Thursday, December 09, 2004

Science and mice

The Onion reveals that scientists only experiment on mice because they hate the little bastards.

All kidding aside, this is a serious issue - animal rights, research ethics, etc. I hope to post more about this later.

Update, 20 May 2005: I've become aware that the above link no longer goes to the correct article. The gist of the original (satirical) article was that scientists had "admitted" that there is no scientific merit to experimentation on animals - they use mice for biomedical experiments purely out of spite and a desire to inflict pain on mice. Obviously this is satire of the portrayal of scientists by animal rights extremists.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I was linked here by your comment on Don Boudreaux's article about economic creationism, I am aware of your sneering attitude toward any notion of natural rights. If rights arise only by what you term the powers of 'legitimate coercion' posessed by the state, and come from no other source whatsoever, how can you entertain any notion of 'animal rights'? Mice creating some institution of coercive power in order to grant themselves rights is not something I have read about in any of the literature. 

Posted by Brian

1/04/2005 01:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sneering attitude? I certainly didn't intend to come off as sneering in that post. In fact, I never even said that I disagreed with the idea of natural rights, and certainly did not intend to imply that. I merely said that it is a more creationist idea, whereas a social constructivist view of rights is a more "spontaneous order" idea. (Thus implying that statism is not necessarily a more "creationist" ideology than libertarianism.)

In fact, I think I do believe in natural rights. It's certainly a problematic concept as Bentham pointed out ages ago, but it's hard for me to formulate a moral system that doesn't include some idea of rights.

There is, of course, an alternative between creationist natural rights dependent on human essence and statist rights dependent on states granting rights. That is, rights as emerging out of some property of human beings, e.g. rationality, ability to feel suffering, consciousness, etc. Peter Singer has this view, controversially saying that some animals have rights while some humans (fetuses, infants, and people with mind-destroying illness) do not, or at least have fewer rights than adults and children with full capacity. As I understand it, Kant said something sort of similar to this when he said that "rational beings" must be treated as ends, not means (though he left the boundaries of the category "rational beings" unspecified).

Perhaps I'll write more on this later... 

Posted by Andrew

1/04/2005 01:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about use another term other than "animal rights"? Then it doesn't have to become an philisophical argument about what theory system the term does or doesn't fit into.

I guess this is also a political issue- I think many people find the term of "rights" alien. I know our country was founded on the notion of rights, but...others don't! I think Christians, for example, feel that nothing is a right. Everything is a gift from God.

Obviously this is not so. But there is no reason to keep on using words that allow, perhaps even encourage people to either dismiss the notion of animal protection entirely, or to argue with the terminology and the philosophy behind it. I'd rather us absorb the issues at hand (and I look forward to your discussion of them!)


Posted by Lizzie

2/09/2005 05:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting idea! But what other term do you propose?

As you say, the idea of rights is pretty culturally specific. My guess is that the discourse about how we should treat animals humanely has turned into a discourse about animal "rights" because American culture and politics is centered so firmly around rights. But lots of other cultures believe in treating animals humanely - like some parts of Hinduism who say you should never harm an animal. Unfortunately I'm not familiar enough with Hinduism to see what terms they use to justify that practice, but that would surely be interesting... 

Posted by Andrew

2/09/2005 10:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As for an alternative to "animal rights", I don't quite know the perfect term. I tend to use the terms "animal welfare", "animal advocacy", or maybe "animal protection". What do you think of those? They might not be as strong (though maybe they are) but I do think that they are more difficult to quibble about.

By the way, I appreciate your including Teardrop Souffle in your links! So kind. This gives me motivation to go on!


Posted by Lizzie

2/19/2005 03:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those terms sound good to me!

As for the link - It's my pleasure! I enjoyed reading your site. 

Posted by Andrew

2/21/2005 07:33:00 PM  
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