human lives, or training future scientists who’ll develop medical breakthroughs that blah blah blah, or the animals are actually being harmed directly as a part of some hopefully potentially maybe someday lifesaving research. But there’s no way of knowing, in each individual case, what exactly the tradeoff is. Will killing this particular cat right here save one human from death? Two humans? Extend somebody’s lifespan by a year? How many cats are we willing to kill or maim per human saved or human life extended or human quality of life enhanced?

    I want to know what the accounting is here. At the moment it just seems to be kind of a shrug, a vague gesture in the direction of progress and education, and a feeble attempt to have ethics reviews tone down the callousness and frivolousness a notch. I don’t agree with the more extreme tactics of the animal rights movement, but I do believe we owe our fellow creatures far more consideration than they get in the average research lab. I’m as committed to the goal of expanding human knowledge as the next scientist, but it’s hard not to see little echos of Mengele in some of the research that’s done on primates, cats, dogs, mice, and other comparatively intelligent creatures. We’ve decided we aren’t willing to acquire knowledge at the cost of such extreme cruelty when humans are the subjects, so it seems kind of fishy to me that we’re willing to be so casual when it’s done to intelligent non-humans.

  6. #6 Arnaud
    November 5, 2007

    Anne,
    Intelligence and self-awareness are not the same. I am myself sometimes a bit uneasy (a totally emotional response, I’ll admit) when it comes to experimentations on (higher) primates but if it comes to saving even one potential human life at the price of that of numerous dogs or cats (however much I love them), line them up and give me the sacrificial knife I say!

  7. #7 Cyrock
    November 5, 2007

    You have to study it to learn about it? So i must assume that you also have to experiment directly with humans to learn something about them…Cmon, PZ, that is flawed logic what you did. There is a difference between studying them and killing them and having them suffer.

    Why is making a dog suffer is moraly more acceptable than making a human suffer? Please tell me! Cause I think its not. But our reasoning goes as follows:
    -We know we suffer
    -We assume that others like us suffer
    -Since we cant know how an animal feels, we make up conjecture that says that since they are not as intelligent as us, they dont suffer as much, without any basis.

    Some years ago, not too many, the same reasoning was done on black slaves. “They dont need anything! They are just slaves, they are inferior, dont compare them to you!”

    If learning has to be a justification for murder, it needs some strict regulations on the acceptable conditions of the animals and what experiments are acceptable and what not.

  8. #8 Anne Nonymous
    November 5, 2007

    Arnaud, I like how you thought deeply about the issue for all of eleven minutes before deciding that it’s okay to dismiss the possibility that any non-human species other than primates might deserve decent treatment. This is the whole point I’m trying to make — we need to start thinking about this as a society and start having conversations that don’t just boil down to, “Cats can’t talk, so it’s okay to mutilate them however it amuses us as long as we can say it’s for Science.” It doesn’t mean that animal research needs to stop tomorrow, but we need to make it an major goal to find ways to minimize the use of actual animals, minimize the harm done to those animals, and so forth. We need to think about this instead of ignoring the question just because it’s hard to address and the results of thinking about it may be rather inconvenient.

    A realistic goal here is to start developing technologies and research strategies to make animal research less invasive and less reliant on harming or killing animals, so that we can slowly decrease use of live animals in research. I don’t see it happening overnight, but I do think it needs to happen, and attitudes like yours don’t help.

  9. #9 Cyrock
    November 5, 2007

    So what is so important about humans after all??
    I see this whole story about considering human lifes more important than animal lifes exactly analogous as some of the feelings associated with nationalism.
    Nationalism: They are from my country so they are more valuable than the ones from other countries.
    “Specienalism”:They are of my specie so they are more valuable than individuals form other species.

    And both are flawed, and unlogic.

  10. #10 andyo
    November 5, 2007

    Animals kill each other in horrendous and extremely painful ways in the wild. If what’s so different about us is that we are aware of the suffering and still do it, then we’ll just need to take as much suffering away as we can. The thing is that we kill animals ultimately for the same reason that animals kill other animals, isn’t it?

    On the other hand, those “researching” for cosmetics and such vain purposes really need to have their asses handed to them. Or am I missing something? I think actual real researchers should be as angry or more about them than animal rights people.

  11. #11 bernarda
    November 5, 2007

    Jeebus wasn’t much of an animal rights activist. He once killed two thousand pigs to save one man from demons. Mark 5.

    6When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” 8For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”

    9Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

    “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

    11A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.”

    Not only does Jeebus not like animals, he wantonly destroys private property. People did not take kindly to that,

    “16Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man–and told about the pigs as well. 17Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.”

    Jeebus wasn’t much of an ecologist either. In Matthew 21:19.

    “18Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.”

  12. #12 MartinC
    November 5, 2007

    Anne, I sincerely doubt that you are a scientist working in biological research. If you were you would not be so quick to use such ridiculous analogies (it doesn’t help your argument when you Godwin the whole debate in your first post). Obviously we cannot speak for every scientist but to portray using animals in research as ‘amusing’ ourselves by torturing cats is preposterous and hugely insulting to the dedication of most professionals in this field. It also shows your own character in not the best light when you are prepared to belittle the experiences of those who died in the holocaust by comparing it to current medical research.

  13. #13 T_U_T
    November 5, 2007

    Anne, why do you set up such ridiculous straw men ? like :

    We need to think about this instead of ignoring the question just because it’s hard to address and the results of thinking about it may be rather inconvenient.

    As if you were the only person who spent a thought about it. Or :

    we need to start thinking about this as a society and start having conversations that don’t just boil down to, “Cats can’t talk, so it’s okay to mutilate them however it amuses us as long as we can say it’s for Science.”

    As if anyone byt you were a sadistic callous psychopath.

    So, if you really want ho have a honest discussion, you shouln’t begin it with such astute demagoguery.

  14. #14 T_U_T
    November 5, 2007

    byt = but

  15. #15 Tom
    November 5, 2007

    In the future, they will look upon our age with atonishment that we felt we could use animals however we liked, in the same way that we are astonished that slavery was once thought of as normal.

  16. #16 Guru
    November 5, 2007

    Imagine an extra-terrestrial life form more intelligent and technologically superior to us. Would it be ok for them to come here and do research on humans, the way we do on animals? (Arguing that humans kill each other, too, e.g. in war.)

  17. #17 Ancarett
    November 5, 2007

    PETA supporters literally make the bile rise in my throat. They prop up an organization that’s dedicated to the eradication of the domestication of animals! No more pet cats and dogs for anyone if they have their way. The ALF people are even worse — their actions put people and animals at grave risk.

    Most people aren’t aware how many hoops and oversights animal researchers have to abide by to keep up with their research. I work at an institution where a very prominent researcher has been shut down because this person dismissed the oversight of the U veterinary as ignorant and unnecessary. Right now, the researcher’s students are the ones who are suffering the most as their research projects are consequently shut down. I feel sorry for them but no one gets a free pass on animal care!

  18. #18 T_U_T
    November 5, 2007

    Imagine an extra-terrestrial life form more intelligent and technologically superior to us. Would it be ok for them to come here and do research on humans, the way we do on animals? (Arguing that humans kill each other, too, e.g. in war.)

    I’m afraid, you are asking a thing impossible by definition – imagining a creature that is as much unimaginable by us as we are unimaginable by a mice.

  19. #19 T_U_T
    November 5, 2007

    s…t… by a mouse, of course.

  20. #20 Fernando Magyar
    November 5, 2007

    #4, “I do believe we owe our fellow creatures far more consideration than they get in the average research lab.” Like compared to the consideration they get from pet owners who have grown tired of their pets, right?

    http://www.la-spca.org/adoptions/tails/whs.htm

    8 to 12 million companion animals land in animal shelters each year
    5 to 9 million animals are euthanized annually (approximately 50 percent of dogs entering shelters, and 70 percent of cats)
    Euthanasia rates at shelters can be as high as 80 percent.

  21. #21 RickD
    November 5, 2007

    Look, the question of animal rights with regard to medical research is not all that cut-and-dry. I am nowhere near supporting the end of animal research, but it is important to draw a line somewhere so we don’t countenance, for example, Bill Frist’s cat murders. The NIH has an ethics panel that is required to approve of any animal subjects research. This seems like the correct approach.

    I am also quite comfortable with the notion of “charismatic megafauna”. Whether any species has “rights” or not is entirely dependent on whether we decide to grant them rights (absent any Planet of the Apes scenario). For example, I think there’s a huge difference between mice and chimpanzees, and there are very few kinds of experiments I’m comfortable with being tested on chimpanzees while lab mice are pretty much fair game for all sorts of (medical) tests.

  22. #22 Mike O'Risal
    November 5, 2007

    There are some very strange arguments about this topic here. Personally, I haven’t used animals in my research other than insects, which ALF and PETA don’t seem particularly concerned with because, I assume, they’re neither particularly cuddly nor intelligent. Having said that, arguments like this are very strange to me:

    Imagine an extra-terrestrial life form more intelligent and technologically superior to us. Would it be ok for them to come here and do research on humans, the way we do on animals? (Arguing that humans kill each other, too, e.g. in war.)

    We can imagine that all we like, but it hasn’t happen and isn’t very likely to happen. If there are extra-terrestrials who are capable of traveling the tremendous distances necessary to reach earth, they’ve already done many of the same things to get to that technological point that we have, which includes doing research on whatever animals they have handy. It’s easy to forget some 45 years after the fact, but the first terrestrial creatures to travel into space weren’t humans, they were animals. In fact, they were our closest relatives because we had to know what would happen to a human traveling into space before we started sending them up there. I have no doubt that any extraterrestrial civilization that has ever launched a rocket did something quite similar with the equivalent animals from their own planet.

    It would make no sense for an extraterrestrial civilization to want to do research on humans for another reason; their evolutionary history would be so different from our own that they almost certainly couldn’t learn anything from research on us. In scientific research, we don’t just pick animals at random. We choose animals that have something in common with humans so that we can extrapolate what’s learned from them. We use apes in neurological research because they have nervous systems extremely similar to our own. We use pigs to test digestion because their digestive systems are very close to humans. It’s not about amusement, and it’s not done because researchers are sadists who enjoy doing harm to animals. It’s done because we use an animal that’s as similar as possible to a human being in some important way so that we can be as sure as possible that whatever it is we’re researching won’t harm or will work for human beings. At the same time, the research done on animals also produces benefits for animals. Veterinary medicine doesn’t materialize out of some void; it involves animal testing, too.

    So, no, it wouldn’t be alright for some hypothetical extraterrestrial to perform physiological research on humans — not simply because of some ethical issue, but because it would be bad science. They’d be using a poorly chosen model organism in the first place. In fact, we’d be rather safe in saying that any such researchers would be both a bit dim and sadistic. Moreover, because we have done research on animals and because it has allowed us to learn so much more about humans, we’re in a good position to give any such extra-solar researchers the information they’re looking for in the first place without their having to run a batch of new experiments on us.

    I have the impression, formed over years, that those who oppose animal research generally haven’t thought their arguments all the way through. The fact is, most people in the biological sciences have the highest regard for other living things — so much so they’ve dedicated their lives to learning everything they can about them. The sort of thinking practiced by groups like the ALF and by Tom here are so profoundly misdirected that it really is hard to separate it from the sort of conspiracy nonsense we often see spewed by Creationists.

  23. #23 Kcanadensis
    November 5, 2007

    I agree with Anne.

    And I still find it hard to swallow the people think humans are the most important thing *ever* and that our lives matter more than the lives of hundreds of other creatures. I disagree.

    I’m no extremist; I would not throw rocks through peoples windows, etc. I would more likely shake my head in disgust and sadness and move on.

  24. #24 Kcanadensis
    November 5, 2007

    Sorry for double commenting!

    I just wanted to mention that I don’t think using animals for science is ALWAYS bad. While it might not be right for this or that reason, there are some studies that really do not harm the animal. I am going into the Biology field myself and I have seen studies done on captive and/or domestic animals which did not harm them as far as I know.

    I tend to think about the cosmetic industry when I think of animal testing. But that’s different, and I have to remind myself of that.

  25. #25 Eyal Ben David
    November 5, 2007

    As long as what you’re studying isn’t in the expressed benefit of the animal (a hint – it isn’t), than it is not moral.
    The fact animals kill each other in the wild is irrelevant, if complicated moral perceptions is the standard, than we should dissect newborn babies instead of mice.
    Research in animals isn’t moral.

    However, not everything we do is absolutely moral.
    I’m all for research in animals, because I don’t pretend to live in a perfectly moral world.
    Plus, I ate a very good hamburger last night, and if animals can die for my pleasure, they can definitely die to study biology and maybe cure a disease.
    And I definitely think animal activists should concentrate more on animals tortured, and about hunting for sport (which I recently found out is rather common in America. What’s wrong with you people?!), as these are absolutely without excuse!

  26. #26 MartinM
    November 5, 2007

    I want to know what the accounting is here. At the moment it just seems to be kind of a shrug, a vague gesture in the direction of progress and education, and a feeble attempt to have ethics reviews tone down the callousness and frivolousness a notch.

    Well, that seems to be the problem here, yes. You don’t know what the ‘accounting’ is, but you’re not about to let that stop you from commenting on how inadequate it is.

  27. #27 inkadu
    November 5, 2007

    Funny. Nobody’s mentioned yet the fact that the largest number of animals suffering in human institutions end up… in my belly! But that’s because they’re delicious.

    Animal research can be rather unpleasant to think about, but in the charnel house of human-imposed animal misery, I imagine it’s a relatively small room.

  28. #28 coathangrrr
    November 5, 2007

    >i>But can’t you just look it up in the Bible? It has all the answers right? Right?

    Yeah, Genesis 1:28

    “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

    That and the Greek hierarchy of being are the two main places we in the west get our view of humans as intrinsically more important that everything else. Of course, all you scientists have rejected magical, non-rational thinking and would never hold a view that wasn’t long considered. Ah, dogmatism, how I love it.

  29. #29 MartinM
    November 5, 2007

    Nobody’s mentioned yet the fact that the largest number of animals suffering in human institutions end up… in my belly!

    Greedy bastard. Just make sure you leave enough for the rest of us.

  30. #30 wicker
    November 5, 2007

    I am quite disturbed to read words such as “extremists” and “domestic terrorists” on this blog. It seems like the bush vocabulary has sunk in even with the “Intellectualists”.
    I do by no means approve of destroying someones home. Still, I refuse to use the word “terrorist” in such contexts.
    It is very convenient and dangerous to label groups of people as terrorists. as we see happen all the time now, it allows you to take any “appropriate action” against that group without further justification.
    I am dissappointed that you, Mr Myers, choose such cheap propaganda vocabulary.
    Besides that, I love your blog and try to read it every day.

  31. #31 G. Tingey
    November 5, 2007

    Something ate my first comment ….

    Animal rights for whom?
    Cats, or Mice?
    Buzzards or Rabbits?
    Sperm Whales or Squid? (Don’t answer that one PZ!)

  32. #32 coathangrrr
    November 5, 2007

    Nobody’s mentioned yet the fact that the largest number of animals suffering in human institutions end up… in my belly! But that’s because they’re delicious.

    Noy mentioning it doesn’t make it okay. This isn’t a conversation about eating meat, it’s a conversation about animal testing. If you really want someone to mention it then fine. Eating meat, specifically meat in the United States which is generally speaking produced in a way which is cruel to the animals, harmful to the environment and has a negative impact on other poorer countries is ethically wrong. You show your true colors as not caring at all about the way animals are treated when you make light of the torture in slaughter houses of animals for your enjoyment. Clearly we can have high hopes for the well treatment of animals in research institutions if people like you are supporting said experimentation.

  33. #33 MartinM
    November 5, 2007

    It is very convenient and dangerous to label groups of people as terrorists.

    Quite right. We should probably save it for those groups which use violence and intimidation to coerce others into following an ideologically motivated policy.

  34. #34 Mike O'Risal
    November 5, 2007

    I am quite disturbed to read words such as “extremists” and “domestic terrorists” on this blog. It seems like the bush vocabulary has sunk in even with the “Intellectualists”.
    I do by no means approve of destroying someones home. Still, I refuse to use the word “terrorist” in such contexts.

    These are people who have planted incendiary devices and destroyed home with the express intent of intimidating (terrorizing) those with whom they disagree. Anyone who uses terror to get their way is a terrorist, regardless of governmental redefinitions of the word.

    The words “terrorist threat” described a criminal offense long before the curent administration came to power. If I call someone on the phone and tell them I’m going to kill them, I have made a terrorist threat. If I attempt to firebomb their house, or flood it with water and then inform them that I “considered using fire” instead, and then issued a public statement so that everyone else knew why the incident occurred and that I consider even greater violence justifiable, then I am a terrorist; I am someone who uses terrorist threats and terrorist actions to attempt to coerce others into following along with my beliefs.

    This is, in fact, the original meaning of the word “terrorist,” not some recent redefinition.

  35. #35 coathangrrr
    November 5, 2007

    Anyone who uses terror to get their way is a terrorist, regardless of governmental redefinitions of the word.

    Sounds like every government, police force and army in the history of the world.

  36. #36 Mike O'Risal
    November 5, 2007

    Sounds like every government, police force and army in the history of the world.

    I think this is the second time you’ve posted this comment. What’s your point here? Assuming what you’ve said is true, would it justify the use of such tactics by ALF? Are you saying that you support such things being carried out by governments, et al., so that ALF will continue to have the right to engage in such tactics?

    This doesn’t seem particularly germane to the discussion at hand, so perhaps you can explain why you bring it up.

  37. #37 temminicki
    November 5, 2007

    While I do agree that research on animals is necessary for understanding the biology of organisms, or how pathogens infect and kill, I also feel there are too many animal research labs that are doing pointless experiments. case in point, I read a paper a couple of months ago where the researchers wanted to see if alcoholism had any effect on HIV disease progression. So, they infected some macaques with SIV and then pumped them full of alcohol. And I mean full, I can’t remember the monkeys blood tox, but it was pretty extreme. in the end the monkeys did die faster, but you have to ask your self, did we really learn anything? Did we really have any doubt that pickling SIV infected macaques in alcohol would kill them faster?

    My point is that I think it is just too easy to kill animals in the name of science and many of the animal labs are all to ready to do these kinds of experiments so they can justify their funding.

  38. #38 coathangrrr
    November 5, 2007

    Perhaps because it’s a rather poorly thought through definition of terrorism when it covers such a broad swath of groups throughout history. Unless you all wish to say that you find every government, army and police force to be terrorists and as such should be disbanded.

  39. #39 Orac
    November 5, 2007

    A realistic goal here is to start developing technologies and research strategies to make animal research less invasive and less reliant on harming or killing animals, so that we can slowly decrease use of live animals in research. I don’t see it happening overnight, but I do think it needs to happen, and attitudes like yours don’t help.

    Where have you been? It’s been happening over the last couple of decades, aside from the ethical implications, also because animal research is expensive and cumbersome–and becoming increasingly so. Even so, I don’t see our ever completely eliminating animal research.

  40. #40 Honest John
    November 5, 2007

    I may be weird, but…

    1. I don’t think a single human life is necessarily worth more than an animal’s life, unless it happens to be my life or the life of someone I love.

    2. I don’t get upset if a human gets killed by a shark or some other predator. I would be upset if it was someone I cared about. (I do feel sorry for the dead person’s loved ones.)

    3. If saving one human from death meant the assured death of every living chimpanzee (or insert favorite cuddly animal here) I’d have great difficulty saving that human. How few chimps would result in the same decision? I don’t know, but it scares me to think about it.

    4. I support medical experiments on animals because I am basically selfish about my life and the lives of those I love. I have only one life to live and I want it to be as long and happy and healthy and fulfilled as possible.

  41. #41 LM
    November 5, 2007

    Two things:

    Researchers who use animal subjects must follow extremely strict guidelines and protocols to ensure that they are using as few animals as possible in the most humane ways possible in order to conduct their studies. We don’t go randomly whacking critters. If you can’t show your animal use committee why what you are proposing to do is helpful to science, you won’t be allowed to do it. Period.

    Second, I don’t understand why people paint researchers who do use animal subjects as heartless and evil mad scientists. Every time I’ve had to euthanize an animal (and these were salamanders, not mammals… still, salamanders are just as cute as a button) it has broken my heart. It might sound cheesy, but I thank every animal for its brave contribution to science. I am also very careful about what I do so that I get good and useful data from that animal. I suspect that most people who use animals in research love their subjects very, very much. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be in that line of work.

  42. #42 ChrisC
    November 5, 2007

    To deny that research on animals is nessecary for the biological and medical sciences is to deny relality.

    That said, to deny that many of these animals experience pain and suffering is also to deny reality. Many people, such as myself, who support the continued use of animals for research also have grave concerns about the treatment of animals (particularly primates, but also many other critters) in research institutions.

    So we reach an ethical impass. Where do we go from here?

    I would suggest that scientists who use animals for research must begin to be far more open and transparent to the public about their use of animals, both to explain their necesity to the lay audience, and to show that every step is taken to minimise suffering.

    Secondly, I feel that (mostly without justification), while most institutions do their best, not enough is being done to minimise the suffering of research animals. I feel that researchers should be held, uniformly, to stricter standards – in consultation with some of the more moderate animal rights groups (the RSCPA has been involved in this for long time). If this is a pain in the neck or slows research, so be it (that said, I’m coming from a field where I can conduct experiments in computers, so others may disagree).

    Thirdly, non-nessecary animal research (such as that done for cosmetics) should be phased out completely.

    Currently, the government of Japan horribly kills thousands of whales in the Antarctica whale sanctuary under the guise of scientific research. Things like this blacken the name of all animal based research and need to stop.

    To complete my rant, I’ll note that far more suffering is visited upon our fellow creatures by industrial farming techniques, and animal rights activists could certainly use their time more productively if they focused on this aspect.

