Animal Rights

Why a Debate?

| by Dr Ray Greek

Dr David Gorski recently stated in his blog:

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A “live” debate. What is it with “live debates”? It seems that cranks always want to challenge those who criticize their misinformation and pseudoscience to “live debates.”

(Dr Gorski was not referring specifically to me in his above comments.)

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I must here point out that Dr Gorski also stated in a May 10, 2010 blog that “the correlation between cell culture studies is even more unreliable than that of animal studies.” I asked him, on May 11, 2010, in the comments section of his blog, to substantiate this with references on but he has yet to respond. He blogs on a website called Science-Based Medicine where references are part and parcel of posts.

I also asked Dr Gorski to participate, with me, in a point counterpoint series of articles in a peer-reviewed PubMed-indexed medical science journal. (The editor told me they had been looking for parties to participate.) He refused to do that also. These examples could be easily multiplied with other animal-based research scientists.

I think the above answers the question “Why do people, specifically Ray Greek, call for debates?” The answer is, I cannot get the vested interest groups to defend their position without publicly calling them out. My position is well known. I have written books and articles for scientists and nonscientists and address very specific issues. When researchers like Dr Gorski have addressed the issue of animals in research it has been with ad hominems, incorrect information, and sweeping generalizations. See response to Orac for more.

Calling people who disagree with you cranks is an ad hominem; even people who are wrong on the facts vis-à-vis acupuncture, homeopathy, vaccines, and so forth. The Science-Based Medicine website is a very good one and I agree with a vast majority of what Dr Gorski and his colleagues write there. But if Dr Gorski and other animal-based researchers refuse to take the subject to peer reviewed journals then what do they expect me to do; take them out to dinner?

Americans do not understand a scientist’s unwillingness to defend his research in a debate especially when he has been offered the opportunity to defend it in the scientific literature and refused. I am a typical American in this regard. Talk is cheap. Defend your position, publicly, to someone who can challenge you and who is also an expert on the topic (not animal rights activists with no background in science) or take the heat for refusing. Anyone who refuses such an offer automatically loses the moral high ground, regardless of other claims.

The role of animals in science is a multifaceted topic and is not amenable to explanation by sound bites from those with a vested interest in the process. The many facets have not been discussed in the scientific or skeptic literature like homeopathy and psychic healing have been. There are real issues here and the scientific community does real harm to itself and science as a truth-seeking enterprise when, represented by people like Dr Gorski, they dismiss these issues. Wonder why society is unconvinced of global warming? Could it be that every day it sees scientists contradict their own position about science being open, honest, self correcting and accepting of truth regardless of from whence it comes?

Shanks and I (see Animal Models in Light of Evolution) are unique in that we grant that animals can be successfully used in science and research in a number of different areas. We both also have experience in animal-based research, have academic experience, and have published in peer-reviewed science and medical journals. It will be hard for someone to dismiss us as cranks. That is not to say people will not it try, but even a superficial examination of our credentials and position will discredit those accusations.