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Understanding Animal Research Tries Using Same Old Fallacies to Fool Society

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The sin which is unpardonable is knowingly and willfully to reject truth, to fear knowledge lest that knowledge pander not to thy prejudices.

Aleister Crowley, 1875-1947, Magick: Book 4, Liber ABA

 

Pro-vivisection groups must rely on distorting the facts of science and history, fallacious reasoning, heuristics and cognitive biases in order to make their case to society. I have written volumes(Greek, Shanks, and Rice 2011, Greek, Hansen, and Menache 2011, Greek, Pippus, and Hansen 2012, Greek and Hansen 2012, Greek and Menache 2013, Greek and Hansen 2013a, Greek 2014, Shanks and Greek 2009, Greek and Hansen 2013b) refuting the animal modelers’ position on the supposed historical successes of animal modeling as well as why animal modeling will never have predictive value for human response to drugs and disease. For more see Resources section of AFMA’s website. 

The latest example of the use of fallacies to justify animal modeling takes the form of discussing the medical history of a supporter of medicine and science, and someone with enough knowledge to oppose animal modeling for the purposes of predicting human response to drugs and disease, in an effort to discredit him. See: 

https://twitter.com/animalresearch/status/976413634451705857 

https://twitter.com/animalresearch/status/976413992309657601

https://twitter.com/animalresearch/status/976414072722862080

A fallacy is a bad argument masquerading as a good argument and is an intentional or unintentional defect or mistake in reasoning. A formal fallacy is a defect in the form of the argument while an informal fallacy is a defect in the content of the argument. An informal fallacy can still be a valid argument. Some fallacies are listed below.

Argumentum ad misericordiam or appeal to pity

An example of 'Special Pleading':

A person appeals to pity for the sake of being believed. “Please don't make me pay that speeding ticket. I am sick and was in a hurry to see my doctor. I'm still in pain and suffering right now.” Note that the person may or may not be suffering but regardless she has not addressed whether she was speeding. 

In the 2008 documentary Bigger Stronger Faster  the following exchange takes place between the director of the film, Chris Bell, and Don Hooton, the father of a boy, Taylor Hooton, who committed suicide. Mr. Hooton believes his son committed suicide because of anabolic steroids. Taylor Hooton was also on antidepressants known as SSRIs when he committed suicide and these have been associated with suicide. It has been reported that he also had other emotional issues.

Bell: Do you think that perhaps—when I look at your website, The Taylor Hooton Foundation—do you think it's a responsibility to include antidepressants in there just in case there are critics or just to raise the awareness of how dangerous perhaps antidepressants may be?

Hooton: No, I don't. And the reason is, our battle is not with antidepressants. Our battle's with steroids.

Bell: The National Institute on Drug Abuse said the dangers of anabolic steroids are temporary and reversible.

Hooton: My son is dead. All of the intellectual arguments about whether or not steroids are dangerous or not don't matter to me. I know they're dangerous. I saw it with my own eyes and I watched my son die. The only evidence I need is the pictures of my son that are on the wall behind you.

Note that Hooton offers no evidence for his claim. He wants Bell to believe him because his son is dead.

Appeal to pity is frequently used by animal modelers. It occurs when they claim that without animal modeling sick children will die or your mom will die of Alzheimer’s. They play on your heart strings as opposed to explaining why complex systems with different evolutionary trajectories can have predictive value for each other when the perturbation concerns higher levels of organization. Granted, sick children deserve our pity, as does any sick person, but that does not ipso facto mean any given proposal to help sick people should be funded or even taken seriously.

Appeal to Motives

According to Wikipedia

Appeal to motive is a pattern of argument which consists in challenging a thesis by calling into question the motives of its proposer. It can be considered as a special case of the ad hominem circumstantial argument. As such, this type of argument may be an informal fallacy. 

An example is when Dario Ringach states:

Malarkey! If your personal philosophy is one of animal rights, as you assert above, then you should simply state that using animals in medical science is wrong because animals have rights. Period. After all you are on record stating that you align with PeTA philosophically. I grant the possibility that you do not truly understand what the meaning of "animal rights" is. After all, you also have difficulty understanding the basic difference between using performance measures in simple binary diagnostic tests and assessing the value of an entire field of scientific research. David H. Gorski correctly pointed out the mistakes in your reasoning, and identified your ulterior motives. (Greek 2012)

As I have stated many times, science is separate from ethics and philosophy. Scientific arguments must stand or fall on their merits not based upon the personality or philosophy of the proponent.

