I think you hit on a lot of interesting topics in your post. The ties between rats and humanity are really incredible when you actually sit down and think about it. I think the idea of rats exploitation of humans is particularly interesting. I cannot come up with any other animal that takes advantage of humans to the extent of the rat. Their means of survival by using humans is truly phenomenal. I wonder if this is one of the reasons that have led to the extreme hate of rats by humans. We are certainly a competitive species and I could see how being bested by some little creature like the rat could rub humans the wrong way. I look forward to discussing this and the rest of your questions in class tomorrow.
As usual you have another great post this week. I really liked the similarity you drew between rats and humans in terms of having good hygiene yet living in dirty places. We really do have a lot in common with rats whether we would like to admit it or not. In regards to your comments on the ethics of using animals in research, I am inclined to agree with you. I think the benefits of animal research outweigh the loss of the lives of many rats and mice even if it is incredibly unfair to those animals. I do have a much harder time justifying the mistreatment and death of animals for cosmetic and psychological purposes; however, I don’t think these purposes should be bunched into the same category as medical research. I’m sure we will have a lot of discussion on the topic tomorrow in class so I look forward to hearing what everyone has to say then.
That’s cool that you found this. Some of the photos are used in the post I put on our main blog a while back: https://blogs.lt.vt.edu/domesticate/dogs/moscow-strays/
I need to check on the status of the stray culls in Moscow now.
I’m so glad someone talked about Flowers for Algernon, which was one of my favorite books growing up! At the time I had pet mice (and had been moved to the basement to live with them) but Algernon’s rodentine essence was not what engaged me — it was the idea of death foretold. As a young person, I found the idea of knowing not just that you would die (duh!), but having a vision of what your death would look like playing out right in front of you in such a dramatic way incredibly powerful and provocative.
The issue of naming and attachment is also hugely important here. I’m sure we’ll be talking A LOT about animal testing tomorrow so I’ll save my thoughts on that for later. I’m so glad you thought we saved the best readings for last!
Some good ideas for discussion here, Ben. Let’s make sure to talk about the different insights Rader and Shapiro draw from their study of rats / mice as experimental research subjects.
There are so many good ideas here, Connor! The use of animals in scientific research is indeed a complex issue that evokes strong feelings from many sides. I think it’s important to keep in mind that thinking carefully about what Shapiro calls the “social construction” of animal models doesn’t require agreeing with his conclusions. It should help us make sense of why this issue is so charged.
How cool that you committed that passage of “The Miracle Worker” to memory so well that you still remember it?!?!? Playing with rats as a substitute for missing toys is clearly a powerful image. Part of its power I think comes from the rest of the passage, which describes just how squalid, desolate and deadly the institution was for the children. So, oddly, the rats, as macabre toys and diversions, are not the worst elements in this grim childhood…
I agree with Erica – terrific post, Bill! And I’m also intrigued by your pie-chart…which means I have lots of questions!!! I love the idea of man and rat inventing the future together! Anyway…when thinking about contributions to the global consciousness (whatever that is?), does the blue represent all rats (the entire species) throughout history and all over the world? And does the orange represent me (a singular human)? Or all of humanity throughout history and all over the world? I’m wondering how rats would adjust this pie chart if they had a say? How would we be different if there were no rats? As for the ethics of animal testing, I’m sure we’ll be talking a lot about this tomorrow. For now, I’d like us to think about whether and why using animals as experimental research subjects (which usually results in their death) might be ethically different from using them as food (which usually has same results)?
You guessed it, your wonderful pie chart warranted my response.
On one hand I disagree with the standing of your claim that rats significantly have contributed to global consciousnesses (dismissing the relative degree of consciousnesses the chart depicts of rats v. humans). Why? Rats only influence out total perception and understanding and we (humans) are the only animal upon which global consciousnesses can be evaluated. On the other hand our historical evolution with rats and our current interactions DO contribute to the ideas of the world but, perhaps, more realistically rats contribute to overall global understanding in unnoticed but powerful ways. I think the biggest contribution is the realization of our inability to control the vermin.
The importance of rats I think is our deep desire to control them – actually, to eliminate the majority of them. Nature will chiefly act according to only to its standards. It is shaped by our influences but we can’t control it. Hence, we can understand the importance of rats.
As far as ethics go… if we consider the historical significance of rats in human society… I think we can ethically, rightfully destroy them. The means, however, do not justify the ends. We can kill them but not cause them undue intentional pain.
Great post, Bill!
Howdy! I realize this is kind of off-topic however I had to ask. Does operating a well-established blog like yours take a large amount of work? I am completely new to writing a blog however I do write in my diary every day. I’d like to start a blog so I can share my personal experience and thoughts online. Please let me know if you have any kind of suggestions or tips for brand new aspiring bloggers. Thankyou!