Experimenting on animals.

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Experimenting on animals.

Postby hermaj » Sun Mar 25, 2007 2:15 am UTC

I have to do a little discussion on this for my ethics class this week and it's an interesting thing to think about. I figured there were a lot of people here that might have an opinion on this - so how do we feel about it?

Is it completely wrong to experiment on any animal? Do animals have a lower status than humans and thus we should be sacrificing them for our own greater good? Should there be limits on what we do to other living things - as in, only restricted to things that won't cause pain and harm, and if so how can this be policed, and does it remove the whole point of experimenting on animals?
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Postby Steve » Sun Mar 25, 2007 2:39 am UTC

Ultimately this boils down to:

Is it morally right to do cruel/deadly acts to animals while it is not right to do that to people?

Outside the realm of food (its ok to kill and be killed for food), that line is a very hard one for me to draw. There are a LOT of side issues such as what the specific test is, what the potential gain is, what the side effects/downside/reason to use an animal is, etc etc.
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Postby Messiah » Sun Mar 25, 2007 4:18 am UTC

Depends on the animal, their place in the food chain, their understanding and experiences with pain and consciousness. Personally, experimenting is extremely important and I believe worth sacrificing a few animal lives. I'm slightly biased though, as I'll be the one doing the experimenting. At current, it's near impossible to get anything which is significantly harmful or damaging passed on vertebrates. Insects, go nuts, kill them all. But even experiments using mice are highly limited by the ethics boards.

As a comparison, what about humans? Would anyone advocating exposing humans to difficult circumstances (e.g. Hallucinogenic drugs) to test important theories? How about animals, and the same tests?
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Postby stuck » Sun Mar 25, 2007 5:00 am UTC

Is there an international guideline as to what is and isn't ethical to do to various types of animals or is it decided locally and thus open to massive variance across social/political/geographical spectra?

I guess you could argue utilitarian lines and say (and this applies to Messiah's questions about testing on humans, too) that the sacrifice of a few is worth the greater good of the many. Though this is something i couldn't subscribe to given the extremes to which it could likely be pushed.

As i see it, testing that is likely to cause pain/suffering to animals with a developed central nervous system and/or intelligence should be minimised - it should be a last resort.

As for a hierarchy i imagine it goes something like this:

Humans
Intelligent vertebrates
Animals with a developed CNS and/or intelligence
Hive-mind creatures (most insects, i guess)
Other (bacterium, single celled organisms, weird stuff in the ocean)
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Postby Steve » Sun Mar 25, 2007 5:03 am UTC

The problem I have with adopting a heirarchy is that it is very very difficult to determine what another animal is feeling/thinking (if they do consciously) etc. Even hooking up various retinal scanners will only give an idea, as without a mapped out brain we can never be certain what those impulses really equate to.
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Postby hermaj » Sun Mar 25, 2007 5:22 am UTC

stuck wrote:Is there an international guideline as to what is and isn't ethical to do to various types of animals or is it decided locally and thus open to massive variance across social/political/geographical spectra?


Yes, there is a guideline. The International Guiding Principles For Biomedical Research Involving Animals. The basic principles are about halfway down that page.
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Postby stuck » Sun Mar 25, 2007 5:43 am UTC

Thanks Hermaj.

Steve: Yeah, i know exactly what you mean. An hierarchical system gives structure to an otherwise rambling and somewhat subjective issue, though. However, that said, i certainly wouldn't advocate such a system in practice. I think the "problem" deserves a far more elegant solution.

I just read the guidelines Hermaj linked and i think they've done a pretty solid job of engaging with the pertinent issue here: pain and suffering. It is certainly a difficult line to tread between progress/benefit and any pain that is required to reach that.
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Postby Yakk » Sun Mar 25, 2007 2:50 pm UTC

Yes, it is OK to do to animals things that we wouldn't do to humans.

I like animals, they are cute. I value animals, because they form a massively important support structure for human civilization. I value human civilization, because it is currently the only game in town in the grand "let's expand life and thinking over the universe" game.

And I like that game.

I do want to minimize the amount of senseless torture of animals: animals are more than blocks of inanimate wood, they have feelings.
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Postby Tchebu » Sun Mar 25, 2007 3:23 pm UTC

As for a hierarchy i imagine it goes something like this:

Humans
Intelligent vertebrates
Animals with a developed CNS and/or intelligence
Hive-mind creatures (most insects, i guess)
Other (bacterium, single celled organisms, weird stuff in the ocean)


Why does intelligence make creatures superior? Intelligence is just as much an adaptation as the defensive mechanisms of a bacterium. Sure it's a more complicated one, but nature didn't have a purpose to create intelligence. Intelligence is just a way that a certain range of creatures adapted to their surroundings to be able to survive in them.

