Nature interview of the UCLA neuroscientist bombed by ARA wackanuts

Apr 15 2009 Published by under Animals in Research

Nature has an interview of neuroscientist J. David Jentsch, Ph.D. who received a recent visitation from the extremist terrorist arm of the Animal Rights movement.

"It was 4 a.m. on Saturday 7 March. I was awakened by a loud bang; then I heard the car alarm go off. I went to the window and saw my car on fire. I ran outside to try to put it out, using a fire extinguisher and a garden hose. It was impossible. The gas tank had exploded. When the windows started exploding, I got out of there. The fire got into the trees. If this was July in fire season, I don't want to even think about what would have happened. It would have been an enormous fire with many homes threatened. No one was injured."

As I noted before, this led to the formation of a UCLA chapter of Pro-Test which will be staging a rally in support of animal research on the UCLA campus on April 22. If you are within handy driving distance and can spare the time, please attend. If you are not near UCLA but are on Facebook please consider joining the UCLA Pro-Test Facebook group. One of the primary goals of Pro-Test is to make the supporters of animal research more visible so as to counter the numerically much smaller but more publicly vocal ARA terrorists and supporters. Increasing the membership on Facebook will help with this goal.
Related: The LA Times published a bit on this April 13.
Update: Professor Jentsch on KABC 790 podcast.

43 responses so far

  • jrshipley says:

    Do you refer to al Quaeda as "the extreme terrorist arm of the Muslim religion"? I'm reminded a bit of rightwingers that suggest all Muslims are minimally terrorist sympathizers. There's no mistaking the intent of phrasing things as you have done. Why can't you simply condemn the perpetrators of the crime without trying to discredit all people with concern for animal rights through guilt by association?
    As some one that takes seriously the notion that we have some moral obligations to any sentient creature, I kind of resent feeling like I'm being lumped in with terrorists. Furthermore, you undermine your credibility when you use that kind of rhetoric. Are the disturbing videos I've seen the exception or the rule? I would like to believe that animal welfare is indeed a concern of most researchers, that care is taken to prevent as much suffering as can be prevented, and that research on animals is only done when strictly necessary for a greater good. However, your suggestion that anyone who cares about animal rights is somehow aligned with extremists suggests a rather dismissive attitude among researchers, which in turn makes their testimony about lab conditions untrustworthy. To be sure, I don't really trust radicals, extremists, or terrorists either. The rhetoric and behavior on both sides makes it difficult for persons of good faith that accept the mere moral considerability of all sentient life to get the facts straight.

  • Concern for animal welfare is, of course, completely mainstream and ethically required. Animal rights, however, is a completely different issue. Your eliding these two very things is either ignorant or disingenuous.

  • becca says:

    CPP-BS (again).
    Some of us happen to believe that animals have natural rights but have no wish to be lumped in with terrorists.
    I also believe humans have natural rights, but am not about to deal with human rights abuses by bombing anybody.

  • CPP-BS (again).
    Some of us happen to believe that animals have natural rights but have no wish to be lumped in with terrorists.

    What the fuck are you talking about? I didn't say anything about "lump[ing animal rights] with terrorists". All I said is that concern for animal welfare and animal rights are two totally different things, and that concern for animal welfare is completely mainstream and ethically required. You really gotta work on your reading comprehension.

  • Cleveland says:

    The fact that you don't "wish" to be lumped in with terrorists is irrelevant.
    Do you support them monetarily by giving to front groups?
    Do you support them philosophically and in the PR ground game by concern trolling and other disingenuous techniques to suggest that animal research is something other than it is?
    Do you take every opportunity to forthrightly oppose the terrorists or do you argue against those who oppose the terrorists, trying to undercut their standing to criticize the terrorism?
    Those are the kind of questions you need to answer, until then Becca-BS (first time I believe).

  • DM, thank you for posting this. As someone who both does animal research AND cares deeply for animals, I have been waiting for someone to stand up to this terroristic bullshit and cease slinking away into the night, as if WE are the ones who are fucked up. Kudos to Jentsch.

  • Dr Jekyll & Mrs Hyde says:

    I think becca's point might be--where does the concern for animal welfare derive from, if one hasn't concluded that animals do have certain rights? I think the major reason to treat animals humanely, insofar as possible, is that they have the right to be treated as well as they can be within an experimental paradigm.
    I know perfectly well that IACUC offices everywhere make the distinction between welfare and rights, but like Becca I find it a bit arbitrary.

  • I think becca's point might be--where does the concern for animal welfare derive from, if one hasn't concluded that animals do have certain rights?

    A concern for animal welfare can be grounded in the fact that, as best we can tell, some animals can experience suffering, coupled with the desire to minimize suffering. This means of grounding concern for animal welfare is completely orthogonal to the question of whether animals have rights.

