Saturday April 6, 2019
I have written much about the 3Rs:
Greek, Ray, and Niall Shanks. 2009. FAQs About the Use of Animals in Science: A handbook for the scientifically perplexed. Lanham: University Press of America.
I think I have adequately explained why the 3Rs are inadequate from a scientific perspective but it appears there are animal protection organizations that are claiming to be using the 3Rs as a tactic for change, while actually supporting the position that animal models have no predictive value and should be abolished immediately. Perhaps I have misinterpreted their position but that is the position that I am going to discuss.
When deciding on a strategy in any project, the first thing I ask is whether the tactic is supported by science. If it is not, then it is going to fail, good intentions notwithstanding. Science is coin of the realm in this era. And for good reason.
Medicine and medical research are founded on science and rightly so as science is the best method humans have discovered for understanding the material universe. Science is better than methods commonly used throughout history such as common sense, intuition, authority, dogma, historical beliefs, the supernatural, and religion. (Religion / spirituality and the supernatural lie outside of science, which studies the materialworld.) In matters pertaining to the material universe – science wins.
Pre-science (pre-Renaissance) actions and positions were based on demi-gods, prejudice, common sense, and intuition. This led to concepts like the 4 humors, vitalism, miasma, and the ether. What else was here before science? Mainly religion, superstition, luck, chance, opinions, and just plain nonsense. Science led to a) the Germ Theory of Disease which led to vaccines and antibiotics, and b) the Theory of Relativity and modern physics which gave us MRI scanners and GPS. Today we also have specialty trained surgeons, sterile operating rooms, and anesthetics. Historically, childbirth was frequently lethal for mother and child. Today we have obstetricians, pediatricians, neonatologists and neonatal intensive care units, perinatologists, and a very low maternal and infant mortality rate, in addition to epidural analgesia and anesthesia for labor and delivery. Science brought us out of the Dark Ages. Science is amoral but the offspring of science—namely technology—can be used for good or bad. Moreover, science can be pursued using immoral means.
Historically, the correlational approach was frequently used to evaluate problems. Walnuts were used for medical conditions of the head or brain because they were shaped like the head or brain. Plants shaped like scorpions were thought to relieve the pain from scorpion stings and Rhino horn was used for treating impotence. The correlational approach combined with religious dogma did not work out well for most humans or animals. People were labelled witches or heretics and both were burned at the stake. If that age had had a motto it would have been might makes right. Carl Sagan states:
Science is an attempt, largely successful, to understand the world, to get a grip on things, to get hold of ourselves, to steer a safe course. Microbiology and meteorology now explain what only a few centuries ago was considered sufficient cause to burn women to death. (Sagan 1996)
The reason we, as humans, need science is that the universe is not intuitive. For example, placing one’s hand on the metal inside an oven set at 350oF results in burns, but eating a cake at the same temperature does not. This is why humans can walk on hot coals without being burned. The cake and the coals do not transmit heat as effectively as metal. It is intuitive to think that learning how a perturbation affects an animal will translate to how it affects a human, but our intuition is wrong.
Science is, in part, concerned with facts about the material universe. Stephen Jay Gould defined fact as follows:
In science, 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.' I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms. (Gould 1994)
Edwin Hubble states: “Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls this adventure science.” Immanuel Kant noted that: “Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.” Berthold Brecht of theater fame cautioned that “The aim of science is not to open the door to everlasting truth, but to set a limit on everlasting error.” Likewise, Pirsig wrote: “The real purpose of the scientific method is to make sure nature hasn’t misled you into thinking you know something you actually don’t know.” (Pirsig 1974) Bertrand Russell separated science facts from science methods stating: “It is not what the man of science believes that distinguishes him, but how and why he believes it.”
Gross and Levitt provide an excellent description of science:
Fresh from the horrors of the Thirty Years' War, late seventeenth‑century Europe produced a generation of intellectual giants whose collective accomplishment was to set in motion an epistemological enterprise that has continued to flourish over the past three hundred years, an effort that accelerates and expands continually in its scope, precision, and reliability. The true scientific revolution instituted by Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Halley, Harvey, Boyle, Leibniz, and others is to be found, not in their particular discoveries about the world, stupendous as these were, but rather in the creation, almost in passing, of a methodology and a worldview capable of expanding, modifying and generalizing these discoveries indefinitely. It was, moreover, a methodology that almost unwittingly set aside the metaphysical assumptions of a dozen centuries, under which a description of the physical world would have been incomprehensible had it stood apart from a vision of transcendent divine order on the Christian model. (Gross and Levitt 1997) p16-17
Science is about reality. Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, on “Real Time With Bill Maher”, Feb. 4, 2011 stated, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” Author Philip K. Dick states: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away,” and Carl Sagan opined: “It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” Neil DeGrasse Tyson also stated: “Scientific literacy is an intellectual vaccine against the claims of charlatans who would exploit ignorance.”
Much to chagrin of people trying to sell nonsense. Integrative medicine has been thoroughly discredited by science, as have dowsing, psychics, perpetual motion machines, facilitated communication, vaccine denial, HIV-denial, and many more things people profit from. These people are not fans of science. (For more see the below.)
The above is a very partial list. Combine science with critical thinking and there is no better way to think about the material universe and judge arguments and claims. (See Critical Thinking section under Resources at http://www.afma-curedisease.org/resources.aspx.)
Pretending science does not exist for tactical purposes has never worked out well.
Gould, Stephen Jay. 1994. "Evolution as Fact and Theory." stephenjaygould.org, Last Modified 1994. Accessed August 5, 2016. http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/gould_fact-and-theory.html.
Gross, Paul R, and Norman Levitt. 1997. Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Pirsig, Robert M. 1974. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values. New York: Harper Collins.
Sagan, Carl. 1996. The Demon-Haunted World. Science As A Candle In The Dark. New York: Ballantine Books.