That being said, it's ok to perform experiments on human beings if they give their consent to it, right? However the pain and suffering issues still exist, and all these experiments should be done in as much a painless way as possible. Animals cannot give their consent to anything, however most of them start off in a situation of restricted liberty and dependance on the human being, which sorta lets us decide for them to a certain point. Which is why we give the "consent" FOR the animals. Like with the human beings, the experiments should be done in as much a painless way as possible.

In fact, speaking of "animal consent", im fairly confident that if we could actually speak to the animals and said to them "hey, here's the deal, we feed you, take care of you, keep you clean and stuff, and in exchange you let us do painless (well maybe a couple of occasional stings) experiments on you" the animal wouldnt mind. If its well fed and taken care of, and doesn't have to experience pain, it's happy... so why not?
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Postby gmalivuk » Sun Mar 25, 2007 5:08 pm UTC

Ethics are necessarily subjective. How subjective they are varies from person to person. But the fact remains that whether you value every living thing on Earth equally (and don't much concern yourself with what happens on the other side of the galaxy) or you only value what happens to your own body and mind, you're drawing a line somewhere. The Golden Rule, in its absolute sense, isn't really practicable.

(The reason ethics cannot be completely objective is that, based on current scientific evidence, nothing that has ever happened or will ever happen on Earth can possibly affect the vast majority of the universe. The thing is just too big and expanding too fast.)

So no, I don't think it's wrong in principle for the things that can ethically be done to animals to be different from the things that can ethically be done to humans. And each category, at least on my ethical view, has some things not in the other, because humans can consent while animals can't.

That said, animals may not be human, but they aren't rocks, either. I don't think one can really stand very firmly on a belief that animals can't suffer in some way. And the reason for a general hierarchy that, say, places primates and cetaceans above jellyfish, is that while both groups may suffer, the more intelligent animals suffer more like we do. With a subjective ethics, the criterion of "how like me is this thing" is to some degree a valid consideration when deciding how to behave toward that thing.

An interesting aspect of this is our ethical views of intelligent aliens. Do most people believe that intelligence, regardless of the underlying physiology, automatically makes for an ethically relevant similarity? (I guess the only way to answer this question would be to actually see how people react to a truly alien intelligence.)
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Postby athelas » Sun Mar 25, 2007 5:54 pm UTC

stuck wrote:As for a hierarchy i imagine it goes something like this:

Humans
Intelligent vertebrates
Animals with a developed CNS and/or intelligence
Hive-mind creatures (most insects, i guess)
Other (bacterium, single celled organisms, weird stuff in the ocean)


No, no. First is God, then the man, then the horse, then the dog, then the woman.

And then the rat.

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Postby Tantsui » Sun Mar 25, 2007 7:28 pm UTC

I, personally, am wary of the post-modern thinking we have adopted. Only a few hundred years ago, we thought it was alright to enslave people because they were of a certain complexion. We could be just as wrong about animals as we were about anyone that wasn't white.

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't support any testing on animals, because we really don't have enough information to prove conclusively that we're not causing them pain or otherwise harming them.
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Postby Belial » Sun Mar 25, 2007 7:35 pm UTC

Without animal testing, however, you pretty much can't release *any* new drugs, ever.

It's one of those sticky problems where:

if you don't do *any* testing and don't release *any* medication, tons of people are going to die avoidable deaths.

If you release medications without testing them, tons of people are going to die avoidable deaths.

If you test on humans, a small number of people are going to suffer a lot, and possibly die.

If you test on animals, a small number of animals are going to suffer a lot, and possibly die.

Most people are pretty okay with the last one, given the options.
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Postby Tantsui » Sun Mar 25, 2007 8:11 pm UTC

The deviant in me wants to say, "Test new drugs on death row criminals. That's the epitome of acceptable loss." Though, I suppose at the same time there are all sorts of things wrong with that line of thought. Testing on animals -is- a sticky subject. The only solution the world is ready to accept is to just test on animals until we don't need to anymore. Then we can be all apologetic about having to do that, and pretend we've advanced enough in civilization to not do it again.
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Postby hermaj » Mon Mar 26, 2007 12:28 am UTC

Tantsui wrote:The deviant in me wants to say, "Test new drugs on death row criminals. That's the epitome of acceptable loss." Though, I suppose at the same time there are all sorts of things wrong with that line of thought. Testing on animals -is- a sticky subject. The only solution the world is ready to accept is to just test on animals until we don't need to anymore. Then we can be all apologetic about having to do that, and pretend we've advanced enough in civilization to not do it again.


