Field of Science

Scientia Pro Publica 23: Ethics

Beginning | Biology | Conservation | Ethics | Medicine | Physics | Psychology | Conclusion

Is it ethical to subject animals to experiments for the benefit of human health? Eric Michael Johnson has written two related posts on using animals for experiments, in which he discusses the politics of animal testing and voices his own opinion on the matter: Animal Rights and Human Rights and Animal Testing Statistics and Perspectives.
But animals already are less than human. This is where an understanding of evolution is important. When viewed along the continuum of evolutionary time we know that our species shares a close kinship with other primates and mammals. If it is universally accepted that humans should not be experimented upon, what about an individual that is 98.6% human (or rather, shares 98.6% of our DNA) such as chimpanzees? What about 93% in the case of macaques, the most used primate in invasive experiments today? This is a complicated issue and is something that requires a great deal of public discussion.


My own view is that we should eliminate all testing on Great Apes as soon as possible as proposed under the bipartisan House Bill HR 1326 The Great Ape Protection Act that is currently before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. We should also conduct a review on the use of primates in general, the same way that the European Union has been engaged in for the last couple of years.

What are the ethical implications of lab workers testing testing their own DNA in the lab? Cath Ennis discusses such problems with Personal genethics:
My undergrad department used to get students to extract and stain their own chromosomes in a second year cytogenetics lab, but stopped a couple of years before I started the course when one student was found to have a balanced translocation that suddenly shed light on her sister's recent miscarriage. The university department ended up paying for her entire family's genetic counselling costs.

Jeremy Cherfas explains how agricultural policies has increased yields but made it difficult for smaller farmers to compete in The Green Evolution that preceded the Green Revolution. Journal article
The standard litany against the Green Revolution is that it failed to banish hunger because the technologies it ushered in were no use to small peasant farmers. Farmers with access to cash and good land did well, but poorer farmers on marginal land got nothing out of the revolution, and if they did somehow buy into it (subsidies, handouts) they were worse off afterwards. That’s not to deny that the Green Revolution increased yields, especially of wheat and rice. Just to say that it did nothing for most smallholders.

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