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September 05, 2006

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Comments

there is an anti-science strain on the left as well as on the right. I ahve nothing particularly good to say about PETA's choice of castigation here. Bad choice, bad politics. There are animal issues one can choose to explore (factory farming of chickens, making them more prone to bird flu and other illesses?) but I don't get it with this one.

I wouldn't worry too much about it -- PETA is taken seriously primarily by PETA. Their acts of terrorism are recognized by virtually everyone as unhinged, extremist and over the top. (Why they aren't being prosecuted by the DeptHomSec is something I find a little baffling.) They've been nuthatch escapees for more than a decade now, and are generally recognized as such by a stably large majority.

That they lie is also not, alas, a new development.

To my surprise (and education), commenters elsewhere are responding to this piece with a resounding "Duh." Apparently it's not that the anti-science groups on the left aren't recognized as such (which is what I thought was the case), but that PETA is taken for granted as a nuisance, kind of like mosquitos, in a way that for example intelligent designists aren't.

Not sure I get that. IDers clearly have more political power, but PETA I think causes more everyday impediments to actual research than the ID movement ever could.

If PETA were a gay group, this would be more understandable to me (though not acceptable behavior.) Gay people have lots of experience with "sexuality research" that treated us no better than medical researchers treated the subjects of the Tuskeegee experiments. We know in our bones that "science" is socially conditioned in any particular historical era.

I do think human society is going to have a hard time assimilating the growing body of biological knowledge that seems to narrow the scope of human agency. But we are also having a hell of a time assimilating the enhanced potential for social control implicit in faster computer chips. The way forward has to be through, not by throwing up walls of ignorance.

I'm going to be thinking and reading about this stuff all day, EP. Thanks for the great post. Absolutely fascinating.

Many of us have probably known people over the years who, frankly, hate and can't really tolerate other people, but love animals. I certainly have, and have thought of it as an interesting, rather suggestive anecdotal phenomenon, but never thought about it in any systematic way for all that. While the ethics of experimenting on, and even killing, living things is certainly fraught, to put it very mildly, what PETA did here (Roselli = Mengele) suggests a profound hostility to human animals, to our potential and our imagination.

The positions of our absolutist friends on the left (?) and the right are going to get only more tenuous in the coming years, not less. There is no escaping value judgements (ie judgements), and the instances for needing to make them - to trust ourselves as a species - will be coming at us faster and faster in the future, I would think. It's not hard to understand why a person might be disappointed or even deeply cynical about humans, but it makes for a rather absurd politics - an anti-politics, really. Whatever your reservations, you are - essentially - a fan of 'the team' (homo sapiens) or you aren't.

BTW, I find the excuse that the Dr might be trying to find a way to 'cure' same-sex attraction about as convincing as anything Tony Snow might say. Give me a friggin' break.

I wonder how this research connects with hormones like DES. (It's known to have major pre-natal effects on sexual organs; what else does it affect?)

Sending PETA form letters to the university requesting de-funding of these experiments is hardly terroristic. Misguided, perhaps, but these people think sheep are as sacred as humans. Protesting the use of their tax dollars for these experiments is a legitimate political excercise.

When pharma starts advertising drugs to prevent the unborn from becoming homosexual, PETA will be exonerated. The marketing people are probably already working on the ad campaign.

The grant application says: "This research also has broader implications for understanding the development and control of sexual motivation and mate selection across mammalian species, including humans." It's a fair bet that it's the word 'control' and not the word 'understanding' that has concerned the PETA folks. In this homophobic culture I wouldn't be so quick to label a study that is in part sold as increasing our understanding of how sexual motivation may be controlled as innocuous.

P J Evans, interesting question. I'd be going too far outside my field to guess (I had to google DES to learn it is a synthetic estrogen). But it does seem like Roselli's work is focused lately on the activity of enzymes that convert androgens to estrogens in the fetal brain.

Powerpuff, what I object to in this piece is PETA's lying about the facts of the research, much as those on the right lie about scientific studies to further their own political agendas. As I say, honest discussion (including in the form of protest) is welcome. Lying about what the research is or what it is intended for is unacceptable.

Gaining knowledge is, in itself, always for the better. If that knowledge is, at some point, exploited for evil, then that evil is what we will protest. But lying about research based on a paranoid fantasy that one claims will someday 'exonerate' the lies -- that is absurd.

Robbie, as someone who has to write these things myself, I can guarantee you that the word "control" there is used to mean "control by the body's neurological and hormonal systems" not "control by right wing homophobes." Roselli is a biologist not a social engineer -- and not an aspiring one either.

I understand Roselli's meaning.

PETA unfairly and provocatively overstates the case when they say: "Roselli has made it very clear that he intends to use the findings of his experiments to 'cure' humans next". And you're right to call them on it. But to say that the grant application was 'completely innocuous' is wrong too. Roselli may not be a social engineer but those who decide what research gets funded may not be so innocent. And those who decide what use to make of the research the same. There may be people who don't know that, Roselli may be one, but it doesn't strike me as likely.

'Completely innocuous' is a pretty tough standard: (1. unlikely to offend: not intended to cause offense or provoke a strong reaction and unlikely to do so (an innocuous comment) 2. harmless: harmless in effect (an innocuous white powder). And so long as there are people who hope to 'cure' homosexuality such research is likely to provoke a strong reaction and may turn out not to be 'harmless in effect'.

The point is, the statement PETA cites could just as well be used as evidence to say that the ultimate goal of this research is to make more gays, or for that matter, to make humans more attracted to canines (if Sen. Santorum runs the funding agency). The statement is an honest (and I stand by "innocuous") assertion that it would be interesting to understand evolutionarily conserved mechanisms that control sexual behavior.

If the funding agency -- or the guy who reads the publications -- or the drug agency who pursues the findings -- or an evil foreign dictatorship -- has a malevolent master plan for how to apply this research, then that's what we will go after. But the research here is designed to further understanding, and understanding is good.

I read the good Dr.'s statement as trying to further understanding for sexual behavior. Could that understanding be used in an unethical way? Sure, but almost any understanding could. My opinion (I am not a biologist) is that people with homosexual tendencies somehow have it in them. That it is an inate part of them. I hope someday we find out the truth, whatever it may be. Railling against the truth is like trying to deny the laws of gravity exist.

I see Dr. Roselli's studies might lead to a better understanding of human sexual preferences. For some sexual preferences it might lead to methods of correcting the behavior. (specifically paediphilia) (I don't think homosexual behavior needs fixing.)

But there are always people who want to use science to further their own social agendas, Robbie. Does that mean that you attack the scientists? I really think that the 'gay cure' thing is a red herring. As janinsanfran points out, PETA is hardly a gay rights group.


I do think human society is going to have a hard time assimilating the growing body of biological knowledge that seems to narrow the scope of human agency.