  • becca says:

    Let’s review:
    DM: “One of the primary goals of Pro-Test is to make the supporters of animal research more visible so as to counter the numerically much smaller but more publicly vocal ARA terrorists and supporters.”
    jrshipley: “Why can't you simply condemn the perpetrators of the crime without trying to discredit all people with concern for animal rights through guilt by association?”
    CPP: “Concern for animal welfare is, of course, completely mainstream and ethically required. Animal rights, however, is a completely different issue. Your eliding these two very things is either ignorant or disingenuous.”
    Reading comprehension generally improves when writing that actually says what it means:
    Dictionary.com: “e•lid•ed, e•lid•ing, e•lides
    a. To omit or slur over (a syllable, for example) in pronunciation.
    b. To strike out (something written).
    c. To eliminate or leave out of consideration.
    d. To cut short; abridge. “
    How can someone elide two things (well ok, I can see how they could… but jrshipley was obviously not leaving out of consideration both animal rights and animal welfare)? I can see conflating two things, which would elide an important distinction between them. I presumed you thought jrshipley conflated animal welfare and animal rights, and was either ignorantly defending animal welfare using the term “rights”, or disingenuously using the fairly innocent-sounding phrase “people with concern for animal rights” as masked reference to a group of people you consider to be more sinister (terrorists?). Neither assumption is needed.
    Pedantic points aside- concern for animal rights and opposition to terrorism are perfectly consistent.
    Cleveland- sigh Your argument boils down to "you say you support something that bad people support, therefore you have to prove you're not a bad person!!!!!!"
    It's a categorization mistake.
    I also do animal research, so it's a particularly absurd categorization mistake.*
    *If anyone finds "I support animal rights" and "I do animal research" to be incongruous, I ask how does "I support human rights" and "I do human research" work out then?

  • jrshipley says:

    I don't think the line is perfectly clear, though have to admit ignorance of the relevant literature in ethics.
    In any case, I'll try to say something in response to the criticism that I've elided/conflated an important distinction. I had in mind the right not to be capriciously abused as more or less in line with a concern for welfare. Anyhow, I don't have settled meta-ethical views, and I kind of vacillate between varieties of consequentialism and antirealism. I suspect that if you're more sympathetic to a deontological meta-ethics you would make more of a concern for welfare vs. rights distinction.
    I wanted to see what Singer says, since he's a consequentialist (of the utilitarian variety) who sometimes speaks of rights. A googling turned this up:
    "Obviously nonhuman animals cannot have equal rights to vote and nor should they be held criminally responsible for what they do. That is not the kind of equality I want to extend to nonhuman animals. The fundamental form of equality is equal consideration of interests, and it is this that we should extend beyond the boundaries of our own species. Essentially this means that if an animal feels pain, the pain matters as much as it does when a human feels pain—if the pains hurt just as much. How bad pain and suffering are does not depend on the species of being that experiences it."
    Singer's form of consequentialism is, I gather, a hedonistic utilitarianism. According to his point of view rights are derivative from concern for interests and interests are defined (hedonistically) in terms of pleasure and pain. This view is attractive to me, though I have some naturalistic/physicalistic biases that tend towards antirealism about normative discourse: i.e., am hesitant to call philosophical any analysis of normative language "true" in the sense of describing mind-independent properties.

  • jrshipley says:

    I suppose confessing antirealist tendencies takes some of the air out of my professed taking "seriously the notion that we have some moral obligations to any sentient creature". Nobody said squaring your ethical convictions with your meta-ethical tendencies was easy.

  • Didac says:

    Good idea, let's throw out pain research based on animal models altogether. People, animals don't have rights. They do deserve to be cared for humanely. That is not the same as saying they have RIGHTS.

  • jrshipley says:

    Writing a word in capital letters doesn't make your intended meaning any clearer. Some one might say that the concept of "deserving" something is actually stronger than having a "right" to it, in the following sense: to deserve something there must be some achievement in virtue of which is is deserved, but you can have a right to something without any special achievement. On your view, Didac, in virtue of what achievement ought animals be cared for humanely? Or isn't it something that to which they just have a right to? Or do you intend something differently by the words "deserve" and "right"? It isn't clear to me what you MEAN in your post.

  • Didac says:

    All caps in my previous post was to be in place of italics.
    Detracting from the main issue is totally unhelpful, isn't it, jrshipley? Or did you somehow mean to display some sort of online superiority..?
    It is true that animals should not be tortured or simply neglected in terms of daily care. If you did not get it from my very clear example above, in many instances, such as pain research, models in which pain is experienced by the animals are the only way to address neurological mechanisms (and future treatments) for pain. We cannot do experiments on humans in which pain, coma, or death is the endpoint. This is but one example, but I'm really hoping you see my point. All caps or not.
    Humans have rights but animals do not.