We did actually talk about something similar as an option in ethics class. Like how sometimes they do experiments upon prisoners and in exchange reduce sentences or give them some luxuries or whatever.

I guess the thing we focussed on in there is consent. An animal can't give consent, so how right is it to experiment upon them? Or should that be dismissed as the animal doesn't have the appropriate mental faculties to decide what it does and does not want for itself? And with the prisoners the consent argument was about how much of it was duress and how much was free consent.

Extreme example. Say you've just been sentenced to 50 years (so you're not conditioned to prison, so it's even less of a happy place) but if you help out with some sort of clinical trial whereby they give you cancer in a limb and then try and treat it with their swanky new drugs, they'll let you out when the tests are over in about a year. I mean, it's looking pretty good - sure, you'll have to have that limb amputated and you might have cancer, but there's a chance to live a full and happy life outside of prison and let the consequences bite you in the arse later, right? But would that choice have been made without the pressure to get out of prison behind it? If you weren't in that situation, you may not have made the choice.

...Sorry about the tangent there but consent is a pretty interesting issue in itself. :P
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Postby Peshmerga » Mon Mar 26, 2007 12:37 am UTC

I don't think there are enough death row inmates for sufficient research.

There are, however, a lot of mice.
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Postby parkaboy » Mon Mar 26, 2007 1:54 am UTC

its unrelated but all i can think of is "sometimes i'd get up in the tree and that squirell would just be COVERED in make up!"

i dont like animal testing for the reason that RATS will not react the same way to something as humans will. i've never known a guinea pig to have a fatal allergic reaction to something.
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Postby Messiah » Mon Mar 26, 2007 2:44 am UTC

Tchebu wrote:Why does intelligence make creatures superior? Intelligence is just as much an adaptation as the defensive mechanisms of a bacterium. Sure it's a more complicated one, but nature didn't have a purpose to create intelligence. Intelligence is just a way that a certain range of creatures adapted to their surroundings to be able to survive in them.


Interesting point here. Even though we believe we're the pinnacle of evolution, there's expansive arguments for other species having at the very least traits, if not their entire self, more well developed. Our emotion often leads to a far more clouded judgement than required, considering our only purpose in life is to procreate.
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Postby Peshmerga » Mon Mar 26, 2007 3:37 am UTC

Tchebu wrote:Interesting point here. Even though we believe we're the pinnacle of evolution, there's expansive arguments for other species having at the very least traits, if not their entire self, more well developed. Our emotion often leads to a far more clouded judgement than required, considering our only purpose in life is to procreate.


But without intelligence, we'd no longer be superior animals. Intelligence is, arguably, the best trait for survival. Our bodies are incredibly weak and fragile in comparison to most species of mammals.

"More well developed" - I'm going on the assumption here that the ability to survive and procreate is objectively a measure of "development", at least in terms of natural selection. Perhaps emotions lead us to thriving on the need to fulfill it, which we intelligently turn into progress for humanity.

Whether natural selection cares or not whether we're becoming richer and healthier is definitely questionable, but the advance into space and the ultimate milestone of colonizing another planet which is self sufficient is undoubtedly important.

As for the topic at hand

i dont like animal testing for the reason that RATS will not react the same way to something as humans will. i've never known a guinea pig to have a fatal allergic reaction to something.


Mice (among other animals) physiology follows the same fundamental biological guidelines as we do. Muscle growth, cell division, energy transformations, and most sensory abilities give humans a great basic overview of how a drug or therapy will affect a mammal. This is required, by law, before human testing can even be thought to begin. Of course there are differences, but researchers know pretty well what their drug will do because they know it's consistency, measure, and composition. Rarely will an unknown factor effect the drug's reactions in such ways to be severely detrimental to the health of the subject. Infact, unless I'm proven otherwise, most animal testing isn't for looking for faults in their drug, but for looking for those rare, unpredictable occurrences which could yield curing results.

As for ethical concerns, I'm not entirely concerned about the suffering and pain of animals, just as I'm not concerned about famine in Africa. My opinion remains unchanged - animal testing before human testing. If we have the capability to save human life at the cost of animals (which would not hesitate a second to eat our entire species if they could), we should not be afraid to wield it.
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Postby OmenPigeon » Mon Mar 26, 2007 3:59 am UTC

Peshmerga wrote:Whether natural selection cares or not whether we're becoming richer and healthier is definitely questionable, but the advance into space and the ultimate milestone of colonizing another planet which is self sufficient is undoubtedly important.


