The statements by Dr. Greek get more and more surprising by the minute.
He now writes:
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“To state that these other ways, mainly basic science research using animals, have resulted in knowledge that was instrumental in leading to cures or treatments is not in dispute.”
This sudden stroke of insight was shorted-lived, as it was immediately followed with the qualification:
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“Let me give you some other activities that have resulted in treatment or cures: watching sailboats, dreaming, failing to wash glassware.”
The claim is that basic research with animals stumbled into important results only by chance. The claim is that watching the clouds, or dreaming, has the same probability of generating therapies and cures as animal research. Curiouser and curiouser!
“If Dr Ringach wants to claim that basic research using sentient animals (that is controversy in society, not basic research using worms) then he needs to produce studies showing sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value in order to reveal how such research has succeeded in the past. Individual successes (anecdotes) do not count when evaluating a modality as a whole.”
Statistical measures on 2x2 contingency tables are a way to assess the performance of individual diagnostic tests or treatments. It is those individual tests or models that need to be discarded or refined if the outcome does not meet expectations. When these individual attempts fail they provide valuable information, as they guide us where we should not be looking for answers, fueling progress as well. This is how science works. Pointing out to any individual failure does not rule out the entire biomedical research enterprise. One cannot squeeze an entire scientific field of inquiry into a 2x2 table. The notion is pure nonsense. What is the positive predictive value of physics?
Dr. Greek is also confused on whose shoulders the burden of proof lies. It is those that claim that there are other, more effective, methods that will yield the success stories produced by animal and human research combined (‘anecdotes’ in his parlance) that need to bring their proof to the table. It those that argue that they can dream up cures for cancer and AIDS that should be so inspired and share the outcome with the rest of us. This is particularly true when the overwhelming majority of scientists (93%) agrees with the need for animal research as an integral tool (along with human studies) to advance medical knowledge and medicine.
Finally, I want to point out that a unique feature of science is that it is self-correcting. Bad ideas are, in the long term, discarded. Animal rights activists can rest assured that if your views are scientifically valid they will eventually prevail. In my opinion it will take more than a book of half-truths and out-of-context citations to make your case. I'd suggest you get into the laboratory and generate the results (of course, you cannot peek into the findings of animal research -- that would be cheating).