Animal Rights

Paranoia From Orac

| by Dr Ray Greek

Or maybe it’s just an excuse to ban me from posting on his site anymore.

Today I received the following in an email from Orac.

Dr. Greek:

FYI, long as you keep including Orac's real name in your posts and linking it with the Orac pseudonym, I will not release your comments from moderation on my blog. In case you're wondering, that's one major reason why I have not replied to any of your little tirades; I do not link to articles that "out" me.

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Are you intentionally trying to sic Camille Marino and her crew on me? I can't think of any other reason for your frequent "outing" of Orac, in particular your most recent one. Such behavior belies your claim of taking the high road and leads me to believe that you have more in common with Camille Marino and her crew than you would like to admit. You let the loons know who I am, and then claim plausible deniability because there exist other sources where they could have gotten the information. Very uncool. I paid little attention earlier, but your most recent effort seems clearly calculated to sick the loonies on me:

http://www.opposingviews.com/i/straw-man-arguments-in-blogs

To paraphrase you, that you would post such an article on a blog frequented by animal rights activists the very same day that I posted strong condemnations of thuggish tactics of people like Camille really does say it all about you.

Orac

Interestingly, I also posted the same comment on Pharyngula that I tried to post on Respectful Insolence. The comment was pretty radical. After it appeared on Pharyngula I deleted my copy but to the best of my recollection it is below:

For an accurate version of my position on the science of animal models please see my blog at http://www.opposingviews.com/i/straw-man-arguments-in-blogs.

I do not participate in the irrational and pointless argumentation normally seen in response to blogs of this nature. As I said yesterday: “ . . . I usually just post a link on the site as it seems to me these situations are merely versions of flame wars and hence are not beholden to facts and substance.” My comment was on Pharyngula for several hours and people responded to it but as of this AM it has disappeared. I have emailed PZ Myers and asked why the comment was deleted but have not heard back. (It has not been very long since I emailed and I do expect to hear back from him.)

There are a very large number of issues in the above email from Dr Gorski but I will confine myself to five.

1. If Dr David Gorski does not want people to know who he is he might want to refrain from using verbatim wording in Internet posts. As I pointed out in Response to Orac, his Orac essays and the essays he writes under his real name are in some cases identical. Not a real smart move if you are really trying to remain anonymous and I have never said Dr Gorski was stupid. Furthermore, more or less everyone in the skeptic movement already knows who he is. It is the worst kept secret out there. Listen to any one of a number of podcasts when he is referred to and hear the participants comment on this. Orac/Gorski was “outed” long ago and not by me. It would take about a 20 minutes Internet search to figure out who Orac is and not even that if you follow skeptic blogs and podcasts.

2. That having been said, I post under my real name and have condemned people on both sides for not doing the same. As far as the threats problem, as I have said, I get them too. From both sides. Yet, I do not hide behind pseudonyms and bloviate indiscriminately. The “they are all going to kill me” argument is an age-old ploy used by vivisection activists to shift the focus from the issue of whether or not animal experimentation works to one of emotion. As I have also said many times, I condemn violence. But I do find fascinating the vitriol about what they assume to be my position on animal models coming from a community whose modus operandi is supposed to be to searching for truth (and if not truth with a capital T at least facts about the universe).

3. In previous posts, Dr Gorski and others frequently refer to me as an animal rights activist or sympathizer. One reason the vested interest groups choose invective instead of explanation is that they have no scientific support for their position on prediction. By using the phrase animal rights activist in the same diatribe about the mythical importance animal models, the vested interest groups seek to avoid engaging in true debate and instead imply that those who disagree with them are anti-science, inflexible, irrational, anti-human and dangerous. Such diatribes are a virtual whirligig of promises of what animal models will do in the future and or what they accomplished in an earlier time when the questions being asked were very different from what are being asked today.

4. Once again I must point out that Dr Gorski was given the opportunity to take our disagreements to the scientific literature (an editor contacted me) and he refused. See yesterday’s blog for more. When a scientist (and Dr Gorski is a scientist) refuses such an invitation and instead says things like the below I can only interpret this as disingenuousness as on his part.

I keep hearing this claim from every animal rights sympathizer from Ray Greek to you but have yet to see any of you provide convincing evidence that there exist these magical mystical other scientific methods that would “provide better data cheaper” or show convincingly that abandoning animal models would “lead to an explosion of creativity.” Maybe you’re different and can do it, but I highly doubt it.

Magical mystical . . . no straw man or ad hominem there. I have answered the “alternatives” criticism numerous times but in order for Dr Gorski to intelligently talk about this he must actually read the material and he obviously would rather engage in long-winded and pompous diatribes that accomplish the task of being simultaneously portentous and vacuous than educate himself about that which he is criticizing.

5. Finally, as I have also said many, many times, the position Shanks and I take in Animal Models in Light of Evolution spans disciplines and is nuanced. It takes into consideration facts from evo devo, evolutionary biology in general, genetics, the philosophy of science, complex systems theory, empirical evidence, and the methodology of biomedical research. This is not light reading even for people with a scientific background and it takes a special form of hubris to think you can intuit our position without reading that book. Shanks and I have provided a progressive, systematic and cumulative case for abandoning the animal model as currently used to predict human response to drugs and disease. Our opponents have not provided a biological theory to support the animal model or a systematic analysis supporting their conclusions. Instead they rely on fallacies, attack character, and avoid addressing our actual position.

The basis for believing that animals can predict response for humans seems meager to the point of illusory. Vivisection activists want the power and prestige that being a scientist brings without either the responsibility or falsifiability that make science the best form of learning about the material world humanity has found. The belief that animals can predict human response to drugs and disease belongs on the same shelf as the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny.

Apparently such hubris is alive and well in the scientific community. Who would have imagined?