How Animal "Rights" Activists Are Trashing Science

Michael Holloway mhollowa at
Fri Jul 16 19:34:33 EST 1993

As promised, I've contacted Jon Franklin and he would be very 
pleased if this transcript of his speech were copied and spread 
around liberally.  It is longer than your average post but I 
highly recommend it for anyone at all concerned about research 
and the animal "rights" movement.  It also relates to the 
recent "gene tinkering" thread in bionet.general.

This appeared in the Coalition for Animals & Animal Research 
Newsletter, summer/fall 1991.  Anyone who would like 
information on how to become a member and receive the quarterly 
newsletter should send me e-mail. (mhollowa at

Earth, Animals and Poisoned Apples: How the Luddites Are Trashing Science
(Based on a talk given at a symposium sponsored by CFAAR-Lane 
County at the University of Oregon, April, 1990)

By Jon Franklin
Professor of Journalism, University of Oregon, Eugene

Thank you very much. It is a pleasure to be here. Or I should
say, it's a half pleasure.

The pleasure half is talking to scientists.

I've spent my adult life with scientists, writing about them and
what they do, and the new power for good the scientific culture rep-
resents. And it is always a pleasure to
address people you like and admire.

The part that's not so pleasurable is that I've sort of been elected,
today, to play Dutch uncle. Because science has a problem. And that, I
think, means our whole culture has a problem.

The difficulty is reflected in the fact that science-bashing 
has become not just permissible but fashionable. And the fact 
that there are many antiscience movements in progress today. 
Too many. I'll touch on a number as I go along.

But in the looming tragedy I plan to outline for you today, I will
focus primarily on the animal rights movement and its advocates.
They make an excellent example, very present and tangible. They
gather like a Greek chorus outside your laboratories, waving their
placards in front of the television cameras, chanting, in their voices of
doom, things like:
"Free the Silver Spring Monkeys!"
"Greedy scientists torture animals!"
"Animal Research never helped anybody!"
"Trash the laboratories!"
"A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy!"

"Let the crippled children die . . ."

Ah, yes.

That's what they are saying now-"Let the crippled children die."

You think not? You think they haven't gone that far? Well, read
Peter Singer's latest book [Should the Baby Live? The Problem of
Handicapped Infants. Kuhse, H. and Singer, P., Oxford University
Press, 1985] . He's the Australian philosopher who wrote Animal Lib-

Let 'em die. It'll make our species stronger, in the long run.
And it's good for the environment.

New Wave Neo-Luddites Versus the Mad Scientist
Two images of the scientist have long vied for dominance
in the American mind. In one guise he is the absent-minded
professor, the bumbling, over-educated fool who has to be
reminded to put on his galoshes. In his alter ego he is Dr. Frank-
enstein, the mad scientist, the amoral if not immoral creator
of monsters and ever more hideous methods of death.

The image has now tilted dramatically in favor of Dr. 
Frankenstein. The scientist is the one, in popular lore, who 
created the bomb. Scientists are the corrupters of the earth. 
Scientists are the ones who made Alar, and poisoned the apples.

One especially telling study was done by a University of
Pennsylvania group. They found that people who watch a lot of
television tend to think of science as threatening. The study went
further to show that television reinforced this perception-
television panders, we all know that-and so television scien-
tists turn out to be more frequently portrayed as the bad guys than
actors representing other professions. Even lawyers come off as
nicer folks.

Now . . . it's a rule on television, you know, that the really
nasty characters have to get it in the neck before the curtain goes
down. So it figures that TV scientists have the highest fatality
rate of any occupational group on the airwaves, with ten percent
of them dead before the closing credits.

The message is clear Science, like crime, doesn't pay.
Or, if it does, it shouldn't.

It's no different in the movies either. Look, for instance,
at E.T. What did the scientists want to do to this friendly little
feller from another world? Why . . . they wanted to cut him up,
of course. Vivisection, that was what was on their minds. They
were little better than butchers. And you know something? It
played real well in Peoria!

