By Kenneth Justice
~ A few weeks ago at coffee an animal rights activist sat down at my table,
“I’m not entirely against people eating certain animals for food, such as fish. I know that typically people who organize protests like myself are 100% against eating any type of mammal or fish; but my main cause in life is to put an end to animal testing in laboratories. It’s the 21st century and yet scientists are still killing untold numbers of animals with no regard to whether it is right or wrong ethically” she said
Yesterday I published an article on the subject of ethics and science which I had written shortly after talking to the young woman I met at coffee; if the comments and handful of emails I received are any indicator of what people thought about my article then I guess most people did NOT like the ideas I postulated. But that is okay, it’s good to have conversations in which we don’t always agree, and if anyone knows me, I’m fairly laid back and open to hearing alterative positions on a subject.
Quite a few people seem to believe that scientists are mere “observers” or “discoverers”, they are nothing more than neutral entities in the annals of human history. This position would say that it’s not Oppenheimer’s fault that the President of the United States made the decision to drop the atomic bomb; Oppenheimer was nothing more than an innocent scientist contributing to the body of theoretical physics and atomic research.
While it might make us feel better to think that scientists are merely impartial observers; are we truly looking at the facts?
—) Whenever polls of scientists are conducted regarding animal research findings demonstrate that overwhelming majority of scientists support using (aka killing) animals in research, and when I say ‘overwhelming’; one study found 90% of scientists supporting animals in research <article>
—) A group of 500 UK scientists went so far as to sign a declaration that using (aka killing) animals in research was essential <article>
Yesterday I quoted the famous Sociologist Neil Postman who was oft to say that modern science rarely asks, “Should we do this?” and almost always only asks, “Can we do this”. While it might make us all fuzzy and warm inside to think that scientists as a whole prescribe to strong codes of ethics; where is the evidence to believe such a thing?
Dialogue concerning whether or not its ethical to use animals in research is almost non-existent within the scientific community. With as many as 90% of scientists backing animal research and entire wings of scientists signing declaration’s that they are going to continue using animals; it’s no wonder why the conversation regarding ethics is coming from outside the scientific community and not from within.
Scientists are mere humans. They are not impartial demi-gods who never commit error in pursuing their line of work,
—-) Just because you “can” kill animals to further your research; should you?
—-) Just because you “can” give Ritalin to children and then observe the effects; should you?
—-) Just because you “can” administer shock therapy to people and then observe the effects; should you?
Why is there an assumption that scientists are somehow nothing more than innocent observers? Why is there an assumption that scientists are somehow more likely to be ethical than politicians or lawyers? Why is there an assumption that scientific research is nothing more than innocent observation?
As I said yesterday, every scientist is first a philosopher; and whatever our worldview is will have a wide range of consequences upon our work.
Just a few thoughts while I sipped my coffee,
Categories: Culture & Society