Thanks for posting this Nick, it's certainly exciting to see animal research being explained so well on YouTube.
Hopefully Speaking of Research will be able to repeat the success of Pro-Test in the UK and break the spell of violence and intimidation that dissuades most scientists in the US from explaining to the public how important animal research is to medical progress.
It's time to stop dishonest creeps like Jerry Vlasak and the hooded cowards he claims to speak for from using threats and vandalism to force their opinions on society.
Hello. I am a first time poster. I am an atheist (never believed any of the nonsense that religion tries to force upon people). I am a feminist (equality for all).
And I am an animal rights activist.
Before I continue, I would like to make it abundantly clear that I would never ever condone the actions of extremists who very often give the rest of us a bad name. I would never support PETA either, due to their belief that animal rights should come before all other rights and frequently use sexist images to try and sell their message. I consider that despicable. No, I consider a true animal rights activist someone like Dr. Peter Singer.
I almost always side with science on the issues. Now, do not hold it against me, but I was never a good student when it came to science. However, I have always been able to recognize a logical argument. I find beauty in science, even when I do not fully understand it.
I think it rather sad that for all the good it does, science and those in the scientific field, often feel the need to be so dismissive towards animal rights activists. I cannot tell you how many times I get a condescending response when I dare try to offer another point of view. I am more then happy to debate so long as my opponent grants me the same respect that I give him or her. I am getting off topic, though.
This idea that somehow humans are superior and therefore our suffering trumps all is a rather disturbing way of thinking. I always thought science was about doing the least harm while trying to achieve the greatest good. Millions of animals are exploited every day and the only justification I have heard so far is, Well, they do not matter because they do not understand like we do. OK, so why not experiment on infants? Animals have at least as much cognitive ability as infants, if not more. But this is seen as barbaric simply because the infant is human, which is now a rationalization for speciesism.
Why is it that animal suffering is not taken into account? I thought science was also about discovering better alternatives.
I thought I'd address a few of your points, especially since I had the benefit of speaking to Singer after a lecture (about 6 months ago) on the issue of animal research.
"I always thought science was about doing the least harm while trying to achieve the greatest good"
No, science is about discovery, Utilitarianism is about trying to achieve the greatest good with the least harm. If science took a utilitarian approach we would not be spending billions of dollars with NASA while millions of people around the world are starving. Science has both benefited (discovery of penicillin) and hurt (atomic bomb development) mankind, although you could equally argue that science is neutral - while its application is not (i.e. learning how to make a nuclear weapon is not necessarily negative - it's the use of such technology that is).
"Millions of animals are exploited every day and the only justification I have heard so far is, Well, they do not matter because they do not understand like we do. OK, so why not experiment on infants? Animals have at least as much cognitive ability as infants, if not more. But this is seen as barbaric simply because the infant is human, which is now a rationalization for speciesism."
Inter temporal rights. We were not killed for food as a child, so we agree (informally) not to kill other children for food.
If you want the utilitarian version - children have a much larger potential for happiness (Singer agrees) over their lifetime than other animals (due to better future cognitive ability).
Non-utilitarian (other than inter temporal rights) - we feel we have a greater responsibility to children, being of our kind (in the same way no one objects to "family-ism", putting family before strangers).
Singer famously said he agreed with Tipu Aziz's monkey experiments becase the benefit was greater than the cost. Being as the conclusion of any science is not definite - it might be a cure for cancer, it might not be - if you regard the overall benefit (all medicine) worth the lives/sufering of all animals used (3 million per year in UK), then you can justify it all based on utilitarianism.
All being said and done, Utilitarianism is scary - it can be used to justify the murder of a minority for the benefit of a majority.