Actually, natural selection doesn't care if we as a species colonize the galaxy. It doesn't care if we all drown in our own waste, or if we cover the planet in clouds of radiation that kills everything with a spine. Natural selection doesn't care about anything. Thats because natural selection isn't a person; it doesn't have thoughts or feelings or goals. Natural selection is what happens when large groups of similar but distinct creatures are placed in an adverse situation and some of them die faster than others. Now, everyone, repeat after me: I will not anthropomorphize abstract concepts, I will not anthropomorphize abstract concepts, I will not anthropomorphize abstract concepts. Now go read some PZ Myers.
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Postby wisnij » Mon Mar 26, 2007 6:22 am UTC

OmenPigeon wrote:
Peshmerga wrote:Whether natural selection cares or not whether we're becoming richer and healthier is definitely questionable, but the advance into space and the ultimate milestone of colonizing another planet which is self sufficient is undoubtedly important.

Actually, natural selection doesn't care if we as a species colonize the galaxy. It doesn't care if we all drown in our own waste, or if we cover the planet in clouds of radiation that kills everything with a spine. Natural selection doesn't care about anything. Thats because natural selection isn't a person; it doesn't have thoughts or feelings or goals. Natural selection is what happens when large groups of similar but distinct creatures are placed in an adverse situation and some of them die faster than others. Now, everyone, repeat after me: I will not anthropomorphize abstract concepts, I will not anthropomorphize abstract concepts, I will not anthropomorphize abstract concepts. Now go read some PZ Myers.

Feh. Anthropomorphizing complex processes is a totally useful and reasonable form of mental shorthand, as long as the person doing it knows not to take the metaphor too far.
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Postby OmenPigeon » Mon Mar 26, 2007 6:33 am UTC

wisnij wrote:Feh. Anthropomorphizing complex processes is a totally useful and reasonable form of mental shorthand, as long as the person doing it knows not to take the metaphor too far.


Sure, sure. I usually don't mind it much, but in the context of evolution I find it strays desperately close to Intelligent Design nonsense. I think the difference for me is then when I anthropomorphize my program's execution I'm talking about my intent projected onto the computer via code. Apply that analogy to evolution, and it all sort of breaks down.

Not a big deal, of course.
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Postby Messiah » Mon Mar 26, 2007 12:26 pm UTC

OmenPigeon wrote:Actually, natural selection doesn't care if we as a species colonize the galaxy. It doesn't care if we all drown in our own waste, or if we cover the planet in clouds of radiation that kills everything with a spine. Natural selection doesn't care about anything. Thats because natural selection isn't a person; it doesn't have thoughts or feelings or goals. Natural selection is what happens when large groups of similar but distinct creatures are placed in an adverse situation and some of them die faster than others.


I'll say that you're both right here, and wrong. Yes, because it is not an entity, it doesn't make choices. However, the outcome, and theory which we have to understand that outcome, which we name Natural selection, does have tendancies as described. Those that die do not carry on their genes, those that have mutated and grown in such a way that improves their offspring's chances of survival and fertililty do, and are hence selected for. Selected for by what? Fate, life, whatever you choose to call it. We need to give it a name because otherwise it cannot exist. Or at least in our minds, that's the case.

Peshmerga wrote:But without intelligence, we'd no longer be superior animals. Intelligence is, arguably, the best trait for survival. Our bodies are incredibly weak and fragile in comparison to most species of mammals.

"More well developed" - I'm going on the assumption here that the ability to survive and procreate is objectively a measure of "development", at least in terms of natural selection. Perhaps emotions lead us to thriving on the need to fulfill it, which we intelligently turn into progress for humanity.

Whether natural selection cares or not whether we're becoming richer and healthier is definitely questionable, but the advance into space and the ultimate milestone of colonizing another planet which is self sufficient is undoubtedly important.


Damn, at least quote me using my name....

Intelligence definitely is the best feature that we've developed, no argument there. But when considering our extensive use and reliance on resources, our lengthy gestation period, our (generally) one mate per life and small "litter" size, there are arguments against us being the "pinnacle." It all depends on your view on what exactly is the best way to achieve the true goal.

I say this because after sitting through animal ecophysiology, zoology, developmental biology etc lectures my head is always filled with, almost, disappointment at our current form. Hearing examples of mind-blowing abilities, to feel or create magnetic fields, sense electrical levels, change colour, or even just about how poorly our senses are developed compared to common animals, you tend to feel envious.

