Speaking of Logical Fallacies… Why the Speaking of Research Community Could Use a Refresher Course in Critical Reasoning

Speaking of Research, an advocacy group that claims to provide “accurate information about the importance of animal testing in medical and veterinary science,” prides itself on being “for reason” (see a list of contributors here). Yet, the recent performance of their UCLA vivisection entourage leads us to seriously doubt their commitment to reason.

In January of 2014, eleven animal rights activists (members of Progress for Science) organized a peaceful protest on behalf of the eleven primates held captive in UCLA research labs, subjected to god only knows what sort of abuse, pain, and suffering. Since UCLA vivisectionists are curiously obsessed with (and obviously threatened by) the efforts of animal activists, they found out about the vigil beforehand and organized a “protest the protestors” event.

The following short video depicts just how out of control and violent the UCLA research community can be.

**Trigger warning:  you will never look at the animal research community the same.** This clip also includes violent language and actions.

Some highlights from the video: we hear professional scientists—scientists with PhDs—uttering the following claims:

Hitler was a vegetarian like you!” (and I really wonder if this scientist is somehow unaware that Hitler was also responsible for conducting biomedical research on sentient beings).

Go home and put some fresh tofu on the grill!”

You guys are terrorists; you fire bomb homes, cars…”

You hate humans!”

You all are stupid!”

You’re pathetic! You suck!”

At first I thought this was a joke: would professional scientists really make these sorts of immature jabs and engage in taunting behavior that one might expect from middleschoolers? But there is no pun; the sad truth remains: this is the UCLA way of “defending science!” I mean, why use critical reasoning when you can just scream obscenities and accuse all anti-vivisection activists of being “tofu loving, human hating terrorists”?

What is more unbelievable to me is that when Dario Ringach, a former UCLA vivisectionst, reported on this event, he wrote:

Instead, they [animal activists] were confronted with reason, facts and challenges to their anti-social behavior.

Ummm… was he sleeping? At what point did the animal researchers “present reason and facts?” It’s no wonder he did not post a link to the video on his blog: the video clearly demonstrates that Dario’s recent blog post is filled with blatant falsehoods.

In this same blog post, Ringach continues:

We wondered if the group would make use of this opportunity to engage in public debate. Perhaps they would try to learn the reasons that society has to charge its scientists with advancing medical knowledge and human health? Or maybe they would simply put forward their own challenges in front of us? None of that happened.

The video speaks to the animal activists inability to engage in any civil discourse with the researchers: from the moment they approached the animal researchers, they were surrounded by screaming, raging, violent, aggressive men. Why Ringach thinks that it was even possible for the group to have been heard over this madness is beyond me.

There is much to say about the pure violence, intimidation, and immature bullying tactics of the vivisectionists. For instance, we see UCLA animal researchers:

-flicking off the camera yelling “fuck you
-screaming in the ears of the animal activists so loudly that veins are protruding out of their necks
-acting so aggressively that police need to intervene and physically restrain the pro-researchers
-licking the camera
-threatening the animal activist filming this chaos that he will be “found”

Also note that there is a common theme throughout this video: privileged white men, with their booming voices and large stature, screaming at the top of their lungs in the faces of women while the crowd (women included) chanted like a choir of support. Instead of having women leaders in this “protest the protest,” we see the typical violent methods of patriarchal society: privileged white men “getting the job done” through anger, aggression, intimidation, and violence while women sit passively on the side, echoing the words of the male “master minds.” It’s also worth noting that although this protest took place outside of a female vivisectionist’s home, male scientists are the ones who take control of the protest.

But perhaps what is even more troubling is the downright  lack of critical reasoning of the UCLA vivisectionists. Their willingness to dismiss all animal activists as “terrorists” or “stupid” indicates that these scientists have little knowledge about the animal liberation movement. If they did, they would realize that these are not just “stupid values.” There are sound philosophical arguments that support and motivate the anti-vivisection movement which I will not belabor on this blog; arguments that come from distinguished PhDs and lawyers like Tom Regan, Gary Francione, and Peter Singer. While I don’t know most of the anti-vivisection protestors in the video, I did recognize one who holds a PhD in Sociology and who has published extensively in academic journals on animal related issues.

Furthermore, if these scientists paused for a few minutes to actually read or listen to the arguments that, god forbid, criticize animal research on anthropocentric grounds, they would know that one of the reasons why so many individuals abhor vivisection is because animal research is counterproductive: it actually harms human beings in so many ways. You can read about the harms humans endure from animal research here– but one thing worth noting is that Adverse Drug Reaction is the FOURTH leading cause of human death each year.

Now, animal researchers are quick to label all animal activists as “terrorists” because they supposedly violently attack animal researchers. As we are informed by a belligerent, unidentified male in the video: “you all are terrorists. You fire bomb houses!” But here’s something worth considering: how many human beings have been killed or harmed by animal activists? And how many humans have been harmed or killed by animal research? Considering that ADR is the fourth leading cause of death, NOT animal liberationists, it’s pretty obvious who it is that really threatens human welfare.

To be clear, I do not advocate for violence against vivisectionists (mainly for practical reasons—i.e. I find it likely that committing acts of violence will harm the animal liberation movement rather than advance the cause), but I do find it ironic that animal researchers like David Jentsch cause a public uproar about the “threat” of harm from animal activists when vivisectionists are the ones responsible for an unforgiveable amount of human harm every single year: harm that could be prevented by not using nonhuman animals in research who, time and time again, prove to be bad research models.