Key words there are 'seems to'. In fact, science is all about broadening the scope of human agency - science IS 'human agency' par excellence. Seems to me that that's the rub.

You say: 'The point is, the statement PETA cites could just as well be used as evidence to say that the ultimate goal of this research is to make more gays'.

There's no chance of that. Not in this country. Not on this planet. Not at this time.

What troubles me about your position is not its bias which I share but its absoluteness. Pure science is an ideal that has to contend with the reality of an impure world. Let's say my field is demography and I live in Germany in 1940 and I'm just wondering where Jews live. So I start putting together a data base. And what if when questioned about it I say 'If someone wants to do something wrong with the scientific information I gather then society can address that then. My research could just as easily be used to facilitate Jewish population expansion.' ?

I'll side with knowing against not knowing. But I also know that the research choices we make happen in a social and political context and have social and political repercussions.
PETA was manipulative and dishonest but you can't get from there to 'looking into what controls sexual motivation' is completely innocuous.

Robbie: By your definition, it seems that 'innocuous research' would be research that has no potential implications for society, medicine, or industry. In that case, does 'innocuous research' actually exist and, if it does, is it really even worth doing?

you're extrapolating from a magnifying glass to a sniper rifle.

Robbie, someone already did that, in exactly the situation you propose. The "database" was census information, and the people who made the technology were IBM's subsidiary, Hollerith. Are you trying to tell me that census-takers are evil, and/or that the census-takers in Nazi-occupied Europe were absolutely in league with the Nazis? If anyone's culpable there for the misuse of technology, it was Hollerith, who leased punchcard tabulators to the Nazis and knew damn well what they were doing with them.

Wanting to know what makes people (or sheep) tick isn't the problem; the problem is people who might exploit it later on. Flattening an entire subfield of biology just on the off chance that it could be misused is absurd.

PETA already crossed the line when their members were caught disposing of the dead bodies of pet animals that they killed - while lying to the people who donated them by saying that they were going to find homes for them. Save Animals - Stop PETA. Mmm pita... with lamb. :-q

Two points.

1) PETA is only interested in this issue becasue it is a redmeat issue for their left of center base. It's a way for them to draw more credibility amongst people they see as like minded. Think the war on Christmas. It's a fundraising ploy (which does not excuse it's outright falsehoods).

2) This whole debate about is this research innocuous misses the point. Andrew Bellemer has it perfectly correct. Any research worth doing has potential social/technological/etc implications. As does this research. But the problem in this case is the homophobic society we live in. We need to combat that. Because one day there will be a way to control human sexuality, be it through hormones, or intimidation of homosexuals... (Wait that already happens to thousands of gay people who are shamed and terrified into living lies everyday.)

Attacking this research is a lot easier than working on the real problems with our homophobic society. But it's not going to change a thing.

kippy, well put.

Powerpuff:

Sending PETA form letters to the university requesting de-funding of these experiments is hardly terroristic.

If that were all they were doing I wouldn't have used the word "terrorism" to describe what they do. However, PETA is linked to the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front -- and those are terrorist organizations by any standard.

When pharma starts advertising drugs to prevent the unborn from becoming homosexual, PETA will be exonerated. The marketing people are probably already working on the ad campaign.

That'll be quite a trick, since in order to even make such a drug available we'd have to be sure that:

1. There is such a thing as a "gay gene";
2. We'd isolated it; and
3. Tripping the gene would actually work -- i.e., there'd be no social factors involved in homosexuality, no nurture, just nature.

And then there are those tricky laws against medical experiments on humans -- and particularly fetuses, which the right-wing nutjobs have been insisting are human from conception.

Short version: We can't even get past harvesting stem cells. You think the rightie-uptighties are going to let "godless scientists" mess around with the human genetic code?

It's naive in the extreme to think there'll be "drugs to prevent the unborn from becoming homosexual", and disingenuous in the extreme to bring forth this specter as though it's something to be genuinely alarmed about.

Please try to have facts in hand before attempting to argue facts.

But Warren, don't you see the irony? Since the rightie-uptighties KNOW that people choose to be homosexual (I am sure it must be in the Bible somewhere.) then there can't possibly be a drug which alters their natural condition. Because if there was a drug that changed their genetic code so they weren't homosexual then the rightie-uptighties would have to admit that people are BORN with this sexual orientation. (and thus "converting" them from a choice would be impossible. It is impossible, and doesn't work, but the rightie-uptighties put their fingers in their ears and say "neener-neener".)

Personally, I think homosexuality is mainly determined genetically and we shouldn't berate or discriminate against homosexuals. (no, I am not homosexual, but I work with some people who say they are homosexual. In my workplace I don't notice a difference in their performance vs people who I believe to be hetrosexual. I don't ask people what their sexual orientation is; it isn't important to the job.)

I've been out and about. Thanks for all the response.

Andrew: I wasn’t the one who introduced the idea of completely innocuous research. I haven’t thought much about whether it exists or if it does exist whether it would be worth doing but you’re probably right to doubt both of those propositions. I certainly don’t think that only completely innocuous research ought to be supported. The fears of misuse of the results of this research that the PETA people were addressing/exploiting are not trivial or unreasonable which is what is implied by saying that the research is completely innocuous.

Emptypockets: I don’t see how I’m extrapolating at all. I’m challenging the suggestion that seeking information is always politically, socially, morally neutral, (completely innocuous) and that such considerations ought not be part of our discussion about the value of any given research project.

Interrobang: Yes, indeed. Flattening an entire subfield of biology just on the off chance that it could be misused is absurd. I never suggested anything remotely like that. What I said is research may have consequences and it’s legitimate to consider them when deciding what to research or what research to support.

Kippy: The debate about whether this research is or is not innocuous may be beside your point; it’s not beside mine. Address that point or don’t address it but please don’t misrepresent it. I have not attacked this research. I said (and you seem to agree) that under our present circumstances learning how to control sexual orientation may pose problems. And your point that: “Any research worth doing has potential social/technological/etc implications. As does this research” agrees with rather than contradicts what I’m saying. You’re disagreeing with Emptypockets who wrote that looking into the mechanisms for controlling human sexual attraction is (once again, this is where we started) ‘completely innocuous’.

I just heard (on TV I can’t remember the source) someone talking about how Einstein came to regret the letter he wrote to Roosevelt recommending the Manhattan Project. I hope with all my heart never to have to wrestle with questions and responsibilities that immense. But the specifics aside I think its right to remind ourselves that the search for information cannot be wholly divorced from the context in which the search is happening.

I think there is a significant behavioral/life experience component (not "choice" at all) in determining sexual preference. In some individual cases biology may dominate. Maybe the majority, I don't know. But basically, there's no universal explanation for the wide range of human sexual behavior.