The point of my sidetracking.......is that although we rate ourselves as the top of the animal kingdom, it all depends on your view. And I find the idea that any other creature is below us in development slightly offensive. It's like comparing a western culture with an indigenous culture. We have power now, but we're also destroying our world at a rate we may not be able to reverse. Their culture however, although not as expansive, is far more eco-friendly, and can survive longer. Which is better?
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Postby Vaniver » Mon Mar 26, 2007 2:11 pm UTC

Is it completely wrong to experiment on any animal? Do animals have a lower status than humans and thus we should be sacrificing them for our own greater good? Should there be limits on what we do to other living things - as in, only restricted to things that won't cause pain and harm, and if so how can this be policed, and does it remove the whole point of experimenting on animals?
No. Yes. No.

I don't think there are enough death row inmates for sufficient research.

There are, however, a lot of mice.
Not to mention the mice are all very nearly identical, and the death row inmates have millions of potential confounding factors.
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Postby Belial » Mon Mar 26, 2007 2:15 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
Is it completely wrong to experiment on any animal? Do animals have a lower status than humans and thus we should be sacrificing them for our own greater good? Should there be limits on what we do to other living things - as in, only restricted to things that won't cause pain and harm, and if so how can this be policed, and does it remove the whole point of experimenting on animals?
No. Yes. No.


There were four questions there:

1. Is it completely wrong to experiment on any animals?
2. Do animals have a lower status than humans?
3. Should there be limits on what we do to other living things?
4. If so, does it remove the whole point of experimenting on animals?

Which three were you answering?
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Postby gmalivuk » Mon Mar 26, 2007 2:24 pm UTC

The reason we aren't the pinnacle of evolution is because it doesn't have a pinnacle. There simply isn't a "top" of the animal kingdom (and it's just as silly to suppose that animals are "above" plants, evolutionarily speaking).

But the fact remains that we are the most like us. Obviously. Therefore it's completely reasonable for our own ethical system to value the characteristics we have above the ones we don't. That cetacean ethical systems, if they exist, no doubt see human beings as clumsy deaf landlubbers with miniscule lung capacity is inconsequential. If we and they were able to start communicating meaningfully, perhaps new ethical codes would be developed that focus on the larger human-dolphin-whale community instead of just humans.

But I bet we're still all going to agree that edible fish don't matter as much, ethically, as we do.

Selected for by what? Fate, life, whatever you choose to call it. We need to give it a name because otherwise it cannot exist. Or at least in our minds, that's the case.


No, selected for by nature. As in, the composite of all the laws of nature acting together on the collection of atoms we conveniently think of as an organism.

Hearing examples of mind-blowing abilities, to feel or create magnetic fields, sense electrical levels, change colour, or even just about how poorly our senses are developed compared to common animals, you tend to feel envious.


Not really. None of those animals can have a conversation, for one thing. They can't read a book or watch a movie or spent humorous hours reading webcomics. What's more is that we can detect and create magnetic fields, detect electrical levels, wear things that change color, and invent devices that improve our senses beyond just about anything else on earth. We can travel farther, faster than anything else on earth. Sure, we can't do this with our weak naked bodies, but that's why intelligence is so important.

(Incidentally, there is some evidence to suggest that we evolved bipedalism to be able to run down any animal on the African plain. We can run farther than the fast animals and faster than the high-endurance animals. So don't sell human physical abilities too short.)
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Postby stuck » Mon Mar 26, 2007 2:29 pm UTC

Incidentally, i don't want to run down a lion. :D
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Postby Messiah » Mon Mar 26, 2007 2:42 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Not really. None of those animals can have a
conversation, for one thing. They can't read a book or watch a movie or spent humorous hours reading webcomics. What's more is that we can detect and create magnetic fields, detect electrical levels, wear things that change color, and invent devices that improve our senses beyond just about anything else on earth. We can travel farther, faster than anything else on earth. Sure, we can't do this with our weak naked bodies, but that's why intelligence is so important.

(Incidentally, there is some evidence to suggest that we evolved bipedalism to be able to run down any animal on the African plain. We can run farther than the fast animals and faster than the high-endurance animals. So don't sell human physical abilities too short.)


What purpose is there to have a conversation however? Almost all animals can communicate in some degree with those around them, enough to survive, which is all that is required. What is the purpose of all this "enjoyment"? Thoughts, emotions, feelings, this need to understand what life is and why, swearing off sex to follow a religious path, killing ourselves because we are depressed by these feelings - what purpose do they serve? There is only one meaning to life. Make more life. Other organisms don't even both with life after procreation, their partner eats them when they've deposited what's required, they die of exhaustion after the breeding season, etc. We instead will live for more than half our lives with little or no need.