    I must say, this

  43. #43 Mike O'Risal
    November 5, 2007

    Perhaps because it’s a rather poorly thought through definition of terrorism when it covers such a broad swath of groups throughout history. Unless you all wish to say that you find every government, army and police force to be terrorists and as such should be disbanded.

    This is a straw man, at least in terms of the theoretical functions of these groups. In theory, at least in terms of representative government, these groups are supposed to use force only when necessary to benefit those that they represent, not a narrow ideological viewpoint.

    Having said that, I do think that many governments, or at least particular administrations, have lost sight of this and indeed have become terrorist in their actions. In this case, however, you’re extending an inappropriate definition to “every government, police force and military” that has ever existed. I think that what the government, police and military have done in the name of the war on drugs, for example — confiscating property without due process, creating inequitable laws, etc. — is terrorist, and I think the war on drugs as it exists should be “disbanded” for reasons very similar to why the ALF should be “disbanded.”

    The ALF doesn’t get elected. It isn’t a government. It has no form of due process. It’s a misguided vigilante group, at best, and moreover what it opposes isn’t illegal… so “vigilante” isn’t even an appropriate term here. They’re no different than people who blow up women’s health clinics, except that they’re out to save some different entity.

    They could work within legal means, of course, and get legislation introduced to change how research is done… but they don’t, precisely because their views don’t represent enough people to make it worth their while to try. Thus they resort to force in the name of their own agenda.

  44. #44 ChrisC
    November 5, 2007

    Oops. Little tag on line at the end shouldn’t be there… damn copy and paste. Didn’t mean to go out like a self righteous prick.

  45. #45 Tulse
    November 5, 2007

    PZ:

    we can’t figure out how something we don’t understand works without studying the subject. We can’t learn more about cells without studying cells; we can’t learn more about animals without studying animals; software simulations and thought experiments do not substitute.

    This argument just begs the question — it implicitly assumes that killing animals is OK, which seems to be the issue that is in question. If we really wanted to learn about human biology, we would do this kind of research on humans, and historically we have, from Tuskegee to Army experiments with radiation and chemical exposure to studies performed on prisoners and the mentally ill (and I won’t risk Godwin by mentioning another notorious group of experimenter). We now acknowledge that, whatever the benefit of this research (and I think it is undeniable that it could be beneficial), it is simply unethical.

    That is the same question being addressed regarding animal research. It is not ultimately a defense to say it is beneficial, as that just begs the question. The argument has to be made on ethical grounds. That is not to say that an ethical argument can’t be made, just that saying “it is helpful” doesn’t address the issue, since that’s what the Tuskegee researchers thought as well.

  46. #46 LM
    November 5, 2007

    I think there’s a huge difference between mice and chimpanzees

    Really? I don’t. But then, I have some pretty quirky “spiritual” ideals… I firmly believe that all organisms are equal. Call me a bit of an atheistic pantheist.

  47. #47 LM
    November 5, 2007

    Also: What the hell is with people thinking that all animal research is done to help save human lives (or even to learn more about humans)? There is more than medical research out there, people. The studies I did on my salamanders were evo-devo (evolution and development), and had nothing to do with curing cancer or whatnot. Were my studies less important because they didn’t have the potential for saving human lives?

  48. #48 coathangrrr
    November 5, 2007

    They could work within legal means, of course, and get legislation introduced to change how research is done… but they don’t, precisely because their views don’t represent enough people to make it worth their while to try. Thus they resort to force in the name of their own agenda.

    So you think that these groups should lobby some group that uses violence to impose political ideals, the government, to make it illegal. Moreover, since when has an argument from popularity ever been valid. Just because most people agree with animal testing, or at least tacitly support it, doesn’t make it right. You would think this lesson would have been learned from our history of slavery and other oppressions. You really want it both ways, first saying you don’t support the use of violence for political ends, then essentially saying you do if enough people agree with the ends. So which is it?

  49. #49 T_U_T
    November 5, 2007
    I think there’s a huge difference between mice and chimpanzees

    Really? I don’t. But then, I have some pretty quirky “spiritual” ideals… I firmly believe that all organisms are equal. Call me a bit of an atheistic pantheist.

    So you say we have either to outlaw heterotrophy or permit canibalism ?

  50. #50 AJS
    November 5, 2007

    I have no doubt that if a law was to be passed calling for all cosmetics and medicines which have been tested on animals to carry a prominent notice that they had been tested on animals, then you would very soon be able to judge the public’s feelings on the subject.

  51. #51 temminicki
    November 5, 2007

    LM,

    I don’t think your studies are less important, in fact, because your studies (I am making an assumption here based on what you said) were trying to learn about the organism and developmental processes you were studying, is more justifiable.

    I think that the general feeling that is coming through here is that, as humans, we have decided our lives are worth more than the lives of the animals we study. The question is, is this ethical?

    One major problem that we are finding as we sequence more organisms genomes is that, especially in terms of immune genes, organisms are pretty different. As we find more and more, other primates do not even respond to many pathogens in the same way, at a genetic and cellular level, as humans. So, is animal research that has the primary goal of understanding human disease really justifiable?

  52. #52 LM
    November 5, 2007

    Oh wait. I get it. I just realized that most people wouldn’t care that I have used animals in research because the animals I killed weren’t puppies and kittens. I mean, who cares about amphibians, anyway?

    (I do… I think salamanders look like muppets. They are unbelievably cute and adorable. I always expect them to look at me and say, “Menomena!”)

  53. #53 Anne Nonymous
    November 5, 2007

    I’m not a biologist by profession, but I’ve read a fair number of biology research papers for various reasons, and some of the uses they put animals to make me pretty queasy. One that struck me in particular was a case where they were studying pruritic (itching) sensation. The researchers took a cat and dissected its spinal cord open and sat there monitoring nerve impulses on all its various spinal neurons as they put various combinations of hot and cold and painful and itchy substances on its hindlimbs. The goal was to try to pick out the neurons that were sensitive to itch and see how their responses were affected by the presence of other sensations, and so forth.

    And, don’t get me wrong, it was a fascinating and informative paper, and it was exactly what I needed to complete the course assignment for which I’d sought it out. But I’ve known too many intelligent, wonderful cats to value the results of that research over a cat’s life. (And knowing what’s usually involved in that kind of monitoring in animals, I have to imagine the cat was too severely crippled by that treatment for anything other than euthanasia.) And if you don’t think the way the lives of intelligent animals are casually tossed away just to find out something interesting like this is just a tad too much like Mengele, frankly, the problem here is with your capacity for empathy, not with me “Godwining” myself.

    So, while I know that there are all kinds of ethics panels that review these things to death, I don’t think their review is actually anywhere near as stringent as people like to believe. I don’t think animal lives and suffering tend to be given much in the way of consideration beyond what use can be made of them by humans.

    I know factory farming is orders of magnitude worse. I’ve taken up vegetarianism to avoid contributing my small share to that, although it’s extremely difficult to avoid any involvement with the products of factory farming somewhere down the line (leather goods, glue, etc.). But just like we don’t dismiss sexism in the US because things are orders of magnitude worse in Saudi Arabia, we shouldn’t neglect problems with scientific research just because of the factory farms and the cosmetics industry.

    I know there’s work on solving this being done already, and I think it needs to be continued and expanded. The thing I don’t like to see is people like Arnaud just dismissing the whole issue out of hand like it doesn’t mean anything at all, because that’s exactly the kind of attitude that will squelch any progress we make in this direction, if such attitudes are allowed to persist unchallenged.

    In short, I don’t contest the value of the results the come from animal research. I don’t contest its centrality in the biological sciences. The thing I do contest is the notion that we shouldn’t be doing our best to get ourselves out of this trap of having to gain knowledge by making animals suffer. We may be stuck with this ugly tradeoff for now, but we shouldn’t pretend it’s not ugly. And we should always be looking for ways to create a less ugly future.

  54. #54 LM
    November 5, 2007

    “So you say we have either to outlaw heterotrophy or permit canibalism ?”

    Hee hee. No, I just believe that all organisms should be treated with equal amounts of respect. Though I hear that human tastes like chicken…

  55. #55 Anne Nonymous
    November 5, 2007

    Sorry for the double post, but I have to mention here to AJS… A problem that tends to occur with certification of cosmetics as having not been tested on animals is that there’s a bit of a loophole. Often the cosmetics themselves haven’t been tested on animals, but the component chemicals have. So there’s still animals being harmed in the process, it’s just that the harm is now another step or two removed from the cosmetic production.

  56. #56 LM
    November 5, 2007

    So Anne, is it okay for me to kill as many salamanders as I want because they aren’t “intelligent”? Are cats inherently better than salamanders? (And for that matter, are humans inherently better than cats?)

    I guess I kind of take offense to the idea. Salamanders rule, after all.

  57. #57 Alison
    November 5, 2007

    For me, it’s all about the treatment of the animals. I don’t eat meat, but when my family wants it or I’m throwing a party and making it, I try to buy from more humane sources. Of course you can’t humanely kill an animal, but I feel better if it has had a clean, open living environment, and hasn’t been fed with crappy stuff it wouldn’t normally eat, or been filled with chemicals and hormones. Right now, it’s not perfect, but it’s a big step up from industrial farming.

    In research labs, animals have been indispensable, and are chosen for particular traits, or responses that are similar to human responses for what is being tested. Yes, stories get into the news about unnecessary experiments or bad treatment of animals, but these should be telling us that there should be both openness and oversight when it comes to what gets funded and how experiments will be conducted. I know a few people who do research with animals, and have found them all to be concerned with the well-being of the animals. If you understand how most of these experiments work, you’d know why animals are used first – their lifespans and reproductive cycles allow researchers to see effects over time, for example, or the condition being studied develops quickly so response to a treatment can be observed more rapidly than in humans, etc.

    A friend once made a big point of buying only cosmetics that proclaimed “no animal testing”, until I informed her that the ingredients had already been tested on animals quite some time ago, when the treatment was far less humane. All the label was saying was really “no NEW animal testing.” I don’t think we’ll ever reach some magical level of knowledge at which testing can be done entirely with non-living models or simulations. For now, using the smallest number of animals possible, treating the animals mercifully, and considering the cost/benefit analysis of experiments with inclusion of the animal sacrifice is a good start. I hope we’re very close to that being a universal standard. Next, let’s see if we can get the food industry to be less brutal. . .

  58. #58 MartinC
    November 5, 2007

    #46 “I firmly believe that all organisms are equal.”
    In that case do you really expect the rest of us to respect the views of a mass murder like you?

  59. #59 LM
    November 5, 2007

    “Of course you can’t humanely kill an animal…”

    You can’t?

    I don’t think people should be comparing agricultural practices to animal research. The ways that researchers euthanize animals are MUCH more humane than what farmers do… our animals go to sleep and never wake up. Much better than having a hot bolt shot through your skull, methinks (or worse!).

  60. #60 T_U_T
    November 5, 2007

    I’ve taken up vegetarianism to avoid contributing my small share to that

    so, instead of preying upon animals you prey upon plants, and think you are somehow better ?

    Hee hee. No, I just believe that all organisms should be treated with equal amounts of respect.

    heck, do you mean, you should be treated with the same amount of respect as, say kent hovind ? What are you ? a kind of masochist ?

  61. #61 LM
    November 5, 2007

    “In that case do you really expect the rest of us to respect the views of a mass murder like you?”

    Duh! :)

    Anyway, don’t misunderstand me: the equality I feel comes from the fact that all extant species have traversed the same global trials to reach this point in time. We are equals in that sense; no one organism is any more “important” than the next. (Very heady stuff, I know)

  62. #62 LM
    November 5, 2007

    “so, instead of preying upon animals you prey upon plants, and think you are somehow better?”

    Thank you. You took the words out of my mouth!

    Don’t you know that this argument extends only to animals, and then only to animals with lots of fur and big, sad eyes?

  63. #63 coathangrrr
    November 5, 2007

    Don’t you know that this argument extends only to animals, and then only to animals with lots of fur and big, sad eyes?

    I know you’re being facetious here, but I think that a lot of you need to realize that most anti animal testing people do argue against using non-cute animals. I’m vegetarian and I don’t eat fish, and I certainly don’t think fish are cute*. What frustrates me is that so many of the counterarguments made here seem to revolve around a shallow understanding of what arguments anti-testing advocates actually make. Yes, there is a propaganda aspect that focuses on the cute little puppies, but so is there on the side of science, acting as if every animal test is perfectly vetted and moves us toward curing someone, when neither is true. There are lots of ugly test animals and there have been and are likely now lots of unethical animal experiments.

    Now we have people like those over at the Denialist blog claiming that “these people” can’t be reasoned with and that we just have to show the world what they really think. The problem is that the majority of people will reject the pro-animal view not on logic or reason, but on the simple, religiously inspired, unfounded belief that people are just plainly better than animals and are thus more deserving of having good things. On other blogs I see people justifying this with absurd statements like “Humans are higher on the evolutionary ladder.” How is that a reasonable argument for the primacy of humans?

  64. #64 Arnaud
    November 5, 2007

    Don’t you know that this argument extends only to animals, and then only to animals with lots of fur and big, sad eyes?

    is no more conductive to an intelligent conversation than

    “Cats can’t talk, so it’s okay to mutilate them however it amuses us as long as we can say it’s for Science.”

    or Anne saying in an earlier comment that I took all of 11 minutes to arrive at my position or that said position is a blanket approval of all animal vivisection.
    Anne, for the record what I said was that human life takes precedent over non self aware animal life. Nothing you have said so far is liable to make me change my mind there.

    I would also add the point made in this article (referenced and translated here) that you cannot know in advance what the practical results of fundamental research will be, which render invalid most of your point about researchers torturing animals merely to satisfy their curiosity.

    Apologies if I merely repeated what other commenter have already said; no time to read the whole thread, I need to go and do some shopping!

  65. #65 coathangrrr
    November 5, 2007

    I would also add the point made in this article (referenced and translated here) that you cannot know in advance what the practical results of fundamental research will be, which render invalid most of your point about researchers torturing animals merely to satisfy their curiosity.

    It doesn’t invalidate the point though. If we look at criminals we can see a rough analogy. If we torture people accused of a crime, say terrorism to make it topical, then we can’t say for sure if we will get relevant information. Does the chance of getting relevant information validate the methods used? That is the question.

  66. #66 Mike O'Risal
    November 5, 2007

    So you think that these groups should lobby some group that uses violence to impose political ideals, the government, to make it illegal. Moreover, since when has an argument from popularity ever been valid. Just because most people agree with animal testing, or at least tacitly support it, doesn’t make it right. You would think this lesson would have been learned from our history of slavery and other oppressions. You really want it both ways, first saying you don’t support the use of violence for political ends, then essentially saying you do if enough people agree with the ends. So which is it?

    You’re putting a whole bunch of words in my mouth and clearly you’ve got all the answers. Nonetheless…

    You oppose both representative and non-representative government according to this statement, since you agree neither with the idea of government coming from the will of the governed (the popularity contest) nor from the edicts of a single person (totalitarianism). The alternative to these is no government at all, or at least no enforcement of laws, in which case there’d be nothing to prevent either terrorism or torturing animals. After all, if there is no basis for laws against either one in the persona of a government, police force, etc., then there simply nothing to stop anyone from using the most extreme methods to force their own esthetics, ideologies, what have you onto everyone else.

    The compromise position is due process under the law and allowing individuals to have a say in government… but now we’re back to the popularity contest.

    My point is that government doesn’t always have to use force, and if people didn’t elect leaders in representative governments who were prone to use it inappropriately, then we wouldn’t have the problem of terrorist tactics with state sanction in the first place. Your contention seems to be that this is impossible because everyone should be able to do whatever they want to do without the threat of force hanging over them. Of course, this wouldn’t address the problem in the first place; you’d still have groups of people using force to get their way, just like the ALF has done.

    I can only assume that if you were surrounded by killers, you would simply acquiesce, since their right to kill is every bit as valid, in your mind, as your right to live and no outside authority has the right to use force in stopping them since there is no way for a given society to agree upon what the rules by which we live together should be. Perhaps we should all start up militias and go shooting one another over points of ideology. That would be lovely and clearly a world worth living in. And, of course, having the largest number of people willing to take up arms over their ideas would in no way be a “popularity contest.”

    And yes, I would advocate that whomever wants to change their society do so by peaceful means, including ballot referenda. If a government is corrupt, then it’s up to the governed to change things, but it doesn’t mean that we get to ignore that we need a government and police and a military because if there’s no central institutions, then what we wind up with are squabbling, destructive factions.

    They tried that in Lebanon in the 1970′s and 1980′s. It didn’t work out so well.

  67. #67 MartinM
    November 5, 2007

    If we torture people accused of a crime, say terrorism to make it topical, then we can’t say for sure if we will get relevant information.

    More precisely, we can’t say for sure if we will get information at all.

    The same does not apply in medical research. We can be fairly certain that well-designed animal research programs will tell us something, even if what they tell us turns out to have no immediate application to medicine.

  68. #68 LM
    November 5, 2007

    “Humans are higher on the evolutionary ladder.”

    Come on. Nobody nowadays really believes that evolution is like a ladder, do they? I am offended that people could think that humans are somehow superior to other forms of life. There is nothing to justify that kind of thinking. Evolutionarily, it just ain’t true.

    And yeah, I was being (unnecessarily) facetious. It’s just that Anne keeps using cats as an example, which bothers me; I wonder if she feels as strongly toward amphibians and other “unintelligent” (codeword for “non-mammalian”?) species.

    For the record, I DO think fish are cute! :)

  69. #69 Mike O'Risal
    November 5, 2007

    There are lots of ugly test animals and there have been and are likely now lots of unethical animal experiments.

    Nobody has spoken in favor of unethical experimentation. Nobody is in favor of needless suffering, whether human or animal. At least nobody who I’ve seen speak out. If you’re aware of unethical animal testing, you should by all means report it.

    I use animals in my research, but they’re insects. I use museum specimens when possible, but I frequently have to use live ones. I have to starve and heat shock them to extract symbionts and parasites that live inside of them. I have to kill them (which I do as humanely as possible using ethanol fumes) in order to find out what’s inside of them. I am doing this because my research involves the ecology of enzymes they produce, and one of the end goals of the work is finding out if there are ways that we can use these enzymes in biocontrol in order to prevent the spread of diseases that wipe out crops and forests and so indirectly contribute to little things like global warming and human malnutrition, not to mention the deaths of millions of other organisms that rely on forest habitat. It might even prove applicable in stopping the amphibian die-off that threatens numerous species of frogs all over the world.

    Luckily, animal rights extremists don’t seem particularly interested in targeting my lab for this work; they probably haven’t heard of it before. But if they did, should they have the right to stop it from going on? There’s no way I could do what I’m doing using some simulation technology because the systems are far too complex and too little characterized (which is why I’m doing this!) It necessitates the deaths of insects, Apicomplexa, fungi and bacteria; is this unethical? Should it be stopped?

  70. #70 coathangrrr
    November 5, 2007

    Whose putting words in whose mouth? I never said any of those things. I questioned the definition given earlier of terrorism and applied it in an unbiased way to what you were talking about. Maybe you don’t think it was a good definition of terrorism, but you seemed to accept it. The things that you are talking about me rejecting are in fact the things which anyone who accepts the afore mentioned definition of terrorism, as “the use of violence for political ends,” and who see terrorism as wrong. Moreover, I doubt you actually support most of these views, they are simply the logic result of the given definition of terrorism.

    My point is this: It is not useful nor is it intellectually honest to claim that ALF or PETA are terrorists.

    Have they ever actually hurt people? Or just property?

  71. #71 MartinM
    November 5, 2007

    Have they ever actually hurt people? Or just property?

    That’s hardly the defining characteristic of terrorism. Or are you claiming that had the twin towers been destroyed with no one inside, it wouldn’t have been an act of terrorism?

  72. #72 coathangrrr
    November 5, 2007

    I am doing this because my research involves the ecology of enzymes they produce, and one of the end goals of the work is finding out if there are ways that we can use these enzymes in biocontrol in order to prevent the spread of diseases that wipe out crops and forests and so indirectly contribute to little things like global warming and human malnutrition, not to mention the deaths of millions of other organisms that rely on forest habitat. It might even prove applicable in stopping the amphibian die-off that threatens numerous species of frogs all over the world.

    I used to work doing mosquito abatement in San Francisco. We used some larvacide that sounds mighty similar to that kind of research. Yes, I am an mosquito killer. Well, more like an mosquito aborter.

  73. #73 TheBlackCat
    November 5, 2007

    Let me just ask the anti-animal testing people here: are you really comfortable with the complete and total end of all medical and biological research? That is what you are proposing. Are you comfortable with that. We will never have any new medicines, any new treatments, practically any new knowledge of biology. Yeah, we may learn a little bit about some animals by just watching them in the wild, but that is extremely limited. Otherwise we will be stuck at our current level. Are you really comfortable with that? Will you be comfortable when antibiotic-resistant bacteria start spreading and we have no new antibiotics to stop them? Will you be comfortable with it when a family member is dying of heart disease? Will you be comfortable with it when your beloved pet is dying of cancer? Are you willing to give up all current medicine because it was tested on animals? This is not referring to people who accept some animal testing, but it seems there are some people here who oppose animal testing entirely.

  74. #74 coathangrrr
    November 5, 2007

    That’s hardly the defining characteristic of terrorism. Or are you claiming that had the twin towers been destroyed with no one inside, it wouldn’t have been an act of terrorism?

    No, not at all. I’ve just seen occasional reference to animal rights people physically attacking people, but with one exception can never find any back up for these claims. I do think it is slightly important if they don’t hurt people, because they are then at least fairly consistent in their claims.

  75. #75 MartinM
    November 5, 2007

    I do think it is slightly important if they don’t hurt people, because they are then at least fairly consistent in their claims.

    Ah, fair enough. I seem to recall the director of Huntingdon Life Sciences was attacked a while back; was that the one exception?

