Monday, April 10, 2017

Here's Something You Don't See Every Day I Recommend Something That Was On NPR's Morning Edition

If you want a good example of what I was talking about in regard to cutting corners in science, especially in the biological sciences,  you might want to read and listen to the report on Morning Edition this morning about using animals in science as if they can really tell you about human beings - a practice that started out as a professional and financial scheme, developed into a convenience for those purporting to come to conclusions based on the use of animals as substitute humans, turned into a scientific-moralistic platitude which ignored the discrepancy between the claims and the actual facts regarding it and which, now that it is thoroughly ingrained in the way production-line, industrial-academic science is done today, with the full involvement of the various financial interests in keeping it going, will continue despite the science which shows much if not virtually all of it either brushes up against fraud or is actual fraud as science.

When scientists first started using animals in research over a century ago, the animals were not regarded as human stand-ins. Scientists studying rats were initially trying to understand rats, says Todd Preuss, an anthropologist at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University.

"As this process went on, people stopped seeing them as specialized animals and started seeing them more and more as prototypical mammals," Preuss says.

But is a rat really a generic mammal? Preuss says emphatically no. But that's how rodents were pitched when they became products sold to scientists.

"It wasn't strictly a financial interest," he says. The sellers "really believed that you could do almost anything" with these animals. "You could learn about almost any feature of human organization, you could cure almost any disease by studying these animals."

[OK, rereading this, I've got to break this in and say if there wasn't "a financial interest" in that, the Salad Master man on TV and those like him didn't have "a financial interest" in what they were doing.  And, remember, this guy making this claim is a friggin' anthropologist who is supposed to have a deeper understanding of human thinking and culture than we mere simple lay folk.]

That was a dangerous assumption. Rats and humans have been on their own evolutionary paths for tens of millions of years. We've developed our own unique features, and so have the rodents.

So it should come as no surprise that a drug that works in a mouse often doesn't work in a person. Even so, Preuss says there's tremendous momentum to keep using animals as human substitutes. Entire scientific communities are built up around rats, mice and other lab animals.

"Once these communities exist, then you have an infrastructure of knowledge: how to raise the animals, how to keep them healthy," Preuss says. "You have companies that spring up to provide you with specialized equipment to study these animals."

... Chances are, people studying the same disease study the same tailor-made strain of animal. Journals and funding agencies actually expect it.

"So there's a whole institution that develops," Preuss says.

And it's hard to interrupt that culture. (Preuss gave a talk about this subject in a 2016 talk at the National Institutes of Health.)

A link to the talk is given at NPR but I couldn't get it to work on my computer, maybe it will on yours.

I believe most of what was said in the report, it's part of something I wrote about a number of years back* when I expected it would be more of a shock to people than it has turned out to be.  Mostly, I suspect, it's been swept under the rug as so many rather shocking aspects of science and the industries that make money out of them are.

One thing that looks like a logical disconnect to me is in this part of the report.

For neurological diseases, Petsko says, scientists might learn more from studying human cells than whole animals. Animals are still useful for studying the safety of potential new treatments, but beyond that, he says, don't count on them.

Considering the horrible problems that have been caused by a range of problematic, ineffective and dangerous drugs and scandals due to their release based on the alleged safety of them, based primarily on animal studies - many of them to allegedly treat mental illness (which are often generally assumed to be neurological)  I wouldn't count on them really being useful studying drug safety.   I haven't read anything about the use of animal subjects in other aspect of safety testing so I don't know how reliable they might be for that but I'm pretty skeptical on that count.

Drug companies and the doctors and scientists they pay use animal studies to lie about the safety and effectiveness of drugs and treatment, getting people killed and harmed, to the extent that it probably counts as one of the more serious motives for public skepticism of scientists and the science they do.  Tragically, even some of the most valid and important science there is.  The oil and gas and coal industries use that phenomenon in their propaganda campaign, as do the Republican-fascists.

As I've noted here before, Max Planck, the great physicist, once said that progress in science wasn't measured in papers, but in the funerals as the old-guard resistant to change died off.   Or something to that effect.  But corporate interests never die, when a practice like pretending that mice, rats, and other breedable, saleable animals as are used by the tens of thousands and more in the industrial level at which science operates today, is discredited, you can bet that they and the scientists whose reputations and careers depend on it will keep it going.  Noam Chomsky, in a video I heard of him, mocked the French for keeping Lamarckian evolution going as a funded academic entity up into recent decades out of nothing more than nationalism, the economic, academic and professional interests in keeping on pretending that animal testing can do what they've got good reason to now believe it can't are certainly stronger.

And don't forget that this has turned into a moral pose by the ideology of modernistic scientism.  I can bet that any of the moderny-scientistic types who read this will be outraged that anyone could question the efficacy and the morality of believing in it with all their cold little hearts.  But that's mostly pose anyway.  If they really believed that science was what they claim to, they'd have no problem reading the studies calling it into question - they are really quite a bit more terrifying than H. P. Lovecraft's crap BECAUSE THEY ARE REAL - and changing their thinking in that regard.  I really would prefer to not be part of the cohort whose funerals are a prerequisite for reality to take hold.

* I know I wrote at least one piece about it when I wrote for another blog but I am unable to find that this morning.  I assume it's somewhere online so I'll keep trying to find it.

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