Animal welfare supporters need to understand science to refute nonsense
The animal protection movement has historically been populated by far
more people from the humanities than science. There are many reasons for
this including: students seeking careers in science experience pressure to
go along with whatever their mentors and teachers think (such as supporting
vivisection) as this is how one gains acceptance to graduate school; most
students in the sciences simply do not have time to think about issues
outside of organic chemistry, calculus, and physics; and finally some would
say people in the humanities tend to be more sensitive. Whether this
sensitivity claim is actually true or not, the fact remains most people in
the animal protection movement tend to be uneducated or undereducated in
One mission I have personally pursued over the last decade has been to explain science to people who do not have an extensive background in it and to show them why science is important to them as animal protectionists. The excellent article in New Scientist by Marc Bekoff presents me with another opportunity to do this.
Using bile from bears in so-called alternative medicine is but one example of animals suffering because people ignore science and the scientific method. Science-based medicine is the best way for doctors to seek knowledge about diseases and treatments because science is the best way of seeking knowledge about the material universe. Other ways of seeking knowledge such as folklore, superstition, common sense when it contradicts science, alternative medicine or medicine based on anything other than scientific study, or any other modality is simply not adequate.
The results of this inadequacy show when people imprison bears in order to extract their bile in order to treat a variety of illnesses, when people kill rhinos for the same reason or to make men feel more virile, when people eat animals because they think they need animal protein in their diet, when people kill whales and dolphins because they think the fish population is decreasing because of the animals when it is actually decreasing because people over fish, and in many other situations.
Bertrand Russell once said:
Ever since puberty, I have believed in the value of two things: kindness and clear thinking. At first these two remained more or less distinct; when I felt triumphant I believed most in clear thinking, and in the opposite mood I believed most in kindness. Gradually, the two have come more and more together in my feelings. I find that much unclear thought exists as an excuse for cruelty and that much cruelty is prompted by superstitious beliefs.
Those who care about animals have a duty to support good science and, if
time permits, to seek out a minimal understanding of science so they can
Also see Dr. Greek's article Another Defeat for Science and Animals.
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