Haldane "Some Enemies of Science Essay

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[. . .] We are, after all, animals.

Haldane views granting animals any type of intelligence and subjectivity sentiment, versus rationality. He condemns a system which requires him to justify a 'novel' means of killing a mouse but which allows animals to be slaughtered for food and allows his wife to kill rats with poison. He condemns peers who fox hunt yet who would prohibit vivisection (Haldane 7). To some extent, Haldane's point that compassion for animals is not logically consistent is valid. It could also be argued that a perfectly ethical life in regards to animals is virtually impossible. Outlawing all uses of animals for food would condemn certain types of animals (house cats) to ill health or even an early death, since cats are carnivores. Is eradicating a flea or a tick from the body of a dog tantamount to murder or is it better to let the animal live in a state of permanent discomfort? What about intestinal parasites? What about performing experiments on animals for the purpose of life-saving surgeries designed to save animals? No life can be supported without some form of death, and prioritization is inevitable. Not only does tilling a garden cause the death of earthworms as Haldane points out, but large scale agriculture (used to produce vegetarian food) displaces the habitats of animals and causes their early death in many instances.

Haldane's closing argument is his weakest one, as he engages in ad hominem attacks of anti-vivisectionists. But even if Haldane's opponents are not always logically consistent, as an author he seems overly enthusiastic about attributing motives, not only to other beings but also to anti-vivisectionists themselves, asserting that they hate science because they disagree with him. He claims they do not understand science -- and perhaps people as well, picturing the archetypical vivisectionist as a "sour spinster" (Haldane 22-18).

While death is inevitable, this does not mean that every aspect of suffering must be condoned. Ultimately, even if one does not support a complete ban on testing, Haldane's assertion that needless pain is never inflicted upon animals and that no government oversight of animal experimentation seems dubious: a 'trust the scientists never to go wrong' mentality that belies the fact that economic considerations, bias, and simple cruelty cannot be characteristic of the scientific community. Even in regards to human experimentation, scientists have been taken to task for taking insufficient precautions about participants' safety -- this is likely to be even more true of animal experiments (who have no voice if they are abused). There must be some cost-benefit analysis when any animal life is used or taken, either for food, sport, 'mercy killing,' or science. No moral system is logically consistent -- even in regards to humans, but that does not mean that morality should be blatantly ignored as Haldane would wish us to do. The values of science can still be tempered with the virtues of compassion.

References

Haldane, J.B.S. (2004). Some enemies of science. The Nelson Introduction to Literature (2nd

Ed). Valleau, Al & Jack Finnbogason. (Eds.). Toronto: Thomson Nelson.

Suzuki, David. (2004). The pain of animals. The Nelson Introduction to Literature (2nd

Ed). Valleau, Al & Jack Finnbogason. (Eds.). Toronto: Thomson… [END OF PREVIEW]

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