Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Speaking of Research

Speaking of Research is apparently a de facto synonym for Pro-Test, which I have mentioned before. I like Speaking of Research. Really. You have to give credit where credit is due, and even though I find the actions of the folks lending their names to the group depraved, I appreciate and admire their willingness to say publicly that they think experimenting on animals is a good thing. I don't admire their morality and paper-thin ethics, but I admire their gumption.

I'd admire them more if they'd describe exactly what it is that they are defending doing to the animals, but that might take more gumption than they've got.

The question of whether their research has, ever will, or even can lead to improvements in human medical care is an interesting intellectual question. Pursuing this question in an honest and broad manner requires a close look at the history of medicine, some study of the genetics underlying evolution, and the problems associated with models of complex systems. These are all interesting and engrossing areas of study, and taken together they contribute a few footnotes to the overarching matter of how we should interact with each other.

Speaking of Research bases its claim that we can dismiss any notion that the animals have a right not to be hurt and killed with an argument presented here.

It's not a very compelling argument, but at least they are making some attempt to defend their actions. I doubt though that they do the things they do because of any real belief in the claims in this argument. If these claims were disproved, they'd likely just come up with a different excuse and defense for the suffering they inflict.

They imply that it is the human invention of rights that makes it wrong to do the things to humans that they think are ok to do to other animals because these other animals can't understand the concept of rights or the duties that they believe are unavoidably required in order to enjoy or deserve rights.

They say: "With a right comes a duty."

But this isn't true. The Declaration of Independence famously says: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Likewise, the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that the "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world."

In neither case is it claimed that these rights are dependent on meeting some imagined duty. Our most basic rights are acknowledged widely to be unalienable, inalieable, and that we are born with them (long prior to being able to meet any duties).

If it isn't true for humans, why should other animals be required to scale a higher hurdle? The notion that rights exist only so long as obligations or duties are met seems a nefarious effort to disenfranchise individuals and groups who might be construed as being unable to rise to some invented challenge; this reminds me of the now unlawful literacy tests that were used to bar blacks from voting in the South. If they can't read, how will they be able to perform the duties we require of them?

Speaking of Research isn't certain whether it is the attention to duties they claim bestow rights or whether, as they also claim: “It is the power for entirely autonomous thought and action which grants rights to human, uniquely among all animals."

I like this claim. I have no idea why any informed or thoughtful person would think this, but it sounds so highfalutin. I wonder whether they think Rush Limbaugh's dittoheads have rights? I wonder where they get the idea that humans are entirely autonomous in thought and action, but that absolutely no other animals are? Not from science or history, that’s obvious. Maybe there is some secret authoritative holy text that they refer to for guidance on these matters.

Speaking of Research, like everyone else who makes such silly arguments, invents them to explain why torture is a good and wholesome practice that we should be happy to support. They can’t believe their arguments; they are so often just too outlandish.

See for instance the wildly entertaining Why Animal Experimentation Matters: The Use of Animals in Medical Research. Ellen Frankel Paul and Jeffrey Paul, editors, The Social Philosophy and Policy Foundation and Transaction Publishers, 2002, and my crushing rebuttals to the essays: “Animal experimentation and human rights.” Human Rights Review, June, 2003.

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