We can have a kid at teenage years, have raised them to completion in the same time, and be all done by 30. Now, we live to 80, and why? Our intelligence has caused us to unnecessarily cling to life, to create ways to extend the inevitable, to look for reasons and meanings of why we're here when there no longer is any. In living like this, we waste time, resources and energy of those youngers than us which should be focussing on the one task - become attractive to mates, procreate and ensure the offspring's survival to repeat the process.

Incidently, even with our amazing intelligence, we still cannot half of the abilities of these animals to even a sub-standard level. As for the perfect ratio of speed/endurance, I doubt it, but it's too much effort to research, so I'll just lose points on that one.
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Postby gmalivuk » Mon Mar 26, 2007 5:36 pm UTC

Messiah wrote:There is only one meaning to life. Make more life


Wrong again.

First of all, even ascribing meaning to something like life presents pretty serious philosophical issues that remain controversial. I can't begin to talk about the meaning of life when I don't believe it has a meaning in the usual sense of that word.

Second of all, if by "meaning" you mean something more like "purpose for which things have evolved", I still disagree. Humans (and we're not the only ones by any means) have plenty to our lives besides genes. I'll go along with Dawkins and lump all the rest of it together under memes, which include language, religion, ethics, science, and all the other ideas we have.

Because my meme-carrying brain controls my higher-level actions at least as much as my gene-carrying cells, I can essentially decide to live in order to propagate some of my memes at the expense of my genes. This is what, for instance, a monastic lifestyle amounts to. Someone who vows never to procreate generally has in mind the "higher" goal of instead spreading a particular idea or creed or whatever.

The complex sets of memes that fill any human brain (and possibly other animals' as well) provide a purpose to conversation. There is a level of communication that serves only to enhance physical survival (Predator Alert! Predator Alert!), along with the kind that serves to promote physical reproduction (Look at me, I'm fertile! You should come and have sex with me! Look how bright my tail feathers are! You should fuck me, right now!). Nearly all animals have something akin to these modes of communication.

However, only human beings truly have a whole other level of communicative ability (as far as we know). Somewhere in between are the tool-using and other learned practices of apes. But while a chimp may be able to teach its young how to use a certain tool in a certain way, it has never been demonstrated that they can invent and tell stories. Or that they can have anything like this type of conversation.
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Postby Yakk » Mon Mar 26, 2007 5:57 pm UTC

Take a look at the human body.

We have cells. 99.99% of these cells will die when we die. These cells evolved from life that was unicellular -- in which the goal of each cell was to make a cell line that lasted forever.

Our mitocondria are another example -- cells within our cells whose purpose is to make the cells work better. The mitocondria of men are all dead-end mitocondria -- not one mitocondria in a male lives past the death of that male.

It is an observation to say "life that exists is life that was good at making life", and "life that tries to live forever fails". These aren't moral precepts, but rather observations. Much like "crystals in water that are large tend to be good at growing".

One has to be aware that, in the long term, patterns that make patterns have more influence on the future. But that doesn't mean that the purpose of patterns is to make patterns.
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Postby Peshmerga » Mon Mar 26, 2007 6:26 pm UTC

Messiah wrote:The point of my sidetracking.......is that although we rate ourselves as the top of the animal kingdom, it all depends on your view. And I find the idea that any other creature is below us in development slightly offensive. It's like comparing a western culture with an indigenous culture. We have power now, but we're also destroying our world at a rate we may not be able to reverse. Their culture however, although not as expansive, is far more eco-friendly, and can survive longer. Which is better?


I disagree. Our dominance of the natural kingdom is obvious and undefeated. I doubt very much that fish are concerned with the well being of their oceans, it is simply a system of biology that has changing factors. Your retorts are mostly subjective, relying on "being nice and eco-friendly!" to determine who is a better species.

We are among the strongest forms of life on this planet, surpassed only perhaps by pathogens or viruses. We can effectively eliminate any species of mammal, reptile, or bird (ok, so killing all the insects would prove difficult) while ensuring the vitality of our own.

I'll concede that insects, microscopic life, and various plant species should prove to survive longer on this Earth than humans. But by the time the sun goes out, I can say with good certainty that humanity will be scattered among various solar systems, evading extinction much longer than our cockroachy relatives.

This is all assuming that the purpose of life is to, at the very minimal, survive and pass your genes. If you're into God or that whole shebang, you could make a different argument.