  76. #76 Cyrock
    November 5, 2007

    IMO:

    If we can do research with monkeys…
    We can do research with human babies too.

    In what way is a baby superior to a monkey?
    Please explain.

  77. #77 TheBlackCat
    November 5, 2007

    coathangrrr, what is your definition of terrorism? You can criticize other peoples’ definitions all you want, but what is your alternative?

  78. #78 Tom
    November 5, 2007

    I have no respect for someone who values the life of a non-human as much or more than the life of a human. None. Zip, zero, zilch. I might even go so far as to call them a traitor to their species.

    What’s wrong with acting in one’s own interest, or acting in the interest of one’s own species? Animals have exactly as much “value” as their usefulness to humanity. Will killing these monkeys teach us something that may save or improve our lives? By all means, kill away. I’m opposed to unnecessary animal testing for reasons of parsimony. It’s simply a waste of time and resources if we stand to gain nothing by it. Someone asked above if it was ok to slaughter every cat in the world to save one human life. I would say no, but only because those cats’ lives could probably be put to better use. More efficient research could probably turn those millions of cats into a quality or life boost for many humans in the form of pets, or simply as research animals at the core of a more generally applicable breakthrough. However, to answer the intent of the question: yes, it is ok to kill any number of animals as long it’s a net benefit to humanity, preferably with a focus on maximizing our return on the expenditure of resources.

    I apply the same logic to eating meat. It’s delicious. It makes me happy. Therefore, it was a life well spent. I honestly don’t know what goes through these people’s heads, that they would try to benefit another species at the expense of their own.

  79. #79 Tulse
    November 5, 2007

    For what it’s worth, I am extremely sympathetic to the philosophical position of animal rights, but I think it is indisputable that blowing up labs and threatening researchers is terrorism. Regardless of the justice of the animal rights position, I want no part of that.

  80. #80 Mike O'Risal
    November 5, 2007

    I used to work doing mosquito abatement in San Francisco. We used some larvacide that sounds mighty similar to that kind of research. Yes, I am an mosquito killer. Well, more like an mosquito aborter.

    Theoretically, the work I’m doing could also be applicable in mosquito control. Without putting too fine a point on it, I’m researching the ecology and phylogeny of chitinases. My particular models involve the taxa I mentioned earlier (beetle/fungus/apicomplexa/bacteria), but only because it’s a relatively convenient system to study. In theory, what’s learned in this system could be applicable to any system that involves chitinous hosts and parasites.

    The point is, it wouldn’t be possible to achieve the end without sacrificing some insects (as well as protozoans, prokaryotes and fungi, though I suspect animal rights activists care even less about those) along the way. In the end, it’s possible that this will lead to a clearer understanding of a somewhat overlooked part of ecosystems, discover new methods of pathogen control that won’t necessitate the release of general toxins, etc.

    I don’t do any of this because I like killing animals, even insects, and I certainly take no pleasure in forcing oocysts out of their intestinal tracts and destroying those in order to extract DNA. I mean, how twisted would one have to be to feel much of anything about grinding up a few eugregarine resting bodies?

    Hopefully, the ALF won’t see fit to trash my lab or home in making their point. I hope never to see a “Save the Apicomplexa!” placard. But is it ethical to kill these organisms in hopes of useful information? After all, what I’m doing might not work out, but there’s no way of knowing that without attempting it.

    I have to disagree with your definition of terrorism. A group that instills terror are terrorists, whether or not they actually kill anyone in the process. As someone else mentioned, killing them to prove their point makes them murderers and terrorists.

  81. #81 frog
    November 5, 2007

    So vandals are now terrorists? Is graffiti on a subway now a political crime?

    This is how you end up supporting the Bushites. You appropriate their absurd language for your own ends. I agree that animal rights extremists are a) crazy b) need to be punished for their property crimes. But to throw these misdirected fools into the same basket as Osama (Terrorists! Terrorists!) is the new Godwin’s Law.

    Except in this case, it’s not just a joke. It has real political implications when you normalize a wide use of of the word ‘terrorist’ — some day you’ll find yourself facing “terroristic speech” laws.

    Do PETA activists deserve to go to Guantamo? If they are terrorists, and the government is allowed to pick up and disappear “terrorists” (a power they appear to have now), you are arguing (unintentionally) that a PETA tool could/should be disappeared for destroying someone’s house.

  82. #82 MartinM
    November 5, 2007

    Is graffiti on a subway now a political crime?

    Graffiti tends not to cause…well, terror.

    This is how you end up supporting the Bushites. You appropriate their absurd language for your own ends.

    OK, so give us your non-absurd definition of ‘terrorist,’ then.

    Do PETA activists deserve to go to Guantamo?

    No, and that’s a daft question. Find someone who believes that a) all PETA activists are terrorists, and b) all terrorists deserve to go to Guantanamo, and ask them, if you like.

  83. #83 Charles
    November 5, 2007

    I think everyone here agrees that a line needs to be drawn separating acceptable from unacceptable treatment of other organisms. The placement of that line can be argued in good faith and set according to societal norms, but ultimately it is an arbitrary boundary, since our very existence as animals depends on the exploitation and displacement of living things to a large extent.

    We can claim ‘respect for all things equally’, but let’s not kid ourselves that we don’t kill and injure organisms by the millions throughout the course of our lives.

    In my humble opinion, there is as much ethical justification for including plants, fungi, and bacteria into our protected circle as cats, fish, and insects. Of course, we feel a lot of empathy for certain ‘animals’ that we perceive to be similar to us in their intelligence and self-awareness, but these criteria seem to me to be after-the-fact rationalizations for helping critters that we are already emotionally attached to, rather than consistently applied standards. So how do I reconcile this ethical absolute with the realities of living as a human being?

    I don’t know. Pass the bacon.

  84. #84 frog
    November 5, 2007

    coathangrrr: “Have they ever actually hurt people? Or just property?”

    Martin M: “That’s hardly the defining characteristic of terrorism. Or are you claiming that had the twin towers been destroyed with no one inside, it wouldn’t have been an act of terrorism?”

    That’s exactly a defining characteristic of terrorism! It’s to create terror. Terror requires the threat of death, not just the destruction of property. Sometimes, the destruction of property implies a threat of death – a Kristallnacht episode. But if Osama and friends had intentionally tried to avoid killing anyone or threating anyone with death, which is literally impossible when you knock down sky scrapers, then it would have been a different message than what they actually did do.

    I’m disgusted with vandalizing someone’s home to protect a rabbit or whatever. But I’m much more disgusted by this wide-spectrum use of the word terrorism to describe any kind of political crime. It’s childish and dangerous.

    The Boston Tea Party was not a terrorist act. Blocking a road in a protest is not a terrorist act. Spray painting a slogan on a wall is not a terrorist act (at least most slogans). Disrupting someone’s business by sitting at a lunch counter is not a terrorist act. Throwing money at the stock exchange is not a terrorist act.

    Burning a cross on someone’s lawn is a terrorist act. Blowing up a lab with people inside is a terrorist act. A Nazi mob destroying shops is a terrorist act. Fire-bombing cities is a terrorist act.

    It all depends on the implicit message. Should I be terrorized by wanton destruction of property, by the likes of ALF? No, they’ve scrupulously avoided (as far as I know) injuring anyone in their attacks. I would want them arrested, my money returned and a good stint in jail for them, just as I would for anyone who destroyed my property. Should I be terrorized by anti-abortion activists who plant a fake bomb at my clinic? Yes, they have been known to assassinate their enemies, and a fake bomb from them is a clear death threat.

    Don’t be a tool for those who are slowly clamping down on the range of allowable dissent. Don’t justify for them further invasions of our privacy. “They” want you to blur the line between terrorism and all other political crime; and political crime is a venerable American tradition, from the Boston Tea Party to Thoreau to MLK. When justified, it can be heroic; when unjustified, it is simply misguided crime. But there’s a huge gap between that and “terrorism”, which is a sub-category of war and not political dissent.

  85. #85 LM
    November 5, 2007

    For what it’s worth, I am extremely sympathetic to the philosophical position of animal rights, but I think it is indisputable that blowing up labs and threatening researchers is terrorism. Regardless of the justice of the animal rights position, I want no part of that.

    Agreed. How is someone from PETA threatening researchers or blowing up labs any different than anti-abortionists threatening doctors and blowing up clinics, or different from anti-evolutionists from threatening biology profs for teaching evolution? The purpose of these acts is to strike fear (or… terror!) into the hearts of those that are seen as offenders. Same dif.

  86. #86 Tulse
    November 5, 2007

    Charles, if you really believe that ethics is arbitrary, then tell me the principled difference between your claim and:

    I think everyone here agrees that a line needs to be drawn separating acceptable from unacceptable treatment of other humans. The placement of that line can be argued in good faith and set according to societal norms, but ultimately it is an arbitrary boundary, since our very existence as people depends on the exploitation and displacement of other humans to a large extent.
    We can claim ‘respect for all humans equally’, but let’s not kid ourselves that we don’t kill, injure, and otherwise exploit humans throughout the course of our lives.

  87. #87 frog
    November 5, 2007

    “Do PETA activists deserve to go to Guantamo?”

    MartinM: “No, and that’s a daft question.”

    Hey, I’m not the one who labelled these folks as terrorist fellow travellers. I find such a formulation quite daft, because then it does follow that they should, under our current system, be sent to Guantanamo. That’s what being a terrorist means under our current legal system. If you’re daft enough to have missed out on the last eight years of political developments in the US, you may want to be a bit more reticent about muttering inanities.

    A large number of the people in Guantanamo are not accused of being terrorists themselves, but of being supporters of terrorism – literally of being support staff like cooks and chauffeurs. Since the US appears to believe that being a supporter of terrorism means that the government should be free to either stick you in a camp or disappear you to secret prisons around the world, accusing someone of “terrorism” is extremely serious.

    Since the US laws are currently so broad in terms of what is terrorism and what can be done to those accused of terrorism, a careful and thoughtful person is very, very careful about when they bandy about the word “terrorist”. Using it as loosely as our current government does is complicity in the quickly expanding police powers of the US government.

  88. #88 Steven Alleyn
    November 5, 2007

    To Anne Nonymous (which is the stupidest attempt at being funny I’ve ever seen): to answer your question about “How many cats are we willing to kill or maim to save a single human life?”

    The simple answer is “all of them.”

    Human beings are more important to human beings than every chimp or kitten or puppy-dog or otter on the planet. We should, of course, try to minimize the death and destruction we inflict on the animal world, but as long as animal research saves lives we have no choice but to continue with it.

  89. #89 LM
    November 5, 2007

    We can claim ‘respect for all things equally’, but let’s not kid ourselves that we don’t kill and injure organisms by the millions throughout the course of our lives.

    Hmm, I don’t know if that was directed at me, but even if it wasn’t: I’m a pantheist of sorts, but I am not, say, a vegetarian. I respect the animals I eat and I try my hardest to find meat that came from animals that were treated humanely, which is the best I can do until I get a farm and raise my own (my life’s dream!). I also support animal research and hunting (in fact, I encourage them). Respecting other organisms does not necessarily mean shielding them all from death. However, if you’re going to kill an animal I think you need a better justification for it than “I’m a human and humans are better.” Anthropocentrism is pretty repulsive to me. I know, I’m such a damned hippy.

  90. #90 coathangrrr
    November 5, 2007

    I have no respect for someone who values the life of a non-human as much or more than the life of a human. None. Zip, zero, zilch. I might even go so far as to call them a traitor to their species.

    This is exactly the problem. You give exactly zero justification for this sort of position other than “I’m human and we’re the best and anyone who disagrees is bad.” I thought there wasn’t suppose to be this sort of dogmatic hewing to beliefs in our rationalist, atheist circles. Or does atheism somehow preclude dogma magically? Try pulling your fingers out of your ears and listening for a while, then respnd like an adult.

  91. #91 coathangrrr
    November 5, 2007

    Human beings are more important to human beings than every chimp or kitten or puppy-dog or otter on the planet. We should, of course, try to minimize the death and destruction we inflict on the animal world, but as long as animal research saves lives we have no choice but to continue with it.

    Again I ask the reasoning behind the belief in the supremaacy of humans.

  92. #92 Epistaxis
    November 5, 2007

    Unconvincing arguments for animal cruelty:
    1. You don’t care about ugly animals no matter how strongly you say otherwise.
    2. You’re cruel to plants though.
    3. They’re delicious so they must be intended for us to eat.
    4. They kill each other anyway and we’re no better than they are.
    5. If you’re against testing eyeliner on pigs, you want everyone to die of AIDS.
    6. You’re on the same side as PETA, so you’re a terrorist.

    Convincing arguments for animal cruelty:

  93. #93 Tulse
    November 5, 2007

    Steven Alleyn:

    Human beings are more important to human beings than every chimp or kitten or puppy-dog or otter on the planet.

    …so we shouldn’t worry about hunting apes or elephants or tigers or whales or any other organism to extinction, since those activities benefit humans. And we shouldn’t enact environmental laws to protect wilderness, since that interferes with human economic activity. Humans should be able to do whatever the hell they want on the planet, and damn the consequences to any other organism, because we have dominion.

    Is that what you meant?

    And what about those who say that “Whites are more important to whites than every black or Asian on the planet”? What principle do you use to distinguish your position from theirs?

  94. #94 Moses
    November 5, 2007

    Unconvincing arguments for animal cruelty:
    1. You don’t care about ugly animals no matter how strongly you say otherwise.
    2. You’re cruel to plants though.
    3. They’re delicious so they must be intended for us to eat.
    4. They kill each other anyway and we’re no better than they are.
    5. If you’re against testing eyeliner on pigs, you want everyone to die of AIDS.
    6. You’re on the same side as PETA, so you’re a terrorist.

    Convincing arguments for animal cruelty:

    Posted by: Epistaxis | November 5, 2007 12:16 PM

    Man, what a stupid list of strawmen arguments.

  95. #95 TheBlackCat
    November 5, 2007

    I’m sorry, but arson is not “allowable dissent” by any stretch of the imagination, no matter what the context.

  96. #96 coathangrrr
    November 5, 2007

    Man, what a stupid list of strawmen arguments.

    I’ve already seen at least two of them in this thread, not to mention the thread on Denialism.

  97. #97 TheBlackCat
    November 5, 2007

    Again I ask the reasoning behind the belief in the supremaacy of humans.

    What is your reasoning behind the belief in the equality of all animals?

  98. #98 Mike O'Risal
    November 5, 2007

    …so we shouldn’t worry about hunting apes or elephants or tigers or whales or any other organism to extinction, since those activities benefit humans.

    Who claims this? That doesn’t follow from the argument presented in the least. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a scientist, let alone a biologist, who believes that a loss of biodiversity benefits humans. If anything, a lot of what we know about conservation has come by experimenting on animals.

    And we shouldn’t enact environmental laws to protect wilderness, since that interferes with human economic activity.

    Another straw man. That isn’t what was said. By the way, what exactly do you know about preserving diversity? Maybe you can come up with a good solution as to the lack of genetic diversity amongst cheetahs, or cite us a bit about what went wrong with efforts to transplant ibex species in Europe a few decades ago?

    And what about those who say that “Whites are more important to whites than every black or Asian on the planet”? What principle do you use to distinguish your position from theirs?

    A very simple principle: it’s a category error. Caucasians, Africans and Asians are all humans, and the biological differences between them are no more important than differences in coat color between domesticated animals.

    Now, how about this one: how about the rights of rats who carrying bubonic plague-bearing fleas? Should we not make an effort to exterminate them because their lives are as valuable as those of the humans who might become infected? If your body becomes infected with a harmful parasite, should you be required to sacrifice your own life so that your plasmodia might live? I mean, millions of them die every day due to our efforts to treat people who have malaria… do they not have as much right to exist as we humans in your ideology? Why are they any more or any less equal than tigers and elephants?

  99. #99 coathangrrr
    November 5, 2007

    What is your reasoning behind the belief in the equality of all animals?

    And where did I say that I believed in the equality of all animals? You’re really reaching now aren’t you? What else should I expect from someone defending a dogmatic position.

  100. #100 Abby Kelleyite
    November 5, 2007

    It’s pretty darned simple: we can’t figure out how something we don’t understand works without studying the subject. We can’t learn more about cells without studying cells; we can’t learn more about animals without studying animals; software simulations and thought experiments do not substitute.
    As stated this argument would justify vivisection of humans, i.e. ‘We can’t learn more about humans without studying humans.’ Of course, it is the ethical objections to such study that lead us to substitute animal models in the first place, which validates the idea of using ethics to limit research. Personally, I’m not much of an animal rights “activist”, and I certainly would not support any sort of terrorism against researchers or research facilities, but debating the ethics of conducting animal research on higher organisms which are capable of experiencing physical and psychological suffering is surely different than terrorism. Purely utilitarian concerns would lead us to support such measures as experiments on condemned human prisoners but researchers routinely reject such reasoning on ethical grounds and even the most ardent supporter of animal research to benefit humans can contemplate the possibility that there is much animal research such as routine testing of cosmetics that could be reduced, eliminated or made more humane.

  101. #101 coathangrrr
    November 5, 2007

    A very simple principle: it’s a category error. Caucasians, Africans and Asians are all humans, and the biological differences between them are no more important than differences in coat color between domesticated animals.

    So, again, on which principle other than “humans are better” do you base your view of human superiority?

    Or do you still lack one.

  102. #102 Colugo
    November 5, 2007

    Amanda Marcotte was right on the money when she compared the impulses and assumptions of the animal rights movement to those of the anti-abortion movement. (I noted the connection years ago in an unpublished essay.)

    Further, animal rights appears to be related not only to eco-radicalism (ELF et al.) but bio-Ludditism (anti-biotech) as well. Europe is even more plagued than the United States with both animal rights ideology and bio-Ludditism.

  103. #103 poke
    November 5, 2007

    Animal suffering is intractable. Beyond predation, starvation, disease and parasitism there’s the fact that when you’re beyond reproductive age your body starts to break down without giving a thought to your comfort. Being in a lab is probably a step up from being in the wild.

    Even if you attributed exactly the same value to animal and human lives the moral calculus would weigh strongly in the direction of animal experimentation. Animal experimentation has profoundly alleviated suffering. Given the current state of animal welfare law I’d argue that it does so while simultaneously alleviating suffering in lab animals (compared to their wild counterparts, which is the comparison we should be making).

  104. #104 MartinM
    November 5, 2007

    Sometimes, the destruction of property implies a threat of death – a Kristallnacht episode.

    Which was precisely the case here; the ALF apparently told this researcher that they could just as easily have burned down her house.

    …I’m much more disgusted by this wide-spectrum use of the word terrorism to describe any kind of political crime.

    Which, of course, is not what I’m doing, so enough said about that.

    I find such a formulation quite daft, because then it does follow that they should, under our current system, be sent to Guantanamo. That’s what being a terrorist means under our current legal system.

    Your current legal system is idiotic. It’s not my legal system, and I’m not about to stop using words correctly because idiotic legal systems exist.

    Nor would I do so were I a US citizen, mind. Since terrorist suspects are sometimes tortured, and I believe that torture is almost always wrong, were I to follow your reasoning I’d be left in the unenviable position of having to deny the existence of terrorists altogether.

  105. #105 syntyche
    November 5, 2007

    That’s exactly a defining characteristic of terrorism! It’s to create terror. Terror requires the threat of death, not just the destruction of property.

    It all depends on the implicit message.

    Did you actually read the letter they sent after the flooded this person’s house?

    Your address at 1249 Shadybrook Drive in Beverly Hills is now publicized for all to see. Until we see the end of primate vivisection at UCLA we will remind you of our presence.

    It would have been just as easy to burn your house down Edythe. As you slosh around your flooded house consider yourself fortunate this time.

    Nope, no implicit threat of personal violence there at all.

    Orac has a nice discussion of this – it’s linked up above but here it is again.

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2006/09/animal_rights_terrorism_1.php

  106. #106 cm
    November 5, 2007

    In my humble opinion, there is as much ethical justification for including plants, fungi, and bacteria into our protected circle as cats, fish, and insects. Of course, we feel a lot of empathy for certain ‘animals’ that we perceive to be similar to us in their intelligence and self-awareness, but these criteria seem to me to be after-the-fact rationalizations for helping critters that we are already emotionally attached to, rather than consistently applied standards.

    I disagree; the capacity to suffer ought to have ethical weight. It’s really not a complex idea. Ethics are all about others’ suffering. Living things without nervous systems like bacteria or plants or fungi do not suffer. Vertebrates almost certainly have the capacity to suffer, and it’s likely a number of invertebrates do as well. That’s it. Don’t overcomplexify it. It’s not arbitrary. It’s “Am I hurting this thing?”. If you can just ask that question, you can make your ethical choice there. Anything beyond that is just blowing smoke.

  107. #107 Brian
    November 5, 2007

    Ugh. Reading through these comments gives me a headache.

    Left unsaid is the fact that animal medical research doesn’t benefit only humans. Anyone who has had to visit the veterinarian for their pet’s surgery, prescription, etc., has animal medical research to thank for their pet’s outcome.

    Also – those who are calling for greater oversight and restrictions on animal research have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. Please, do yourselves and us a favor and read The Guide before writing another letter here.

  108. #108 Moses
    November 5, 2007

    The things that you are talking about me rejecting are in fact the things which anyone who accepts the aforementioned definition of terrorism, as “the use of violence for political ends,” and who see terrorism as wrong. Moreover, I doubt you actually support most of these views, they are simply the logic result of the given definition of terrorism.

    My point is this: It is not useful nor is it intellectually honest to claim that ALF or PETA are terrorists.

    Have they ever actually hurt people? Or just property?

    Posted by: coathangrrr | November 5, 2007 9:47 AM

    According to the UN terrorism is: “Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.”