Furthermore, calling all animal activists “terrorists” is one of the fallacies that we are warned of when taking a basic philosophy course (and I truly hope it is the case that scientists, at some point, have taken some course work in critical reasoning. If not, shame on their education system!). Even if we grant that some (and by some, I mean very few since there are few animal activists who write in support of violence) animal activists use violent tactics (these particular individuals are referred to as the Animal Liberation Front; “animal rights extremists” who partake in violent forms of direct action), it is not the case that ALL activists support violence, and in fact, many leaders in the animal protection movement, like Tom Regan and Peter Singer, publicly denounce violent tactics. It’s safe to say that the animal liberation movement is very divided on this issue, thus scientists blatantly mischaracterize the animal liberation movement when they refer to all animal activists as “terrorists” or “fire bombers.” This is what we refer to as a faulty generalization or a fallacy of inductive inference, which involves making a generalization about a particular phenomena on the basis of one or two particular instances of this phenomena.

Quite evidently, those who attended the vigil had no violent intentions and Progress for Science has never once engaged in violent direct action, yet the “pro-science” community didn’t hesitate to accuse them of fire-bombing their homes.

This video is not an isolated case of embarrassing episodes from the vivisection community. Just take a quick glance at the Speaking for Research website, and you will find your fill of logical fallacies. Start by searching “animal rights”; you will find a string of articles devoted to ad hominem attacks on animal activists and ethicists. The other articles in this section are limited to discussions about “animal rights extremists.” Funny how there is little mention of mainstream animal ethicists who take a strong position against violence.

Recently, Ringach wrote a post about me which you can read here. So, you might wonder: why on earth Dario Ringach, an established professor and scientist, would waste his time blogging about a graduate student? Well, here’s the answer: I wrote a blog critiquing one of Dario’s talks that I attended. When Ringach came across this blog, which is a careful, point by point critique of his unoriginal pro-vivisection argument, instead of engaging my criticisms and attempting to defend his pro-vivisection arguments, he spent a considerable amount of time looking me up online and finding enough “evidence” against me so that he could paint a picture of me as a “human hating, crazy animal lover.” He posted my thesis abstract, which I admit is on a controversial issue, but it is a philosophical thought exercise about utilitarianism that should be read in its entirety before one quickly forms an opinion. He posted quotes from my blogs, out of context, which, from a utilitarian perspective, questions our insistence to always save humans over animals in conflicts (oh my, imagine that!). But the main point is this: Ringach and his entourage of “research soldiers” at UCLA lack the critical reasoning skills (or if they have them, they evidently fail to express these skills) to justify and defend animal research when they are confronted with valid objections. So, in order to defend himself against my critical response to his obviously confused arguments, Ringach took this opportunity to use me as a “token activist”; a “representation” of how “irrational” animal activists are. His goal: if someone were to come across my article on him, they would disregard it since, after all, animal activists are just so “anti-human.”

This is what we call an ad hominem in philosophy 101: attacking an interlocutor’s character in order to avoid addressing the subject at hand.

Just the other day Ringach left another one of his infamous ad hominem attacks on my blog, which I did not bother to approve since its nonsense detracts from the content of my blog post. But since it is relevant to this post, I will repost it here. First, note that it was a response to my criticism of the Animal Welfare Law. The main goal of the article was to demonstrate that nonhuman animals do not have even minimally decent protection under the so-called “animal welfare laws.” Ringach’s comment was that my point was “moot” because animal activists like myself “would not approve of the use of animals in experimentation no matter the level of protection afforded to them.”

darioringach

Rather than engage my actual argument, you can see that Ringach focuses his response, again, on me and how my beliefs are just “so extreme,” therefore I can’t be reasoned with. Yet, this post I wrote addresses a number of important  issues that the scientific community should be engaging: problems with IACUCs formation, the overly permissive approval process of research proposals, unpunished violations of the animal welfare law, and so forth . Yet, instead of focusing on these very important issues, vivisectionists too often devote their time to either character attacks on animal activists or they dwell over the one or two times they have been threatened by animal activists so that they don’t have to address the hard questions regarding animal welfare.

One has to wonder: what would vivisectionists blog about if there were no “threats” from the animal liberation movement? With all of the “dangers” vivisectionists face, they seem to assume that they are off the hook from addressing the many ethical issues inherent to the use of animals in research.

While you might expect that after the protest, when emotions have quieted, the UCLA researchers would be a bit ashamed of how unprofessionally they acted. But to my surprise, they are in fact proud of their actions and have been boasting all over twitter about how wonderfully they handled themselves, sharing photos, and patting each other on the virtual back.

UCLAVivisectors

They somehow found it heroic and admirable for a large group of violent, privileged men (and a few fairly silent women) to scream at, intimidate, and threaten eleven peaceful animal advocates who only wanted to offer a silent prayer for the eleven primates who are subject to the unforgivable cruelty at the hands of UCLA vivisectionists. I’m not sure what’s worse: the violence, the stupidity, or being proud-of-violence-and-stupidity.

Please sign the petition to end research on primates at the University of California.

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