From the President’s Desk . . . March/April 97

From the President’s Desk . . . March/April 97

The myth of the middle ground

By: Adrian Morrison DVM, PhD  Date: 04/7/1997 Category: | Research Reports |

Sometimes I tire of the nonsense of animals rights and figure it may be time to retire. This feeling was never stronger than recently when an icon of science, the magazine Scientific American, fell prey to the "myth of the middle ground." That phrase, coined by Dr. Fred Goodwin, former director for he National Institute of Health, refers to the naïve belief that there lies a region where those who believe firmly in the philosophy of animal rights will compromise with those who think use of animals in medical research is both necessary and moral.

In its February issue, Scientific American, not willing to accept from a colleague and me the idea that a real gulf exists, bought that myth. Despite our protestations, they insisted on casting the issue of the contributions of animal research to medical progress as a debate between the two of use - who provided ample irrefutable evidence that the development of vaccines, medicines, and surgical procedures could not have progressed ethically without animal use - and two physicians who had previously been caught misrepresenting medical history in support of the animal rights cause. Consequently, the pages of Scientific American now carry known erroneous information, a stain on its proud name and a gift to future animal rights fundraising brochures: "As stated in Scientific American . . . "

Further evidence of the editorial board's confusion appears at the end of an accompanying article by one of their staff. (I'll not comment on the full-page ad from an animal rights organization with the title "Why animal research is a medical and scientific fraud.") We read: "Animal liberators need to accept that animal research is beneficial to humans. And animal researchers need to admit that if animals are close enough to humans that their bodies, brains, and even psyches are good models for the human condition, then ethical dilemmas surely arise in using them." The author's naiveté and her impertinence in presuming a defective sense of values among scientists are discouraging.

With all that, a letter from a sixth grader came in late February, just in time to bolster my spirits. First, let this passage from her father's cover letter set the stage. He wrote to thank me for sending his daughter various materials to help her prepare for a debate on the use of animals in medical research.

"You can probably imagine the scene. A room full of children, most of whom have pets. An opponent who spent six months collecting information from PeTA. But my daughter relied very heavily on the material you sent her and won hands down."

Now for her letter. (Any of you who have received charming, straight-forward thank-you letters will know just how I felt reading it.)

"I had my debate a week ago and to my surprise I won! I thought I was going to lose because the girl I was debating is an extremely good debater. The judge, a kid in my class, was on my partner's side, so I was afraid that she would pick her. Thanks again for the information. It helped a great deal."

And she was determined to let me know exactly the magnitude of her triumph; before the words "an extremely good debater," I saw crossed out "a fairly persua ..." and "very" just above it, evidence of her search for precision. Scientific American could use her.

Adrian R. Morrison, DVM PhD
President, NAIA

About The Author

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Adrian Morrison DVM, PhD - NAIA Advisory Board

“Dr. Adrian Morrison was a founding member of NAIA and one of its first presidents. Adrian earned his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in 1960 from Cornell University. Soon after earning his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, he began to focus his post-doctoral research efforts on the mechanisms of sleep. He has published more than 110 papers on sleep-related topics…

All Authors Of This Article: | Adrian Morrison DVM, PhD |
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