The Extreme Consequences of Naivety and Lack of Education in the Animal Protection Community. Part III.

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In Part II, I addressed why ignorance of science is one reason people accept positions like the Three Rs. In this essay I will address naivety and people with an agenda.

Reason 3. Naivety

Naivety can be defined as follows

  • lacking experience, wisdom, or judgment
  • innocent and trusting
  • gullible
  • unsophisticated

Synonyms include simple, unaffected, unsuspecting, and guileless.

Wikipedia explains naivety as follows.

Naivety (or naïvety or naïveté) is the state of being naïve, that is to say, having or showing a lack of experience, understanding or sophistication, often in a context where one neglects pragmatism in favor of moral idealism. One who is naive may be called a naïf.

An unsophisticated person is more likely to fall for scams, as he trusts people more than they should be trusted. The best way to diminish naivety is experience but higher education has historically sought to teach the reality of the world via formal education and, reportedly, was historically at least somewhat successful. Currently, with colleges under pressure to ensure graduates have the skills the job market is seeking, subjects that revolve around critical thinking and learning from the mistakes of others seems to be a neglected aspect of higher education.

One purpose of an education is to familiarize the student with the real world. This can take the form of learning about the material universe by studying science, learning about common human traits through history and literature, or by studying subjects traditionally associated with a liberal arts education. Basically, all of these topics seek, in part, to make the inexperienced student more experienced without having the student go through all the experiences (usually negative) that makes a person experienced or sophisticated. Learn from the mistakes of others so you don’t make the same mistakes. Unfortunately, many students graduate from college unfamiliar with science and critical thinking, without having learned the lessons historically learned by studying history and literature, and generally as naïve as when they entered college.

The Critical Thinking Company explains gullibility as follows.

Gullibility: The state in which we are so ready to believe that we are easily taken in by false claims and spurious ideas. Something is too good to be true, but it is regarded as true nevertheless. The desire to be open-minded is overwhelmed by a flood of nonsense and deception against which the person has insufficient critical defenses. Wishful thinking, greed, persuasive advertising, ignorance, and sheer naiveté all contribute to a situation in which a person is easily taken advantage of. As Carl Sagan observes, a great openness to ideas needs to be balanced by an equally strong skeptical spirit. Being well informed combined with the ability to think critically is the chief defense against credulity.

Cognitive biases can also contribute to naivety. The cognitive bias called the bandwagon effect is also commonly herd mentality or group-think and the people demonstrating it are called sheeple. People tend to go along with others even when they know the group is wrong. The need to fit in can be overwhelming and this has been shown to account for some very bad decisions. Combine this with the fact that people also have a tendency to trust authority figures and we can account for many instances of otherwise intelligent people accepting sheer nonsense as truth.

Once again the solution to naivety, other than the painful experiences of life, is education. This is the same solution that we found for the problem of ignorance. Specifically an education heavy in science and critical thinking. And even though an education in science and critical thinking is not easy to obtain (its difficult to find a university that teaches these topics to all, or even some, students) and it is insufficient to make some people shrewd, sophisticated, astute, or streetwise, it’s a start. If you want to learn a little about critical thinking I recommend The Critical Thinker Podcast series, about 20 videos, each about 10 minutes long, by Kevin deLaplante. And if you only have the energy to try one, check out The Critical Thinker 002: Self-Defense.

In terms of the debate about animal models and vivisection, naivety can be illustrated by advocating the concept of working with the animal model community as “they hate vivisection as much as we do and if we don’t alienate them maybe they will help us.” Also popular is the notion that networking with animal modelers will be good for the animals. In reality, the animal protection movement and the animal model community are mortal enemies. Expecting cooperation from the people opposing you with their every breath is naïve. Thinking that you are seeing actual cooperation from the same people is self-deception or stupidity.

But the problem with both ignorance and naivety is recognizing it in and or admitting it to oneself. As I mentioned in the last essay, Wikipedia explains the Dunning-Kruger effect as follows.

A cognitive bias manifesting in unskilled individuals suffering from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.

Even if the Dunning-Kruger effect had never been discovered, one could predict humans might have a difficult time accepting their naivety and ignorance just because we all have an ego.

Naivety is the natural human state and requires effort to overcome. Naivety is nothing to be ashamed of when one is young and one is working on overcoming it. But if one is old enough to be in a position of responsibility and that position concerns topics that require knowledge of the world that you do not have, then you are being irresponsible not to recognize and correct your naivety. Moreover, many people die of old age without having enough painful experiences from life to curb their naivety. A proper education is the only sure solution to being naïve.