    According to our US Laws, terrorism is: “…activities that involve violent… or life-threatening acts… that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State and… appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and… (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States… [or]… (C) occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States…”

    In terrorism, you don’t have to hurt people. Attacking property to leave a “political message” is also terrorism.

    Which is the whole point of terrorism – terrorizing people to make them do what you want. Burning down a home, or a cross on some-one’s lawn, to get them to leave your town, or stop animal experimentation, is terrorism. And it is repellent and inexcusable.

    All of which helps disable your straw-man/mal-definition of terrorism and your “they’re not hurting people therefore they’re not terrorists” arguments. It also removes legitimate criminal enforcement, which you gratuitously (and exposing you for a straw-man hack) included.

    What ALF does is terrorism because they’re using CRIMINAL means to carry out their political objectives. As opposed to ballot initiatives and living within the rule of law.

  109. #109 TheBlackCat
    November 5, 2007

    And where did I say that I believed in the equality of all animals? You’re really reaching now aren’t you? What else should I expect from someone defending a dogmatic position.

    You have rejected the idea that humans are more important than everything else in comment #28, so you either think they are equal to everything else or less important. There are three possibilities, greater than, less than, or equal two. You have explicitly rejected greater than. I just assumed that you don’t think humans are less important than other animals, but if that is what you think then I don’t even know how to talk to you. If you don’t think humans are less important and don’t think humans are more important that only leaves one possibility.

  110. #110 shiftlessbum
    November 5, 2007

    (delurking and donning my absestos undies for the inevitable flames)

    As with gun control and global warming it is very difficult to discuss this topic like grown ups. I see many strawmen arguments from both sides, but by far the most egregious violators are those who don’t like animal experimentation.

    Some have said that it is silly to claim that since not all animal experimentation is done with an eye to aiding humans that that argument shouldn’t be made. That’s stupid. Of course it can. The truth is some animal research has direct utility, some only indirect, with most having no direct utility. Nevertheless, it is valid argument to make.

    Some intimate that scientists are robotic (either in a pro- or anti-animal research sense) in their approach to animal experimetnation as if we do not have the same suite of moral and ethical codes the rest of society has. This is such a silly idea I am surprised that it pops up with such regularity here.

    There are some who haven’t got the sense to see that we -all of us- make moral distinctions about the rights of animals, including humans, all the time. There is simply nothing wrong with that. You care more for your brother, your sister, your father or mother, son or daughter than you do for the man down the street. Although some of us say we’d like to apply our social and legal codes to our fellows, the fact is we don’t, nor even (in some cases) ought we. In fact, there is a sort of a sliding scale we all apply to these things. The same ability to distinguish between entities extends to non-human animals as well. Some put the stop at humans, others at primates, others at mammals, others at amphibians, others at plants. It is both rational and morally justifiable to do so at any level. I would submit that if you do not (or are incapable of) make(ing) these kinds of distinctions, there is something wrong with you.

    Some put all animal resarch into one bucket; bad or good. Some research is done by standards that most people would consider humane, some is not, some is done by standards that a few would consider inhumane, most is not. We have in place guidelines, regulations and laws that help to define how to conduct humane research and none of these are written in stone. They are NOT meant to assure that animals do not suffer, nor should they; they are meant to ensure that to the extent they do suffer, they meet the (current) consensus on humane treatment.

    The indisputable fact is that we can, must and will continue to do animal research. The only question, IMO, is how do we do it? It is an ugly, occasionally rational, necessary discussion.

    (re-lurking)

  111. #111 LM
    November 5, 2007

    “What is your reasoning behind the belief in the equality of all animals?”

    I already gave MY reasoning, which is sound enough, except that I extend it to all organisms, not just to animals. See post #61.

  112. #112 Dustin
    November 5, 2007

    Coathangrr is not in favor of a view of human superiority or animal equality, it seems. That is a true feat of nuanced thinking, and I am humbled by the staggering display of mental superiority.

    For my part, I agree with those who advance the position that animals should not be tortured and slaughtered en masse for human convenience. Every year, literally millions of drosophila are killed in the name of “advancing genetics through model species”. This is wonton speciesism, and cannot stand! On what grounds do we say that we can kill a drosophila for the purposes of a human?

  113. #113 MartinM
    November 5, 2007

    You have rejected the idea that humans are more important than everything else in comment #28, so you either think they are equal to everything else or less important

    Or alternatively, that humans are more important than some things, but not everything.

  114. #114 cm
    November 5, 2007

    Tom said: I apply the same logic to eating meat. It’s delicious. It makes me happy. Therefore, it was a life well spent. I honestly don’t know what goes through these people’s heads, that they would try to benefit another species at the expense of their own.

    You honestly don’t? Ok. Here it is: some people feel bad when they see or know about other creatures, human or otherwise, suffering. It’s this ancient brain program we humans have called EMPATHY. Some humans have more of it than others, and some, who we call sociopaths, don’t have it at all. Often empathy can be short-circuited by thinking of the suffering beings as objects. But not everyone does this, some continue to think of animals like steer as mammals with complex nervous systems which can register pain, fear, and other emotions similar to our own. Taking that into consideration, some people feel that it is ethically wrong to harm such creatures merely for our own pleasures, such as food, fur, entertainment, and less-than-necessary scientific research.

    This idea of sacrificing some of your own or your clan’s pleasure for the benefit of others is called ALTRUISM, and it is a common feature of human mental patterns. Again, not everyone has it. Some don’t care at all about anyone other than themselves and their pleasure.

    How’s that, then, Tom? Do you understand better now?

  115. #115 T_U_T
    November 5, 2007

    I already gave MY reasoning, which is sound enough, except that I extend it to all organisms, not just to animals. See post #61.

    And what does this equality mean at all ? Does it mean it is as bad to kill a bacterium as it is bad to kill a human ?

  116. #116 Moses
    November 5, 2007

    I’ve already seen at least two of them in this thread, not to mention the thread on Denialism.

    Posted by: coathangrrr | November 5, 2007 12:29 PM

    Look in the mirror. Most all of your arguments revolve around strawmen.

    Making it even worse is you’re totally in denial to the havoc your vegetarian lifestyle causes to other animals. You, like most vegetarians, are totally clueless to farming practices (organic or not so don’t go there).

    Fact is, for us to live animals die. Whether they’re killed by the plow, poisoned with the toxic pesticides (organic or inorganic, doesn’t matter), hit by the trucks bringing it to us, die painfully flopping in fields (fish caught up in irrigation), poisoned/shot through “pest control” methods or harvested so they can be turned into “fish emulsion” fertilizer.

    No matter your lifestyle, animals end up dieing in the process so that you may live. That you, like most vegetarians, think you have clean hands is just because you lack any insight to farming practices. Or reality.

    The only way to get beyond this is live as simple, naked gathers who die of dietary deficiencies because they didn’t eat meat. We’d drop from the billions to a few million as a species to get there. But that’s the only way.

    Everything else is denial. And I, for one, and so effing sick and tired of this “vegetarian high-horse” that is nothing more than a load of denial I could scream.

  117. #117 Brian
    November 5, 2007

    Question, CM:

    At least in the context of medical and/or pharmaceutical research, in what way to you gather that animals are, in fact, literally “suffering”?

  118. #118 TheBlackCat
    November 5, 2007

    Or alternatively, that humans are more important than some things, but not everything.

    That doesn’t really change anything, it just makes the group a bit larger. It is still the “great chain of being” that coathanggr criticizes.

    LM, your position applies just as well to bacteria, even viruses, as it does to animals.

  119. #119 coathangrrr
    November 5, 2007

    Moses:All of which helps disable your straw-man/mal-definition of terrorism and your “they’re not hurting people therefore they’re not terrorists” arguments.

    My straw-man? The definition, if you’d care to look, was someone else’s all together. And as for the legal definition, it is even more problematic. It outlaws the use of sit-ins such as took place during the civil rights movement in the south. That terrorist MLK!

    Theblackcat:You have rejected the idea that humans are more important than everything else in comment #28, so you either think they are equal to everything else or less important.

    No, I said that it is a dogmatic belief, which does not make it necessarily wrong. It has yet to be justified, in this thread at the very least.

  120. #120 LM
    November 5, 2007

    “And what does this equality mean at all ? Does it mean it is as bad to kill a bacterium as it is bad to kill a human ?”

    I explained that too… lemme find it… post #88!

  121. #121 LM
    November 5, 2007

    “LM, your position applies just as well to bacteria, even viruses, as it does to animals.”

    Uh huh, it does. What is your point?

    *head tilt*

  122. #122 Tom
    November 5, 2007

    …so we shouldn’t worry about hunting apes or elephants or tigers or whales or any other organism to extinction, since those activities benefit humans. And we shouldn’t enact environmental laws to protect wilderness, since that interferes with human economic activity. Humans should be able to do whatever the hell they want on the planet, and damn the consequences to any other organism, because we have dominion.

    The metric we should be measuring by is “How does this affect humanity?” We should be safeguarding the ecosystem because we live in and benefit from it, not because the death of an elephant is a tragedy in itself. You ask why I value humans more than animals? Because I’m a human. I empathize with humans more than animals, and I give greater weight to humans than to animals. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    You claim to believe in the equality of all species, but I’m willing to be that’s an ideal you don’t live up to. Here’s an experiment for you: A small vet’s office is burning down and you have to decide what to save. Do you use all your time freeing the trapped person and leading them to safety, or do you make your way to the kennel and free a dog, condemning the person to burn to death. What if it was 10 dogs? A hundred? What if it was a research lab instead and the human had been in the process of vivisecting one? At what point do animal(s) lives outweigh humans? Don’t try to get clever now; that’s not how these little exercises work. Choose who lives and who dies.

  123. #123 TheBlackCat
    November 5, 2007

    coathangrrr, what is your position? You keep criticizing other peoples’ positions, and criticizing anyone who attempts to figure out your position, but you have neither presented your own position nor made any attempt to defend it in the way you demand others defend your position. I thought I understood your position but it seems now that I don’t. So please state clearly what your position is and then defend it in the manner you have been demanding. Perhaps then we can get some idea at exactly what you expect us to do.

    Uh huh, it does. What is your point?

    That it is irrelevant to the animal rights movement of the sort we are discussing, which does make a distinction between animals and non-animal organisms.

  124. #124 trollanon
    November 5, 2007

    “So, they infected some macaques with SIV and then pumped them full of alcohol. And I mean full, I can’t remember the monkeys blood tox, but it was pretty extreme.”

    No, it wasn’t. The Tulane group used a 40-50 mmol/L target range. This approximates a 0.20-0.25 alc wt to blood vol BAC- the representation with which most people are familiar. Legal limit being 0.08-0.1 of course. Chronic alcoholics, the target population being modeled, maintain these levels no problem. Other studies, such as the Ponce one, have targeted lower levels of exposure. There are also at least two other studies that haven’t yet been published but results have been shown at meetings.

    ” in the end the monkeys did die faster, but you have to ask your self, did we really learn anything? Did we really have any doubt that pickling SIV infected macaques in alcohol would kill them faster?”

    earlier progression to “end stage” was observed in one study but not three others. So in the box score, your prediction is false. If we take your point about the dose being high as valid, you are batting zero. And what did you predict in terms of the mechanism that underlies your a priori that would permit us to refine our treatment of alcoholics at risk for HIV exposure and those already infected?

    The comment exposes a highly typical position of the animal rights nut, i.e., that they know all there is to know about the natural world already so why should we study it. This, and a comment elsewhere about how surely chimps wouldn’t attack a human and can’t possibly be as violent as humans show how even in the simplest possible areas their opinions and knowledge are just plain false and deficient.

  125. #125 Epistaxis
    November 5, 2007

    I apply the same logic to eating meat. It’s delicious. It makes me happy. Therefore, it was a life well spent. I honestly don’t know what goes through these people’s heads, that they would try to benefit another species at the expense of their own.

    I apply the same logic to raping and murdering young children. They’re delicious. It makes me happy. Therefore, theirs were lives well spent. I honestly don’t know what goes through this angry mob’s heads, that they would try to benefit another person at the expense of themselves.

  126. #126 Tom
    November 5, 2007

    How’s that, then, Tom? Do you understand better now?

    Sure, I understand that some people’s EMPATHY and ALTRUISM, as you put it, are so short-circuited that they would rather benefit an animal than a fellow human. I understand and accept that steer suffer for my steak. I don’t run away from that fact, and I’m not put off meat by slaughterhouse videos, as PETA has tries to do. The only reason I’m not killing and butching my own cows is that it’s inconvenient. We live in the modern world now, and I can pay people to do that messy and time consuming task for me. I’d rather spend my time in the pursuit of happiness, but I never forget for one second where my meat comes from. It just doesn’t bother me, because I am more important than that cow.

    I think there must be something seriously wrong with someone who doesn’t understand or actually derides acting in self-interest. The fact you’re still alive today and able to post on this blog means you do it too. Everybody looks out for themselves.

  127. #127 Brian
    November 5, 2007

    I’ll broaden the question: Whosoever points to animal suffering as an objection to animal research, please answer in what sense you believe animal research subjects to be suffering.

  128. #128 LM
    November 5, 2007

    You know, there are multiple definitions for equality here. I believe that all living things are equal because we’re all here right now together. We all came through the same catastrophic events. We all survived in our own ways. Evolution is a bush, and we’re all at the tips of the branches. In other words, we’re equal. And for that we deserve respect in our own right.

    Now, does that mean that I wouldn’t hurt an amoeba to save a pal of mine? ‘Course not. Like Tom says, I’m human, after all, so I have a particular bias toward humans regardless of my personal philosophies.

    However, Tom: If I had to choose between saving my dog and saving a complete stranger (human), I might have trouble with that one. I mean, I LOVE my dog, and have no emotional attachment to some random human. I KNOW that I am not the only person who would have similar difficulties.

    Black cat: Hey, I never said it was relevant to the argument at hand. I’m just pointing out that some people DO believe all organisms are equal. I’m just not a nutjob about it. :)

  129. #129 trollanon
    November 5, 2007

    And just to belabor the point, what would you predict would happen to SIV disease course if you addicted the monkey to morphine or cocaine first? Be honest! Make your prediction first and then do the pubmed search…

  130. #130 Tom
    November 5, 2007

    I apply the same logic to raping and murdering young children. They’re delicious. It makes me happy. Therefore, theirs were lives well spent. I honestly don’t know what goes through this angry mob’s heads, that they would try to benefit another person at the expense of themselves.

    Egad, your clever use of Mad Libs has torn my words asunder. I am hoist by my own petard! There’s something broken inside your mind if you honestly equate butchering and eating cows with raping and murdering children.

  131. #131 T_U_T
    November 5, 2007

    “And what does this equality mean at all ? Does it mean it is as bad to kill a bacterium as it is bad to kill a human ?”

    You’ve said it is not bad to kill nonhuman critters. I hope you do agree with me that it is bad to kill a human, so, given you consider both bacteriaof equal worth, on what ground do you discriminate between bacteria killing an human killing ?

  132. #132 LM
    November 5, 2007

    Brian: I think that is an excellent point and I’m not sure why everyone is ignoring you. IMO, animal research falls outside the realm of animal cruelty as most research animals do NOT suffer. Sure, there are exceptions… but I think most people are unaware of the strict rules and regulations that must be followed in order for scientists to use animal subjects in their research. I don’t know anybody who had their animal care and use proposal accepted on the first go ’round… they are usually rejected a few times for revisions. People really CARE about this stuff.

  133. #133 T_U_T
    November 5, 2007

    bacteriaof -> bacteria and humans of

  134. #134 T_U_T
    November 5, 2007

    damn 2
    bacteriaof -> bacteria and humans to be of

  135. #135 Tom
    November 5, 2007

    However, Tom: If I had to choose between saving my dog and saving a complete stranger (human), I might have trouble with that one. I mean, I LOVE my dog, and have no emotional attachment to some random human. I KNOW that I am not the only person who would have similar difficulties.

    I understand completely. Familiarity aside, I value humans in general over animals in general. Specific exceptions will be made, of course, and while I’m sure I’d save the stranger over my dog, I’m also sure I’d hesitate. On a purely selfish level, the dog benefits me more than the stranger’s life. However, greater society has no personal attachment to either dog or stranger, and there would be unpleasant consequences if it became known that I saved “some dog” instead of “some guy”. Societal pressure, if nothing else, would force me to save the human, though I like to think I’d do it anyway.

  136. #136 Tom
    November 5, 2007

    Still waiting for “humans are no more important than animals” lot to decide who burns (#121).

  137. #137 LM
    November 5, 2007

    “You’ve said it is not bad to kill nonhuman critters. I hope you do agree with me that it is bad to kill a human, so, given you consider both bacteria of equal worth, on what ground do you discriminate between bacteria killing an human killing?”

    I know that my personal world view isn’t very easy to understand. I don’t know if I can explain it well. I think we need to avoid loaded terms like “worth”. I think bacteria are just as IMPORTANT as humans (obviously – they are ubiquitous and we need them, and we ought to respect them for all of the good they do as well as for the havoc they can wreak). Now, do I have any qualms with killing the bastards if they are causing me harm? Hell no. As a matter of fact, I’m on antibiotics right now because of a nasty bladder infection from which I am suffering due to some errant bacteria. It doesn’t mean I respect bacteria any less as organisms. Does that make sense?

    And yes, I do generally think that it is bad to kill a human. Unless that human, say, killed lots of other humans. Then I don’t think I’d mind as much… :)

  138. #138 LM
    November 5, 2007

    Tom: If I had to choose between saving some random dog and some random guy, I’d of course choose to save the random guy.

    But damn, if it was MY dog? I’d probably die myself of burns and/or smoke inhalation trying to save both of them. :P

  139. #139 Epistaxis
    November 5, 2007

    Do you use all your time freeing the trapped person and leading them to safety, or do you make your way to the kennel and free a dog, condemning the person to burn to death.

    I’d save the person, but I’d feel bad for the dog. Is that supposed to be surprising? The person is probably being denied many more of her interests than the dog, so it’s the lesser evil. But if it’s a choice between a dog and a briefcase full of money that could buy hundreds more pets, I’d go for the dog.

    What if it was 10 dogs? A hundred?

    I don’t know. I don’t have an equation for how much your life is worth to me. Do you? What if it was one of your siblings or two people from another ethnic group? One child or ten adults? One mentally retarded infant or a hundred elderly people on life support? One Enron executive or a thousand serial killers? My solution is to hope I never have to make that choice so directly.

  140. #140 trollanon
    November 5, 2007

    “However, Tom: If I had to choose between saving my dog and saving a complete stranger (human), I might have trouble with that one. I mean, I LOVE my dog, and have no emotional attachment to some random human. I KNOW that I am not the only person who would have similar difficulties.”

    of course. perhaps we should be discussing the pop-philo question of would you choose to prevent 1) the death of one member of your family, 2) a plane crash at the local airport that kills hundreds or 3) the volcano eruption a continent away that kills hundreds of thousands. You can argue the philosophy as hard as you want but most people in real and honest choices are going to opt for the local and concrete over the distant and abstract.

    the problem with the animal rights nut is that they want to save a “random” dog or monkey or chimp they’ve never met in preference to saving, potentially, hundreds if not thousands of people, some of whom they have most assuredly met. heck, it isn’t clear that most of these nutjobs have ever “met” any exemplar of monkey or chimp other than lookin’ at ‘em in the zoo!

    so the ratio argument is turned on its head. the “closeness” argument is turned on its head. the “equivalency” is (to most) turned on its head. most of the approaches to the above pop-philo question, these terrorists come out on the wrong side of.

    would it be any wonder that the average person thinks that the animal rights anti-science perspective is morally a little bit crazy. empathically challenged? is this so hard to grasp?

  141. #141 Dustin
    November 5, 2007

    LM, I think mostly everyone understands your position, it’s that they don’t consider it relevant. The question here isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be, to based on biology or evolution. Supposing that we restrict the use of “worth” to strictly biological terms we only mean that it is adapted for its environment, and it obviously isn’t fruitful to use that to arrive at a moral conclusion or else we’re committing a naturalistic fallacy. I’m not saying that the position is wrong (it isn’t). I’m saying that it doesn’t have bearing on morality any more than the theory of relativity has.

    The word “worth” has to be used here with the ethical connotation because this is a discussion about morality. You ask if your position makes sense, I agree that it does only if we’re allowed to distinguish between “important” in an evolutionary or biological sense and morality.

  142. #142 cm
    November 5, 2007

    Brian said: Question, CM: At least in the context of medical and/or pharmaceutical research, in what way to you gather that animals are, in fact, literally “suffering”?
    Just to keep it simple, let me just discuss rodents. I gather that, for example, mice and rats can and do suffer because they a) they have sufficiently similar nervous systems to humans that they likely encode noxious stimuli as pain similarly as we do, such as they experience during injections or when they are not sufficiently anesthetized and students are cutting their scalp and skull musculature, b) they show behavioral patterns similar to humans when they are harmed (they shriek when pierced with a needle, for example), c) their levels of corticosterone, a stress related hormone, rise when they are put in any number of stress paradigms, like restraint boxes, shock floors, fear conditioning paradigms, etc.

    Do I know they are suffering? Of course not, but if you set the bar height to certain knowledge, I cannnot know that any being, human or animal, is suffering other than myself. I think the evidence is strongly in line with an account that rodents and likely all vertebrates have the capacity to suffer.

  143. #143 CalGeorge
    November 5, 2007

    Okay, I concede defeat.

    Killing animals in order to help the addicted assholes of the world is definitely a worthy scientific goal.

    No doubt.

    So…

    Addicted assholes of the world!

    Yeah, you!

    Cut it out!

    Your stinking lousy addictions are leading to the premature deaths of thousands of animals.

    Stop trying to anaesthetize your way through life.

  144. #144 LM
    November 5, 2007

    Dustin: Thanks. I guess I was trying to defend myself lest I end up getting lumped with animal rights extremists.