But those who wish to assert that sexual preference is exclusively or mostly biological seem to me to have just as much of a political axe to grind as the fundamentalists.

Robbie, I want to mention I appreciate the discussion even as I disagree with you. As to the phrase "completely innocuous" that we seem to be getting hung up on -- that's fine, we can jettison the phrase, as it seems to be getting in the way of actual ideas (what I wrote in the post was that the statement in the grant proposal was completely innocuous, as written by its authors -- as opposed to being shadowy or sinister as PETA tried to sell it -- but I think on most of these points, other than the precise usage of the word "innocuous," we mostly agree).

I think the interesting disagreement here is how far down the road one needs to look when one starts doing research. When I said you're extrapolating a sniper rifle from a magnifying glass, I meant simply that while an anti-gay drug might possibly be one use of this research far in the future, it does not follow directly and there are a lot of other good uses the research can be put to. You seem to think this research is more like a pistol with a sight, and it is only a few easy steps to a sniper rifle and not a lot of other directions for it to go. I completely disagree, but that's fine. I think that argument again takes us down a tangent.

The big question is, how scared do you need to be that your research will be misused? At one extreme you don't worry about it at all, leave that to the politicians. At the other extreme you worry about it constantly, and you "flatten biology" by being unwilling to work on anything meaningful. It's unlikely either of our views are really at either extreme.

I'm closer to the "don't worry" end of things -- and I think traditionally the science community has had that attitude, although we are shifting towards more involvement with the political implications (and by "shifting" I really mean "being dragged kicking and screaming").

I guess I would suggest two ethical tests, already implied above:
1. how many years of work would have to pass before this research was incorporated into something dangerous?
2. how many non-dangerous uses does this research offer in the next 5 years?

in this case, I'd say the answer to (1) is probably about 15 years, and the answer to (2) is fuzzy because it's basic research, and is building a foundation so could potentially influence very many fields.

crab nebula, interesting point... of course, ultimately everything we do is biology -- if you like Chopin and I like Woody Guthrie, somewhere in our brains there are cellular correlates for that. And supposedly if we could swap those, we would change music preferences.

Whether sexual preference in humans is something you're born with is an open question. But I don't think there's any doubt it's biological, and that biology can (someday) be understood.

Why haven't you asked PETA to comment? I,m not getting the whole story here. Everyone has bias; it is vital to question it.

``Whatever your reservations, you are - essentially - a fan of 'the team' (homo sapiens) or you aren't.''

So you are either with us, or you are anti-human. Can't I remain neutral?

Individual members of PETA may be politically left, but PETA as an organization is not. In what way do their activities advance the cause of social democracy/socialism?

The ELF is not a terrorist organization. What they do is at best imprudent, and at worst counter-productive, but equating them to al-Quaida is just nonsense that only aids the cause of those who are trying to make the US into a more authoritarian, less free, country. They do not blow up embassies, kill the executives of environmentally destructive corporations, crash commercial airliners into buildings, etc. They only destroy property. If they were putting bombs to destroy electrical power plants that supply electricity to hospitals, one could legitimately start talking about terrorism , but not before then. (But, of course, the actions of the Israeli military in destroying electrical power plants in Gaza and Lebanon were terroristic acts, tho' better categorized as war crimes, for which acts, among others, Olmert et al should be in jail in the Hague awaiting trial by the ICC.)

The obsession that the DHS in general, and the FBI in particular have with the ELF and ALF is both diverting resources from pursuing the Timothy McVeigh's that are out there, and part of a campaign to criminalize any radical environmental movements in the country whether those groups engage in the propaganda of the deed or confine themselves to public non-violent direct action. The tools that are used today against such movements will be used tomorrow against anti-war protesters, &c.

remy, I also don't ask the White House to comment when I bash them.

"I also don't ask the White House to comment when I bash them."

All I meant was, you spoke to Dr. Roselli, why not Peta? And Peta can hardly be equated with the dim bulbs at the White House. This made me check out their site. There seems to be a lot more there than gay sheep.

remy,

I'm sure Dario Ringach would disagree with you. He endured years of harrassment from animal rights terrorists. He finally gave in when they placed a bomb on his neighbor's doorstep.
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-alf5sep05,0,1185278.story?coll=la-home-headlines


John

Emptypockets:

Thanks.

We do mostly agree.

There may be some differences in perspective. It seems to me that researchers don’t try to acheive nuclear fission or inquire into where Jews live during the years of Nazi power just out of scientific curiosity. It can be done in theory but not in practice. And in a country where the party in power (please let it end soon) uses homophobia to whip up hate and fear in the ‘heartland’ I would be slow to express as much certainty as you did that a research grant that could, even in theory, even way down the road, lead to a ‘cure’ for homosexuality is, well we’ve agreed to stop beating the ‘i’ word to death. But it was the absoluteness of that word and not any practical fear that millions of people would be forced to be vaccinated against gayness that prompted my response.

You write: I think the interesting disagreement here is how far down the road one needs to look when one starts doing research. The big question is, how scared do you need to be that your research will be misused? I'm closer to the "don't worry" end of things”.

I’m closer to the don’t worry end of things too. And your suggested ethical tests seem reasonable to me. Were I a researcher I imagine I would use a similar test.

I took issue with what you wrote only on a very narrow ground I ‘understood’ (maybe misunderstood) you to be arguing that the search for information is separate from the political/moral world in which it occurs and ought to be free of political concerns and constraints and especially free of non-scientists making value judgments and demanding moral accountability.

If we wanted to find an area of disagreement it might more likely be around the question of the extent to which such decisions belong to the researcher alone, the researcher and his/her funders and supporting institutions, and all of those and the larger social community (citizens, elected officials, bloggers, demonstrators etc.) But that’s a discussion I’d rather read than take part in. I have an initial bias but no well thought out position.

I think that 60% of domestic killings are by firearms. That is the number I remember anyway. So are we to then assume that if firearms are done away with then that 60% will then live? That is what we are trying to do, because that is our nature. Then do a few more live? How did people kill each other before firearms? Knives? Donkey carts?

If someone has a mutated gene shouldn't we try to fix them? Or maybe it is the folks without a mutated gene that the mutated ones want fixed? Then the species dies out and there is no more discussion. Maybe medicine and logic are too dangerous?

I remember the video (time and time again produced) where the person with 2 drinks or so drives a car over a course and then when asked how they did says "I did great." Then they are shown the pylons scattered here and there and sees the video of their traversing the course. It is usually an eye opener. Should we require change of the person whose mind is altered by some "problem" be it at the bar or at the molecular level even if they are happy with their situation?