  • Leslie says:

    IACUC analyst checking in here. Jrshipley, I hear concerns like yours all the time. I totally get it. You haven't been inside my animal facility. We certainly don't let anyone unauthorized in (more for Q fever risk and less for security) How can the public trust the humane conditions of animal care if they feel the research community is being secretive and, as you say, dismissive.
    In my personal experience, PI's are some of the worst communicators I've ever met. Sorry PI's, but I have spent endless hours rewriting your protocols. Also, I imagine it's not the responsibility of the PI to explain their protocols to the public. That's what the IACUC is for. I have seen very few community outreach programs that do an adequate job of the quacking done on the animal rights side of things.
    So here's the catch-22. How do we involve the public at large in laboratory animal research without giving potential ammunition to the people who have repeatedly keyed my car (true story)? They say that if a picture is worth a thousand words then a picture taken out of context is worth thousands more, and they aren't usually the right ones.
    Whenever I see the "This is Vivisection" poster of the NHP in a restraint device I can't help but remember a time my sister had me take my 2 and a half year old niece to a doctor's appointment she couldn't make at the last minute. It turns out they needed a substantial blood sample for whatever test they were doing for my underweight-at-the-time niece. Once the needle and the nurse came in it was all over, total anxiety meltdown. After 20 minutes of her crawling up my legs, hiding under furniture and screaming bloody murder the nurse says to me, "okay you're going to have to hold her....I mean really hold her tight we have to get this done with her still" Had you started filming me at that point on with absolutely no context, my niece writhing and thrashing in my arms and me forcefully restraining her for a medical procedure, you could be led to believe I was torturing her. You would have me arrested if you had seen what my niece looked like at that moment in time in my care.
    This may be a weak metaphor, but really I think why animal research is so hidden is because to explain what each procedure in these disturbing videos you claim to have seen are would take a lifetime. Because so much of what exists in medicine and research is aesthetically horrifying we tend to shield others from it. The truth is actually much less sensational as the ALF would have you believe.
    The IACUC, laboratory animal veterinarians, and research staff take animal welfare extremely seriously. I've never met anyone that could be described as "dismissive". We could all communicate with each other better, though.
    Clearly I need to work on being more concise as this has gone on forever.

  • Leslie, it's great to have a professional commenting. What's your take on the rights vs welfare issue we're discussing? Is it just a semantic line, or is there a way to clarify it?

  • I meant "elide the distinction between rights and welfare".

  • jrshipley says:

    Leslie, thank you for the thoughtful response. Your point about the necessities of restraint is well taken. Even if this is sometimes necessary, however, the claims that I have read about day-to-day conditions for animals (like lack of space and stimulation) are equally if not more disturbing. As I said before, I have a hard time sorting through who to take as credible in these debates, so I'm not expressing full belief in the content of these claims just that I find them disturbing if true. I appreciate your recognition of the need to improve communication, and (as I do in all things) I will continue to get as much information as time allows on the issue.

  • jrshipley says:

    Didac, sorry for the snarky tone of my last post to you. I see that I may have come across rude. The point I was making was one made by a former philosophy professor who told me italics don't make terms any clearer. That is, I'm still not entirely clear on the distinction between rights and concern that you would like to draw. On the view expressed in the quote from Singer, with which I expressed some sympathy, rights are derived from concern for interests (which would include welfare). My point was just to press you to make clearer the distinction you wish to draw.
    Maybe I can tease it out from the example you give regarding pain research. Is your point this: We should not cause animal pain for no reason whatsoever, but any amount of animal pain (no matter how great) in justified to alleviate any amount of human pain (no matter how relatively small). In this case, concern for welfare is expressed by non-capriciousness, but stops as soon as a legitimate human end is introduced? If this is the distinction you wish to draw then I understand it but also find it top rest on a hopelessly ad hoc anthropocentrism. Our moral regard for humans is in virtue of properties that humans have other than simply that they are a certain species: properties like capacity for pain, capacity to form emotional bonds, or for reflection and reason perhaps. Animals, it seems to me, have these properties in varying degrees. So, I can't avoid feeling that some degree of moral regard for animals is required on analogy with my regard for humans. But if this is the case then I can't accept that copious animal suffering is permissible to relieve even the slightest human pain.
    Singer writes "if an animal feels pain, the pain matters as much as it does when a human feels pain". I don't know that I agree with "as much", but I would agree that it matters in a proportion fixed by the degree to which the organism possesses those properties I find morally relevant. That is, I can't abide treating animals as mere ends. Some animal suffering may be justifiable to alleviate human suffering, but as we ascend from rats to chimps my concern increases.
    In any case, my point in pressing for clarification of the distinction you wish to draw was to avoid attacking a straw man, so please correct me if you did not have in mind an ad hoc anthropocentrism. I mentioned my naturalist/physicalist biases previously. I have a hard time accepting that in addition to having things like hair, skin, lungs, hearts, etc. humans also have a thing called "rights". So, I find consequentialist accounts like Singer's more attractive than deontological accounts, which I find both mystifying and mystical. But again, meta-ethics isn't exactly my gig so I may be missing something important.

