Friday, April 3, 2009


This makes me furious and very sad.

I've noticed an interesting shift toward the negative in my attitude toward science and scientists since I've been back in school. I say interesting I guess because if anything I would have expected a shift in the opposite direction.

Two reasons for the shift: 1) the incredible arrogance and narrow-mindedness of some professors/scientists/academics I've encountered, the complete confidence allowing for no doubt that the so-called scientific method is the only reliable way to find out anything true, and 2) the creeping awareness of the scale of cruelty inflicted on animals in science labs every single day.

Number one is what it is. People believe what they believe. Number two is the one that's most difficult for me.

For my science classes, I read paper after paper about animals studies and sometimes ... I have to stop and cry. I'm not talking about the kinds of examples anti-animal rights people always trot out, like finding a cure for cancer or diabetes, etc. I mean studies like the one above, where the scientist is looking for a correlation between stress during pregnancy and brain development of the child by blaring a horn at a pregnant monkey for 10 minutes a day. I guess what appalls me is that people just read right past that and don't even think about that pregnant monkey, about the ethics of that experiment. And even if you do find a correlation -- its relevance and usefulness for humans in tenuous. The scientist is presented -- presents herself -- as some kind of hero, a crusader for the poor. To find out whether or not stress fucks people up, she sets out to fuck up a few hundred monkeys. It's nauseating.

I really do believe that our descendants will look back at this period with horror and disgust, that our treatment of animals will loom large in history.


ep said...

And what is behind that moronic experiment in the first place? I mean, how "duh" could you get, that loud noises would adversely affect both mother and fetus? No, it's that the "scientist" had to dream up some experiment that hadn't been done in quite that way before, or fell under certain guidelines, that would be paid for - you're right back to your arrogance factor of #1.

And like you state, this stupid exercise is not going to save any lives. It's just helping someone write their paper to take them on the next ladder rung of their career. That poor monkey and its poor baby. I don't know how society will look back on this sort of thing if they didn't know about it, only heard the PETA headline-making stories, like me. I had no idea.

Anonymous said...

I posted a comment agreeing with yours on "The Frontal Cortex", but it didn't appear. So again - I agree that it is hair-raising that people don't react to these accounts of appallingly cruel studies - I've had to stop reading many a book on Psychology for this reason.........the ghastly "learned helplessness" studies,for example.........
Very difficult to steer a path between healthy scepticism and "anything goes if humans fel like doing it"
Glad I've found your blog.