If someone's behavior is influenced by genes, by drugs, by living conditions (prison, bad experiences, or a 2 year voyage on a small sailing ship) does that mean that behavior should be considered unnormal for other than those conditions. I don't pretend to have all those answers, but I would like to know more. Research by its very name seems ok. Bad people claiming to do research are bad by their very name too. They shouldn't have guns, or even knives and certainly not cars? A microscope could be doubly dangerous.

I do know that PETA is a knee jerk organization, and that the vocal gay and vocal anti-gay groups are usually likewise. So maybe we should change them all into like minded sheep. Ooops! "1984," "Clockwork Orange," and "Harrison Bergeron" to name a few instances in literature.

jodi

additional - an interesting view on the definitions of homosexuality given as examples-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk:Guide_to_writing_better_articles/Define_and_describe

e.g. Is the "strange" gene necessary and sufficient? Is the description worth anything?

So you are either with us, or you are anti-human. Can't I remain neutral?

I'M GLAD YOU ASKED!

If you were a different species, I suppose you could be neutral. I'm not sure if you're kidding or not...

Assuming you aren't kidding: I don't mean to be flip. To the contrary, this is a big question which is so basic we sort of don't see it, normally. There are plenty of people who really believe that there are some things we humans oughtn't understand - they range from conservative religious people to leftish anti-rationalists (there are lots of those, particularly in the arts - hang out with Jungians sometime and you'll meet some. You also find them among animal activists, who think there is no difference between humans and other living things - 'no difference' as distinct from 'every living thing has value'). This raises the question: if you have decided that there are some things humans oughtn't understand, how do you know what they are if you don't understand them? How then, IOW, do you decide where to draw the line? I personally don't think that POV either makes any sense or is in phase with what is great about the human being - our potential curse, but also our main strength - namely, our curiosity, our desire to understand things (AKA, human evolution). The bottom line is that we are going to be bumbling and stumbling around as it is (that's what basic science is, to put it unkindly); why in the world would we want to add optional impediments to the ones which are already there? Doesn't make any sense to me.

As I mentioned above, it's theoretically valid and, at the very least understandable, to decide that humans, such as we are, are basically flawed and therefore not to be trusted with too much knowledge about ourselves and the physical world. But that is by definition anti-human (you've given up on us). I'm not saying that I know for a fact that this is wrong, but you also can't know for a fact that it isn't. I AM saying that it's an either/or. I don't see how you can be neutral. I choose (note the word 'choose') the alternative rather than this darker POV because a.) that's my temprament, and b.) because I think the odds are a astronomically better - fighting a rear guard action is almost certainly a loser: you can't 'un-know' things or change human nature very easily.

Having read some history, I'd be a fool to not be ambivalent about our species, but in practice one does ultimately have to choose, because not to decide is indeed to decide. Paradoxically, what I'm advocating sounds like a leap of faith, while people who are supposedly more 'spiritual' seem to want proof. That's the difference between faith (choosing) and superstition (fear).

We humans have been dicking around for millenia, trying at all costs to evade responsibility for our conciousness: it's God's (or The Gods') fault; it's nature's fault; it's the fault of Reason; it's the Other Wrong-Religion/Ethnicity/Sexuality-People's fault; etc. etc. BALLS I say! We are clearly going to have to start making some basic decisions as a species if our ethics are ever going to be adequate to our scientific understand and technology, and we're pretty fucking remedial about it at this point. Case in point: we are still debating (if you can call it that) things like whether or not homosexuality is 'dangerous', among many other stupidities.

But those who wish to assert that sexual preference is exclusively or mostly biological seem to me to have just as much of a political axe to grind as the fundamentalists.

Whether sexual preference in humans is something you're born with is an open question. But I don't think there's any doubt it's biological, and that biology can (someday) be understood.

I think what puts some people off about science stems from a confusion of terms - perhaps sometimes on both the pro-science and anti-science (for lack of a better term) sides. Describing something is not exactly the same as understanding it. Describing is necessary but not sufficient to understanding, to meaning. I have a young friend who keeps up with wacky, supposedly 'avant-guard' pop music, and he keeps me updated about his new discoveries. He'll say something like, 'yeah, you might like this band: it's sort of a cross between Klezmer and Stravinsky'. I ask, 'Is it good? Do you like it?'. He tends to respond with something like: 'Well, yeah, it's interesting because it's a cross between..' 'No no, is it good? Do you like it?'. I know he might think I'm being a jerk, but the fact is, he's only describing - music with those influences could be great or it could be crap. Pastiche - like terrorism - is a tactic, one which can be successful or not; but it's not a meaningful end in itself. Likewise, good science doesn't 'limit human agency', but rather reveals what true human agency consists of - it weeds out the fake stuff, and even develops it. It takes discipline and, yes, faith, to glimpse real understanding, real meaning, because the evidence is fragmented and sometimes conditional. Yes, genetic engineering is potentially scary, but the alternative is even scarier, because there is no limit to it.

I make this argument not from any 'turf', but precisely because I'm neither a trained philosopher nor scientist, exactly because anybody can, in their heart of hearts, understand the choice I'm laying out. It's not that complicated.

Personally, I choose to choose. I'm a humanist. That doesn't mean I don't believe in the ethical treatment of animals, nor does it have to imply species-arrogance, AFAIC. In fact, it's a sly form of arrogance to think that humans and all other animals are the same, morally. It's even presumptuous! A dog (or a ram) can't be immoral or 'unethical'.

I'm not arguing against expanding scientific knowledge, quite the contrary, nor am I arguing against this biological investigation in present dispute, tho' I do think that with limited resources to spend, choices about what investigations to pursue are important. I admit, in this context, that my preference for more space exploration is not looked upon kindly by various liberal-to-left friends and acquaintances, even tho' I propose that the resources be diverted from the military budget and not elsewheres.

I was merely, in a fit of pessimism, considering the potential for we humans to clean up our act, and stop driving towards the desruction of the life-sustaining capacity of our planet.

As for other critters, I would argue that at least some species of toothed whales, e.g. tursiops truncatus and orcinus orca, together with the other great apes, and elephants, are enough like homo sapiens in relevant moral respects that they deserve at least basic moral standing, e.g., not to be killed by humans, not to have their habitat destroyed by humans, not to be treated as experimental animals in ways that we would not treat humans, and so on. And on the available evidence, btw, these critters are capable of something that looks rather like moral choice.

I don't consider all species to be created equal, either, but it is the human responsibility, I think, to limit the load we are putting on the biosphere, and, among other things, to try to stop the mass extinction we are currently causing.

Thanks for the link John. It mentions some Monty Ptythonesque liberation groups but no Peta. Looks like I will have to look into Peta myself.

I was merely, in a fit of pessimism, considering the potential for we humans to clean up our act, and stop driving towards the desruction of the life-sustaining capacity of our planet.

You get no argument from me here. Nor about the idea that we need to think clearly about how we choose to spend time and money. I'd say basic research is the very soul of science, the foundation.

