Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why does Dario Ringach hate people? Or,

Back to the burning building.

The keystone of Dario Ringach's claim about his intuitive sense that we ought to always choose a human over another animal was illustrated by him at his recent lecture in Madison. He showed a slide that looked something like this this:

He makes the simple claim that the only moral option would be to save the child from the burning house and leave the mouse behind to be burned to death.

That's fine, but he could have used other examples, like this one:

A more germane image would have been one like this:

Ringach says things like: "... those working with animals also feel in such a way, but they also feel for the mothers that fight breast cancer, the children with leukemia, the elderly with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s."

"While searching for answers to difficult problems (such as developing a cure for cancer), it is expected for many paths to lead to dead ends..."

"... cancerous tumors can certainly be grown in humans as they are in mice, but we do not consider the practice morally acceptable."

"... if you learn that a member of your family has terminal cancer, you will suffer in ways that a mouse cannot comprehend. If you are exposed to the sights of millions of children with AIDS in Africa, you will suffer in ways monkeys cannot understand. This is real suffering and it should matter to you."

And he is entitled to his opinions. But his frequent appeals to mothers, children, and cancer, particularly cancer, are indeed odd when considered against the backdrop of his own research. Interestingly, when he was asked various questions, he said more than once something like: "Well, I don't do those things," or "I'm not talking about product testing on animals." Indeed. But he wasn't talking about the things he does do either. This image fairly demonstrates his actual practice:

It looks like the hundreds or thousands of humans in the burning skyscraper matter less to Ringach than the people who might be trapped in the smoking house. He must really hate people. Why else would he decide to spend his time working on theoretical details about ocular dominance rather than try to find a way to cure some mother's baby of cancer? Why does he talk primarily about the diseases that frighten people rather than his actual work? Maybe he intuitively recognizes that most people wouldn't be so quick to choose the human over a mouse, or a dog?

Since about 2000, according to the National Institutes of Health, Dario Ringach has recieved about $5 million in taxpayer dollars to investigate "the nature of ongoing cortical activity, what it represents, and how it interacts with external stimuli to generate a "real-time" response in primary visual cortex." From: 5R01EY012816: QUANTITATIVE STUDIES OF CORTICAL VISUAL PROCESSING. $2,839,896.


"A hallmark of primary visual cortex is its organization into maps of visual space, orientation and ocular dominance. Despite remarkable advances in our ability to measure the structure of cortical maps and their mutual relationships, many important questions remain unanswered. How do these maps develop? Why are maps missing in some species? What role do maps play, if any, in cortical computation? The central goal of our research is to seek answers to these fundamental questions of cortical development, organization and function that have eluded us for decades." From: 5R01EY018322: THEORETICAL STUDIES OF VISUAL CORTEX. $2,083,837.

According to the National Federation for the Blind the number of non-institutionalized, males or females, of all ages, all races, regardless of ethnicity, with all education levels in the United States reported to have a visual disability in 2011 were:

Total: 6,636,900
Age 18 to 64: 3,372,400
Age 65 and older: 2,743,600

About 1.2 million people in the U.S. die each year from cancer or heart disease.

No one dies from a visual disability.

Taking him at his word, he'd rush into a burning building and save a child rather than a mouse. But the implication of his actions is that he'd rush into a burning house rather than a burning skyscraper, no matter the number of people who might suffer the consequences of his ethical intuition. It looks to me like his intuition might be colored by the millions of dollars that he thinks is stuffed under the mattress in the house. He studies the arcane details of animals' brains, but defends his choices with appeals to mothers and cancer. It's dishonest, but if he actually used his own work to justify his industry's cruelty, well, even he seems to be less than convinced.


Gina said...

"It looks to me like his intuition might be colored by the millions of dollars that he thinks is stuffed under the mattress in the house."

Great analogy.

There are many better things he could be doing with his time and research money if he did care about humans. How many humans die of starvation or sanitation issues every year?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Rick this article was a real eye opener. The interesting thing is we are always referring to the after. I mean we spend billions looking to cure cancer, yet nothing to prevent it. We know now we can by diet, exercise and learning from other cultures such as the Okinawan's. There will never be a one pill cure and as time goes by the public is realizing this. Even Jim Newman w/ OHSU made a comment about the fact there will never be an actual pill that cures Cancer, Alzheimer's, Dementia...As for the burning house, I have prevention implemented for me and my animals. I have smoke detectors and test them regularly. I have readily available (2) fire Extinguishers, I have goggles, and a filter mask. I have escape routes planned for me and my cats. Prevention, just like I am doing with my diet and exercise, I am 45 years old with the good health of a 25 year old. The parent of that burning house should have worked more so on prevention. That way a choice doesn't have to be made. After all the parent can't complain any more so than if the child was a diabetic and the parent let her eat sweets and fast food that most likely would kill her. Sorry to sound cold, I'm tired of animals paying the price of egregious tests because humans make choices that they want everyone else to pay for. Why should a beagle suffer because someone drinks, smokes and is over weight? They made the choice they should live with it. Should the child suffer for this? Of course they shouldn't but all too often they do. Dario is bitter, confused and becoming desperate because he knows like so many others that the public is less supportive towards animal testing and moving into the direction of prevention and alternatives.

S Earlene Baty