  • whimple says:

    Good idea, let's throw out pain research based on animal models altogether.
    Yes, this is a possibility that some people are willing to consider, the sarcastic tone of the statement notwithstanding. The best refutation would be evidence that pain research based on animal models has directly resulted in improvements in pain management in animals (including humans as animals).
    How about it pain researchers? Can you compile a quickie list of such instances? Even stipulating that the ends can be used to justify the means, if causing pain to animals is "bad", then this research is going to need to demonstrate that it is "worth it". There's a lot of arguing over how bad the badness is, but not a lot arguing over how good the goodness is. In the absence of a list of pain research successes, a cynic might suppose this is because there in fact isn't any good that has resulted from this research.

  • Ria says:

    In response to jrshipley, I'm not convinced that using Peter Singer's philosophy is valid when examining issues such as rights, concern for the wellbeing of other entities (be they human or non-human animal), or justification for a particular ethical more. He's rather... extreme in his views. I think that the description of Singer's philosophy as "hedonistic utilitarianism" is more generous than Singer deserves. Rather, his philosophy could be termed simply hedonistic (concerned entirely with pain and pleasure of the morally acting agent, in a sense, amoral). His position (as referred to by jrshipley) on animal welfare appears to be inconsistent with his perspective on human welfare during any time when a human is unable to exhibit rationality. See below from his Practical Ethics (1993) pp175-213
    "In Chapter 4 we saw that the fact that a being is a human being, in the sense of a member of the species Homo sapiens, is not relevant to the wrongness of killing it; it is, rather, characteristics like rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness that make a difference. Infants lack these characteristics. Killing them, therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings, or any other self-conscious beings. This conclusion is not limited to infants who, because of irreversible intellectual disabilities, will never be rational, self-conscious beings. We saw in our discussion of abortion that the potential of a fetus to become a rational, self-conscious being cannot count against killing it at a stage when it lacks these characteristics - not, that is, unless we are also prepared to count the value of rational self-conscious life as a reason against contraception and celibacy. No infant - disabled or not - has as strong a claim to life as beings capable of seeing themselves as distinct entities, existing over time."
    The discussion of rights has grown very muddied by postmodern assertions of human rights for anything contributing to enhanced quality of life. Original concern for "rights" dealt with those that were "inalienable" meaning that they could not be transferred from one moral agent to another (humans... since thus far, no animal has been shown to demonstrate a sense of moral concern, although there is plenty of room for that to be reevaluated). The concept of rights applying to animals appears to be based upon human conferral to animals of some moral status.
    Concern for animal welfare is a reflection of the morality of the human involved in the interaction. It is not something inherent to the animal(s) in question, but is rather an inherent quality to the moral agent (human). It thus makes sense to "rank" moral goods, with those directly impacting humans as more significant than those affecting the non-moral agent (animal). Ethics is the process of determining how best to rank goods defined by the moral beliefs of the population (not any single person). Therefore, I'm not sure how a fully rational ethical system can equate animal "rights" to increased goods (ie: reduction or cessation of pain is a good example) for humans.

  • becca says:

    We interrupt this very excellent serious conversation for a moment of levity.
    A quote I ran across yesterday:
    "the case of a life well-spent repeatedly pushing a button that would give an orgasm to every bunny in the world as a counterexample to hedonistic utilitarianism"
    (from http://uncommon-priors.com/?p=2214, via Razib)
    / tangent

  • jrshipley says:

    Ria, labeling Singer "extremist" does nothing to reply to his position or arguments. There are many positions that we now accept that were formerly extremist. Further, I'm not sure what you're getting at by dropping "utilitarian" out of the characterization of his position. In any case, any plausible utilitarianism would distinguish between base pleasures and higher pleasures, as Mill did in response to the objection that he was providing a "pig ethics". I'm not sure that Singer does this adequately, which is why I called his utilitarianism "hedonistic" and also why I said I'm not sure I agree with "as much" consideration, suggesting instead consideration in proportion to the degree to which the creature has certain relevant properties, including capacity for reflection and rationality in addition to capacity for pleasure and pain.
    Moreover, I didn't simply cite Singer as an authority so I'm not sure I even get the point of the way you responded. I cited Singer as a way of making the point that the distinction being drawn between concern and rights had not been made clear. I tried to give some reasons for thinking that it would be difficult to make clear for anyone with a naturalistic/physicalist metaphysics.
    My position (and Singer's) has absolutely nothing to do with postmodernism. I might be open to a charge of "scientism" for my suspicion of non-natural properties; and, ironically, this is just the sort of charge I might face from a post-modernist critic of my metaphysical outlook. In any case, there are more than just pomo critiques of the natural rights tradition that you cite as an authority and I would like to hear more than an argument from authority from you.
    Finally, the discussion of rights (whether derived or suigeneris) is not at all muddied in the way that you say that it has been. Philosophers make a very clear distinction between "negative rights" and "positive rights". It is a rather clear and readily accepted distinction, not the least bit muddy. You seem to be suggesting, again without argument, that a positive right could not be inalienable. I don't see why not, however.