As for other critters, I would argue that at least some species of toothed whales, e.g. tursiops truncatus and orcinus orca, together with the other great apes, and elephants, are enough like homo sapiens in relevant moral respects that they deserve at least basic moral standing, e.g., not to be killed by humans, not to have their habitat destroyed by humans, not to be treated as experimental animals in ways that we would not treat humans, and so on. And on the available evidence, btw, these critters are capable of something that looks rather like moral choice.

No problem with any of this either, from my POV, although I'd like to see evidence about animals being able to make truly moral choices. It is precisely my point, however, that the 'moral standing' animals ought to be afforded must surely be affored to them by us, (opposed to the other way around).

I realize that I used your question as an opportunity to go off on a seeming tangent, but it seems to me that my point is actually not tangential at all, but rather central. None of us is a bystander, when it comes down to it. How we think about this affects: how we vote, deal with colleagues, spend our OWN resources (time and money), raise children, etc. etc. In a word, everything. I think we need a moment of cultural clarity, from the bottom up.

Thanks to all for the interesting discussion.

I wish those PETA people would go study the sheep that jumped off a cliff in Turkey last year:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/offbeat/2005-07-08-sheep-suicide_x.htm

Or the shocking behavior of mallard ducks:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/10/03/wig03.xml

I really prefer activists that go and sit in big old trees for weeks at a time, better kharma there.

jonnybutter.

(I think the names here are pretty interesting. I am by my nature looking for implied meanings, but as yet I am puzzled.)

Anyway, as I intimated above, I believe that the homo/hetro deal is far more complex than just biology or zoology. And yes there are all sorts of organisms that deviate from the norm. That is why some people get sick and die young, and others can throw a 96 mph fastball. My own major deviation is that I am a "tall" girl. So there. This is all as my mother said a part of nature.

Now like your friend with their music, you can say the mix we get from nature is "interesting" but is it good like you asked. I guess we all have to answer that question for ourselves, though the politics gets involved sometimes and tries to tell us what we should think. I personally don't like that.

You say you are a humanist. Well perhaps you "know thy self" but that doesn't say what that means, because who are you?
Myself I consider a realist by which I mean I can observe and then accept or reject what I see and hear whether I understand it or like it or not.

And to say dogs (and rams or ewes) can't be immoral or unethical means only that you are morally judgemental. But is that bad? I don't know. I don't pretend to be all knowing.

I have an acquaintance that is schizophrenic and doesn't want to take their medicine because the medicine slows his thoughts and then they don't feel right, and another that likes whiskey and mj and doesn't stop because he "doesn't feel like himself." One doesn't feel right to most people because they won't take drugs, the other doesn't feel right because they do take drugs. Now should we force one to take his drugs and one not to take his drugs? You see right away a major problem of our society. Perhaps it is a problem of God. How far to let free will go?
Some would argue that homosexuality is similar and I see why an available "cure" might worry those people that think they are just fine as they are.

But anyway back to your first remark. I was (unlike you) being flip but also serious. That gave me a lot of room to maneuver.

I think that I can personally remove myself to some far fulcrum and observe and draw neutral conclusions. I don't have to stay over there but it is useful when you wish to move worlds or even just study them. That doesn't mean I am a different species just a "tall " girl. Certainly I am not anti-human at least in general.

"Give me a place to stand on, and I can move the earth."
--The Works of Archimedes with the Method of Archimedes

[[[ By the way how do you put lines in italics or bold here?]]

jodi

As far as being friends to animals over humans, I will say I have yet to find an animal that lies, cheats, steals, or kills without purpose. I'm sorry to say I cannot find many humans about whom all of that can be said together in one sentence.

The truth of humans is we are now the cancer on the planet, and are killing it by our existence. We went from finally hitting 1 billion in total population in 1800 (after close to 100,000 years of there being Homo Sapiens on the planet) to 2 billion by 1900, only 100 years later, to 4 billion 20 years ago, to close to 6 billion now...

If humans were cells in a body, that growth would be clearly cancerous. Looking at the body of the earth, the situation is the same.

As far as the biological sciences go, they have overall been a negative in the long term - they have promoted growth of the population by saving lives that "natural selection" would have let go - and believe ethically that they are doing a "Good Thing" by so doing. In fact, one could make an argument that the biological scientists, by not looking at the "implications" of their work, have a great deal of responsibility for the overall degradation of both human existence (let's recall that 90% of humanity doesn't live as well as the "abjectly poor" here in America, while we nice white middle class folks build our houses and live our neat, eeducated lives by the theft of the resources those others used to depend on in their existences) and the degradation of life for every living thing on the planet.

There is no such thing as "value neutral" research and those who think there is are delusional. Since we refuse to control inflow as well as outflow (of life), the result is always a massive increase, and it sure as hell doesn't take a science degree to figure that one out. So where are all these "great scientific geniuses"???

There are days I think that the Big Picture is that the best thing that would happen is a humans-only disease with the killing potential of Ebola and the ease of spread of AIDS. And unfortunately, I suspect that out there somewhere, there is something exactly like that coming along. The one thing the slightest study of the history of the planet shows is that this will happen, and humans have nothing to say about it or any control over it. When the deer overpopulate the meadow, the result is not fun for the deer.

Humans are theoretically the animal that can forsee results from actions, but I doubt there is one time in 1,000 in anyone's given decisions on any given day that anyone ever actually uses that facility. And that is the problem.

As far as human history is concerned, there is not one invention by anyone that has not been perverted by others, from the hand-axe Homo Erectus made to find dinner being used to turn his fellow Homo Erecti into non-competitors onwards. That's what I mean that there is no "pure" scientific research. One man's skyrocket to entertain kids is another man's cannon to blow the kids to smithereens. No, I am not advocating no research, no progress, but I suggest emptypockets start filling his pockets with some books of historical analysis and then read them.

I used to think PETA was crazy,but over the past 20 years, what I've seen is their points are generally proven - by the people who say they are crazy.

So the fact that Roselli kills 'only' 18 sheep a year makes his research acceptable? Oh please! Read the work of Dr Ray Greek www.curedisease.com), especially Sacred Cows and Golden Geese - there are no ethical arguments here, he's an ex-vivisector who uses the medical industry's own 'research' and findings to show animal experimentation up for the scientific fraud that it is. Using animal-based models is a cheap way for drug companies to get their products on the market, and damn the consequences to human health. Using animal-based models allows lazy 'scientists' to make a name for themselves and pay their mortgage without having to do more indepth and accurate research. It doesn't benefit humankind - it hinders it. If you can't find the time to read Dr Greek's book, read this article:
http://www.nexusmagazine.com/articles/animaltesting.html

As for PETA 'crossing the line' - the psychopaths in white coats in labs cross the line every single day by murdering non-human sentient beings in pursuit of their pseudo-scientific claptrap. Kudos to PETA for lifting the lid on them - far too many of them work away in secret behind closed doors doing unspeakable things.