  145. #145 cm
    November 5, 2007

    Tom said: Sure, I understand that some people’s EMPATHY and ALTRUISM, as you put it, are so short-circuited that they would rather benefit an animal than a fellow human.

    Oh, I thought you had said you didn’t understand it.

    I think there must be something seriously wrong with someone who doesn’t understand or actually derides acting in self-interest. The fact you’re still alive today and able to post on this blog means you do it too. Everybody looks out for themselves.

    Tom, would you steal if you were dead certain you can get away with it?

  146. #146 LM
    November 5, 2007

    cm: RE: post #141… I’m not so sure that those types of experiments (shocking rats and whatnot) are very prevalent these days. I’m pretty sure that the animal care and use committee would have qualms about torturing an animal like that. We’ve come a long way since the days of Skinner and Company…

    I’m not saying that it doesn’t still happen; I just don’t think it’s very wide spread. Or alternatives have been found (e.g., teaching avoidance through taste rather than through pain).

  147. #147 stogoe
    November 5, 2007

    Why should we treat humans as more important than other creatures?

    Easy. I’m human. I like humans. They make me happy. They remind me of myself. The capacity for humans to bring me happiness is greater than the capacity of other animals (see: art, music, literature, philosophy, etc). Therefore humans come first in most cases. But other creatures have a capacity for happiness-bringing, too. They’re lower on the list, most of the time.

    Onward, upward, and onward for ethical animal testing and (more) humane agriculture – because meat is delicious, and so is scientific knowledge!

  148. #148 Tom
    November 5, 2007

    Tom, would you steal if you were dead certain you can get away with it?

    Assuming the choice is steal from “generic person” and not “guy I really hate who probably has it coming anyway”, and that the amount is economically significant, and it’s not to meet some pressing need like my mother’s cancer meds, etc etc etc, then no. I wouldn’t want to hurt this other human to benefit me because I value his well being too. Would I “steal” from an animal to benefit a human, myself or otherwise? Yes, up to and including “stealing” its life. I’m talking about valuing humans over animals here, not other humans over myself.

  149. #149 Brian
    November 5, 2007

    Having the capacity to suffer and actually suffering are two different things, entirely, cm.

  150. #150 Kagehi
    November 5, 2007

    These say it all:

    “Our nonviolent tactics are not as effective. We ask nicely for years and get nothing. Someone makes a threat, and it works.” — Ingrid Newkirk, PeTA’s founder and president, US News and World Report, April 8, 2002

    “If an ‘animal abuser’ were killed in a research lab firebombing, I would unequivocally support that, too.” — Gary Yourofsky, founder of Animals Deserve Adequate Protection Today and Tomorrow (ADAPTT), now employed as PeTA’s national lecturer

    “I am convinced that we can shut down a lot of these animal abuse industries whether the public agrees with it or not. And whether these industries are shut down by violent or non-violent acts in the end, to me, doesn’t really matter.” — David Barbarash, Animal Liberation Front Spokesman, BBC Documentary, “Beastly Business”, October 2000

    “In a war you have to take up arms and people will get killed, and I can support that kind of action by petrol bombing and bombs under cars, and probably at a later stage, the shooting of vivisectors on their doorsteps. It’s a war, and there’s no other way you can stop vivisectors.” — Tim Daley, Animal Liberation Front Leader, BBC interview, 1987

    To just name a few clear cases of what their *ideology* entails. So… Let me see if I have this straight, for all those arguing they are not terrorist groups. If you make threats but only burn down empty buildings that OK, even if your threats included the long term goal of either supporting or using murder to achieve them? I.e., if, as someone else had said, Osama had only said, “If destroying empty buildings isn’t enough, we might eventually have to start killing people.”, instead of actually doing so, then they wouldn’t be “terrorists” either?

    Give me a @$@#$#$ break. If someone threatens to kill people, you arrest them for *threatening to kill people*, you don’t wait around until they actually do so, not unless they are an animal rights organization and you know that 90% of the people who elected you will hand you your ass the next election, for attacking those poor innocent people that only threatened death, but didn’t actually do anything… That is the only reason these groups still exist, because too many idiots think they are just making jokes, or that the anti-animal rights people are just, “making up lies about them”, so short of one of these groups being caught red handed in a fracking bombing or gun fight in some lab some place, no one is going to be *allowed* to do anything about them. Well, that and the fact that probably 90% of their membership is made up of sane, but deluded, people, and like most terror organizations, the insane lunatics at the top only *talk about* what should be done. They, like Osama and other, only lead, they never act. Its safer. You can always claim that the asshole that fire bombs someone’s lab simply “misunderstood”, or that you, “Never told them specifically to do it.”, never mind that you spent a year telling them how much you would “love” to see another lab burn down. Same difference. Probably 90% of the people in radical mosques **never** join the effort to commit terror acts, the 10% that do are only “pointed” in the right direction to find the training camps needed to do it. PETA, ALF, and others don’t have this luck. They have to rely on people that are *self* trained, because they know damn well that a) any direct connection to them must be avoided and b) if someone had a training camp “in” the US, or any place else, dedicated to teaching people how to better blow up labs or shoot guns, and even a *hint* of a connection could be found to them, their current status as “misunderstood” organizations would evaporate like dry ice in a frying pan. But so long as they only “talk about” what they want, and other people commit the acts, they can deny everything.

    That is the only think that seperates PETA from being a terrorists, they don’t do it themselves, and are extremely careful to waffle about how they see the use of such tactics as acceptable, but don’t *sanction* them. ALF… They **do** actual commit the acts, but they also are real careful to babble on about how its just “fringe groups” doing it, and that the “core” group would “never” do such a thing. It doesn’t hold water though. Its *precisely* how all such organizations work. The *core* sits around inciting the acts and only fires a weapon if *directly* threatened, while all the secondary groups, who have been told how glorious it is to blow things up for the cause, do all the dirty work.

    In have never understood why this makes one type, the animal rights type, better than others that use the same indoctrination methods, other than that, as I said, actually committing an act of murder that **could** be directly tied to one of their speeches, would be the end of them here, unlike in other places, where you can get by with having training camps and private armies.

  151. #151 Dustin
    November 5, 2007

    That is the only think that seperates PETA from being a terrorists, they don’t do it themselves, and are extremely careful to waffle about how they see the use of such tactics as acceptable, but don’t *sanction* them.

    They’re like pro-life extremists, but don’t even have the illusion (or convenient rhetorical device) that they’re “saving people”. Repugnant.

  152. #152 Charles
    November 5, 2007

    CM:

    Living things without nervous systems like bacteria or plants or fungi do not suffer.

    Are you sure about this? They are certainly capable of being ‘hurt’ by us.

    Your definition of suffering seems designed to encompass a certain arbitrary set of creatures, defined primarily by their similarity to you. It’s great that you can empathize with (your perceptions of) the sensations of diverse animals, but it’s tautological to say that ‘suffering’ defines creatures worthy of empathy, empathy being the ability appreciate the suffering of others.

  153. #153 Epistaxis
    November 5, 2007

    I’m talking about valuing humans over animals here, not other humans over myself.

    Yes, we get that. Why?

    And if species, rather than (for example) capacity to experience pain, is your criterion for whether or not you can harm someone, am I correct in assuming you think abortion of fetuses and pulling the plug on people in a persistent vegetative state are abhorrent murder?

  154. #154 coathangrrr
    November 5, 2007

    coathangrrr, what is your position? You keep criticizing other peoples’ positions, and criticizing anyone who attempts to figure out your position, but you have neither presented your own position nor made any attempt to defend it in the way you demand others defend your position. I thought I understood your position but it seems now that I don’t. So please state clearly what your position is and then defend it in the manner you have been demanding. Perhaps then we can get some idea at exactly what you expect us to do.

    My position is that animals research that causes suffering in animals is wrong unless someone can show me an argument that justifies the superiority of humans as moral patients. I have yet to see an argument that does so here, nor have I seen one elsewhere that isn’t based on arbitrary moral limits. Look back up this thread and show me where someone has justified the superiority of humans beyond saying “humans are better.” I certainly don’t see it. As I keep saying and saying, all I see here is the spouting of dogma about how great and important humans are.

    Let me add to this though. I am not saying I would save a dog over a human or an insect over a human. I already mentioned that I had a job killing mosquitoes. But this isn’t about my personal actions, its about having a dialogue. In fact, this is exactly the dialogue that everyone swears up and down that animal rights people don’t want to have, and yet here it is and the best you all can come up with iss “humans are better.”

  155. #155 cm
    November 5, 2007

    Tom said: I wouldn’t want to hurt this other human to benefit me because I value his well being too.

    Someone could tell you that there is something, in your words, “seriously wrong with you” for valuing his well being above (any degree of) your own, right? But yet you feel this way, and you don’t think there is anything seriously wrong with you or your thinking.

    I think the problem here is you are totalizing. When you think of those who would prefer an ethic of animal suffering, your mind immediately thinks, at some level of representation, “They think animals are equal to or superior to humans in their rights.” But keep in mind there is a big spectrum of consideration. The wish to merely take into consideration animals’ feelings is what is on the table, and you seem to suggest that any such consideration is actually akin to a mental disorder. I don’t think you’ve made a good case for that.

  156. #156 TheBlackCat
    November 5, 2007

    My position is that animals research that causes suffering in animals is wrong unless someone can show me an argument that justifies the superiority of humans as moral patients.

    Why does your position get to be the default one? Why should we have to defend our position but you don’t have to defend your position? I’ll ask you again, please defend your position in the same way you expect us to defend our position.

  157. #157 cm
    November 5, 2007

    Brian said: Having the capacity to suffer and actually suffering are two different things, entirely, cm.

    Yes, I agree–what’s your point? When I wrote about the capacity to suffer of veretebrates, the implication is that capacity is something to be considered in making decisions about animal treatment, since, given such a capacity, some actions on the part of humans will result in animal suffering, and we ought to consider those actions carefully before proceeding. I also gave some examples of how rodents do (and not just could) suffer in laboratory settings, so it is not just a matter of hypotheticals: lab animals do suffer each day.

  158. #158 MartinM
    November 5, 2007

    My position is that animals research that causes suffering in animals is wrong unless someone can show me an argument that justifies the superiority of humans as moral patients.

    What if humans are not the intended beneficiaries of the research? What if research is being done on species X for the sole benefit of species X? Does that change things?

  159. #159 LM
    November 5, 2007

    “The wish to merely take into consideration animals’ feelings is what is on the table…”

    And animal researchers do this. Just pointing that out, since it’s the entire point of the post.

  160. #160 Tulse
    November 5, 2007

    Moses:

    You, like most vegetarians, are totally clueless to farming practices (organic or not so don’t go there).

    I’m vegetarian and I spend every weekend of my childhood on my grandparents’ cattle ranch, which my parents still own — does that count?

    Fact is, for us to live animals die.

    And fact is, for some humans to live, others generally die (either directly from war, or from confiscation of resources, or change to the environment, etc. etc. etc.). That doesn’t mean it isn’t moral to try and minimize such human suffering.

    No matter your lifestyle, animals end up dieing in the process so that you may live. That you, like most vegetarians, think you have clean hands is just because you lack any insight to farming practices. Or reality.

    Given that most of the meat in North America is fed grain, eating the grain directly lowers the impact on animals. You’re absolutely right that it is impossible to exist without directly or indirectly killing animals, but that practical fact does not mean that ethics goes out the window.

  161. #161 LM
    November 5, 2007

    “…lab animals do suffer each day.”

    You say that with such authority! But you’re wrong, you know. They don’t suffer. At least, not many of them. My sallies were extremely happy lil’ guys, right up to the end. Rats and mice that are used for research get cleaned every day, they are well fed, they receive medical treatment, they interact with others of their kind, sometimes they even get toys to play with… the whole dying at the end part isn’t pleasant, but even then they don’t necessarily suffer. Most of them are put to sleep. They feel no pain. They do not suffer.

  162. #162 cm
    November 5, 2007

    Charles said: CM: “Living things without nervous systems like bacteria or plants or fungi do not suffer.” Are you sure about this? They are certainly capable of being ‘hurt’ by us.

    I’m fairly sure about this, yes. My model of any experience is that it requires a nervous system, and the categories mentioned don’t have nervous systems. Now I might be wrong about this. It may actually be the case that rocks, dust, electrons, etc., can all suffer. I am just going with what seems to be the most well-supported model of how nervous systems, particularly well-developed brains, give rise to experiences, including suffering. Admittedly, the whole question of how this works is a giant mystery right now (see “the hard problem of consciousness”), but this is as best as I understand it.

    Your definition of suffering seems designed to encompass a certain arbitrary set of creatures, defined primarily by their similarity to you.

    Their similarity to me in only one regard: that they can and do suffer. If Martians were discovered who were utterly unlike humans but they too could and did suffer, they would have to be extended under the scope of ethical consideration.

    It’s great that you can empathize with (your perceptions of) the sensations of diverse animals, but it’s tautological to say that ‘suffering’ defines creatures worthy of empathy, empathy being the ability appreciate the suffering of others.

    I don’t think it is tautological at all because suffering is not merely defined as “that property which makes creatures worthy of empathy”; that is a secondary quality. It’s primary quality is suffering is an aversive feeling, an experience you would rather not be having. Empathy is a also not completely dependent on suffering; it can also be a shared feeling of joy or happiness. So, the model is: suffering is a type of feeling, and empathy is the ability to recognize and to some degree share in feelings of others. And then ethical consideration, in my opinion, is intrinsically tied to the feelings of others, but again, there is no tautology. Ethical considerations are analyses of actions relative to feelings, with suffering being the most important feeling.

  163. #163 LM
    November 5, 2007

    I wonder: for those of you who really think that laboratory mice and rats are being needlessly tortured (they aren’t), what do you think of pet stores and zoos raising mice and rats to feed other animals? I mean, they are fed LIVE to snakes and owls and all manner of other critters. I imagine that those rodents do suffer. In that case, the lab animals are much better off, don’t you think?

  164. #164 Honest John
    November 5, 2007

    Tom said in Comment #121

    Here’s an experiment for you: A small vet’s office is burning down and you have to decide what to save…

    Check out Comment #40. There are definitely situations where I would save an animal over a human being. There is nothing innately special about being human. In a crisis situation we probably all agree there is a hierarchy of who we would save (1: your kids, 2: your spouse, 3: your other kin, 4: friends, …, N:strangers). My hierarchy includes animals that I love, and all of humanity does not, as a right, precede all other lifeforms.

  165. #165 LM
    November 5, 2007

    CM: I dunno… you don’t think that a plant left to die of dehydration isn’t suffering just because it doesn’t have a nervous system? Some plants are able to give off alarm chemicals (like when they are being eaten by some herbivore)… they don’t have nerves, but they can respond to external stimuli. Can’t they suffer as well?

  166. #166 TheBlackCat
    November 5, 2007

    Most, if not all, organisms have some sort of mechanism to actively avoid some subset of negative stimuli. In many (although certainly not all) animals this response is based partially on a nervous system. But most organisms have some sort of aversive response. Even bacteria can move away from at least some harmful situations.

  167. #167 Tom
    November 5, 2007

    Someone could tell you that there is something, in your words, “seriously wrong with you” for valuing his well being above (any degree of) your own, right?

    Sure, but I suspect he’d be in the minority. Look, I’m not going to attempt to justify my belief that humans are more important than animals or that animal suffering in pursuit of human benefit is acceptable. I don’t think that’s actually possible. Whatever your position, it’s arbitrary on some level, and I’m not getting into a philosophical furball where we each violently proclaim the other side’s position to be unsupported. Personally, I believe my empathy for humans and propensity to value humans over animals is a product of my evolution. I can say it’s a good thing, intellectually, because humans promoting humans is a policy that benefits humans, a group I’m a member of. I won’t claim that I studied all the sides and one day decided “I’m going to place greater value on humans than animals.” It just makes sense.

  168. #168 LM
    November 5, 2007

    All of this made me think of fistulated cows, for some reason. Check it out! We have some of these at my university:

    http://daviswiki.org/Fistulated_Cow

    Looks horrible, doesn’t it? But these guys don’t suffer in the least, and the research benefits them AND humans. Hole-ly cow, is that awesome!

  169. #170 cm
    November 5, 2007

    LM said: “…lab animals do suffer each day.” You say that with such authority! But you’re wrong, you know. They don’t suffer. At least, not many of them. My sallies were extremely happy lil’ guys, right up to the end. Rats and mice that are used for research get cleaned every day, they are well fed, they receive medical treatment, they interact with others of their kind, sometimes they even get toys to play with… the whole dying at the end part isn’t pleasant, but even then they don’t necessarily suffer. Most of them are put to sleep. They feel no pain. They do not suffer.

    LM, I think you are basing too much on your experience with salamanders. Rats and mice for the most part do not get cleaned every day or any day, nor do they need cleaning. Their cages get cleaned, as needed. They are well fed, unless they are part of a food restriction paradigm. They generally don’t receive medical treatment other than euthanasia for their frequent tumors. They interact with others of their kind if they are females; if they are male rats they are often caged singly. They very rarely get toys to play with unless it is an enriched environment paradigm, which is probably less than 0.1% of all experiments. When they are put to sleep they may be injected with a needle (which does hurt, at least a little), or gassed with isoflurane, during which they will paw the walls of their enclosure in an attempt to escape.

    In saying this I also want to be sure you know that I am aware of animal use protocols and I commend them and think they do much to treat lab rodents humanely. I have had to pass all my paradigms with animal use committees, and I am thankful for it.

    You also said in another post: I’m not so sure that those types of experiments (shocking rats and whatnot) are very prevalent these days. I’m pretty sure that the animal care and use committee would have qualms about torturing an animal like that. We’ve come a long way since the days of Skinner and Company…I’m not saying that it doesn’t still happen; I just don’t think it’s very wide spread. Or alternatives have been found (e.g., teaching avoidance through taste rather than through pain).

    Oh, it still happens and fear conditioning paradigms with shock floor boxes are very common and you can Google distributors for them right now. Just to give you a number, if you do a PubMed search for “fear conditioning” and limit it to just in the past year, there are 333 papers published on that, 15 of which are reviews, so that is about 315 studis using fear conditioning, most of which use things like shock boxes. Consider that of those 300+ papers, each paper probably had to use at least 20 rodents, but more likely up to 100 rodents (considering data tossed out), so that might be something like 3,000 shocked rodents/year just in that paradigm alone. I don’t know if that is about the number you had in mind?

    There are also restraint devices to potentiate stress; confinement with aggressive intruder paradigms; forced swim tests for how long it takes for the animal to stop trying not to drown; etc. Don’t kid yourself: rodents in labs have some things to contend with. There is also just the raw fact that even in the best and most humane experiments mistakes happen. I’ve known of a rat degloved of its tail skin by a mistake of a handler, animals taking spills off tables, etc.

    Rodents are the #1 types of animals used in labs, and there are millions of them in use each year worldwide. Certainly some of them do suffer, and I think enough that it bears discussing seriously. And I say this as someone who has killed hundreds of rats in my day for science purposes, and no doubt inflicted suffering on them along the way despite my best efforts to minimize it.

  170. #171 CalGeorge
    November 5, 2007

    I’m not going to attempt to justify my belief that humans are more important than animals …

    Human are part of the animal kingdom, are they not?

    You mean to say: Humans are the most important animals.

  171. #172 Tom
    November 5, 2007

    Human are part of the animal kingdom, are they not?

    You mean to say: Humans are the most important animals.

    Right, animals in the colloquial, rather than scientific, sense.

  172. #173 trollanon
    November 5, 2007

    “I’m not so sure that those types of experiments (shocking rats and whatnot) are very prevalent these days. I’m pretty sure that the animal care and use committee would have qualms about torturing an animal like that. We’ve come a long way since the days of Skinner and Company…”

    Is it possible for an animal rightie to make a single argument that isn’t laden with ignorant, almost willfully uninformed and bigoted statements? Jebus.

    What “types” of experiments are you thinking of that amount to “torture”? How do you know they are “torture” (here’s a hint, just because it says “aversive shock” in the methods does not mean it is “torture”)? How prevalent were they in whatever era you are talking about and how do you know they are less prevalent now? WTF does “Skinner” have to do with it and what fraction of his experiments amounted to “torture” versus any other researcher? Who the F*ck is “company”?

    “a) they have sufficiently similar nervous systems to humans that they likely encode noxious stimuli as pain similarly as we do, such as they experience during injections”

    detection of a stimulus is not the same thing as either pain or suffering. objectively noxious stimuli (say coffee, beer) become genuinely pleasant to you once properly addicted, as I know many of you are. IV injection actually becomes pleasurable to the addicted human. the point being that this argument cannot possibly generalize because without knowing context, you cannot know if a given stimulus is painful and to what degree.

    ” b) they show behavioral patterns similar to humans when they are harmed (they shriek when pierced with a needle, for example)”

    and if they do not, what then? humans, even my kids, don’t always “shriek when pierced with a needle” for vaccination and nor do research subjects always “shriek” when injected. on a more general sense, you are going to have huge individual differences within species- do we select for those that don’t exhibit “suffering” and then it is okay?

    does this principle validate the use of, say, dogs and cats which affiliate easily and clearly with research staff over, say, mice and rats which do not? behavioral patterns of discomfort associated with normal handling and use say yes.

    , c) their levels of corticosterone, a stress related hormone, rise when they are put in any number of stress paradigms, like restraint boxes, shock floors, fear conditioning paradigms, etc.”

    and also in any number of natural world settings including, in the case of highly social species, say primates, a consequence of environmental conditions that welfare advocates insist should be used in the lab to benefit the research subject. That’s right, when you call for “social housing” of nonhuman primate subjects you are calling for them to be more stressed, not to mention more frequently wounded and even killed. you did know that when you were bleating on about welfare, right? or are you just mindlessly parroting a talking point with minimal actual knowledge….