  • juniorprof says:

    Yo Whimple, pain researcher here to address your points:
    1) Go to any pain research conference and you will quickly learn that most pain researchers don't work with animals, most work with humans. These include physicians doing clinical work, electrophysiologists doing peripheral nerve recordings, fMRI people doing what fMRIers do, psychologists looking at comorbidity, nurses looking at outcomes, etc., and the list goes on and on.
    2) Then there are us basic researchers who work with cells, animal tissues, human tissues and so on. Most of this work does not involve causing any pain at all. Genetic studies are done, patch clamp recordings are made, biochemical experiments on all sorts of channels and kinase are performed all with the aim of understanding the physiology of nociceptors and pain transmission neurons. These studies have led to an exponential increase in our understanding of the channels and kinase (and other proteins) that mediate nociception.
    3) There are, obviously, preclinical pain models. Some of the first ones (back in 50s and 60s) were extreme and have been discarded on ethical grounds. Most models used now cause a mild pain stimulus (certainly no worse than the shock applied in fear conditioning). Others involve long-term inflammation and largely the same as preclinical models used to study inflammation or arthritis. In other words, these models are not exclusive to pain research as they are co-opted from other areas of research on important human diseases that also involve pain. Nerve injury models are slightly different and somewhat unique to the pain area but let's remember that this is the hardest type of human pain to treat and it leads to a terrible quality of life...
    4) So what are the treatments that have resulted from this work? A) massive improvement in opiate efficacy and safer formulations based on preclinical work. B) new generation neuropathic pain meds including gabapentin, pregabalin and the clinical rationale for the use of 5HT and NE reuptake blockers and improvements on their clinical use based on real basic science. C) anti TNFalpha, anti IL-6 and anti NGF treatments either now coming out or in late trials. Some of these originated in other areas and some originated in the pain area but the rationale for the clinical use is all based on preclinical basic science. That's just a start to a long list.
    5) If you doubt the importance of basic science pain research take a trip to your local university hospital and go talk to the patients in the pain clinic.

  • whimple says:

    Juniorprof, good list. Personally, I think if the studies can be done on humans, they should be done on humans. My concern is that animal research slows down human research because it's so easy to work with mice (or whatever) so people spend a lot of resources on finding effective treatments for mice and doing "basic research" studies with mice, which don't necessarily (usually?) translate into humans. My big whatif goes something like this:
    Suppose researchers were not allowed to work with animal models, but could do human subjects research with all the current legal and ethical limits on human research currently in place still in effect (cell culture work on all species still allowed). Would that slow down the development of useful human clinical treatments, speed up the development of useful human clinical treatments, or would things progress at about the same pace? If we took all the animal model researchers and said, "If you're going to use animals, they have to be human," would that wind up being good or bad for science from the point of view of the taxpayer funding the work and waiting for treatments and cures?
    Can pain researchers (for example) say, "without studies in animal X, currently useful product Y would have been impossible to develop." Where "impossible" really means impossible, not just more difficult or costly or slower to get working?
    Is it in the taxpayers' best interest to make animal work easier to do, or would the taxpayers be better off long-term if animal work was more difficult to do? (leaving aside the above extreme example of animal work not being allowed at all) Usually I get jumped on for asking this kind of question, but I think it's worth discussing since the answer to this question helps determine the "goodness" side of the "animal research bad" (less than / equal to / more than) "animal research good" equation.

  • DSKS says:

    Whimple said,
    "Suppose researchers were not allowed to work with animal models"
    Are you talking specifically about in vivo models, or the use of animal tissue for basic research period?
    There's still a necessarily heavy reliance on non-human animals to provide native neurons and what-not.
    I suppose this brings up the issue of whether animal welfare should focus purely on a minimization of suffering (in which euthanasia would be considered an ethical prophylactic), or whether it must also weigh up a life cost against the research benefits. The ethics regarding the latter being far more complex than the former, imho, not that this should preclude discussion.