As for the Animal Liberation Front - as far as I'm aware no one has ever been killed by animal rights activists, so they're pretty crap terrorists! They'd have surely failed Terrorism 101 and I doubt Al Qaeda would give them a job!!! Ironic how people rush to label ALF or ELF 'terrorist' and so easily forget that the women's liberation movement (suffragettes) and black liberation movements used the same tactics ie destroying equipment, property and buildings of the oppressor. Looking back, we call them 'heroes' (except for misogynistic middle-class white men, of course :) ), not terrorists.

http://www.katrinafox.com/blog.htm

To JanInSanFran:

Do a Google Scholar search on "wuensch misanthropy"

to the activists: I don't recall instances of feminists or suffragettes going in and destroying the equipment (and sometimes careers) of their opposition.

TCinLA, I agree with most of your points, especially your conclusion that all research can lead to dangerous consequences (indeed, getting out of bed in the morning can lead to dangerous consequences), but it does sound like you're advocating "do no research" -- if not that, then what are you advocating? I recognize that there exists an internally-consistent philosophy that says we and the planet were all better off when we were living as we did several thousand years ago -- but if you take that view you can't really be called a "progressive."

Katrina Fox, your article at "Nexus" was amazingly misguided. It is not news that humans respond differently to drugs than animals do. It is mind-blowingly stupid to jump from that point to the conclusion that animal research is pointless. First, unless you are also an evolution-denier, you recognize that the fundamental insight we gain in animal research teaches us about all biology, including human biology. Second, unless you propose doing early-stage research directly in humans, the only sensible method is to narrow the possibilities in animal models and then to do safety testing in humans -- which is what we do. I'm glad you showed up here though -- I was beginning to think everyone was well-educated and reasonable on this issue, and was afraid I had written this post for no reason.

Emptypockets - I only showed up here because you were kind enough to post comments on my own (fairly new) blog - thank you!

"The only sensible method is to do early stage testing on animals and then later on humans" you said. Are you serious? And you call my views 'mindblowingly stupid'!! As my Nexus article clearly showed, doing 'early' research on mice etc provides NO indication as to the safety of a drug on humans or how humans will react to it. Vioxx and other drugs that have been pulled off the market are evidence of this. All those 'early' or otherwise 'studies' on animals that supposedly showed the drug to be 'safe' didn't mean squat.

The medical research industry uses animals for one reason - they're CHEAP. It's far more economical for them to buy a few hundred mice and torture them than to invest in alternative models (outlined in the Greeks' book which I didn't have the scope to cover in the Nexus article - but hey, you consider yourself 'well-educated', so go do yourself a favour and read the book). Drug companies and that whole industry are all about profits and dollars (including the multi-million dollar 'industries' attached to them eg 'equipment manufactures' that make the devices that clamp an animal's head so it remains still while 'scientists' cut them open, inject them etc).

If a drug company tests a drug on mice and it turns out that it kills them, they'll test on dogs and if that's deemed 'safe', they'll release the reports saying it's ok to move to humans. If not, they'll try sheep or cats - if just one of these comes up 'ok', it's a licence for the drug company to push its drug on the market.

Testing drugs on non-humans with different physiologies and then attempting to apply the results to humans is BAD science. And any 'reasonable' and 'well educated' person can see that (providing the dollar signs are not blinding them, of course).

Drug testing done in animals is largely for efficacy -- to see if the drug works. If it works, then even if it appears safe in animals, extensive safety testing is done in humans because the points you raise are all well appreciated and have been for a long time. Vioxx was a case where the human testing was done wrong, or results were ignored. That is not an animal testing issue: it is a misuse of science issue, and when you have people motivated by profit rather than interest in truth, no amount of safety testing is going to help.

You conveniently ignored my main point, which is that understanding animal biology informs us about human biology. Unless you don't believe in the conservation of genes and genetic pathways, and think each organism was "created" from scratch, you have to recognize that the way we learn about biology (including human biology) is by doing experiments. Since Dr. Roselli's work is basic research -- trying to understand fundamental conserved molecular mechanisms, trying to understand how life works -- and not about drug testing, that issue is what is relevant here.

Although I strongly disagree with your views, I do very much appreciate your willingness to discuss them.

``to the activists: I don't recall instances of feminists or suffragettes going in and destroying the equipment (and sometimes careers) of their opposition.''

The British suffragettes between 1903 and 1910, or thereabouts, did do some fairly drastic things, the most drastic of which, IIRC, was to firebomb the summer home of the British Prime Minister. (There is a book about this that I read years ago, but alas I cannot recall the title.) They were a feisty bunch. The suffragettes in the US confined themselves to such acts as chaining themselves to the gates of the White House grounds.

Thanks for actually checking the facts. I am embarrassed not to have processed the information that the claim was coming from PETA. Yes, we know about PETA. But I momentarily forgot, perhaps due to too much alcohol and too little sleep. I'm passing this on to the people I heard about the experiments from.

My thanx to Empty Pockets, to the research and investigation into this piece. As a gay man with a small blog for the GLBT community and our friends and family, I was interested in this story. I was actually emailed about this article from an "anonymous" reader. I honestly wasnt sure about the validity of it and posted a small post about it the other day. Much to my surprise, I found out later that same day that the article is also featured in one of our GLBT national publications, as well.

I am quick not to endorse anonymous emails from strangers, but of course the topic piqued my interest as a gay man. However, the PETA Org. stamp at the top of the story was a huge red flag for me. Dealing with extremist groups from the right wing, to the religious right, and certain other "activist" groupls, I do like to investigate information I have heard or let my readers do so for themselves without passing judgement.

I am actually quite interested in a study that would prove the existence of so-called "gay" genes, just to get the "personal choice" lobby off our backs for a while. Although I can see a slippery slope of unethical possibilities down the line with gene therapy, some risks are necessary in the name of Science. I am very happy to hear from Empty Pockets brief exchange, that Dr. Roselli does not appear to be a homophobe. I will link to this post in an addendum to my blog post, and have found a site that I am very interested in, being a strong Democratic leaning Guru, with an interest in politics and current events....GG

GG, thanks for checking in & keeping an open mind! hope to see you around here more often...

EP wrote:
"You can make cells do a lot of things in a dish."

Yes, you can, but ironically, here you've invoked a Big Lie that is promoted by PeTA and even the US Gov't--that cell culture is a "non-animal alternative," when in fact, it is neither non-animal nor alternative.

"What matters is what they do in real life, in real animals. Unfortunately, stopping animal research means stopping biology flat."

There, you're right, but you should note that there aren't papers being published that involve vegan cell culture.