  173. #174 LM
    November 5, 2007

    CM: Wait, so are you saying that you are an animal researcher? Or, a “reformed” animal researcher? Because if you are, then you already KNOW how much researchers care about their animals and that we do everything we can to minimize the number of animals that we use as well as minimizing suffering. You also know that animal use committees do not allow scientists to conduct frivolous experiments on live animals – it sounds awful, but you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. We just try to break as few as possible, and that’s the best we can do. Wouldn’t you agree?

    And, believe it or not, I’ve worked with mammals as WELL as salamanders, and at my university they are, in fact, cleaned every day, medicated, well fed, etc. etc.

  174. #175 LM
    November 5, 2007

    Ummmmmmmmm… trollanon… I think you are very, very confused.

  175. #176 Epistaxis
    November 5, 2007

    You, like most vegetarians, are totally clueless to farming practices (organic or not so don’t go there).

    What a dialogue-stopping thing to say. But I’ll pretend you didn’t.

    Whether they’re killed by the plow, poisoned with the toxic pesticides (organic or inorganic, doesn’t matter), hit by the trucks bringing it to us, die painfully flopping in fields (fish caught up in irrigation), poisoned/shot through “pest control” methods or harvested so they can be turned into “fish emulsion” fertilizer.

    This may be true, but it doesn’t make a lick of sense as an argument against vegetarianism. If I stop eating lambs, fewer lambs die because of me. That’s a step forward even though I’m still indirectly causing the demise of a bunch of insects and the occasional fish or rodent. It’s as if you’d criticize someone for saving a dude from a burning building because she didn’t make a second trip to save the dude’s pet gerbil – better to have let them both burn? I don’t get that.

  176. #177 CalGeorge
    November 5, 2007

    OMG! Fistulation is the cure for obesity in humans!

    Just scoop it all out!

  177. #178 syntyche
    November 5, 2007

    No matter your lifestyle, animals end up dieing in the process so that you may live. That you, like most vegetarians, think you have clean hands is just because you lack any insight to farming practices. Or reality.

    yes, because any attempt to reduce the suffering of animals for my personal benefit is completely useless if that suffering is not reduced to zero, right?

    Kind of like how if I can’t reduce my CO2 output to zero, I may as well run the air conditioning with the windows open.

    First step changing a system that you don’t like is to stop directly contributing to it.

  178. #179 Mike O'Risal
    November 5, 2007

    So, again, on which principle other than “humans are better” do you base your view of human superiority?

    Or do you still lack one?

    I do, in fact, lack a view of human superiority. I haven’t once made the argument that “humans are better” than anything else. That’s not the point. I ask, once more, that you stop putting words in my mouth if you care about having an actual conversation rather than engaging in demagoguery. If the latter is the case, please just say so and I’ll be happy to bow out and let you spew everything you want.

    This isn’t a question of “humans are better.” This is a question of solving the problems of not only humans but of entire ecologies. When confronted with the statement that “humans are better” or “all living things are equal,” the appropriate response is “at what?” The statement itself is a meaningless one; some species are better at some things than others, and there is no absolute measure of the superiority of any given species in all circumstances. In other words, judging the absolute merit of any species, human or otherwise, is just a dodge.

    But here’s the rub; the drive of every species is to continue itself. We humans do that through our intelligence, and when it comes to problem-solving, we are second to none. Animal research is one technique in solving certain problems of a biological nature, and some that we have also created for ourselves due to prior ignorance (the research being carried on by Dr. London is a good example of the latter case).

    Those who are so concerned with research on animals that they are willing to cause harm to others to stop it have an absolute moral imperative to come up with useful alternatives, and they can do that by channeling all this energy and risk-taking behavior into acquiring the knowledge necessary to build such solutions. I am 100% in favor of such efforts; I have no particular attachment to research using animals. It’s something that we’re stuck with until a better tool comes along, and I am all in favor of using the best tools available for any job. So by all means, if this issue is of such concern to you, get the education and knowledge necessary to replace it! Go for it! Become a millionaire in the process if you can. More power to you!

    Until that happens – and what never seems to be acknowledged is that there ARE people who work in this field, most of whom are scrambling every day to find funding to keep their bills paid – we have problems that need to be addressed right now. I can’t wait around for someone to come up with some new technology to solve a problem that’s wiping out forests comes along, because by then those forests are likely to have disappeared forever. I can’t wait until someone comes up with a substitute for drug testing on animals because there are people dying right now from diseases that we might be able to treat.

    Now, I have a pet. He’s been a companion for 11 years. When he got sick recently, I rushed him to a veterinarian and spent more than I could afford on getting him treatment. I have spent many hours in wild places and I have worked as a nature photographer. I have been face-to-face with animals that could easily have eaten me on the spot and I have tremendous respect for living things. Nonetheless, I am human, and the people I care about are human, and I will side with humanity in matters of survival every time; not in matters of greed, or needless cruelty, or the numerous awful things we’re capable of in our dealings with animals. I have never personally met a biologist who felt otherwise.

    The fact is, animals exploit humans all the time. There are numerous parasites that feed on us because it furthers their survival. Rats, squirrels and seagulls thrive on our trash-heaps. This is nature; mosquitoes and leeches take our blood for food, and we take a few animals (and in terms of overall numbers, it is a very few) to increase our knowledge.

    Threatening and even harming a few researchers isn’t going to change the state of things. But most of us who actually do research involving animal experiments will also readily admit that, in purely practical terms, it’s all rather messy and prone to create difficulties, not to mention rather expensive. So create something better. Start now. Offer a useful alternative and it will likely be adopted.

    Get to work on that, and leave the rest of us to puzzle out the problems that we need to work on. Violence and threats of violence have not, and will not, change anything… except maybe making someone like me start considering carrying a gun to protect myself and my family from the next lunatic who has decided that it’s better to kill a human for ideological ends than it is for a lab rat to die for scientific progress. I’ve never owned a gun in my life and am not someone prone to violence, but it seems to me that if there are people “considering using fire” on Edyth London’s house, perhaps I had better “consider using” something with the necessary stopping power to prevent them from “using fire” on me.

  179. #180 cm
    November 5, 2007

    LM said: CM: Wait, so are you saying that you are an animal researcher? Or, a “reformed” animal researcher? Because if you are, then you already KNOW how much researchers care about their animals and that we do everything we can to minimize the number of animals that we use as well as minimizing suffering. You also know that animal use committees do not allow scientists to conduct frivolous experiments on live animals – it sounds awful, but you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. We just try to break as few as possible, and that’s the best we can do. Wouldn’t you agree?

    I am a former (quite recently former) animal researcher now sidelined by unrelated issues. In my experience, the accurate account of animal research is that it is a spectrum. I have known researchers who, as you say, are very careful and caring about animal welfare. I have also known researchers who had to be repeatedly admonished for not taking the necessary steps to insure minimization of suffering. For example, in in vivo neuroscience recordings from rats or cats, often the signal starts getting better when the animal is coming out of anesthesia; of course, that is just when the risk of the pain and fear associated with that contraption (which I’ll spare the reader) is more likely. So there is this tension between scientific results and animal welfare. I have also seen researchers cause rats to be still by swinging them in wide arm-length arcs; this, in my estimation, stills them because it produces a strong freezing response because the rat is really scared. I can’t sign off on that.

    But I agree with you that there are a number of safeguards in place with animal use committees and so forth. I just think that the price of animal research is a kind of sustained vigilance. We cannot just assume all is well, because all is not entirely well. We are inflicting suffering, at least some, and we have to own up to that. I have considered whether some purely pedagogical set-ups in settings I’ve worked with are worth the suffering of the rodent subjects involved (who have to recover from a dramatic invasive surgery and eardrum breaking; you tell me, if you woke up from anesthesia with both eardrums broken, would that hurt?). It is really a question worth exploring. There is an ethical weight to it.

    This is I guess your omelette analogy. Functionally, yes, I have signed up to that program. I just sometimes think that the rate of egg breakage gets a bit much in some paradigms, because I have seen it first hand and I can evaluate the ratio of harm and suffering to the scientific or pedagogical benefit, and often that ratio sits uneasily with me.

  180. #181 LM
    November 5, 2007

    “First step changing a system that you don’t like is to stop directly contributing to it.”

    I completely respect that. So in the case of the current argument, if you don’t like animal research, don’t become an animal researcher. But I do not agree with groups who don’t understand the research, or the strict protocols to which researchers must adhere, interfering in that research.

  181. #182 dzd
    November 5, 2007

    “yes, because any attempt to reduce the suffering of animals for my personal benefit is completely useless if that suffering is not reduced to zero, right?”

    According to absolutist animal-rightsist rhetoric, yes. Don’t blame us for taking their idiocy at face value.

  182. #183 Sven DiMilo
    November 5, 2007

    Hi everyone! Enjoying your “dialogue”? Anybody had their mind changed yet? I thought not.
    Excuse me while I cross-post this from another blog…here we go:
    This subject opens Pandora’s can o’ worms, that’s for sure. Perhaps we can start by distinguishing clearly between the conservation issue (concern for the continued existence of populations–and therefore species and other ESUs–of non-human organisms) and the animal rights/welfare concern for individual animals; and then between animal welfare (the desire to minimize the pain and suffering of individual animals) and animal “rights.” Because the issue of “rights” can be philosophically sticky even for humans, by which I mean only that the concept of which humans deserve rights clearly varies in time and space among and within cultures.

    Having had these discussions with friends and acquaintances when living in LA, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Boston, I am absolutely certain that no consensus is remotely possible on the question of which animals deserve what rights. Bowhunting, cockfighting, carnivory, vivisection, museum collecting, and pet ownership are all OK with some intelligent and reasonable people and not with others. There are also people in today’s world who see nothing wrong with killing chimpanzees for bushmeat and selling the orphans as dress-up-dolly pets.

    When we are starting with that range of opinions, arguments seem rather fruitless. At some point it becomes primarily a matter of personal choice: some people put stainless-steel screws into cat skulls and others wear surgical masks to avoid inhaling gnats.

    At this point in the planet’s history it seems far more important to me to talk instead about how the loss of populations can be minimized. But that’s my opinion; yours is likely to vary.

    Thanks for reading! On with the “dialogue”!

  183. #184 LM
    November 5, 2007

    CM: Ah, I see. And I agree. Believe me, I never took pleasure in euthanizing any of my animals (did I cry? Of course I did. Have you ever done a transcardiac perfusion? They are ghastly. I had to stop doing them because they upset me so much).

    I don’t know that we can do much about the (few, I hope) people that have little regard for their animals. I guess we just have to remind ourselves that MOST researchers aren’t that way (just like MOST animal trainers or farmers or pet owners or zoo keepers aren’t that way) and try to do the best that we can.

    No, the system isn’t perfect… if it was, we wouldn’t have to kill any animals for our research. So we just have to do what we can to minimize the numbers of animals that we use and the suffering experienced by each of them.

  184. #185 Sven DiMilo
    November 5, 2007

    oh, yeah, LM: About salamanders being cute & muppetty, I wish I could introduce you to an Amphiuma I used to keep…

  185. #186 syntyche
    November 5, 2007

    I completely respect that. So in the case of the current argument, if you don’t like animal research, don’t become an animal researcher. But I do not agree with groups who don’t understand the research, or the strict protocols to which researchers must adhere, interfering in that research.

    no, no, you misunderstand me — I’m all for animal research. It’s essential to the progression of science. In fact, I’m an animal researcher myself. It’s simple – there’s no alternative. Even if you did have a moral equivalence between humans and animals, animals are clearly superior to humans for many aspects of research (I’m not sure, for instance, whether I could convince two humans to mate simply so I could match recessives in their offspring).

    This comment was about *eating* animals, which I do not view as essential for, well, anything. Hence, I’ve made a personal choice to stop doing it.

  186. #187 cm
    November 5, 2007

    LM: “Have you ever done a transcardiac perfusion? They are ghastly. I had to stop doing them because they upset me so much).”

    I tried to do it but was not skilled enough to find the ventricle! And this was just with cold saline; doing it with fix is some horror movie stuff from what I understand (for those of you grimacing, keep in mind it should only be done with a lethal overdose of anesthesia and the animal has to be deeply, surgically, anesthetized).

    I appreciate your position and empathy, LM. I just hope to make a bit of a case that it is easy to gloss the massive field of animal use, and, as researchers, tell ourselves a story that says that there is almost no harm or suffering, because we are often thinking in opposition to those who have never done research and have outlandish notions of 19th century anything-goes style animal use. But the reality is that there are real concerns that will always be with us, and we just have the (admittedly annoying) ethical mantle of considering them one by one. Good luck with your stuff!

  187. #188 LM
    November 5, 2007

    Sorry syntyche, I didn’t mean *you* as in YOU. :)

    I tried giving up meat for a while, not because I think there is anything inherently wrong with eating animal flesh, but because I strongly disagree with the agricultural practices in this country. It didn’t work out for me very well (especially once I became pregnant and, well, needed the protein. I drink about four gallons of milk a week! Tried soy milk, but… ew). I hope to one day raise my own animals, but until then I have to do the best I can to find animals that were treated as humanely as possible while they were alive. It isn’t easy…

  188. #189 cm
    November 5, 2007

    [the Style Police just pulled me over for using the word "stuff" twice in one post]

  189. #190 MattXIV
    November 5, 2007

    I apply the same logic to eating meat. It’s delicious. It makes me happy. Therefore, it was a life well spent

    For those of you that hold this position, what do you make of cockfighting and other “sports” where animals fight each other for human amusement. The audience for a cockfight is typically larger than the number that can be fed by a single bird and cockfighting fans would say that they derive more enjoyment from cockfights than a chicken dinner and the birds are generally well-taken care of between fights to keep them in top fighting condition.

  190. #191 craig
    November 5, 2007

    Can we drop the overused “terrorist” label?
    Criminals, fine.

    Supposedly a recent law makes people who have taken protest action that costs an organization or business money able to be categorized as terrorists. Which has not yet, but could get them imprisoned without trial. Hold a sign that says “don’t eat meat!” in front of McDonald’s get sent to gitmo.

    I know it sounds ridiculous. But everything IS ridiculous these days.

    So lets watch the language that serves the purposes of fascists. People are arsonsists, trespassers, breakers-and-enterers, vandals, thieves, whatever. Not terrorists.

  191. #192 LM
    November 5, 2007

    CM: heh, actually… I am a “reformed” animal researcher, as well. I left my discipline (where I was completely miserable) for another. Now I work with people and not animals… and you know what? Working with animals was a heck of a lot easier…

  192. #193 Tom
    November 5, 2007

    For those of you that hold this position, what do you make of cockfighting and other “sports” where animals fight each other for human amusement. The audience for a cockfight is typically larger than the number that can be fed by a single bird and cockfighting fans would say that they derive more enjoyment from cockfights than a chicken dinner and the birds are generally well-taken care of between fights to keep them in top fighting condition.

    I don’t see how you can accept eating chickens and not accept cockfighting, for all the reasons you listed. It’s not as though death in the ring is less dignified than death in a poultry plant, and the life is certainly better than the conditions for most commercial chickens.

  193. #194 TheBlackCat
    November 5, 2007

    No, craig, I’m not going to stop using it. That is the only word that properly described what they are doing. They are committing illegal, destructive acts for the purpose of changing peoples’ behavior solely by the power of fear. I am still waiting for a definition of terrorist that includes widely-accepted terrorists but does not include the sorts of people we are calling terrorists here.

  194. #195 MartinM
    November 5, 2007

    So lets watch the language that serves the purposes of fascists.

    Can we drop the overused “fascist” label?

  195. #196 Sven DiMilo
    November 5, 2007

    Can we drop the fascist “overused” label?

  196. #197 MartinM
    November 5, 2007

    Not until we drop the “overused fascist” label.

  197. #198 CalGeorge
    November 5, 2007

    … generally well-taken care of between fights to keep them in top fighting condition.

    Same goes for the people we ship off to war.

  198. #199 shiftlessbum
    November 5, 2007

    Can we drop the fascist, overused, “label”?

  199. #200 MartinM
    November 5, 2007

    Can we overuse the fascist label “drop?”

  200. #201 Tom
    November 5, 2007

    Can we drop the facist, Overused Label?

  201. #202 MartinM
    November 5, 2007

    Can the fascists label overused…we?

    Damnit.

  202. #203 craig
    November 5, 2007

    “Can we drop the overused “fascist” label?”

    I reserve the use of it solely for actual fascists. And there are actual fascists around these days.

  203. #204 Stevie_C
    November 5, 2007

    Can we label the overused fascists?

  204. #205 MartinM
    November 5, 2007

    Can we overuse this joke?

    Yes. Yes, we can. We have. And we’ll probably continue for quite some time.

  205. #206 MartinM
    November 5, 2007

    I reserve the use of it solely for actual fascists. And there are actual fascists around these days.

    There are also actual terrorists around these days. Such as the people who use terror as a tool of coersion.

  206. #207 Tom
    November 5, 2007

    Such as the people who use terror as a tool of coersion.
    What, like animal rights activists?

  207. #208 craig
    November 5, 2007

    “That is the only word that properly described what they are doing. They are committing illegal, destructive acts for the purpose of changing peoples’ behavior solely by the power of fear.”

    That’s a pretty broad category. It pretty much includes any criminal or violent act if the purpose is not simple personal enrichment (muggings, etc.)

    So there are no playground bullies. They are school terrorists. No sexual harassment – it’s workplace terrorism.
    Racists and homophobes are terrorists. Churches are terrorist organizations.

    We seem to be surrounded by terrorists.

    Project Censored:
    http://www.projectcensored.org/censored_2008/index.htm

    ” Title: “US House Passes Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act With Little Discussion or Dissent”

    The term “terrorism” has been dangerously expanded to include acts that interfere, or promote interference, with the operations of animal enterprises. The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), signed into law on November 27, 2006, broadens punishment present under the Animal Enterprises Protection Act (AEPA) of 1992. One hundred and sixty groups, including the National Lawyers’ Guild, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the League of Humane Voters, Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine, and the New York City Bar Association, oppose this Act on grounds that its terminology is dangerously vague and poses a major conflict to the US Constitution.”

    Stop helping the people who are destroying the constitution.

  208. #209 Islamomexihomosexfacist
    November 5, 2007

    “Such as the people who use terror as a tool of coersion.”

    “What, like animal rights activists?”

    …and Republicans.

  209. #210 Lurchgs
    November 5, 2007

    Ok.. I’ll pass on PETA and ALF and Greenpeace and, and andandandand

    What everybody seems to miss (*particularly* members and likers of those organizations) is that animals HAVE NO RIGHTS. None. Period.

    You only have rights if you (as a species) can stand up and say “I have rights”.

    There are not enough animals on the planet to equal the value of one single human life. (though I suspect that most of us, like myself, would consider a few individuals an exception). Animals have no more inherent value than the trees or rose bushes in your yard. They derive their value from their usefulness to humans. An essential stage in the testing of drugs and the like is to test on animals. Sure, we have some idea what the results SHOULD be, but until the question is put to empiracle testing, it’s just guesswork. (probably fairly accurate guesswork, but I’d rather have testing done on the drugs *I* take, thank you very much)

    Does this mean we are free to torture and maim animals willy-nilly? No. It is not good for us as individuals, or as a culture, to blithely go around lopping bits and pieces off various animals – or smearing caustic chemicals on their eyelids.

    So, there’s a very distinct line to be drawn here. Testing such things as cosmetics on animals is, while within our rights as the only sentient being on the planet, it’s flat-out unnecessary (and therefore, stupid).

    Testing potential medicines and treatments (or tryign to find out what causes a given problem) using animals is perfectly acceptable. The activity works wonders winnowing out completely unacceptable results before being tested on humans.

    It all boils down to intent. Is this treatment of animals performed to benefit humanity in some way (teaching counts), or is it so Brittany Spears can safely apply too much makeup?

  210. #211 LM
    November 5, 2007

    “Animals have no more inherent value than the trees or rose bushes in your yard. They derive their value from their usefulness to humans.”

    Wow, I can’t even tell you how offensive I find that comment. Funny thing is, it isn’t the first time I’ve heard something like it. One of my roommates in college was a creationist, and she claimed that “God created all living things for humans to exploit.” You sound just like her.

    Nope, I can’t respect that. Just can’t.

  211. #212 shiftlessbum
    November 5, 2007

    craig

    Do you really have difficulty with the concept that firebombing someone’s home in furtherance of an ideology is terrorism? Irrespective of your (somewhat legitimate) concerns with overly broad legal implications in an act of congress, the people who threaten animal researchers with bodily harm are most definately terrorists.

  212. #213 coathangrrr
    November 5, 2007

    Why does your position get to be the default one? Why should we have to defend our position but you don’t have to defend your position? I’ll ask you again, please defend your position in the same way you expect us to defend our position.

    If you wish to assume superiority of one thing over another then should it not be up to you to prove your case? Whaat I’m saying is that you have absolutely zero reason outside of dogma to believe that humans are better than every other animal, and you are apparently agreeing. The point is that the position I hold in these regards is the same as the atheist claim, there is no reason to believe in god other than a societal emphasis on doing so. What I am saying is that your position assumes superiority for no other reason. I’m not exactly sure how to prove that humans aren’t superior when I haven’t made that claim. The claim I made is that all else being equal, and you have yet to show that it is not, inflicting suffering is bad.

    For you to make moral claims that inflicting suffering upon animals is acceptable if it leads to curing humans then you must show that humans are superior.

  213. #214 ahren
    November 5, 2007

    Anne,
    Intelligence and self-awareness are not the same. I am myself sometimes a bit uneasy (a totally emotional response, I’ll admit) when it comes to experimentations on (higher) primates but if it comes to saving even one potential human life at the price of that of numerous dogs or cats (however much I love them), line them up and give me the sacrificial knife I say!