Reason #4

They have an agenda and are willing to lie in order to promote it. The agenda may be pro-animal or pro-using animals. Either way these people are lying. 

In my opinion, many of the charity donors and activists who do not seem to understand the reason the Three Rs are counterproductive can be categorized under reason #2 or #3, but many if not most of the scientist-leaders in the anti-vivisection wing of the animal protection movement are represented by #4. 

There are some very smart people in the Three Rs community. Many have advanced degrees in science and most of them have the background to understand the arguments Niall Shanks and I have made [1-8] and that ultimately led to Trans-Species Modeling Theory (TSMT) [9]. I find the notion that ALL of these people lack an understanding of the fundamentals of evolutionary biology, complex systems, and the relevant empirical evidence impossible to believe.  

So why would almost all of these people ignore the scientific evidence that implementing or even discussing the Three Rs is absurd in the context of using animals as predictive models for human response to drugs and disease—the main way animals use is justified? I have covered two possible reasons already: ignorance and naivety. But I doubt the scientists and other leading scientists in the Three Rs community are guilty of these. Once again the old adage follow the money rears its ugly head. Look at the budgets of these groups and the salaries of their scientists. Next find out where their money comes from. Also important is where these scientists came from, in terms of being former vivisectors or vivisector supporters, and what other associations they have—sitting on the board or being an advisor to industries that supply animals to labs and so forth. See what institutions and jobs they go to after they have finished at one of the Three Rs organizations. See what they have published and what lectures they have given. They probably have a huge ego-interest in the notion that animal models are productive for society. Many are themselves failed vivisectors who were unable to fund their labs but who found a nice niche in the Three Rs movement. They then feigned an interest in animal protection—anyone can claim to care about animals—and became instant celebrities of the Three Rs movement. As animal use has increased dramatically in the US since the implementation of the Three Rs, there is more to do in terms of reduction, refinement, and replacement than ever before. Now, that’s job security!

Currently it is popular to criticize animal modeling based on methodology (which for decades has been the supposed strong suit of lab-based research) then apply for grants to study ways to improve the methodology. This is another spin-off from the Three Rs community. Improvements in physics research methodology will not give us a perpetual motion machine and neither will improvements in methodology result in animal models that have predictive value for human response to drugs and disease. Talking about such will fund your lab for a few years though. (And that the real purpose of life for some people.) The violations of laws of science are not going to happen regardless of how much money is granted to research the topic and scientific theories are not easily falsified either. 

I have no issue with someone who honestly disagrees with me on a matter of science. But I have never met a Three Rs supporter who could intelligently explain my position much less give evidence against it. This forces me to ask why. Are they ignorant—considering the education of the scientists in the Three Rs camp, such is doubtful? Or are they being disingenuous? Again, given their financial ties and other associations with the vivisection industry combined with their more than adequate IQs and educations, I can only conclude they do not give an honest rendition of Trans-Species Modeling Theory because they understand the implications. TSMT renders obsolete all of animal modeling for predictive purposes and, together with advances in technology, calls into question the remainder of animal use in science and research (the use of animals for spare parts for humans, as heuristic devices, and so on [4]).

In the next essay, I will examine why the animal protection movement should embrace Trans-Species Modeling Theory and why the ignorance or naivety of some leaders in the animal protection movement and the duplicity of others is preventing this from happening.



1. Shanks N, Greek R, Nobis N and Greek J (2007) Animals and medicine: Do animal experiments predict human response? Skeptic 13: 44-51.

2. Shanks N and Greek R (2008) Experimental use of nonhuman primates is not a simple problem. Nature Medicine 14: 807-808.

3. Greek J and Shanks N (2009) Thoughts on animal models for human disease and treatment. JAVMA 235: 363.

4. Greek R and Shanks N (2009) FAQs about the use of animals in science: A handbook for the scientifically perplexed, University Press of America, Lanham.

5. Shanks N and Greek R (2009) Animal models in light of evolution, Brown Walker, Boca Raton.

6. Shanks N, Greek R and Greek J (2009) Are animal models predictive for humans? Philos Ethics Humanit Med 4: 2.

7. Greek R and Shanks N (2011) Complex systems, evolution, and animal models. Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci 42: 542-4.

8. Greek R, Shanks N and Rice MJ (2011) The history and implications of testing thalidomide on animals. The Journal of Philosophy, Science & Law 11.

9. Greek R and Hansen LA (2013) 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: 231-153.