"There is another discussion well worth having: which experiments are worth it? Is it worth killing an animal to get a life-saving cure?"

Well, it's clear that PeTA endorses cell culture, which in turn kills a lot of animals--primarily newborn (called fetal) calves that are removed from their mothers after slaughter. The blood is withdrawn by direct cardiac puncture with no anesthesia. PeTA gives cell culture blanket approval, so they must also approve of this.

"It is tremendously rewarding to be able to gain insight into a system so like ourselves, but it is not fun to kill."

It's easier to let HyClone kill newborn calves so that I can do cell culture, but it's dishonest to pretend that because the killing was done elsewhere, that cell culture magically becomes "non-animal."

"PETA has joined the company of intelligent designists and global warming deniers, those who misreport scientific research, cherry-pick results, and flat-out lie to further their political agenda."

PETA has joined? They've always lied. Take their lie that Nobel-winning polio research didn't involve animals, when it involved LD50 assays on mice and paralysis assays on monkeys as a case of breathtaking dishonesty.

As for those who like the left-right dichotomy, things fit better when you look at politics as a circle with liberalism (in the classical sense) at the top and fascism at the bottom. You can get to fascism by going left or right, and there's nothing liberal about PeTA.

john, good points about fetal calf serum being used as a standard ingredient required in most cell culture systems. Not something most people think about (or in many cases, are even aware of). I wonder what the numbers are here, in terms of number of calves a cell culture lab goes through compared to how many mice a mouse lab goes through, average.

If one is to incorporate ethics into this debate about whether or not animal testing, or the utilization (and thus killing) of animals in experiments, is right/wrong, good/bad, then shouldn’t there also be a standard by which one determines how right or how wrong something is? Shouldn’t there be an ‘ethical calculus’ almost to the same extent as a Utilitarian would use?

The Utilitarian Calculus, as I vaguely remember it from a few ethics philosophy classes (note: I’m not self-proclaiming myself as a philosopher, nor as an ethicist) goes something like this:

- Good things promote happiness.
- Bad things use up happiness.
- Every living thing has interests (the interest in being fed, staying alive, feeling good, not feeling pain, keeping their sentience, etc).
- Happiness is further organized into ‘units of happiness’.
- If action (A) increases collective happiness (be it exclusively one living thing’s happiness or the collective happiness of many living things) by (X) amount, but at the same time decreases happiness of some different entity by (Y) amount, and (X) is greater than (Y), then action (A) is ethical and thus GOOD.
- Different actions can be more ethical or less ethical in comparison to each other based upon the disparity between relative happiness and unhappiness.

If I laid this out correctly (and anyone who has studied Utilitarian Ethics please critique this) then we don’t need to refer to human actions as “worth the killing of animals” or “not worth it” rather we can refer to them as “ethical” or “unethical”. (If we simply refer to things as being worth it or not, we are appealing to value judgments and thus can not universally come to an agreement: ex: To me it may be well worth it to kill or harm animals in order for me to have a new shampoo that makes my hair extra silky and shiny, whereas to someone else (probably a person with more sound morals) it would not be worth it).

Now we can apply this calculus:

- If performing an experiment (B) requires that a group of test chimps are induced with the HIV virus, we may be able to arbitrarily decide that it decreases their collective happiness (supposing there are 20 chimps in the experiment) by [20 x 100,000 units each(assuming that death is probable and thus their interest in life, or in other words, the units of happiness acquired from living is about 100,000 for a chimp)] = 2,000,000 units of happiness taken away.
- Performing experiment (B) will however increase collective human happiness (those infected with HIV and at risk of death) by (38,600,000 people with HIV* x 100 units each (if it were proven that this experiment would in fact cure HIV this number would be higher)] = 3,860,000,000 units of happiness increased.
- 3,860,000,000 > 200,000… performing experiment (B) is ethical 1,930 fold.


Lets assume a similar experiment with the same ‘guinea pigs’ with the same probable result (death) yielding the same amount of removal of happiness, but instead of finding remedies for HIV, it produced that shampoo I was just raving about. Obviously the shampoo would probably be used by far less people than those infected with HIV and would produce far far less happiness for us special shampoo users… If we were to redo the math, the amount of happiness yielded would probably be less than the happiness taken away from the test animals and thus would be unethical.

This type of ethical calculation is utilized all the time: in eminent domain, court cases, etc. Why can’t we use it in the scientific community?

Carlos Hidalgo, I believe this is what the armchair bioethicists talk about -- those fellows who haven't been in a lab in several decades who now have full-time jobs advising others how to design experiments.

The "calculation" is just a way of codifying our gut feelings about what's morally acceptable. We say, "well, that shampoo is worth probably about 30 guinea pigs so therefore 1 happy guinea pig is equal to 30 happy humans." It is bullshit, and worse than that it is circular bullshit.

We have individual gut feelings about what's morally ok, we discuss it and debate it as a community and reach some consensus. Yes, it's a value judgement. So what?

Okay - I think everyone is missing one vital component. The researcher is doing the tests at the request of the sheep industry. Why? 10% of rams prefer other rams. This doesn't provide the most productive reproductive cycle, no? Sheep farmers want more sheep as fast as possible to line their pockets as fast as possible.

So the researcher is examining why some sheep are gay. And what's he going to do with that info? He's trying to find a way to "turn off" the gay gene. That produces the result the sheep industry is after - no gay sheep equals more sheep to sell. I notice that part was conveniently left out of this post...

And you wonder why LGBT groups are also concerned about this? What happens when parents decide they don't want a gay son or daughter after the gene has been found? While it's been fun for a lot of you to bash PETA, you're also bashing the hundreds of LGBT groups that are also very concerned about this issue. This isn't just a "Damn PETA is at it again" moment. This is a "a large minority of our citizens could be wiped off the face of the Earth by the majority through genetic manipulation" moment.

I have a real problem with the way this issue has been posed--I call it the "median fallacy": first we identify Wrong Party #1, right-wingers who hate science, are homophobes, etc.. Then we identify their alleged ideological opposite, Wrong Party #2, PETA, who are wrong because they represent a twisted mirror image of the errors of their opponents. So we arrive at the boring and specious conclusion that too far right and too far left are inherently bad and that we can pursue the best course of action in all things by avoiding "extremes" and pursuing some kind of middle path.

There is just so much wrong with this facile setup.