    I think if you were to replace dogs/cats with primates(as implied earlier) most would agree this is a warped sense of morality. Surely people who study genetics can appreciate that there isn’t some sort of “god given” barrier between “non-human” primates and humans. One thought experiment brought up frequently in this situation is what if all the interlinking ancestors between us and chimps still existed and bred?(ring species) In such a case the gene pools are not completely isolated. How far down the breeding chain is “non-human” enough to involuntarily give drugs? imprison? kill? in the name of saving more of the “human” species.

    Its at least morally fuzzy ground but….I’ll ask a scientist what information can be uniquely obtained, I’ll ask the philosopher when I need to more rationally think about whether its moral to obtain it.

  214. #215 greg
    November 5, 2007

    this is a fascinating issue to me – when you think about all those Nazis and slave owners and indeed any decent human being who has done monstrous things to another human then gone home to love their wife and children, pat their dog on the head and sleep peacefully – you are instantly confronted with “HOW?!” I mean, you have to accept that some of the Nazis complicit in the torture of the Jews were, at home with their families, decent people.

    So what walls and mental compartments must they have set up that allowed them to torture murder and maim without guilt?

    I think it behooves researchers to ask themselves if they do not have similar walls in place.

    I am FOR animal research. There is no question that human life would be all the more fleeting and painful if it were lacking the discoveries made through the death and suffering of animal researchers. However, I would say that when you are torturing and killing an animal for science (and you are) you ought to have a shred of respect for that animal. That respect will – on its own – lead to experiment design which reaps the most data from the least amount of suffering – which I feel ought to be our goal when torture is involved.

  215. #216 shiftlessbum
    November 5, 2007

    coathangrrr wrote;
    “For you to make moral claims that inflicting suffering upon animals is acceptable if it leads to curing humans then you must show that humans are superior.”

    No, no you don’t. You only need to show that you are human. “Superiority” has nothing whatever to do with it. It makes no sense to waffle around like you have here coathangrrr. We can and do make choices, moral or otherwise. Including how we treat animals. Most of us recognize that there are no absolutes and so we muddle through. We do not have a perfect solution, but it makes no sense to simply throw up our hands and give in to some sort of amorphous sophistry about superiority.

  216. #217 jba
    November 5, 2007

    “For you to make moral claims that inflicting suffering upon animals is acceptable if it leads to curing humans then you must show that humans are superior”

    What if it also helps animals? Animals benefit from medical testing on animals as well. Maybe not the test subjects themselves, but the ones that get taken to the vet for treatments that are derived from those tests do.

  217. #218 greg
    November 5, 2007

    There is no question that human life would be all the more fleeting and painful if it were lacking the discoveries made through the death and suffering of animal researchers

    that was a bit Freudian no? :P I of course meant “the death and suffering of animal research subjects”

  218. #219 Tom
    November 5, 2007

    Godwin’s spinning in his grave (and thinking “how did I get here?”).

  219. #220 bernarda
    November 5, 2007

    The Asshole Loony Fascists maybe, or maybe not, have agressed people. If they haven’t killed anyone, which I don’t know, it certainly isn’t for lack of trying, with arson and letter bombs.

    As to the PETA folk, and ALF, Penn and Teller did a good program on them. It used to be on youtube but apparently not now. PETA and ALF are total scum.

    I remember on a camping vacation in Switzerland I met a very nice English couple. One of them was hesitant to speak about his work, which turned out to be in a biology lab. But once he learned that I wasn’t an “animal rights” moron things went well and sometime later I spent some time with them at their home.

    It was only later that I discovered the whole “controversy”. At the time I didn’t even know there were people like those in ALF and PETA.

    Can you imagine, far from home they were worried about talking about their work?

  220. #221 Tuck
    November 5, 2007

    coathangrrr,

    Your assertion is no more arbitrary than anyone here. This is a question that by it’s nature depends on what you value. I value steak and the best medical treatments that can be obtained by treatment. You value animals. Why is your position superior?

    It is precisely like abortion. Many people value the life of embryos. Others value personal autonomy. I value promiscuity. Whose value is superior? In cases such as these, majority should rule.

    Moral absolutes as your seem to propose differ little from adherance to dogma so despised by the gentle readers of this site.

  221. #222 greg
    November 5, 2007

    tuck – I value your possessions. you value your possessions. Whose position is superior? You may value steak, but some consideration for the animal who owns that steak might be nice.

  222. #223 shiftlessbum
    November 5, 2007

    greg wrote

    “However, I would say that when you are torturing and killing an animal for science (and you are) you ought to have a shred of respect for that animal. That respect will – on its own – lead to experiment design which reaps the most data from the least amount of suffering – which I feel ought to be our goal when torture is involved.”

    It’s language like this that makes discussing these issues with animal rightists so frustrating. Very much like trying to discuss abortion with right to lifers or gun control with the NRA. Not all animals that are used in research are killed and few are “tortured” by whatever metric you want to use to define that. Saying to researchers “you are” torturing and killing animals is intended only to inflame and demonstrates a profound lack of knowledge. Furthermore, to suggest that researchers don’t have any respect for the animals in their care, not even a “shred”, is clearly intended not as a point in a discussion but as an insult by someone ignorant of both science and scientists. Shame on you.

  223. PZ –

    There are two levels to this question: (1) does experimentation on animals “work”; and (2) is it moral. People have written entire books on both topics.

    Whether it works – there is ample evidence that lots of animal research doesn’t work in that it produces results that are not directly applicable to humans (assuming that’s the point of the research). Anecdotally, I know someone who in high school worked in a “beagle farm” where they were raising dogs for use in experiments. He said a lot of them were clearly inbred with extra toes, malformed faces, congenital heart or lung problems, etc. (This person is NOT an animal activist – he took the job after all.) Do you think these congenitally unhealthy dogs are a good testing model?

    More empirical data on various failures of animal models can be found here:
    http://www.pcrm.org/resch/anexp/index.html

    There is an entire industry devoted to selling animals for experimentation and part of the reason animals continues to be used is because this industry promotes it, the funders, expect it, etc. Europe, btw, is way ahead of us in terms of developing alternative models for research. cellular and other models can be used in many cases, but there’s little incentive here to do it.

    And a lot of animal research is just frivolous or the animals are used “inefficiently.” a neurobiologist friend of mine said half the rats in a research lab he worked in were “wasted.” (he actually started a pool to share them and use them more efficiently.) So the animals were tortured for no reason.

    2) Morally

    Philosophers Peter Singer and Tom Regan can pretty much shoot holes in any justification one has for harming animals – low intelligence, non-self-awareness, etc. Plus, the bar keeps moving – we keep learning about “new” capabilities that animals have that we weren’t aware of previously due to our own blinders.

    many animal rights activists, like myself, see the core problem at work as a culture of oppression – the idea that it’s okay to “use” or oppress those we perceive to be of lower caste then ourselves – like a nonhuman animalor person of a different sex, race or religion. these abuses and the abuse of animals derive from the same core set of beliefs.

    a lot of animal rights activists get despondant, and with good reason, about the way humans treat animals. i remind them that all the things people do to animals, they have also done to other people. Think about it. And think about how we ourselves are affected when we do violence.

  224. #225 Dustin
    November 5, 2007

    For you to make moral claims that inflicting suffering upon animals is acceptable if it leads to curing humans then you must show that humans are superior.

    Oh, I see. Here I was thinking that it was justified on the grounds that animal research was done under tightly controlled conditions for the purposes of alleviating human suffering which, after all, is much more acute on account of our unique level of cognition and, unlike the lab, not controlled in its scope or administration and actually a burden to the family of the afflicted, so not particularly limited to a single person.

    Shit, here I was making a comparison of the degree of suffering based on environmental and cognitive considerations, but your dictation of the terms of the argument makes it so much better!

    The point is that the position I hold in these regards is the same as the atheist claim, there is no reason to believe in god other than a societal emphasis on doing so.

    If you also consider the practical consequences of the weak atheist position (being, you don’t act as though there is a God), the practical consequences of the fence-sitting devil’s advocate position on animal rights research should also be that you aren’t going to act otherwise, and that we have no grounds to do so. In that case, you are in practice, not any different from someone who actively asserts that human life is not morally distinguishable in any way from that of any other animal.

    False nuance is just as stupid as a false dichotomy, but it’s probably more annoying because it usually comes from people who like to sit on their fences and deliver smug diatribes to everyone who walks by. Here’s the reality check: you don’t look as clever as you think you do.

  225. #226 Becca
    November 5, 2007

    PZ,
    You’ve done a disservice to this debate by lumping people into a binary set of options- either into “ALF terrorists” or “people who agree with our departments policy”. There is (obviously) a wealth of opinions in between.
    Your department’s policy annoys me. For one thing, most of the arguments in favor of dissection apply as well or better to human cadavers- so why not use those?
    Or better yet, do what my biology teacher did… suggest people who don’t want you to kill an animal for them to bring any (relatively intact) roadkill to dissect.

  226. #227 greg
    November 5, 2007

    shiftlessbum – I am not equating all animal research to torture and murder. I just want us to be frank about what is being done to *some* animals. When you inject a higher ape with caustic pesticides, thats murder. When you lock an intelligent social animal in solitary confinement, that is torture. They only do that to the really really bad humans. Both are ample enough evidence of a lack of respect.

    As I said, I support animal research, there just needs to be a bit of sanity and humanity grafted into some of these practices. The objectivity that is so vital to good science makes the objectification of the research subjects far too easy.

  227. #228 LM
    November 5, 2007

    Hm. At my university, the animals we dissect are either from pounds (e.g., cats that nobody wanted and were thus euthanized), by-catch, or are invasive (lamprey). The animals would have died anyway; instead of wasting their bodies, they were used for dissection. Can’t see why anyone would object to that.

    I always told my students (I taught comparative anatomy for 5 years): “If you don’t like dissecting cats, I suggest you have your pets spayed/neutered.” The reason those animals were there is because of irresponsible people.

    Besides, the majority of my kids were pre-med or pre-vet. They MUST know how to dissect animals. And I think the pre-med kids have a gross human anatomy course where they dissect human cadavers, as well.

    Bringing in roadkill is not safe or sanitary. I don’t believe that would be sanctioned by my university. Animals used in labs must come from approved sources.

  228. #229 greg
    November 5, 2007

    “instead of wasting their bodies, they were used for dissection.”
    that makes a lot of sense. much better than simply being thrown into a dumpster.

    “If you don’t like dissecting cats, I suggest you have your pets spayed/neutered.”
    well said!

  229. #230 LM
    November 5, 2007

    Greg: Yeah, it was a way for me to get up on my soapbox… and I felt a little like Bob Barker. :)

  230. #231 Tuck
    November 5, 2007

    “You may value steak, but some consideration for the animal who owns that steak might be nice.”

    Why? Traditionally, cows are property. We buy, sell and trade animals as property. This principal is part of our tradition, defended by our courts, and codified in our law. You may argue that cows (or lab rats) can suffer, and therefore deserve a higher level of respect. However, it is a value judgment that I do not share.

    You may try to persuade me and others, or you may try to force me through government action to change my behavior. I hope that you might continue your campaign of suasion and leave the government out of it.

  231. #232 MartinM
    November 5, 2007

    Why? Traditionally, cows are property. We buy, sell and trade animals as property. This principal is part of our tradition, defended by our courts, and codified in our law. You may argue that cows (or lab rats) can suffer, and therefore deserve a higher level of respect. However, it is a value judgment that I do not share.

    Not so long ago, you could have made the same argument about women.

  232. #233 LM
    November 5, 2007

    Does it matter if an animal is legally considered “property”? My dog is my property, but I value him a lot more than I do my stereo or my car or hell, even my house.

    Point: MartinM!

  233. #234 Tuck
    November 5, 2007

    Yes MartinM, you could have. Morality is relative and fungible, and standards change over time. I think you lose this one, however.

    Feel free to argue otherwise, but at some point your chosen stopping point for dominion is as arbitrary as mine, and lacks the added benefit that I get to eat steak and you don’t.

  234. #235 LM
    November 5, 2007

    Tuck, ol’ buddy: You can eat steak and still have respect for the cow from whence it came.

  235. #236 Sven DiMilo
    November 5, 2007

    When you inject a higher ape with caustic pesticides, thats murder.

    Sorry, I missed that. Who is injecting “higher apes” (insert eye-roll here) with caustic pesticides? And why?

  236. #237 MartinM
    November 5, 2007

    It never ceases to amaze me how many people manage to confuse the statements ‘I think argument X for position Y is poor’ and ‘I reject position Y.’

  237. #238 Dustin
    November 5, 2007

    It never ceases to amaze me how many people manage to confuse the statements ‘I think argument X for position Y is poor’ and ‘I reject position Y.’

    And it never ceases to amaze me how many people there are like Bjørn Lomborg who disingenuously advance the first argument when they really endorse the second.

  238. #239 greg
    November 5, 2007

    Sven DiMilo – after it was discovered that chimpanzees were largely useless as an animal model for AIDS research many facilities dumped their apes on the white sands research facility in new mexico where they found creative yet lucrative uses for them – testing the toxicity of commercial pesticides among them.

    if you’re genuinely curious and not being snarky, you can read more in “Next of Kin” by Roger Fouts.

  239. #240 Sven DiMilo
    November 5, 2007

    I do appreciate the difficult-to-believe information.

  240. #241 RoyK
    November 5, 2007

    It was already mentioned that the claim that humans lives are more precious simply because we are humans also leads to the conclusions that people of the same culture as my own are more important to me than of foreign cultures. People from the same country are more important than from across the border. My family’s life is more important than my neighbor’s etc.
    Even though “Better you than me” makes sense on the most basic, primeval level, I fail to see how this frame of thought ever furthered the cause of making our lives here better. Justifying animal experimentation on the same basis is no different in my opinion.
    Very little medical and biological knowledge gain can justify the peril that enforcing these harmful perceptions may bring.

  241. #242 frog
    November 5, 2007

    Moses:
    “According to our US Laws, terrorism is: “…activities that involve violent… or life-threatening acts… that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State and… appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and… (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States… [or]… (C) occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States…”

    In terrorism, you don’t have to hurt people. Attacking property to leave a “political message” is also terrorism.”

    And you don’t see the danger in conflating attempts at mass-murder with vandalism? By that definition, the Boston Tea Party was a terrorist act. I would prefer that the first clause “activities that involve violent or …” be dropped. Terrorism should be something life threatening, or at least have a clear implicit threat against life. Was the Boston Tea Party a terrorist act?

    If these ALF guys are writing screeds threatening murder, they are then terrorists. But if they are not, and have carefully avoided risking life, they should not be assimilated in the borg of “Terrorism”. The government should not be using the same means to prosecute those who solely destroy property with those who are literally at war with us. Terrorism is an act of war, so the question is, are ALF and others at war with the rest of us, or are they simply costing us money? And to the children who think that the US is unusual in their response to “terrorism”, just look into British actions against the IRA, the French in their Algerian war, and so on and so forth in the long panoply of anti-terrorist actions by European nations.

    An over-reaction to the minimal case both undermines the fight against the maximal case by distracting us, and at the same time it widens the use of police powers to even wider cases. If any political violence is “terrorism”, then is a march a threat of terrorism? Will someone soon redefine a boycott as destruction of property? We should be very careful about who we pull out the big guns on. How soon before a graffito becomes an act of “terrorism” by destruction of property?

    When you use terrorism, you shouldn’t mean simple disruption, or cost. You shouldn’t mean just unease, a bit of fear for property. You should mean terror – “Someone is trying to kill me” kind of thing. Terror is the fear of the Klan in the night. Terror is Paris in the 1790′s. Terror is NY on 9/11. Anything else is a cheesy attempt to apply the methods that are reasonable under those conditions to all our opponents, which is an inherently unstable state of affairs. It’s hysterical (but terribly unfunny) to conflate someone who throws a rock through a business’s window during a march, with Osama and his ilk or an abortion clinic bomber who has killed people over a decade.

  242. #243 frog
    November 5, 2007

    On the other hand:
    RoyK: It was already mentioned that the claim that humans lives are more precious simply because we are humans also leads to the conclusions that people of the same culture as my own are more important to me than of foreign cultures. People from the same country are more important than from across the border. My family’s life is more important than my neighbor’s etc.
    Even though “Better you than me” makes sense on the most basic, primeval level, I fail to see how this frame of thought ever furthered the cause of making our lives here better. Justifying animal experimentation on the same basis is no different in my opinion.

    That is just plain stupid. Of course my family means more to me than someone on the other side of the planet. I (and everyone else) proves it every day by feeding their children first. Of course we are egocentric – we can’t help but be egocentric. My family first, then my friends, then my neighbors, then foreigners.

    That doesn’t mean that people on the other side of the world don’t matter, but they do matter less. Unless you live all alone, RoyK, you act as if those around you matter more than the rest of the human race. Unless you spend your time and energy evenly distributing your share over the entire human race, you live an egocentric life. Are you autistic?

    Treating the world as zero-sum may be stupid; but it is no stupider than pretending we don’t have a point of view, a self-interest, like some crazed monk who lives without self. It’s a lie. Looking at common interest can advance the world, but playing morally self-righteous and delusional games is no better than making believe in after-life fairy land.

    You can try to make the argument that both us and rabbits would be better off without animal-testing. Or that we wouldn’t lose close to as much as rabbits would gain. But to argue that we should consider the feelings of rabbits as much as we consider the feelings of our children is a monstrously inhuman (and inhumane) morality. Just like saying we should care more about what the fairies in the sky think about us than what our fellow men think of us.

  243. #244 Feline
    November 5, 2007

    Terrorism is an act of war

    No. But that assertion makes your trying to accuse others of aiding the US government in muddling the concept of terrorism hilarious.

  244. #245 Epistaxis
    November 5, 2007

    Can we drop the overused “terrorist” label?

    No, because then we’d have to call them “activists,” which is inaccurate. (Yet some people are doing that now, even before the anti-fascist thought police revoke our vocabulary.) There are a lot of perfectly reasonable, nonviolent animal-welfarists who don’t threaten to firebomb scientists. It’s unfair and offensive to put them in the same category as people-who-commit-acts-of-violence-to-intimidate-their-ideological-opponents (or whatever word I’m allowed to use).

    Maybe this will straighten things out: pro-life supporters vote against progressive candidates; pro-life activists carry signs at abortion clinics; pro-life terrorists murder doctors.

  245. #246 Michelle
    November 5, 2007

    The definition’s simple. Terrorists are people who try to control you with violence and by terrorizing you.

    People who destroy a scientist’s house (or anyone’s) are called terrorists. You can’t justify the vandalizing a house by saying it’s to “free the animals” since there’s no animals in the scientist’s house. It’s terrorism in its pure form.

    Darnit I hate animal hippies.

  246. #247 coathangrrr
    November 6, 2007

    Oh, I see. Here I was thinking that it was justified on the grounds that animal research was done under tightly controlled conditions for the purposes of alleviating human suffering which, after all, is much more acute on account of our unique level of cognition and, unlike the lab, not controlled in its scope or administration and actually a burden to the family of the afflicted, so not particularly limited to a single person.

    By that rationale it would be okay to experiment on old senile people who have no family. Or on those in vegetative states who have no family, perhaps more a appealing subject as they are bodily more healthy.

    Michelle:Terrorists are people who try to control you with violence and by terrorizing you.

    That’s a horrible definition of terrorism, as has already been discussed.

  247. #248 AJS
    November 6, 2007

    @Anne,

    Yes, I’m fully aware of that loophole. Most of the voluntary “not tested on animals” marks already applied by some manufacturers are based on neither the finished product nor any of the ingredients having been tested on animals within the last 5 years, and even then not at the request of the vendor applying the mark. (i.e., just because some other manufacturer tested an ingredient on animals doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get to use it.) I’d expect for any statutory labelling scheme to hold a similar standard (maybe even display a reference for the test results, so anybody who was curious could look them up?) and also to include mention of any (live or dead) animal-derived ingredients.

    So I say, put that labelling on, and label ALL the products that HAVE been tested on animals, rather than SOME of the products that HAVEN’T — and see what happens to sales figures.

  248. #249 jspreen
    November 6, 2007

    It’s pretty darned simple: we can’t figure out how something we don’t understand works without studying the subject.

    It’s exactly as simple as that. So study the subject, you dummy. Before you want to figure out something you should be clair about what you want to figure out. Animal research in this case is about human health care. So, before you start to torture and cut to pieces all kinds of living creatures, try to find out more about humans. There are so many things you can do and which will help you infinitely more to understand how it all holds together.

    For example, instead of mistreating animals to try to learn more about the role of HPV in cervical cancer, make a CT scan of any woman suffering from cervical cancer. You’ll find an oedema, a so-called Hamer Herd, in the left cerebral cortex. Then you should ask her: “What happened to you that was so bad?”. She’ll tell you about a traumatic experience with sexual connotation, “I found my husband in bed with another woman” or “I was sexually mistreated” or “My lover died ten years ago and I stumbled upon our love letters in january. I read them all, it was so horrible and beautiful at the same time, I’ve been crying for eight month now”.

    And then, instead of scaring people with your deadly cancer diagnose and poisoning them with the killer drugs you tested on mice, try to figure out the meaning of what you newly discovered. If you can’t get picture, don’t worry, I can explain more in detail.

  249. #250 MartinC
    November 6, 2007

    jspreen “If you can’t get picture, don’t worry, I can explain more in detail.”
    I honestly don’t think you need to elaborate any further.
    Yours is the most convincing argument against animal research so far in this thread.

  250. #251 Stephen Wells
    November 6, 2007

    Ah, jspreen arrives to claim that all disease is actually due to a lack of warm fuzzies. He was recently on Aetiology, arguing that Ebola is caused by (i) lack of selenium in the diet and (ii) being scared of people in virus-protection gear. “Doctor spreen! my internal organs are dissolving and I’m bleeding from the eyes!” “Hmm, that would be a nutritional problem, have a brazil nut.”

