2006

Comments: When Robert Winston wrote an article in The Guardian, defending vivisection, I decided to combine my interest in evolution with my concern for animal welfare with the following letter, of which the first paragraph was published.

For someone who professes to have a special interest in evolution, Robert Winston should know better than to engage in such shameless anthropocentricity (The Shame of Our Silence, May 31). If, as he claims, animal testing is no longer cruel, then there is no reason why it should not be done exclusively on human volunteers, which he admits would be more effective. However, the real issue is not over how cruel these experiments are but over the fact that we impose them on non-consenting animals, for our own benefit, which reeks of superiority.  Some of the chief things that evolution teaches us are that all living organisms are related, so that every animal being experimented on is your cousin, and that the concept of species is arbitrary and woolly, with no connotations of distinction or hierarchy.
Not so very long ago, Europeans (and their American descendants) regarded African slaves as possessions that they could do with as they liked. We now view that as unthinkable. In the future, our descendants will view as unthinkable the fact that we regard animals as possessions that we can do with as we like. The only plausible justification for our treating other animals as chattels, and not vice versa, is because we can, and they can’t, but that is also an argument for human slavery.
Hugh Dower

Comments: That letter found its way onto an animal rights website. My first foray into the murky world of Intelligent Design, motivated more by my reaction to neo-Darwinian dismissal than by any kind of real sympathy for ID, came in the form of an unpublished letter to The Guardian.

Once again, the media has presented intelligent design as an alternative to evolution (US judge bans intelligent design from science lessons, December 21), Though there are undoubtedly a great many creationists who have latched on to intelligent design in the US, most of the scientists involved in this movement, and especially Michael J. Behe, are evolutionists. Many leading 19th century evolutionists believed that there was intelligence at work in evolution. Whilst literal creationism certainly should not be taught as science, the issue of how evolution occurred does deserve debate, both in schools and in society generally; within that debate, intelligent design is a legitimate standpoint which does not warrant the dismissal it has received from the scientific establishment.
Hugh Dower

Continue to 2007

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