The framing of the debate here is just entirely wrong--here's my take on why but there are certainly many other ways to see the situation that would avoid the stupid logic of choosing a middle path between two idiotic viewpoints: first, the right-wing take on homosexuality is like the right-wing take on everything: it dislikes and misunderstands science. It is not that their thinking is too far to one end of the opinion spectrum, rather, it's that they're not in the same ballpark at all. Fundamentalist Christians just cannot be included in this sort of debate since they aren't capable of engaging in the necessary mode of rational discourse.
As for PETA, it's a ridiculous error to set them up as representing the extreme left-wing of any debate. They have an overwhelming specialized obsession with animal rights that just has nothing to do with the standard left vs right political debate. Like the Fundamentalist Christians, they pretty much have to be excluded from this kind of bioethics debate because they are also precluded from engaging in the necessary mode of rational discourse. Given inflexible dogmatic beliefs that a zygote has a soul, or that homosexuality is an abomination, or that no animals should be killed since they are sentient and thus deserving of similar rights to human beings, there's really nothing else to say. In both cases there is really no room for anything resembling an honest debate over bioethics.

So instead of imagining that there is some kind of spectrum from right to left with us logical folks in the center, it would be much better simply to identify those who hold specific dogmatic irrational commitments and exclude them from the discussion. They do not represent the extreme sides of a debate; rather, they represent positions entrenched outside of the realm of the debate. Their positions are not to be taken into account when looking to achieve a consensus.

Bill Browning, the statement that the research is being done for the sheep industry is out and out false. It is basic research designed to understand how the brain controls behavior, and has no connection with the sheep industry that I've been able to find. Also, the researcher is no more trying to turn off a gay "gene" (which no one, including him, believes exists) than he is trying to turn it on. This is basic science, not medicine. And it's also worth noting that no one has been able to biologically manipulate sexuality in sheep or humans (other than castration), so raising cries of anyone wiping anyone else off the planet are nonsense. We really need educated people like yourself to be more critical when evaluating this crap.

Chris, your points are well taken. In fact, I see both PETA and the religious Right at the same end of the spectrum, with that spectrum being uncritical allegiance to science on one side and uncritical hatred of science on the other side. But your point is well taken that I was framing this as PETA being politically at an extreme end of the spectrum from the usual anti-research groups, and that even if that were the case (I still kind of think it is), that the political spectrum isn't the one that's relevant here -- it's more complicated.

I also agree that these extreme positions are not worth including in the debate; unfortunately, they're already in there and I fear that ignoring them only makes them stronger. This particular PETA pack of lies has spread alarmingly quickly among people who really ought to know better.

Have you no compassion whatsoever? It's one thing to test on animals when you're doing cancer research or other potentially life-saving study but to do this to animals for this kind of study is deeply immoral. Sheep may not be bright but they do feel fear and pain. You are equating testing on sheeps in this study to eating sheeps. Clearly you're not concerned with animals being mistreated cuz last time I heard farm animals are not experimented on before they are slaughtered.

wes hurley, most scientific advances come from basic research, and that's where the money should be spent and it's certainly worth using animals in those studies -- basic research is the engine that drives all scientific enterprise. If you're interested, I explain this in a nutshell here -- note that about 6 of the last 10 Nobels have been given for basic studies, not applied medical work (like cancer research). I understand why you would be tempted to say that only research directly aimed at saving lives is worth killing animals for, but I think you would change your mind if you thought about what the really big scientific breakthroughs of the last 50 years have been: the discovery that nerve cells communicate through the release of chemicals, and what those chemicals are; the discovery that hormones control development and organ function, and how they do it; the discovery of stem cells. If your policy were put into practice, none of this research would have gone forward. As to compassion, experimental animals are treated far far better than those in the meatpacking industry -- for the experiment to be interpretable, the animals need to be healthy and as un-stressed as possible (in contrast, you can always sell meat).

completely blown away by the clarity and direction of your argument. It's extremely refreshing to see an essay by someone who has a solid understanding of biology that can point out the mistakes made by both the left and the right without leaning too far over to one side. Dr.Roselli has been an easy poster-child for the propagate-lies-to-further-political agenda groups such as PETA, and you did him and science a great favor by exposing PETA's tactics. great work, you have just found a new committed reader.

side note: there are people starving on the streets. Does PETA hate people?

ROSELLI IS GENDER-CONFUSED?
While trying to give Dr. Roselli the benefit of the doubt here, in his own comments (here and elsewhere) he APPEARS to be conflating, over and over, variations in gender-identity on the one hand, with variations in sexual orientation on the other.
I recognize that hormonal factors appear to contribute to the determination both of gender and orientation, but given that these vary independently in human beings, it's hard to see his justification for treating them as co-extensional, or correlated in any way, in sheep.
Anyone want to clear up the confusion for me? Or perhaps for Dr. Roselli?

- Lauren D.

JODI is DEFINITELY CONFUSED:
Jodi asks, "If someone has a mutated gene shouldn't we try to fix them?"
Sorry, but the idea that gay people each have a mutated gene just makes no sense.
If you mean that each gay person inherits some "non-mutated" DNA and then a mutation event occurs independently in each such person, producing their sexual orientation, well that's pretty clearly false.
If on the other hand you mean that gay and lesbian people ALL happen to inherit a common genetic "mutation", well, while that may turn out to be true, it would likewise mean that all straight people have inherited a common 'mutation'. Consider: the human gene pool, with all its variations, is ENTIRELY the product of a history of mutation. In other words, in the relevant sense, all of our genetic dispositions are EQUALLY the result of genetic mutations. Given that, why would you claim that one sexual orientation is a flaw needing to be "fixed" and the other is not? (majority rules?)
And please don't tell me it has to do with making babies -- that's a tired red herring (after all, you would not declare that all straight, infertile people should be "fixed" to reproduce, etc.).

- Lauren D.

It just goes to show how much Ingrid Newkirk of PeTA really says "they are publicity sluts" The only reason they pick on the Dr, is because it will benifet PeTA more than picking on someone who does not have a name out there. Like they care about 14 sheep. and If they did care they would just put them to sleep like they did all the dogs in North Carolina. You should really look at a website called www.petakillsanimals.com or www.petanewscenter.com and look at the FBI files on what they really spend their money on.their kill rate this last year was 97% so the hell with what they say. Dr, keep up the work you are doing for what ever reason your doing it. who am I or anyone else to say your doing a bad thing. Most of us will be dead by the time you find out the facts anyway. but as a gay man I can say years ago in a different society I wish someone could have prevented me from being born gay because it is not a choice. but I have learned to live with it and love myself now but who would choose this for themselves.
any way PeTA is a bad thing, we have enough violence and people butting into other peoples business now. why do we want to promote more. The facts are in and IRS reports prove PeTA is supporting terrorist.

I have read and seen what PeTA are all about and that is nothing but killing of animals. As a gay man it was my doing not anybody else's doing. PeTA does not care about the 14 sheep. They care about their image and will probley kill the sheep anyway. North Carolina really proved to the people that PeTA don't care. Vist every website on PeTA and find out the truth about PeTA. If the people of the world give in we will live on soy milk and soy bean product. we also won't be able to fish, hunt, or have any live stock. The goverment sould shut them down for go.

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