  • Ria says:

    jrshipley, thank you for the response. I will try to address each point you raised. As a quick comment to my labeling of Singer as an "extremist"... his views are significantly outside of the norm among his peers. You are correct that this doesn't address his arguments, but it does provide perspective for those in this forum who would be less familiar with his work than you obviously are. He certainly isn't the first ethicist that most would use as a reference in any discussion of rights or the proper discernment of ethical treatment of animals. Ethicists who might be more widely accepted would include Arthur Caplan, Leon Kass, John Stuart Mill or James F. Childress.
    I dropped the term "utilitarian" out of the description of Singer's ethical philsophy for the following reason. Utilitarianism is defined as an ethical normative that seeks to provide the greatest good for the greatest number of people. This requires first defining the good(s) achievable, ranking these goods, and then defining the "greatest number of people". There are two largely accepted broad forms of utilitarianism that most subtypes fall into: rule and act. Rule utilitarianism seeks to provide generalized rules by which to make ethical decisions to provide the greatest good to the greatest number. Act utilitarianism is the ethical norm asserting that such rules are not possible and so all ethical concerns must be determined case by case. Singer's philosophy doesn't seem to fit easily into the definition of "greatest good for the greatest number" given his well-explained concept of equal consideration of interests (note: not ranking of interests). Assuming, of course, that one can equate Singer's concept of "interests" with "goods"... but "interests" is as close as he gets to "goods".
    I now understand your distinction about using Singer to address the distinction between concern and rights. Given that he was the only ethicist that you referred to, I'm sure that you can see the origin of my confusion. Even in the limited sense in which you used the reference to his name, though, I would assert that ethicists that deal more explicitly with the concept of rights and appropriate human concern for non-human animals would have been more useful (John Stuart Mill comes to mind).
    I actually wasn't referring to your position or Singer's when I referenced postmodernism, merely the prominent use of relativism (ie: the impossibility of any possible objective view of reality) in so many common discussions of rights. Hopefully we can agree that relativism provides no clarity (hence the term "muddled") in any philosophical discussion, and it is particularly repellant to a scientific world view.
    You assert that the distinction of positive and negative rights are broadly accepted by the ethicist community. However, there remain significant opposing groups that do not accept the validity of positive rights (ie: those that confer responsibility upon others) such as the work by Walter Williams. Others assert that the distinction between positive and negative rights is non-existant (ie: semantic only). Regardless, positive and negative rights assume the conferral of said rights upon individuals by some external authority. I was referring specifically to rights that exist, inherent to an individual, and can only be removed by force... these are sometimes termed "absolute rights" due to their strict definition.
    Personally, I prefer the use of the terms priviledge (negative right) and responsibility (positive right) to the confusing use of the word "right" to refer to services, goods, or activities that people either would like to have society provide or are trying to have the freedom from providing to others. All of these are conferred by some authority. Which one? And given that they are conferred by an authority, they are necessarily transient in nature, and their moral status is understandably questionable.
    sorry about the length of this post.

  • becca says:

    "Hopefully we can agree that relativism provides no clarity (hence the term "muddled") in any philosophical discussion, and it is particularly repellant to a scientific world view."
    Yeah! Make up your mind fizzycysts! WAVE OR PARTICLE, Pick a side!!!
    Sorry. I do happen to think relativism has a useful place in scientific discourse, as long as we don't get excessive about it. But that is probably too tangential to the matter at hand.
    whimple- what drives me nuts is that, evidence-based as we are, you'd think we'd have developed some studies investigating improving the goodness of the good. What are effective methods for improving the translatability (gawd what an awful word, sorry) of more basic research?
    I want to get more useful knowledge out of my animals (not to mention my time!)!

  • Cleveland says:

    Singer ... his views are significantly outside of the norm among his peers. ... He certainly isn't the first ethicist that most would use as a reference in any discussion of rights or the proper discernment of ethical treatment of animals. Ethicists who might be more widely accepted would include Arthur Caplan, Leon Kass, John Stuart Mill or James F. Childress.
    Really? This is fascinating. Because whenever this comes up online, the concern trolls start throwing Singer around like it is the gold seal of philosophical approval for their position. So you are saying he would be considered an extremist to legitimate philosophers much in the way that Vlasic would be considered extremist among surgeons?

  • jrshipley says:

    Right, and I was suggesting it would be difficult to give a naturalist account of the kind of sui generis "absolute rights" you mention. I await a naturalist account or a disavowal of naturalist metaphysics.
    Also, I'm actually not all that familiar with Singer's view. I have a sort of familiarity with the issues, but I don't think I've read any more than one or two of his articles. As I said, I'm no ethicist. In any case, I'm relatively certain that it's entirely uncontroversial to call him a utiltarian.

  • Anonymous says:

    Becca, relativity (physics theory), and relativism (the concept that there is no such thing as an observable objective reality) are two completely different concepts.
    jrshipley, I do not ascribe to a naturalist metaphysical worldview (here is your disavowal)... it presumes to "prove" a negative as fact (impossible to do). Naturalist metaphysics assumes that anything not observable (maybe just with the currently available technology) does not exist (see above on proving a negative). I do ascribe to empiricism as the means of obtaining knowledge of the natural world. Where I differ from naturalist metaphysics is in the assumption that we can directly observe all things that exist, and that all things that exist are composed of matter, energy, or a combination of the two.
    You may call Singer a utilitarian if you wish (he is often referred to as such) but that doesn't address the points that I made above as to why I removed that descriptive for him.
    Cleveland, did you mean Jerry Vlasak?