This is getting off topic. Animal testing for scientific research is a crucial staple in the field of medicine.
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Postby 3.14159265... » Mon Mar 26, 2007 6:29 pm UTC

In the field of medicine for both animals and humans
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Postby Yakk » Mon Mar 26, 2007 6:54 pm UTC

Peshmerga wrote:We are among the strongest forms of life on this planet, surpassed only perhaps by pathogens or viruses. We can effectively eliminate any species of mammal, reptile, or bird (ok, so killing all the insects would prove difficult) while ensuring the vitality of our own.


Actually, multi-cellular life is a minor branch of life. By mass, bacteria are life. Everything else (viruses, insects, mammals, plants) are side shows.

These bacteria are not pathogens. There isn't enough non-bacteria mass on the planet to be a pathogen on for the bacteria.

I'll concede that insects, microscopic life, and various plant species should prove to survive longer on this Earth than humans. But by the time the sun goes out, I can say with good certainty that humanity will be scattered among various solar systems, evading extinction much longer than our cockroachy relatives.


Now that is a strong statement of unjustified faith. The survival of the human species beyond the earth is questionable. We could easily be wiped out by a number of known "natural" causes, and we are capable of wiping ourselves out.

On top of that, there may well be technical problems that make interstellar (or even interplanetary) travel harder than we think. Ie: if small von neumann machines turn out to be hard, we are in serious trouble interstellar colonization wise.

Now, we have a better chance than other forms of life. Viewing terran life as an organism, one could call humanity a mutation that might turn out to be sperm. ;)

This is all assuming that the purpose of life is to, at the very minimal, survive and pass your genes. If you're into God or that whole shebang, you could make a different argument.


Or if you decide that genes are secondary, and your thoughts are what you really care about propogating...

Worshipping your genes is not much different than worshipping a god -- well, I guess you have better evidence that your genes exist, but deriving morality (what one "should" do) from genes is pretty ridiculous.
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Postby Belial » Mon Mar 26, 2007 7:00 pm UTC

Self-perpetuating patterns self-perpetuate by nature. Non-self-perpetuating patterns don't.

Genes and ideas are both just patterns. Some self-perpetuate, some don't. Ascribing a "purpose" to that is a fallacy, and something that can only be done in retrospect.

It smacks of deism. In order to have a purpose or intent there has to be some sort of consciousness behind it, and I don't believe that's true.

I do, however, believe this is somewhat off-topic.

To bring it around to animal testing.

We *can* decide that we want to perpetuate our genes by any means possible, and that any moral concerns are secondary or nonexistent to that.

Or we *can* decide that somehow our ideas and morals are counter to that, and we'd rather perpetuate those instead.

Or we can find a way for both to be perpetuated, and come to some compromise.

But none of those is clearly the "purpose" of life, and none of it is clearly the right answer. Just different ways it can go.
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Postby Peshmerga » Mon Mar 26, 2007 7:49 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:Worshipping your genes is not much different than worshipping a god -- well, I guess you have better evidence that your genes exist, but deriving morality (what one "should" do) from genes is pretty ridiculous.


What else is there to derive morals from? Both instinct and culture are results of our genes, our humanity. To say there's some higher thought process, some enlightenment or quintessential form of "good" is even more ridiculous. I wonder where you found your morals?

Intelligence is genetic, knowledge is passed down to us by those before us or through our own research. Genes are who we are, down to every meticulous detail.

As for surviving solar holocaust, I'm optimistic that future generations will be able to solve those problems one way or another. I'm not sure how, but looking at humanity and how far we've come in a few thousand years, I remain safe in my approximation.

As for the topic.

Wikipedia wrote:Most laboratory animals are bred for research purposes, while a smaller number are caught in the wild or supplied by pounds.


Wikipedia wrote:The AWA contains provisions to ensure that individuals of covered species used in research receive a certain standard of care and treatment, provided that the standard of care and treatment does not interfere with "the design, outlines, or guidelines of actual research or experimentation."


Wikipedia wrote:Mice are widely considered to be the prime model of inherited human disease and share 99% of their genes with humans.
Quelling the "They aren't human" argument.

Wikipedia wrote:Most of the animals used in animal testing are invertebrates, especially Drosophila melanogaster, a fruit fly, and Caenorhabditis elegans, a nematode. Invertebrates are often extremely cost-effective, as thousands of flies or nematodes can be housed in a single room, but this is not true for all species of invertebrates.