One fallacy represented in the links above from Understanding Animal Research (UAR) is The fallacy of incomplete evidence or cherry-picking, from Logically Fallacious: 

(also known as: suppressed evidence, fallacy of incomplete evidence, argument by selective observation, argument by half-truth, card stacking, fallacy of exclusion, ignoring the counter evidence, one-sided assessment, slanting, one-sidedness).

When only select evidence is presented in order to persuade the audience to accept a position, and evidence that would go against the position is withheld.  The stronger the withheld evidence, the more fallacious the argument.

Logical Form:

Evidence A and evidence B is available.

Evidence A supports the claim of person 1.

Evidence B supports the counter claim of person 2.

Therefore, person 1 presents only evidence A. (Logically Fallacious 2016)

This is why I stress the importance of the 90% failure rate of drugs in human clinical trials.  (Smietana, Siatkowski, and Moller 2016, Greek and Hansen 2013b) All the drugs were all safe and effective in animal trials but most that failed did so because of toxicity or inefficacy. This is the best data one could possibly have as it is based on data from multiple institutions, was gathered annually over decades, represents just about every known disease or disease category, and represents people whose motivation to succeed is well known. It is impossible to claim the drug examples were cherry-picked to make animal modeling look bad. 

Almost every discovery or invention was at some point tested on an animal. But this is a legal requirement (based on an outdated 70-year-old-law) and meaningless in terms of whether the animal model paradigm is scientifically viable.

Conversely, animal modelers usually present one example, as they did in the links above, to prove animal modeling as a paradigm works and much of the time it is a discovery that was not actually based on animal modeling. It’s just a result from an animal model that the animal model community has used for decades in hopes that society will accept it and not scrutinize it. Disease research is the same. Scores of vaccines were effective against HIV in animals but none in humans, in part because of differences in mechanisms. Likewise, hundreds of drugs were effective against stroke in animal models but no new ones were effective in humans (we already knew aspirin and streptokinase thinned the blood from human data). 

What animal modelers and their supporters must do is present false or misleading examples along with liberal use of fallacies in hopes society allows them to continue to hold their jobs. This works because so few people understand fallacious reasoning. If more people understood fallacious reasons, even if they had no knowledge of science, animal modeling would end.

An ad populum fallacy appeals to emotion rather than reason. It uses an appeal to mass sentiment in order to win conclusions for an argument not supported by the facts. Such as: 

Why do you want to see sick children suffer when 95% of scientists claim research on animals could cure them? 

In fact, this claim is not supported by reason or science just people with their own biases and agendas.

The fallacies committed by UAR in the links above are also examples of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy: concluding that a temporal relationship is also causal one.

Every time I wash my car it rains therefore my washing my car causes it to rain.

Every Nobel Laureate has done research on animals therefore research on animals caused the individual to win the Prize.

An animal experiment revealed X which was also true in humans. 

Of course, many times the human study preceded the animal studies throwing the post hoc fallacy on its head.

Society has many useful drugs therefore animal modeling works.

Society also has a 90% failure rate in clinical trials which represents actual science. Animal modelers offer no evidence that the useful drugs society has were because of animal modeling nor do they offer a theory to support and explain. Academic fields that cannot offer an overall general theory to explain their field are denied the classification and thus status of science.  

Again, almost every discovery or invention was at some point tested on an animal. But this is an outdated legal requirement and meaningless in terms of whether the animal model paradigm is scientifically viable. One could equally state that every scientist drinks water therefore drinking water is responsible for MRU scanners. Such logic is meant for one purpose and one purpose only: to deceive the gullible. Of course, MRI scanners were tested on and are currently used on animals. The reasons MRI s canners exist have nothing to do with animals and everything to do with math, physics, and engineering. Of course, almost every drug was tested on animals and the results from very specific animals reported to the regulatory agencies. Almost every drug is used on specific animals along with humans. The appropriate response to this is: So what? Link cause to effect or you are using the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

And that is precisely what UAR and other animal model supporters and animal modelers themselves cannot do. This is why they have refused the science debate proposed by EDM 66. Because it would be judged by experts who are scientifically competent, understand critical thinking, and thus would not be fooled by their tricks.

In Letters to a Young Contrarian, Christopher Hitchens states: “The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.” One reason I spend so much time on critical thinking is because the arguments made by animal modelers do not usually revolve around science. They are based on lack of critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, many people, including academics who should know better, accept these justifications because they also are unfamiliar with fallacies, heuristics, cognitive biases and so forth. (For those who want to learn more about critical thinking, Kevin deLaplante has 20 short videos that are good introductions to critical thinking.) 

