By now I’m sure you have heard about Subway Restaurants removing the “yoga mat” additive azodicarbonamide from their bread after a brief campaign by food blogger Vani Hari, aka the Food Babe. What you may not have heard was that it is all based on a bunch of pseudo-scientfic scare mongering. Enjoy your salad on a roll & see Steven Novella’s post on the NeuroLogica blog for the full story.
Human beings are plauged by confirmation bias and the vegan and animal rights community is no exception. Tim Farley demonstrates this nicely in his recent Skeptool post titled “See how to debunk viral photos in seconds using image search” in which he addresses the following viral tweet that is still making the rounds,
— Earth Pics (@earthposts) April 28, 2013
As Tim points out this is not a picture of animal testing at all. Rather the image depicts a large number of cats that were seized from an animal hoarder in a mass spay and neuter clinic in preparation for adoption. Spaying and neutering is something were certainly don’t want to discourage. So read Tim’s post and do you homework folks.
Speaking of Animal Testing…:
Animal Rights activists can often be found making not just ethical but scientific arguments against such research by stating that it is ineffective and can not provide useful data. But such an unuanced position appears uninformed to most working researchers and is unlikely to be convincing. If we are to be viewed as anything more than a luddite fringe then our knowledge and arguments must keep pace with reality. As Noah Lewis states in his essay “Bad Science or Bad Argument: The Role of Science Arguments in the Animal Experimentation Debate“,
When publicly arguing against animal experimentation, the most common strategy criticizes the scientific validity of the experiments (known as “bad science” arguments). Activists claim that animal experimentation is wasteful, redundant, inapplicable, and often harmful to human animals. That an animal rights group would make these arguments seems natural: they simply want to see an end to animal experimentation–how that is achieved is irrelevant. However, the tension arising from attempting to use arguments from within science to question the underlying moral framework does not advance, and ultimately undermines, progress toward animal rights.
I feel that Noah is correct and that activist need to reject bad arguments and be aware of feeding their confirmation bias. In addition to the above essay, the following conversation between Dr Ray Greek, co-founder of Americans For Medical Advancement and prominent animal research critic, and Dr Steven Novella, neurologist and host of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe, on this issue is well worth the listen.
Life After the Lab:
No matter how good our arguments are we must recognize that society has a long way ahead on the issue of animal research. It is easy to get angry or frustrated and feel powerless. For the vast majority of animals in labs today there is no hope. They will live out their lives in those cages. But a lucky few will make it out and when they do they could use our help. Currently New Life Animal Sanctuary, an animal sanctuary focusing on helping animals freed from research labs, is trying to raise money to build an enclosure so that they can secure the release of 20-25 pigeons from a psychology lab. So if you can send a few bucks their way.
I have a love/hate relationship with Whole Foods market. On the one hand they can be one of the only sources of some specialty products. On the other hand their business is practically centered around pseudoscience. So I was glad to see the following piece titled “Whole Foods: America’s Temple of Pseudoscience” by Michael Schulson calling them out. Check it out when you have a chance and let me know what you think.
The popular science program Cosmos is back! I thought it would be impossible to replace the awesomeness that was Carl Sagan but I couldn’t agree with their choice of host more. Astrophysicist and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson will taking the helm of the Spaceship of the Imagination to guide a whole new generation through the wonders of our cosmos. The series kicks off tonight, so check it out.
This last story comes via Sharon Hill of Doubtful News. A picture of an apparently giant ( and dead) monster bat is making the rounds. But as Sharon points out this was actually a peaceful fruit-munching flying fox. People should be better informed about nature. Ignorance like this could lead more people to harm these gentle creatures.