  • juniorprof says:

    Whimple,
    First, I largely agree, I would prefer to do the work in humans too but in many cases it is simply not possible. On the other hand, we have recently developed a new treatment preclinically that we are now trying to take into a trial in humans. We never would have gotten anyone to believe us without the preclinical data but now that we have it a trial is feasible (its a synergistic drug combo wherein both drugs are approved for human use so we can proceed). From a basic science perspective the trial isn't very interesting at all. From a treatment perspective its interesting and will certainly be exciting if it translates. From a personal perspective, its about the most exciting thing I can think of... taking treatments form the bench to the clinic is why I wanted to enter this field and I can't wait to work with some humans!
    On your other question, are there examples where the clinical never would have been possible without the preclinical the answer is also yes. My example is not a good one because I likely would have been able to instigate a trial but it would have been much more difficult without the preclinical. On the other hand, the anti-NGF treatments for chronic pain are an excellent example of where it would not have been possible. We have known for a long time that NGF is involved in preclinical pain models and in human pain. We have also known that genetic mutations in humans that block NGF signaling (mostly receptor mutations) cause a terrible disease wherein people with the mutation have profound mental retardation, total lack of pain and inability to sweat. While it was the view of most researchers that this was due to a developmental issue, it was not known if blocking NGF signaling later in life would lead to similar deficits and this made any trial on anti-NGF therapies impossible due to very serious safety issues. After decades of preclinical work it is now known that anti-NGF treatments later in life do not cause similar problems and this animal work has made the safety issue a much smaller issue. So, due to literally thousands of papers on NGF signaling in animal models we have a good idea that these treatments will not cause devastating side effects in humans and these therapies are now late in clinical development. If they gain FDA approval I expect that they will become important treatments for chronic pain disorders. That is but one of several examples wherein animal work was absolutely neccessary to develop new pain treatments.

  • juniorprof says:

    Whimple, if you care to continue the conversation we can do so at my place:
    http://juniorprof.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/rescued-from-deep-inside-a-thread-at-drugmonkey/

  • Cleveland says:

    @#31, yeah, that guy.
    juniorprof@#32: You are naively missing the fantasy of people like becca and jrshipley who suppose that all of your "thousands" of preclinical studies could be done on humans. They and their co-travelers totally ignore the screening function and seem to argue that if we miraculously just thought smarter or something, it would only be successful treatments tested in humans. Since they are clearly very smart people who have thought on this issue somewhat, the only possible conclusion when they express fantasies at such odds with objective reality is that they are being disingenuous. hence "concern troll" applies.
    These are the worst kind of weasel. They want to talk about maybes and scales of justification and all that because they refuse to grapple with the hard questions. They want it both ways. They want their medical procedures and drugs for their own interests but want to be able to ignore the past research as water under the dam and preserve their own arrogant right to pick and choose what is "justifed" for the future. It is an ethically and morally bankrupt position.
    Part of being a grown up citizen of world society is taking ownership of your privileges. So if you use modern medical practices that rest on animal research in times past..own it. And don't selfishly deny hope to those who have problems we have not yet solved.
    Another part is not living in a fantasy world in which certain things you desire are going to magically and painlessly accrue without violating your tender sensibilities.

  • juniorprof says:

    Cleveland, I didn't miss it, I ignored it completely (but I agree with what you have to say as I understand it).

  • Anonymous says:

    "Kudos to Jentsch."
    This was my thought, too. I've long felt that researchers have avoided this issue rather than taking their case to the public because it's easier ('cause, usually, in the end, the activists do go away, and we usually win, because, really, most people don't believe that animal's interests should significantly infringe on their right to be healthy, for sure, and usually, to not suffer, feel pain, and even feel good). But that allows creeping sloppiness in philosophy and ideas and facts to develop (especially in the young :-).
    "Another part is not living in a fantasy world in which certain things you desire are going to magically and painlessly accrue without violating your tender sensibilities."
    Yup, Cleveland. That's where the magical thinking of having study that's going to tell us the "translatbility" of basic science so that we can avoid doing all those "unnecessary" basic science experiments. You know, the one that's going to give us a weighting function of the predictable human health benefit, so that we can weigh it against the cost function. That would make our live a lot easier.