Trans-Species Modeling Theory (TSMT) states: 

While trans-species extrapolation is possible when perturbations concern lower levels of organization or when studying morphology and function on the gross level, one evolved, complex system will not be of predictive value for another when the perturbation affects higher levels of organization. (Greek and Hansen 2013b)

In order to properly understand TSMT, you must understand complex systems, evolutionary biology, and empirical evidence. You must also understand the fundamentals of critical thinking and philosophy of science. Philosophy of science and critical thinking are the foundation upon which all other sciences depend. The only empirical evidence TSMT needs in order to claim legitimacy as a scientific theory is the failure rate of drugs in human clinical trials, which is around 90%.

The empirical evidence via predictive value supports TSMT and TSMT places the empirical evidence in context of an overarching theory. TSMT is actually math-based and separate from empirical evidence just as Einstein’s theories were math-based not evidence-based. Later, empirical evidence was found that supported relativity. In the case of TSMT, the empirical evidence came first but needed to be placed in the context of theory.

The failure of animal modeling is because animals and humans are complex systems that have different evolutionary trajectories. Only TSMT explains all successes and failures of animal use in general, be it their use as predictive models or merely for demonstrative purposes or as replacement parts for humans. In order to square the circle, animal modelers must base their paradigm on a universe created by a deity, cherry-pick the data, and ignore current science. If we did live in a universe created by a god who used a template to make all the animals with the only difference being the presence of a soul in humans, and if empirical evidence supported the predictive value of animal models then, and only then, could all the apparent failures be explained by methodology issues.

Until UAR and other animal modelers agree to the debate outlined by EDM 66, all their verbiage should be treated with same seriousness normally reserved for those who think smoking has never been shown to cause cancer and everyone who sells used cars for a living.

 

References

Greek, R, and A Menache. 2013. "Systematic Reviews of Animal Models: Methodology versus Epistemology."  Int J Med Sci 10 (3):206-221. http://www.medsci.org/v10p0206.htm

Greek, R., A. Pippus, and L. A. Hansen. 2012. "The Nuremberg Code subverts human health and safety by requiring animal modeling."  BMC medical ethics 13 (1):16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22769234 

Greek, Ray. 2012. "More Misrepresentations, Fallacies, and Other Lies. Part V." Opposing Views, Last Modified October 29, 2012. Accessed May 19, 2016.  http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/animal-rights/more-misrepresentations-fallacies-and-other-lies-part-v

Greek, Ray. 2014. "A Discussion of the Role of Complex Evolved Systems in the Development of Invasive Cardiovascular Interventions as Illustrated by the Blalock-Taussig Shunt and Intra-Arterial Stents."  Biological Systems – Open Access 3 (1). http://omicsgroup.org/journals/a-discussion-of-the-role-of-complex-evolved-systems-in-the-development-of-invasive-cardiovascular-interventions-as-illustrated-by-the-blalock-2329-6577.1000124.pdf

Greek, Ray, and LA Hansen. 2013a. "The Strengths and Limits of Animal Models as Illustrated by the Discovery and Development of Antibacterials."  Biological Systems: Open Access 2 (2):109. doi: 10.4172/BSO.1000109 http://omicsgroup.org/journals/the-strengths-and-limits-of-animal-models-as-illustrated-by-the-discovery%20and-development-of-antibacterials-BSO.1000109.php?aid=14441

Greek, Ray, and Lawrence A Hansen. 2012. "The Development of Deep Brain Stimulation for Movement Disorders."  J Clinic Res Bioeth 3. http://www.omicsonline.org/2155-9627/2155-9627-3-137.php?aid=9962

Greek, Ray, and Lawrence A Hansen. 2013b. "Questions regarding the predictive value of one evolved complex adaptive system for a second: exemplified by the SOD1 mouse "  Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology 113 (2):231-153. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0079610713000539

Greek, Ray, Lawrence A Hansen, and Andre Menache. 2011. "An analysis of the Bateson Review of research using nonhuman primates "  Medicolegal and Bioethics 1 (1):3-22. http://www.dovepress.com/an-analysis-of-the-bateson-review-of-research-using-nonhuman-primates-peer-reviewed-article-MB

Greek, Ray, Niall Shanks, and Mark J Rice. 2011. "The History and Implications of Testing Thalidomide on Animals."  The Journal of Philosophy, Science & Law 11 (October 3). http://www6.miami.edu/ethics/jpsl/archives/all/TestingThalidomide.html

Logically Fallacious. 2016. "Cherry-picking." Logically Fallacious Accessed June 15, 2016.  https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/65/Cherry_Picking.

Shanks, N, and R Greek. 2009. Animal Models in Light of Evolution. Boca Raton: Brown Walker. 

Smietana, K., M. Siatkowski, and M. Moller. 2016. "Trends in clinical success rates."  Nat Rev Drug Discov 15 (6):379-80. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27199245