  251. #252 Stephen Wells
    November 6, 2007

    Oh, while he’s here: what’s the jspreen explanation for why the HPV vaccine is effective in reducing the incidence of cervical warts and precancerous lesions? Does it prevent people experiencing “traumatic experiences with sexual connotations?” And what happens if you ask people who _don’t_ have cervical cancer if they’ve had such experiences?

  252. #253 jspreen
    November 6, 2007

    Hey, Stephen Wells! Hey you there! Yes, you! Come over here and listen to me, you dummy! Instead of trying to rise and shine for sheepishly giggling herds of nerds, why don’t you have a look at that CT-Scan? After all, you guys always asking for evidence, isn’t that just the kind of thing you’ve been deperately waiting for all your life?

  253. #254 Stephen Wells
    November 6, 2007

    I know, you have a bunch of CT scans with obvious imaging flaws in them, and you’re interpreting the flaws as clinical signs. We’ve seen this before. I notice your complete inability to actually respond to obvious questions.

  254. #255 frog
    November 6, 2007

    Terrorism is an act of war

    Feline:
    No. But that assertion makes your trying to accuse others of aiding the US government in muddling the concept of terrorism hilarious.

    PZ really attracts the under-80 IQ crowd with this one. On the one hand, we’ve got folks like feline who want to use the term terrorism to mean things that would not cause terror in any rational person – who seem to be claiming with a straight face that the fear from a vandalized lab is of the same order as the fear from cross burning by the Klan (So nice to minimize real terror in the world). People who can not understand the very concept of war, which is the use of violence and terror (!!!) to control the political actions of others (Clausewitz, anyonone?). Who are so devoid of historical perspective that they fantasize that war is something other than the exact same actions as “terrorism”, but is generally applied to state-sponsored actions as opposed to insurgent actions. And are unable to recognize that the tools of war are and have always been used against those who are “terrorists”. These folks appear to believe in devils and demons.

    On the other hand are the animal welfare activists, who think that every archaea is precious, every archaea is good. That somehow we can magically understand the world without actually looking at it. And that somehow I should love a dung-beetle as much as my daughter. They believe in saints and bodhisattvas who would rather allow parasites to chew on their innards than injure the poor creature. We should abandon the illusion of distinction, and live on in a mythological universe (No such thing as HPV — it’s all a conspiracy, I tell ‘ya!)

    Then we have the wisdom of the Europeans, who aren’t responsible at all for American treatment of accused terrorists, so they shouldn’t be held to limiting the use of that word in light of the results. They pretend that during the last eight years, it hasn’t been the British, Spanish, Poles, …, who have been helping in the creation, transportation, and imprisonment of the US’s disappearance network. They’re “against” these things, but they still keep voting for governments that are deeply complicit with “American” muddling and meddling. By faith alone they can be forgiven of all their sins.

    Who needs God at all when we can all follow the exact same mindless theologies without him?

  255. #256 spurge
    November 6, 2007

    @ Frog

    If I came to work one day and found my lab destroyed and a note lets stating that it was destroyed because my work is immoral you damn well better believe I would feel terror.

    Not to mention the fact that the ALF terrorists destroyed someones HOME.

    The people who did that are terrorists. End of story.

  256. #257 coathangrrr
    November 6, 2007

    On the other hand are the animal welfare activists, who think that every archaea is precious, every archaea is good. That somehow we can magically understand the world without actually looking at it. And that somehow I should love a dung-beetle as much as my daughter.

    That is a very dishonest version of the argument I’ve been trying to make. I have never seen anyone talk about loving insects, in fact I’ve never seen anyone talk about who you should love. The argument is over who or what deserves to suffer for the betterment of humans*. I see no case that humans are better than animals in regards to who gets to suffer and others, most of you here and in the world likely, see animals’ suffering as being secondary to humans. I never once made the argument that animal testing is not useful or doesn’t teach us anything or can be replaced. I realize that there are some who do make this argument, but I think that it begs the question of whether it’s ok to inflict suffering on animals for humans’ good.

    *Not that all animal research causes suffering, mind you.

  257. #258 Dangerous Dan
    November 6, 2007

    Many objectors to animal research want an end to all animal research. This appears to require one of the following:
    1) an end to all surgical, medicinal and most biological studies.
    2) use of only humans (conscripts or volunteers) in surgical and medicinal studies.
    3) implementation or distribution of new surgical techniques and medicines with no prior testing. Which actually amounts to using the recipients of those new techniques and materials as test subjects, making this a subset of #2.

    If there is another alternative, I’d be surprised to read of it. Also, animal test objectors, remember that eliminating all animal testing also means no new drugs or treatments for veterinary patients. Or perhaps the most ardent animal lovers would have experimentation done on humans to develop treatments for animals?

  258. #259 jspreen
    November 6, 2007

    I know, you have a bunch of CT scans with obvious imaging flaws in them

    No Steven, I didn’t tell you to look at CT scans I might come up with, but at the CT scan you or any radiologist of your choice made of any woman suffering cervical cancer.

  259. #260 johannes
    November 6, 2007

    Pim Fortuyn was murdered by an animal welfare activist, lest we forget.

  260. #261 Lurchgs
    November 6, 2007

    LM,

    Just because it’s in the Bible (or whatever) doesn’t make it automatically wrong.

    Whether put her by somebody’s imaginary boogieman or evolved from pond scum, the fact remains, however, that animals – by definition – have no rights. If they had rights, they’d be [gasp] PEOPLE!

    They have no more inherent value than a hunk of granite. They only acquire value when man finds a use for them – and that value is directly in relation to their usefulness to humans.

    Any person who puts the value of an animal on a par, or ahead, of any given human is not elevating the animal, but devaluing the human. Man *IS* the best thing since sliced bread, and suggesting otherwise leads me to ponder what other values you might have wrong.

    However, you are missing an important point. While we have the right to do as we please, it is our responsibility to inflict pain only when we must. “Must” is defined as having to do with aiding the health and well-being of humans. Testing of cosmetics and other non-essential activities are abhorrent.

    Lest you think I hate animals.. I have three dogs and two cats. One of the dogs spent a weekend in the hospital in April. Said weekend cost me far far more than I could afford, and there is a possibility I might lose my house because of it.

    But is that dog my equal?

    Much as I love him, the answer is a resounding “Hell no”.

  261. #262 coathangrrr
    November 6, 2007

    Pim Fortuyn was murdered by an animal welfare activist, lest we forget.

    And Stalin was an atheist and was responsible for the death of millions.

  262. #263 jspreen
    November 6, 2007

    Oh, while he’s here: what’s the jspreen explanation for why the HPV vaccine is effective in reducing the incidence of cervical warts and precancerous lesions?

    Effective it is, you said? I’m all ears. But don’t give me shit about reducing warts and so. How about reducing the incidence of cervical cancer itself?

    Does it prevent people experiencing “traumatic experiences with sexual connotations?”

    Certainly not. That’s why I’m rather skeptic about the HPV vaccine. But in case it really was effective, I’d say it’s fantastic news, it really is!

    And what happens if you ask people who _don’t_ have cervical cancer if they’ve had such experiences?

    Well, what happens then is that you should say to yourself: “Hey! Things are very obviously not as simple at all as that crazy jspreen wants to make us believe. I’m not gonna let him get away with his nonsense that easily. I’m gonna ask for some explanation!” Upon which I will then explain to you that indeed, things are not that simple. At all. And then I will tell you about the cerebral cortex reactions being depended on the hormonal level and whether a person is left or right handed. Not that the last thing in itself is significant, but the laterality of a person gives capital information about how psyche, brain and organ are interconnected. The cervical cancer is typical for right handed females. A left handed woman would, among others, most likely become very depressed in the same situation.

  263. #264 ryan
    November 6, 2007

    I think a lot of people in here have been watching too many disney movies. Cats and Dogs dont’ actually sing and talk. They also don’t wonder about how much suffering the mouse is going through as they play with it before actually killing it.

    This is important medical research. There aren’t any evil scientists cackling about how killing 1 more bunny and the world will be mine!! This is about advancing our knowledge, and there just isn’t a better way to do it.

    Yes a human life is worth more than a pigs. Let’s be clear, I would happily strangle a pig with my bare hands to save a fellow human. I might even offer to cook it up and share.

    This is not disney world. We have to do tests to learn about diseases, cures, medicines, food, etc…

  264. #265 Dustin
    November 6, 2007

    And Stalin was an atheist and was responsible for the death of millions.

    But not for atheism, unlike the animal rights activists armed with molotov cocktails who kill people for animals, and pro-life crusaders armed with rifles who kill doctors on behalf of the partially gestated.

  265. #266 jspreen
    November 6, 2007

    We have to do tests to learn about diseases, cures, medicines, food, etc…

    True enough. The problem is though, that at best we learn nothing. Cancer research has made cancer a #1 problem and workaholic virologists together with World Hype Organizations stuff the news with about one new potentially lethal pandemic per month. This must be stopped!

  266. #267 ryan
    November 6, 2007

    “The problem is though, that at best we learn nothing.”

    Yes, that is clearly the best case scenario. Imagine a world where vaccines were created from research like this! Or insulin for diabetics! We could even learn how to do transplants! Or learn if drugs are safe!

    Oh, wait, right, that is what we do with it. No, “at best” we create a new drug, vaccine, food, or develop a new skill that will save countless human and animal lives in the future.

    The worse case scenario is we add something else that doesn’t work to the list. Kind of hard to test ideas…without… you know… testing them…

  267. #268 Dustin
    November 6, 2007

    Speaking of aborting the partially gestated, it’s time to get this blog up on stirrups and remove a pathogen theory of disease denialist.

    Jspreen has been trolling Tara Smith’s blog for a while now, and he’s every bit as bad as the recently disemvoweled Peter Moore.

  268. #269 frog
    November 6, 2007

    coathangrrr: I see no case that humans are better than animals in regards to who gets to suffer and others, most of you here and in the world likely, see animals’ suffering as being secondary to humans.

    I guess you’re not human? I always heard that no one can tell on the ‘nets if you’re a dog.

    Seriously, how can you advance with a straight face the belief that you don’t differentiate between the suffering of a human being and another kind of animal? I guess you also don’t differentiate between the right to be free from suffering between a chimp and a cow? Or a cow and a shrimp? Are you some kind of bodhisattva who has no point of view, who doesn’t care for your children more than the children on the other side of the planet?

    I simply find that position, at best, self-delusional. We are humans – we may not be “better” in some non-existent God’s point of view way, but we are clearly human beings and our first responsibility is to care for other human beings, then our closely allied species, outwards until we get to the level of all denizens of the global ecosystem in general. A little refinement of our thinking is in order, a little adulthood is required.

    Spurge: If I came to work one day and found my lab destroyed and a note lets stating that it was destroyed because my work is immoral you damn well better believe I would feel terror.

    Not to mention the fact that the ALF terrorists destroyed someones HOME.

    The people who did that are terrorists. End of story.

    End of story is a great argument. Easy to take that kind of statement seriously. But then you appear to be easily “terrorized”. You seem to think that the “terror” of finding your workplace destroyed is somehow similar to the real, actual terror felt by folks in NY on 9/11. Or Ugandans facing the Lord’s Resistance Army. Or Japanese after the Hiroshima attack. Or African-American’s facing a burning cross in the dark of the night after their relatives had been lynched. Those cases deserve the Terrorism label. Those cases should be responded against with our full strength, to the very limits of our legal system (and sometimes even beyond). A bunch of vandals destroying a lab? I think our regular punishments for property destruction are quite sufficient, but then I don’t seem to scare as easy as you do. We seem to have a lot of easy scaring going ’round now-a-days.

    Here is the common thread to both: an unwillingness or inability to make fine distinctions. A is bad, B is superficially similar to A, so B is just as bad as A. That’s the kind of Manichaean dualism we’ve inherited through Christianity/Islam from the late Roman empire, the kind of worshipping of Platonic abstractions rather than facing a fairly subtle and complex world with great variation. This disease is greater than the obvious disease of believing in fairies. What good does it do to stop believing in fairies if you still believe in fairyland?

  269. #270 coathangrrr
    November 6, 2007

    Dustin:But not for atheism, unlike the animal rights activists armed with molotov cocktails who kill people for animals, and pro-life crusaders armed with rifles who kill doctors on behalf of the partially gestated.

    Now that’s just stupid. The animal rights person in question didn’t kill “for animals,” he killed because he thought the guy was a fascist. In fact, I dare you to show me a case where animal rights activists have killed people for animals much less done it with molotovs.

    Frog:we may not be “better” in some non-existent God’s point of view way, but we are clearly human beings and our first responsibility is to care for other human beings, then our closely allied species, outwards until we get to the level of all denizens of the global ecosystem in general. A little refinement of our thinking is in order, a little adulthood is required.

    I’m sorry, but any time I read an argument that relies on that fact that one thing is “clearly” better than another I get suspicious. I can say that I am clearly male so my first responsibility is to care for other males, but that doesn’t make it true. Also, I never said that I don’t differentiate between the suffering of humans and animals, just that there is absolutely no logical, rational moral or ethical reason to do so, and that the arguments about the efficacy of animal research should not be prior to the discussion of whether it is moral but contemporaneous. This is one of the reasons that a dialogue is so difficult here, because people have these assumptions socialized into them, like the superiority of humans, and they simply don’t question them because they are “obviously true,” which means that I’m in the same position here as I am as an atheist talking to people who think the christian god is “obviously true” despite the fact that it is clearly a socialized belief.

  270. #271 frog
    November 6, 2007

    coathangrrr: I’m sorry, but any time I read an argument that relies on that fact that one thing is “clearly” better than another I get suspicious. I can say that I am clearly male so my first responsibility is to care for other males, but that doesn’t make it true. Also, I never said that I don’t differentiate between the suffering of humans and animals, just that there is absolutely no logical, rational moral or ethical reason to do so.

    You didn’t get the point, did you? It’s not about “being better” – that’s assuming a God’s eye viewpoint. It’s about recognizing your point of view. Your point of view is essential to logic, reason, morality and ethics.

    In point of fact, I don’t believe you when you say you don’t believe that there is no “moral” reason to differentiate between the suffering of humans and other animals. I doubt that you show such a belief in your actions; otherwise, people around you would find you to be a monster. Your real morality (as opposed to blatherings on threads) probably reflects exactly the fact that you are human, that you care for humans more than for other beings in general. If you act that way, why should we take your righteousness at all seriously? And if you don’t — well, you aren’t really worth talking to then. Even Francis of Assisi had more sense than that.

    Caring for other people, as opposed to insects, is not a socialized belief (unlike say caring for other’s with similarly shaped genitalia — silly strawman! Tricks are for Kids!). It is to be expected that members of any mammalian species would feel empathy primarily to others of their species, and mostly towards members of their own family. Morality is built on this natural wiring — it’s not based on airy-fairy abstractions like the Platonists would have you belief, but on the hard-won experience of countless generations, way back into the Jurassic and before.

    Expanding our sense of empathy is good. Pretending that empathy “shouldn’t” distinguish at all between our conspecifics and others is just insane and childish. If you believe that “morality” should somehow be disjoint from our natural wiring and our practical actions, then maybe you should be commenting on some Christian blog (Salvation by Faith Alone)? There’s much greater sympathy for abstractive masturbation there. Just don’t expect sympathy from those of us who take our responsibilities to our families, friends and neighborhoods seriously, in addition to feeling responsibility for the larger world, but in a sanely graduated way.

  271. #272 spurge
    November 6, 2007

    @ frog

    Differences in degree are not differences in kind.

    Destroying someones home to stop them from doing something you don’t like is terrorism.

  272. #273 frog
    November 6, 2007

    spurge:

    You don’t see the difference in kind between destroying property and killing people? The difference between burning down a house and sharp-shooting a doctor? You don’t see that differences in degree, of a large enough magnitude is a difference in kind?

    Haven’t you been paying attention to evolution – lots of small steps equal a big step?

    Look, someone stealing from me five dollars and someone stripping of everything, my home, my business, my clothes, would just be “a difference in degree.” But if you can’t see that those two cases are essentially different, different in response, different in implications, different in retribution, different in kind well, I’m simply speechless (except that of course I never am).

    You’re saying the same thing as the animal nuts do, don’t you see? They say “There’s only a 10% difference between a rhesus monkey and a human being – it’s only a difference of degree, so we’re duty bound to call them the same thing, suffering sentients.” That’s stupid when they do it, and it’s stupid when you do it. The world rarely affords us clear bright lines – we draw reasonable lines on a fairly ambiguous world.

    All in all, both you and coathangrrr make me despair for reason. Maybe we’d all be better off under some kind of enlightened theocracy, if this mediocrity is the alternative. It’s like arguing morality with kindergartners.

  273. #274 coathangrrr
    November 6, 2007

    You didn’t get the point, did you? It’s not about “being better” – that’s assuming a God’s eye viewpoint. It’s about recognizing your point of view. Your point of view is essential to logic, reason, morality and ethics.

    I did get the point, you want a naturalized morality as evidenced by your statements later on empathy. The problem is that you confuse ought and is. I do feel more empathy for humans than insects, I do feel more empathy for dogs than insects, but that doesn’t make it right. If I didn’t feel empathy at all then it wouldn’t make it moral for me to kill other people, which is essentially the argument you seem to be making.

    Morality is built on this natural wiring — it’s not based on airy-fairy abstractions like the Platonists would have you belief, but on the hard-won experience of countless generations, way back into the Jurassic and before.

    It’s statements like this that are the problem. You act as if evolution is a warrant for certain actions. By that rationale it’s ok for me to kill people if I have some genetic predisposition to do so, a position I reject.

    It’s like arguing morality with kindergartners.

    If you only knew how many papers I’ve read on ethics and morality in the last two weeks. This is why this place frustrates me sometimes; I don’t make claims about science I don’t understand, so why are all these scientists, most of whom haven’t read a lick of anything but pop philosophy for years pretending like they have some great moral argument that got missed along the way?

  274. #275 coathangrrr
    November 6, 2007

    Your real morality (as opposed to blatherings on threads) probably reflects exactly the fact that you are human, that you care for humans more than for other beings in general. If you act that way, why should we take your righteousness at all seriously?

    Um, that’s the stupidest argument ever. The rightness of an argument is not determined by the actions of those who put it forward.

  275. #276 AJS
    November 7, 2007

    The rightness of an argument is not determined by the actions of those who put it forward

    Remember that next time some funda-mentalist tries to tell you how either Darwin or LeMaître (they can never make their minds up which one) recanted on their deathbed.

  276. #277 coathangrrr
    November 7, 2007

    Or especially Flew, to give a recent example.

  277. #278 frog
    November 7, 2007

    Coathangrr, you want to play stupid games about “ought” and “is”? Platonists make me just sick, sick, sick.

    Ought can only be usefully used within the realm of reality. I can invent all kinds of self-consistent moralities that have absolutely nothing to do with reality.

    Your philosophy is nothing more than theology in disguise, giving out fantastic ideals that are in no way related to life as experience and acted. In short, nonsense.

    “The rightness of an argument is not determined by the actions of those who put it forward”.

    Ah, the old ad hominem nonsense – simple-minded “fallacies” for the simple-minded arguer. That may be applicable in a court of law, where the arguer is acting as an agent, or in scientific discussion where the reality being argued is primarily objective and independent of that arguer. But in real life moral and political issues, the reality of peoples actions speak much louder than the noises they make with their mouths. You want to spout “theoretical” arguments, then claim they are your beliefs.

    I say nonsense. Your beliefs are what you actually do, how the game is played in practice. Anything else is simple masturbation. Morality and politics are primarily about subjective experience – therefore the experiencer is at the center of the argument. There is no “circle” without a speaker; there is no “suffering” without empathy.

    That’s why most philosophers should simply be banned from talking about morality or politics. They make the fatal fallacy of all theologians of pretending that they are seeing shadows of reality on the wall. In these cases, the shadows are the reality.

    This has been well known since the beginning of the 20th century. It has infiltrated every field from physics to mathematics to even some philosophy. Yet some feels keep on pretending that they can apply 3rd century epistemologies.

  278. #279 coathangrrr
    November 7, 2007

    Platonist? There went any respect I might have had for you. You clearly don’t know what you are talking about.

  279. #280 frog
    November 8, 2007

    Then we are agreed, reciprocally. If you can’t differentiate the usage of Platonist to identify a specific ancient philosophical school, and the usage as applied to the general philosophic attitude of esteeming the abstract over the concrete, the ideal over the real, then you’re just one more technician, missing the substance of the conversation.

    Don’t feel too bad. Theology without a theos is hard to avoid after 2500 years of enculturation.

  280. #281 coathangrrr
    November 8, 2007

    If you can’t differentiate the usage of Platonist to identify a specific ancient philosophical school, and the usage as applied to the general philosophic attitude of esteeming the abstract over the concrete, the ideal over the real, then you’re just one more technician, missing the substance of the conversation.

    Don’t feel too bad. Theology without a theos is hard to avoid after 2500 years of enculturation.

    Sorry that you’re so unclear on things, but I understood what you were trying to say, you were just wrong.

  281. #282 Dustin
    November 8, 2007

    There went any respect I might have had for you.

    Devastating. I’m sure frog was desperately longing for the approval of a great big wanker and, now spurned, will spiral into a deep dark pit of depression.

  282. #283 Genevieve
    April 28, 2008

    Can’t believe one thread says animals have no rights unless humans give them rights, or that if an animal can’t communicate their right then it does not exist. A mentally disabled person and a new born baby cannot communicate their rights and are also not self aware but of course they have rights, because we have respect for them. Animals suffer and they show us they don’t want to suffer, that is enough to deserve rights.

    There is no logical justification to favour a human being’s suffering as being more important, but it is our instinct that ensures the survival of the species. A pig is more important to a pig, but that should not give us full license to disregard the suffering of animals for profit just because we are self aware.

    The fact is there are many animal researchers who are hardened to animals who suffer in the lab. Money talks, no matter how much protocol there is, abuse happens behind closed doors not just for animals, the way we treat humans for money is another example.

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