Archive for October 15th, 2010

Pondering Animal Research

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | October 15, 2010 10:52 am

Picture 6The Secret of NIMH debuted in the summer of 1982 when I was two years old. Last night I watched the film again and while I remembered the music and characters, I had long forgotten the story. In this animated film, animal testing by scientists has transformed rats and mice into rodents with human intelligence. The ability to read helped them to escape from NIMH (which stands for the National Institute of Mental Health) where they had been subjects in a series of torturous experiments (notably alongside frightened puppies, chimpanzees, and rabbits). It’s a good movie, but I suspect that for some youngsters, likely served as a frightening introduction to scientists.

Yes the plot was fanciful, but the depiction of animal testing wasn’t completely exaggerated–some laboratories do conduct research on animals. Having been inside such facilities, I’ve observed firsthand that the conditions and the scientists involved vary tremendously. Some researchers care a lot about the well being of each animal, treating them with a great deal of respect. Others act as if they couldn’t care less.

Obviously, this is not a black and white issue, but it is something I spend a great deal of time thinking about. On one hand, animal testing has led to tremendous advances in medicine. At the same time, needless suffering should be avoided at all costs. My perspective is similar to Jane Goodall’s: Since research will continue, I would like to see it limited to the greatest extent possible as we develop and utilize alternatives where appropriate.

With that, I am interested to hear our readers opinions…

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Media and Science

Americans Flunk Global Warming

By Chris Mooney | October 15, 2010 8:58 am

Anthony Leiserowitz at Yale has new data out on the public and its bizarre and troubling relationship with climate science. To quote some of the findings:

* 57 % know that the greenhouse effect refers to gases in the atmosphere that trap heat;

* 50 % of Americans understand that global warming is caused mostly by human activities;

* 45 % understand that carbon dioxide traps heat from the Earth’s surface;

* 25 % have ever heard of coral bleaching or ocean acidification.

Meanwhile, large majorities incorrectly think that the hole in the ozone layer and aerosol spray cans contribute to global warming, leading many to incorrectly conclude that banning aerosol spray cans or stopping rockets from punching holes in the ozone layer are viable solutions.

I’ve actually heard this ozone hole misconception with some frequency when talking with people about global warming.

Leiserowitz goes on to grade our countrymen and -women on their climate science scores: “only 8 percent of Americans have knowledge equivalent to an A or B, 40 percent would receive a C or D, and 52 percent would get an F.”

Think of it this way: Maybe in 20 years those scores will be a bit higher (or maybe not)–but the planet may be cooked by then.


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