The antiscience movement that is growing up in response
to this popular change of attitudes is both deep and broad. It 
hides behind, and feeds off of, a number of otherwise positive 
movements ranging from environmentalism to feminism.  It
takes many forms but it is a single entity: The same faces show
up under picket signs at animal rights rallies, no-nuke rallies,
radical environmental rallies . . . there is a movement here, a
new wave, and it is relentlessly anti-science.

This isn't just my paranoia. The people involved see
themselves as a new wave whose destiny it is to trash this society
and set up a new one more to their liking.

These people, or many of the most powerful of them, are
straight-out Luddites. Ingrid Newkirk, the head of PETA-for
the uninitiated, that's People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals-anyway, Ingrid says she's a Luddite . . . and proud
of it. To her, science is white male dominance, chemical com-
panies, and cosmetic combines.

You should take a look at a recent issue of the Utne
Reader. It has a centerpiece set of articles which, taken together,
are a neo-Luddite manifesto.

A Neo-Luddite Manifesto. Again, those are their words.
They're boasting about it. And selling magazines like hotcakes.
The last time I looked, the Utne Reader was the fastest-growing
general interest magazine in the country. Mr. Utne has his
finger on the pulse of the left.

What's happening?

And why does science not defend itself better than it has?

It's not like science wasn't warned.

Technological Have-nots Versus the Arrogant Scientist
C.P. Snow blew the whistle on what was happening all
the way back in the '50s. He pointed out that our culture was
undergoing a division into the technological haves and the
technological have-nots, into the sciences and the liberal arts.

We need to remember, because it's important, that Snow
was an academic himself, more or less, and that the society he
observed was the campus society. As a writer as well as a physicist,
Snow spent a lot of time being bored at cocktail parties. So the people he
described as drifting apart were the English, history and political sci-
ence professors on the one hand and the mathematics, chemistry and
physics professors on the other.

It wasn't that the two groups hated each other, or anything
like that. It was just that they didn't have much in the way of
common languages or common interests. They tended to look at
the world in different ways. It was awkward, sort of, for a
physicist and a rhetorician to discuss child-rearing. So they
were polite, ate the green olives out of their martinis (remember
the days before Perrier?), and drifted on until they found a
group they were more comfortable with. So the parties divided
into clumps. Some clumps were humanists, some scientists.

Snow thought the two groups were pretty similar in size,
levels of education, religion, and so forth. The only difference
was that some were the technological "ins" and the others
the numbers. He saw the two cultures as being equal in size.

Now, in hindsight, the split he saw beginning may in fact be 
the most momentous cultural movement in our century.

The only thing Snow seemed to have been wrong about was the 
numbers.  He saw the two cultures as being equal in size. 

But he took his sample on campus, and it was skewed.

If he'd done his counting in the supermarket, he'd have seen
that the nonscientific culture was vastly larger than the scientific one.
As you go up the socioeconomic scale, more people speak science.
It's not 50-50 until you get all the way to the top, to the university

So these two societies were not equal. One of them, the
scientific one, was destined to become very much a minority.

A minority . . . but a minority that would turn out, in the '60s
and '70s and '80s, to be very powerful.

We do not use the term "minorities" to describe such groups:
"Minority," in themodern lexicon, means small andweak. If they are
small and powerful, we say they are an elite.


I have a whole lecture in which I just detail, for an hour, how
science has defined our lives in the postwar era. And I mean
everything. Not just the tools we use but who we are, what we think
of ourselves, and our reactions to that.

Henry Ford, with his means of transportation, sowed the seeds
of the sexual revolution . . . for the first time a guy could take his girl
for, as they said, "a ride." The birth control pill made the feminist
movement inevitable.

Technology. The broad expanse of it, from designer drugs to
television and computerized check-out counters and auto-dialers that
call you at night in mechanical voices to sell you cemetery lots, from
MTV to laser surgery to smart bombs . . . science, in our time, is not
just a power. It is the power. It is defining. The rest of us-citizens,
politicians-just react!

We were just starting to face off with ourselves over the issue
of abortion, for instance, and along comes the abortion pill which
makes the whole argument moot . 

More information about the Bioforum mailing list