  • neurolover says:

    oops, anonymous@3:09PM was me.
    And, I'll admit to having had a weak sympathy for pain research, until I developed a really bad neck pain that nearly immobilized, and realized that there were people out there who suffered this way all the time, and that we should do whatever we could to help them. Just pointing out how very easy it is to dismiss the good that accrues to others in doing these calculations.
    Other people are commenting far more eloquently than I could on the philosophy. But, one mistake often made by people who question those of us who use animals is to assume that we haven't thought about these issues deeply and philosophically. We usually have. First, emotionally normal human beings who work with animals are most directly bombarded by the emotional impact of animal pain. Second, we know at a technical and practical level what the impact of the interventions are. Third, we tend to be analytic individuals.
    Mind you, I'm not always willing to spend the time to debate the issues, but I do think it's something scientists should know about, and should speak about.
    (i.e. Kudos to Jentsch)

  • Luigi says:

    Wow, this thread has gone on in interesting and unexpected ways. Ultimately, though, isn't it the case that humans have been totally using/abusing other animals (and even other humans perceived as 'lesser' in various ways) for thousands of years? It's crazy to think this is going to stop anytime soon. The world doesn't change that fast, except in radical fantasies. Which brings me to the point:
    Why should researchers respond to these threats and car bombings differently then they would any other criminal activity? Doesn't doing so somehow justify the rationale? Where I am, the greatest threat to our labs is probably people who just want a nice scale and some glassware for their meth lab, or some computers to put on EBay. Violent threats are always over a wallet or purse not handed over fast enough at night in some of the dodgier areas near campus. Should I organize a rally against drug abuse and mugging of geeky scientists? Will any of you come?
    How about if I had a keg?

  • DuWayne says:

    Luigi -
    I think it's important to differentiate between petty crime and terrorism. At the same time, I would entirely agree with equating this type of terrorism, with a type that is almost exclusively viewed outside the context of terrorism - gang activity.
    I think that groups like Pro-Test are very important. I would also love to see more community protests against terrorist thugs, who go around "tagging" other people's property and threatening their neighbors - something that could be far more cohesive if we recognized those thugs for what they really are - terrorists.
    People who choose to use terrorist tactics, need to be recognized as such. It changes not only the legal nature of their crime, but the social perception of what they are. It does not legitimize anything they do or have to say - quite the contrary, it goes a long ways toward hurting the very causes they espouse to support, the self interests they are committing these acts to support.
    As a fairly ardent environmentalist in my heyday, one who engaged in a number of protests - including acts of civil disobedience, I have gotten up in arms about fucking enviro-terrorists. They do nothing but hurt the very causes I have fought for and even been processed (though not held) for protesting about. Though I strongly disagree with non-violent animal rights extremists, I would love to see them come out and actually condemn the fucking terrorists in their midst, instead of coming along and using this discussion to argue their point of view.
    I'm sorry, but when you can come over and comment on a thread that is talking about terrorists who commit terrorist acts in the name of something you also believe in, you don't have an ounce of fucking credibility - at the least until you quite firmly denounce the fucking terrorists in your midst.
    This isn't a discussion about animal rights, it's a discussion about fucking terrorist scum, who should be in fucking prison.

  • Luigi says:

    DuWayne,
    I think you misunderstand me. We agree. I am fine with people marching around in black spandex yelling about animal rights. No crime there. Everyone deserves to have an opinion. But like you say: terrorism is terrorism.

  • Cleveland says:

    It's crazy to think this is going to stop anytime soon.
    No, it isn't crazy and you are not paying attention if you really think this way. The Pro-Test idea started in England where the terrorists blocked a new research facility at the U of Cambridge and were looking to block some expansions at Oxford. At Cambridge, this meant that a whole bunch of planned and funded novel neuroscience research will not be done there by those experts.
    That reality galvanized the political situation as well as the social situation so as to permit the building planned at Oxford to go forward. This episode was credited by many UK based scientists as having turned the critical corner in the public ground game.
    UK is not the only place this is happening, btw, as several US universities have been quietly dismantling existing programs or preventing new programs which use USDA species such as dogs, cats and monkeys.
    From what I hear UCLA is exactly one of these places in which, despite the public defense of their researchers, they have quietly booted some of the more wackanut-sensitive models off their campus.
    Will such work just move to the heartland or other regions where sentiments don't run quite so much in the activist direction? Will it move from the more developed countries into the less developed countries (where oversight and animal protections are lesser, great job ARA nuts!)? Or will important work simply not be done and we run into more and more "problems" in early human clinical trials?
    We'll have to see. I, for one, would prefer that we fought back against the ARA terror campaign and gave Universities the backbone they need to stand up for research for real, instead of mouthing platitudes while quietly giving the terrorists a win in reality.

  • DSKS says:

    1) Educate the laypeople about current research techniques in the US, so that they aren't forming opinions based on grainy footage from the 1950's.
    2) Enforce existing laws and educate research personnel (particularly lower tier workers) about the legal and ethical necessity to follow those laws without exception*
    * The importance of this tends to be overlooked, and yet it was improper training that led to the horrendous abuses of animal welfare in the Huntingdon Life Science laboratories, which ultimately fueled the revival of militant animal rights movements in the UK (giving them a chance to update their pamphlets with something other than 1950's grainy photography).

  • Paul Browne says:

    Thanks for the support DrugMonkey, I missed this piece earlier as I was away at a conference for a few days.
    Only 2 days to go until Pro-Test UCLA take to the streets!

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