Comment on Rats and Mice: Scientific Heroes by A. Nelson

This is such a rich thread! I wonder if there isn’t a way to think about how the future might be different from the past? While many (most?) people agree about how much animal-testing has benefited humans, my hope is that, going forward, animal testing will become increasingly rare and eventually (sooner rather than later) be considered as archaic as we consider blood-letting and leaching today. Changing the world and making it a better place for me means figuring out more ethically appropriate and sustainable ways of interacting with the creatures who share our destinies. I’m not sure what these new modalities might look like (although I have some inklings), but my hope is that they will be less costly in all kinds of ways.

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Comment on Rats and Mice: Scientific Heroes by Bill Libby

Rats have definitely contributed more than their fair share to scientific progress, but it’s a price that I think most of us will agree has yielded good results. But is it moral? Then again that’s why it’s a controversy, right? If one side was simply wrong it wouldn’t be a very good discussion topic.

Our world is full of exchanges, some fair and some not so fair, but it’s exchanges like animal testing that advance our understanding of the world and those are the critical ones I’d like to preserve. What would a world without animal testing look like? I think that’s the central question that people still making their minds up on this issue should ask. I simply don’t see a better alternative that still preserves our advancement, this is something that I see us always needing but hope will require less loss of life in the future.

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Comment on Rats, Mice, and Lovecraft by Bill Libby

I can also see why you’d say the readings lacked a clear opinion, I ended up just trying to make people laugh and going off on animal testing in mind because it was the most readily available topic.

I think that we picked up on the same idea, that even though rats are vermin we often find a certain connection with them as parallels. This is so odd, isn’t it? I think it just goes to show that rats are our shadow in terms of our society.

I like the Lovecraft connection you have here, I’ve found his works to be fascinating for a very long time. When you think about it, Lovecraft really was out of place in his own time and I think that’s why his writing persists as it has; I don’t think anybody else wrote about the sort of things Lovecraft did. I think it’d be so cool to go back in time and read a lot of these books as they were released to sort of get a feel for them in the context of their times. I wonder if people thought that Lovecraft’s work was subpar because it deviated from the norm? Arthur Conan Doyle thought that Sherlock Holmes was an inferior form of literature all his life and preferred to write historical documentaries but we all know which one he ended up being famous for. Agatha Christie, I imagine, would be a very different experience than it is today because of all of the war references she hides in her Poirot/Miss Marple stories, and just the different culture in general. I think Books a Million sells a very nice looking Lovecraft collection for ~$20, you should look for it if you’re ever there again.

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Comment on Of Mice and Men (not Steinback) by cmurri

Great locust comparison! I think it would be interesting if we compiled a list of species in a similar situation as the rat, concerning a paradoxical relationship with humanity, or even just from the position of being ‘vermin’. I suspect the rat isn’t necessarily unique in the position it occupies, and discussing other species might give us a better view of the whole system and a more succinct and clear way to describe this relationship.

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Comment on Rats, us, and my weak attempt at comedy. by cmurri

I wouldn’t necessarily agree that rats are domesticated…they’re at least in a grey area to me. Our domestication definitions doc gives three requirements for domestication: lost fear of humans; reproduces in captivity; and humans control breeding, organization of territory and food supply. I think the third requirement might be a little sketchy when considering the rat. Certainly (and as our readings say) we HAVE domesticated certain rats, leading to a reuse of a single ‘individual’ in testing. However, we might have to consider how deliberate the control of breading, food, and territory is for it to be domestication. I think if this DOES qualify as domestication, we should qualify this case, noting that it might not be a deliberate domesticate. I’m not sure how important such a discussion/categorization actually is, but it seems like a decent talk to have next class.

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Comment on Rats as Humanity’s Twin by Camilla

It’s interesting (as you pointed out) that rats exploit humans (nearly completely–this is not a mutualistic relationship) in the “wild.” However, when we use rats as research animals, we are exploiting them almost completely–they get very little benefit (except, perhaps, the propagation of their species. However, I question whether that can even be counted as a benefit for them, because they have been genetically modified so extensively by selection and, in some cases, genetic technologies). Does a mutualistic relationship between humans and rodents ever exist? I’m not sure.

Also, yes, rats are indeed very clean. I had pet rats when I was a kid and have read stuff about wild rats. They groom themselves like cats!

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Comment on Rats and Mice: Scientific Heroes by 13yankeesfan

I agree that much of the resentment towards rats simply come from our close proximity to them and the fact that this not true for most other animals. I compared the presence of rats to an annoying little brother, much like your comparison with a roommate. I share some sympathy towards rats as well but I was glad to read that due to their contributions in the lab they can even be thought of as heroes. Obviously lab mice are only a small part of the rat and mice population and I doubt that any good feelings will make the leap from domesticate to wild. I also agree with you stance on the necessity of lab animals towards the benefit of the human species.
I have always wondered if animals in cages or zoos are truly less happy than their wild counterpart. Experimenters do not try to provide mice their natural habitats but they do not have to feel the stress involved in scavenging for food or living in constant fear.

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Comment on Rats, us, and my weak attempt at comedy. by 13yankeesfan

I completely agree that human kind lives closer to rats than any other species, even dogs. I feel like this is the source of our contempt for them because certainly not many people like this fact. It is forced upon us we didn’t choose the rat to be a part of our lives like we did the dog. Haha I like your reference to cats in the internet caused by rats and based on your pie chart we have to be careful. I hope that you made that yourself and it’s not some actual evidence on some crazed website about rats taking over the world. I agree with the fact that some testing of animals is understandable while some is not. Certainties both exist but I would like to see the testing of animals for luxuries like beauty products to stop. I was glad to see in the readings that despite humanist ideals in laboratory experiments, measures are being taken regarding unnecessary pain and terrible living conditions. Honestly, I see little weight in the death of testing mice in the pursuit of knowledge to cure things like cancer. This is obviously an extreme, but in the pursuit of the betterment of humanity some sacrifices have to fall on the shoulders of lab animals.

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Comment on Rats and Mice: Scientific Heroes by Camilla

Ah, you bring up many interesting ideas about using animals in research. Shapiro’s main argument against use of animals in research was related to use of animals in psychological research (I think. That was how I read it, anyway). I agree with him on that–we are not rats and our brains function in a fairly different way than theirs do. His example from the bulimia study was especially compelling–how can you study bulimia without studying the complex social and cultural causes of bulimia?

However, in general, I agree with you. Most of us are alive thanks to modern medicine (I know I am!) and modern medicine is thanks to animal research. I particularly like your comment about how we exterminate rats from our homes and then condemn animal research. There are so many contradictions in how we treat animals: we object to animal shelters that kill unwanted animals while we eat meat (which is dead animals). We treat some horses better than most humans are treated while other are sent to slaughter in other countries. I’m not condemning any practice, I just think the contradictions are interesting.

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Comment on Rats, Mice, and Lovecraft by 13yankeesfan

I agree that these readings lacked opinion especially if you compare them to our previous Bulliet readings. Of the readings, I found that I could confirm or dispute some of Burt’s topics because they came across to me as more opinion than the other two passages. I can’t believe the Mountain of Madness story wasn’t referenced in any of the readings because it applies perfectly. I know this isn’t as academic as your reference but this view reminds me of a scene in Men in Black. In the scene Will Smith comments his pity for an alien race living within a locker to which Tommy Lee Jones opens a cool looking door to show that they too are in a locker in some alien place. This doesn’t really incorporate the ability of rats to inherit the human foothold or humans to inherit the alien foothold but I feel like it is close in that it shows our system can exist on a larger or smaller scale.

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