Most animals in animal testing are flies. That's most of up to 100 million animals. Aprox. 308,000 animals other than rodents and invertebrates are used each year in the UK + USA. That's fish, dogs, primates, and rabbits combined. That's .0038% of the total amount of animals used in animal testing.

The rest are flies and mice. There is of course the issue of animal cruelty - misuse of those animals which has been exemplified among various particular research centers around the globe, including Huntingdon Obviously this animal torture is unnecessary and could be done without.
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Postby VannA » Mon Mar 26, 2007 10:10 pm UTC

Messiah wrote:Depends on the animal, their place in the food chain, their understanding and experiences with pain and consciousness. Personally, experimenting is extremely important and I believe worth sacrificing a few animal lives. I'm slightly biased though, as I'll be the one doing the experimenting. At current, it's near impossible to get anything which is significantly harmful or damaging passed on vertebrates. Insects, go nuts, kill them all. But even experiments using mice are highly limited by the ethics boards.


Which is nuts. Given they cull all the mice afterwards anyway. I've a friend who works for the Garvan. She kills dozens of mice a week. Yes, their living standards are kept quite high, and yes, we have standards on what we are allowed to subject them too.. but they are borked anyway, given some of the experiments in genetic coding and breeding that develop some very unfortunate mice.

Essentially, these mice are bred to die, and be useful in the first place.

If you are going to create some thing just to kill it when your done, why restrict what you do to it in the first place?

Messiah wrote:As a comparison, what about humans? Would anyone advocating exposing humans to difficult circumstances (e.g. Hallucinogenic drugs) to test important theories? How about animals, and the same tests?


I'm a big fan of paid human experimentation. Essentially, the only creatures on the planet that we are not abusing, are those that choose their fate for themselves. Currently, we only accord humans that level of 'consciousness'.

Peshmerga wrote:Intelligence is genetic, knowledge is passed down to us by those before us or through our own research. Genes are who we are, down to every meticulous detail
Untrue.
The outcome of genetic sequences can be heavily modified by environmental factors. See Epigenetics.
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Postby Messiah » Tue Mar 27, 2007 3:17 am UTC

VannA wrote:Which is nuts. Given they cull all the mice afterwards anyway. I've a friend who works for the Garvan. She kills dozens of mice a week. Yes, their living standards are kept quite high, and yes, we have standards on what we are allowed to subject them too.. but they are borked anyway, given some of the experiments in genetic coding and breeding that develop some very unfortunate mice.

Essentially, these mice are bred to die, and be useful in the first place.

If you are going to create some thing just to kill it when your done, why restrict what you do to it in the first place?


I agree. Unfortunately, it is deemed that a kind life and a humane death is required, instead of a (potentially) painful one followed by the same death. Being bred for use however, raising an argument of stem cell research...

VannA wrote:I'm a big fan of paid human experimentation. Essentially, the only creatures on the planet that we are not abusing, are those that choose their fate for themselves. Currently, we only accord humans that level of 'consciousness'.


I think it was raised here, that although the choice seems "conscious," those desperately in need of funds may make the choice under that pressure, a choice they may not make normally, so it can be argued that there isn't actually a conscious choice made.
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Postby Belial » Tue Mar 27, 2007 3:18 am UTC

If they desperately need funds, though, is it better that they choose to do something drastic under that "pressure", or that you remove the source of their funds?

Are you doing them a favor by saying "no, you can't have this money, because you need it too much"?
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Postby Messiah » Tue Mar 27, 2007 3:25 am UTC

Case by case basis, and also depends on your beliefs about which is more important - freedom, or money. Probably why it's been largely denied this far....better safe than sorry.

There are so many experiments that would be hugely beneficial to run, but cannot be done for safety reasons - both on animals, and humans. For example, I was taught about an experiment (in the 80's I believe) which would no longer be possible due to ethics requirements. Participants were either given a placebo, or hallucinogen, and told they were given nothing, or told they were given a drug. Interesting to see the differences in experiences from drugs when we're aware or not, and the power of the human mind to fool itself and create what we believe should happen.

Studying effects of harmful drugs, carcinogens, bold new treatments and proceedures etc on either animals or humans could lead to a much faster progression in technology, but unfortunately we need to balance between the ethical requirements, and the potential benefits.
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Postby Belial » Tue Mar 27, 2007 3:28 am UTC

Case by case basis, and also depends on your beliefs about which is more important - freedom, or money. Probably why it's been largely denied this far....better safe than sorry.


But aren't you removing their freedom by refusing to let them choose that avenue of fundraising?

If they were already *that* desperate, how are you making them *more* free by closing doors on them?

</devil's advocate>
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